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.