This weekend has been a rare flight of the social butterfly. My housemate describes herself as an introvert who loves people, and I must admit that this is a fitting description for myself as well. I could liken myself to a chickadee, who flies solo or with a companion during the breeding season and joins a foraging flock in search of food during the winter months. Of course, these are more seasonal patterns of behavior, and I tend to shorten the length of time in between bouts of hermitude and social butterfly tendencies.
At any rate, a young woman who lives next door to me in park housing asked if I would be willing to take her on a bird walk sometime. I have been asked this question before, and more often than not the individual is more interested in the idea rather than the reality of birding. The reality of birding is a slow, meandering journey that may not cover a great distance but offers an in-depth, holistic study of the area in question, seeking out sounds, habitat, plumage, identifying characteristics, behavior patterns, plant species, and bouts of perfection mirrored with extreme frustration.
“We tiny three, foraging chickadees”
I suggested a morning bird walk for this morning, and was thrilled with the enthusiasm expressed by my two chickadees, each of whom arrived promptly at my door at 9am and then had to wait for my lethargic self to be prepared to leave.
We wandered along at a slow pace, stopping often to study different birds, noting unique features, songs and calls, whether they were solo or in a group, and so on. They shared a wonderful insight, which I considered both a compliment and peripheral study of the self. This compliment was that they found me to be wise and self aware in a quiet, modest way. And this sense of wisdom was not simply due to the fact that I am older than them. That I have a sense of what I am doing with my life. It is such a different perspective than that which I possess of myself, and the thoughts I sift through day in and day out.
“You seem to have a very concrete notion of who you are and that allows you to be a nurturer because if you don’t have to worry about giving too much or changing yourself. A good nurturer does it because that is who they are not because they are trying to please or alter their personality. It is because they are comfortable with themselves and have that energy to give. Some people spend so much time trying to figure out who they are that they do not have the room or extra energy to give.”
“In search of the perfect skipper”
While looking for the perfect flat rock to skim, I shared binocular secrets that had been passed on to me by my own birding mentors, namely my now husband Jim. We talked about what draws people to this place and to work for the National Park Service. Rachel spoke of feeling so very different and out of place in comparison to the choices her parents made in their professional lives. They chose their careers early and lived a traditional life, married by the age of 26, and and children. She spoke of considering joining the Peace Corps but realizing that she would finish when she was 26 and might not be married and the moment she realized that this was ok. It was all right for her to not know what she was going to do with herself or in her future.
“Let’s just sit”
How rare it is to not feel hurried. I struggle with the practice of being present. I find I am constantly somewhere else, in my mind, months and years into the future. It was a thrill to walk along with two remarkable women, each of us content to take the proper amount of time to ask questions, study the world around us, and sit on a large rock watching the oystercatchers flying back and forth by the water’s edge.
Questions or bird food for thought:
- What is it that draws such a diversity of species to this place year after year?
- Is it the upwelling of nutrients in the ocean and simultaneous upwelling within the self that causes this annual call to return to a wild land where change is the only constant? A place where we sit on the fringe of wildness and perhaps are inspired and somewhat forced to recognize our own wildness or disappearing wildness from life in western culture that is so based on consumption and material fulfillment to define who we are and our life’s accomplishments?