The thinker, William James (brother of Henry James) explained that there are two ways we pay attention. The first way is “voluntary” or “directed”. We use this in tasks that demand effort and require concentration, like when we are at work, or driving, or navigating our way through a busy street. The second way is sometimes called “soft fascination”, which is a lovely phrase that refers to involuntary attention that requires no special effort; it just comes naturally.
Soft fascination is the kind of attention we use when we are with nature, like what happened to me one day when in the middle of my morning stroll in the botanical gardens, I spotted this frond that was determined to be different from the rest of its brethren.
Its beautiful spiral twist made my day and inspired this little poem:
In thought, I walked
the sun-dappled gardens
Thick with the foliage
Of summer leaves
No difference they possess
Until one radiant leaf
In playful lightness
Whispered “Look, I’m different from the rest!”