Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lessons from A Birding Life

 I admit it.  I would rather be out in the field birding rather than doing almost anything else.  Whenever I can, however, I try to go somewhere for the birds.  How this began, I don’t really know, but it was early in my life.  I can tell you that birds captured my imagination by the time I was seven.  Flight presented wonder.  Birds had the capability.  Then, there was the TV show about King Arthur who was turned into a bird for a time.  Merlin did this to allow young Arthur to see the earth from a different vantage point.  When in high school, I was exposed to Greek Mythology.  The story that gained my greatest attention was the story of Icarus and Daedalus.  If it were not for my eyes, I might have become a pilot.  For now, I’ll be a birder, marveling still that something as big as a White Pelican or as small as a Rufous Hummingbird can get airborne.

Aspirations have context or they do not flourish.  I grew up all over, my father being a Naval Officer.  We moved aplenty.  Everywhere we lived there were parks and woods and orchards.  We frequented those places.  A park with just ball fields has its purpose, but it’s not sufficient for fostering a child’s curiosity about the natural surroundings or instilling the need for our species to be good stewards and conservationists.  A park with hills and trails, ponds and creeks, forests and woods abutting meadows is the stuff of wonder and enrichment.  There is where I, as a boy, learned of the diversity of life (although I would not know it then).  This is where the seeds were sown that would become a life long passion. It would be great if people of a community would insist upon the establishment of many natural public parks.  Yes, we are a gregarious species.  Yes, we live in cities.  Yet, we are part of nature and yearn for contact with it.

Would you scoff at me?  I can hear some now, denouncing me as a tree hugger, someone who doesn’t know how hard it was to live off the land not so long ago. Far from it; I wonder just how many of us could live off the land.  I wonder how many of us today are tough enough, mentally and physically, to live on the farm.  I’ve been wondering ever since the back to nature lifestyle was advocated in the Sixties.  When I was young I worked in the oil fields—hard work, long hours, dirty, greasy, dangerous work.  And they tell me it was like Sunday on the farm.  So, does this turn me from nature?  No, it tells me we had better get ourselves and our children outdoors.  It tells me we should make an effort to regain some of our earlier toughness.  It will afford us an appreciation for our good life and for our natural surroundings.  And maybe, just maybe, some young boy or girl will watch a Mississippi Kite soaring on the wind and wonder what it would be like to fly.

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