I envy birders. Those stalwart stouthearted sorts who scour the highways and byways, the woods and the wetlands---and just about everywhere else--- lurking in the brush, stalking to the limits of patience just to catch a glance at some bird. It's a fascinating hobby, but, without a doubt, unbelievably challenging too. I imagine the payoff---when that rare bird is spotted--- is as exhilarating as it gets. And, in inverse proportion, as fleeting.
I know there are permanent ways, like photography, of seeing and recording nature, birds included. And I'm sure the birding community makes use of them. But my impression is that the real birder is turned on by the thrill of that brief shining instant, when, with the naked eye or a pair of trusty binoculars, the winged creature is beheld.
I got to thinking along these avian lines this morning, standing at the kitchen sink, gazing out the window. When a little yellow bird landed on the neighbor's fence. Most of the birds you see around the Oak Lawn area are sparrows, robins, mourning doves, and blackbirds. There are a few crows and cardinals, on occasion. Along nearby Stoney Creek, Canadian geese wander around. And a couple of mallard ducks once and a while waddle on the lawn. A family of mallards for several years has nested inside a spreading juniper bush on the east side of our house.
A few times I've caught sight of a hawk perching on the boughs of the 30-foot high pine tree next door. Who knows? It could have been an eagle.
Now if I were a birder, I would have been keeping a close record of these sightings. The time and place. A detailed accurate description.
So I concentrated a few seconds on that yellow bird. I don't think it was aware of my alien eyes. It hopped further down the fence and in a wink of an eye, it flew away.
What I kept in mind was that it was the size of a sparrow, had a dull yellow body with dark wings. That's it. My moment of birding was over almost before it began. I googled later and decided it was a goldfinch. Probably a male.
That's why I envy the birders. They have virtues that a gardener, in my case, hasn't developed to such a degree. I don't mean only the power of concentration, or infinite patience, or love of nature. . Gardeners should have these attributes in ample amounts.
No, birders have something else. Something harder to put into exact words. Something that has to do with appreciating the moment, and letting it go with grace. Whatever it is , it's an admirable trait. And one I'm still working on.