On the way to work this morning, I glanced at a yard I drive past regularly and thought I saw a white goat there. It's a yard encircled by a chain link fence--with the kind of bumpy ground that looks like a goat could live there. But I'd never seen a goat there before, so I glanced back: They got a goat???
It was a white patio chair, probably blown over by the winds last night so that it didn't really look like a chair because it was on a diagonal slant.
And I remembered in that moment a drive we'd been on as kids. I don't know exactly where we were because my parents were big drivers. We drove all over Alaska, Canada, and the western United States. They thought nothing of driving hours and hours just to see something they wanted to see. Still don't think anything of it, for that matter. Anyway, it was in the afternoon, and we'd been driving for a while. The road was two lanes with fields and trees along both sides. The sun was warm, and most of us in the car were drowsy. All of a sudden Dad stomped on the brakes. The sudden screeching stop brought us all awake in an instant. "What's the matter?" we asked. "I saw a bear," Dad replied as he shoved the car into reverse and whipped around to see behind us as he backed up at high speed. He stopped as he came to a clearing in the trees so that we could see the meadow beyond. And there, sure enough, was an animal. But not a bear. A cow. Along with a few other cows. The experience has become family lore. Whenever Dad claims to have seen something unusual on one of his drives, we answer, "Oh really? Another bear, huh?"
And I started thinking about all the other times I've thought I've seen something but then found out I've seen incorrectly. Words that I read one way--they don't make sense--and then I realize I read them incorrectly. Things that seem to be one thing but are really something else (there are some pretty embarrassing experiences here). There is just an instant while my brain tries to make sense of what I see, tried to match it with what I know, and then I find out that the instant view is incorrect. We think we can believe our eyes, don't we? What we see can be trusted to be truth. But is it really? Certainly with study, it may be so. But I wonder if we give too much credence to what we see. We might need more background knowledge and more time to really understand something as it should be understood, beyond that first glance--or even a second one sometimes. The chair-goat reminded me.