Scott McMillion – Montana

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Land snorkeling isn’t power walking, or even hiking. It isn’t about exercising your body. Rather, it’s a conscious method of exercising your curiosity. It’s not so much about finding answers as it is about finding questions.

It’s a vital tool for Clyde Aspevig, one of America’s preeminent landscape painters. He’s been land snorkeling most of his life but only recently came up with a name for it.

“The act of discovery is one of the most gratifying sensations,” he told me, standing on the bank of the Shields River, near his home in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains. So I decided to test that.

It’s a sunny morning early in July, with the weatherman calling for 90 degrees later. And I know I’ll feel a lot more heat than that if I let my wife’s patio flowers go dry. So I water them. But I move slowly. I pay attention. One flowerpot has sprouted some bright-red blossoms I hadn’t noticed before.

I count seven distinct hues in a poppy flower. The grass and shrubbery, the tomatoes and zucchini offer myriad shades of verdancy. The pepper plants are especially bright, but all of this pales when compared to the iridescent greens of the tiny fly I brush from my neck and examine on my thumb. I don’t recall ever seeing one quite like it. A bright yellow butterfly flits overhead. All of this is part of my routine on a typical summer morning. But this morning, instead of just watering the plants and swatting a bug, I’m land snorkeling. And colors are flling my palette before I even leave the yard.

From “Land Snorkeling with Clyde Aspevig”, by Scott McMillion, Montana Quarterly, Fall 2009