Subscribe

RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Friday, September 10, 2010

Birding & Being

My wife is not a birder. She is a runner. Even when she isn't running, when months or years go by without a good run, there is a core part of her that can only be understood when you take into account what it means to be a runner.

For my wife, and many other runners, the magazine Runners World is their lifeline and George Sheehan, who wrote a regular column there until his death in 1993, was their inspiration. His Running & Being, a book length collection of his columns and thoughts is a classic. Not just a classic, but THE classic running book. The bible of runners. As one reviewer at Amazon wrote, Sheehan
tells running as it is, as he is. You'll read this book and continually say, "My god, that's it, that's what I feel, that's how I am too." Soon, things you'd suspected about yourself, become clearer. Questions like, "Why do you run?", begin to have meaningful answers.

Running is more than strapping on special shoes and jogging off down the road. There is a spirit to it. Running takes you to mental and spiritual places you can't get to otherwise.

The more I think about it, birding is the same. Birding isn't just strapping on binoculars and heading out to look at birds. It is a journey that takes you to hidden worlds--worlds that only exist for birders.

Like the world of the Golden-crowned Kinglet. Unless you are a birder, that bird doesn't even exist. I know, because I remember when that world opened up for me. In eighth grade, when the birding bug bit me hard and I started birding every day after school, I remember pouring over my Golden Guide and being amazed at the kinglets. Could such creatures really be out there? How could there be something so amazing out there and nobody I knew had even heard about it? Finally, on 7 Oct 1981 the Ruby-crowned Kinglet appeared in my neighbor's oak tree. Two months later, I was ushered into another new world when the Golden-crowned Kinglet showed up.

Every time you go birding, you enter, like a shaman, into worlds unseen by the uninitiated--the non-birders. Then, even when you aren't technically birding, you may pop in and out of those worlds as you drive down the road or walk down the street. You can't ever not be birding. Birds show up, and call you away, to follow them as they soar over freeways or flit across your path. You are a new kind of being. Once the birds show up for you, you are a birder. Like it or not.

In a world full of interwebs, cable television, and online everything, there is a crying need for more birders--people who can see and enter otherwise unseen worlds. Birders, herpers, fisherman, hunters, gardeners, farmers. Without these spiritual sojourners, the worlds of birds, lizards, fish, elk, and trilliums disappear. Vanish. Perish. This planet is a multipurpose earth. Not Google Earth, to be summoned at will on our laptops. But a living vibrant globe filled with overlapping and interwoven worlds of myriad beings that we barely know exist unless we venture out into their realms.

Life is good. There are birds out there. They call to us and we respond. We are birders.

9 comments:

Nate said...

This is a great post.

Grant McCreary said...

Great post, indeed.

So what would the birding equivalent to Running and Being be? I imagine that it would be different for each birder, but for me the first thing that comes to mind is Life of the Skies.

Jeff Gyr said...

Beautiful post, Rob—

This is full of great stuff, but I especially like the paragraph near the end which begins, "Every time you go birding...."

I've often thought that being aware of birds (and other wildlife and plants, but most vividly and especially birds) gives us a sensory power that many others lack (or more properly never awakened, since everyone ought to naturally be tuned into birds on at least a basic level). Sometimes I imagine that we birders see a wavelength that others miss, something akin to the ultraviolet that insects and some birds see but humans don't.

I feel really lucky to be able to see that beautiful, vivid color and I want to help everyone else see it, too.

Looking forward to when our paths next cross,

Jeff

Jennifer Rycenga said...

Very well said - I like the shaman analogy in particular.

Mike said...

So true, Rob. You nailed what makes being a birder and moving through the world as one so special. Nicely done!

Gunnar Engblom said...

Just have to agree. This is a great post. I happen to be a birder and a runner. So both those worlds are familiar to me.
I know exactly that...one can't stop being a birder - even when one is not birding. I went to a park with the family today, and how could I not point out the Vermilion Flycatcher, Bananaquit and Harris Hawk to my 3 year old daughter when she was coming down the slide or riding the swing. It is is my veigns, in my bloodstream and my nerval system. I just can't not be birding. Great post, Rob!

Nicole said...

"Once the birds show up for you, you are a birder. Like it or not."

Hehe, oh so true.
And most people, the ones that didn't get bitten, just look at you in a weird way or stay away from you after one outing with the camera *sigh* ;-)
I can live with that though, more quiet time for me ;)

But like you say, without the people watching and talking about it, that world will vanish.

Or, we will vanish, one day & that world will still exist when we are long gone.
But humans were never good in listening and learning, were they?

J. "Kyron" Hanson said...

"Birding isn't just strapping on binoculars and heading out to look at birds. It is a journey that takes you to hidden worlds--worlds that only exist for birders... Every time you go birding, you enter, like a shaman, into worlds unseen by the uninitiated--the non-birders. Then, even when you aren't technically birding, you may pop in and out of those worlds as you drive down the road or walk down the street. You can't ever not be birding. Birds show up, and call you away, to follow them as they soar over freeways or flit across your path. You are a new kind of being. Once the birds show up for you, you are a birder. Like it or not."

(Maybe we should say we are bird-shamans? ... lol). I couldn't agree more with your post, and the above quotation specifically. Your words articulate why I have such a difficult time explaining to non-birders what I do. I'm not a bird"watcher", and "birder" doesn't capture the mysticism inherent in our craft.

Many times when birding, I feel part of the deep history of time. I look into the most advanced eyes in the vertebrate world; the eyes of dinosaurs no less! This time of year I bear witness to migration. A phenomenon these animals and their direct ancestors have cycled through for hundreds of MILLIONS of years; mass extinctions, the destruction and formation of continents!

When am I ever not birding? Well, it surely isn't when I'm sleeping - I've got a blog about that. It's only when I'm enclosed in a building, physically walled away. And then the hunger begins... we all know that feeling, eh?

dAwN said...

Excellent post!

Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites