Sunday, May 14, 2006
When most people use the phrase "search pattern", I'm sure they mean the kind of search pattern the wilderness Search & Rescue teams use. On the other hand, OmegaBro, an ecologist by trade, talks about "search patterns" in a different way, as in a human's ability to sort through a slew of visual (or audio) cues and zero in on the item of interest quickly, almost instinctively. OmegaBro, for instance, can spot willows following a waterbed from hundreds of yards away as he is speeding down a highway in the Southwest. When he gets about 20 feet away from the willows, he can spot saw-fly galls on the branches. I, on the other hand, have to be led to the willow by the bro, have a branch pulled down in front of my face, and have the gall pointed to by Bro's forefinger. There! There's a gall! Ahah! People who are adoptive parents or adoptive parents to be of Asian children have a search pattern: they can spot the Caucasian couple with an Asian child from across a crowded room, a la "Some Enchanted Evening". OmegaDad, a soil scientist, can spot distinct soil types and rock outcroppings without thinking about it. Birders are amazing at being able to spot rare birds or birds for their life lists. My current search pattern is for dead or dying pine trees. This is, I admit, a little bit morbid. But, there it is: As I cruise down the highway, at 75MPH, keeping an eye out for stunt drivers who want to pull out from behind a slow truck right as I am coming up on them--even if there's a huge gap in traffic directly behind me...Even then, my eyeballs are scanning the pine trees and I can pick them out. There's one, the top has a tuft of white needles; there's another up on the hillside; there's yet another down in the side canyon. Sometimes, when passing a hill with a great big blotch of rust-red dead and dying pines, it's mighty darned easy. Other times, it's one or two diseased tufts that catch my eye, and I mentally mark it in my book to check on it the next time I drive by and see how much the dismal disease has progressed. Like I said, morbid. (It looks like this year is going to be a bad year, sigh.) OmegaGranny's search pattern is for wildflowers. "Oooh! Phacelia!" "Yum! A good patch of red penstemon over there!" If she's got a cooperative driver with her, this results in the car being pulled off the road and the wildflowers in question being examined in detail, and maybe pictures being taken. The dotter's search pattern is, of course, horses. Example: We go into a store the likes of, say, Pier One, cluttered and filled to the brim with interesting stuff. Visual cacophony. Mom and Dad pause inside the store getting their bearings. Dotter, on the other hand, immediately zeroes in on..."Horsie! Mom, look, a horsie!" And she darts off towards the object of her obsession while Mom and Dad are staring stupidly around, trying to locate the equine in the midst of the pillows, glassware, Papasan chairs, African masks, and candles. Somewhere, we are sure, there is, indeed, a horsie. What we have to do is follow the dotter; a child will lead us. Har. I have adapted the dotter's search pattern while driving (the cluttered store/horse search just doesn't work for me, I am too visually overwhelmed). So now, while I am mentally counting dead pine trees, I am also on the lookout for horsies to point out to the dotter. Sometimes...sometimes I beat her. It is a particularly lovely feeling to have the dotter say, happily, "Ooooooh. Thank you, Mommy!" in response to one of my rare attempts to point out unnoticed horses to her. Driving up and down the hill to OmegaGranny's for our Mother's Day picnic, I was able to do this two or three times. It was a good day for live horsies. On the other hand, the dotter located all the horsies in Great Grandma's extended living center's lobby within seconds, while my eyes were still adjusting to the dimness after being blasted by sunlight outside. So, while I am gaining points with the au-naturel horse scanning process, my indoor horse recognition still just doesn't cut it. I'm working on it.