What is it about watching the winged flight of a red-tailed hawk circling the tree line or a pelican folding its wings and bucket-beak, and diving into the ocean? Why can I sit quietly and watch the myriad birds communing at my backyard feeder when I should be doing something else, or wait like a five-year-old on Christmas for the first hummingbird sighting of Spring?
I love animals, and always have; I used to bring cats home off of the street on a regular basis (I named them all Frisky, thanks to good commercial advertising and the fact that I watched waaaay too much television back in the 70’s) and have raised gerbils, hamsters, mice, dogs, fish, turtles and ferrets through my life. When Hubby and I travel to new places, we really enjoy visiting zoos to see what exotic animals they host (I have a bit of a fixation on giraffes for some reason). And how awesome is snorkeling- a peek into a world filled with mysterious, incredible, colorful and slightly scary living things?! Still there is something so special, so magical to me about birds.
I think part of the connection with birds is an emotional one. They can fly. That is huge. They soar above the world looking down and choosing where and when to swoop in and check things out. They seem so free and freewheeling. I can relate- as tied as I am to family and to my beloved teaching, I maintain an independence much like a bird does.
There are lots of birds who barely fly, or look hilariously funny flying (have you ever seen a turkey pulling itself painfully through the air a mere six feet above the ground? Comical!), and I like those too, but the flying thing…well what could be better? It’s probably why I used to think about getting a pilot’s license (which could still happen, even though my claustrophobic hubby would never step foot in a tiny plane with his wife at the steering wheel…).
I also find a connection to different types of birds. The kind of bird I relate to has changed through the stages of my life, and this fact has helped me reflect on who I am, where I came from and where I find myself these days.
When I was a precocious, cussedly independent teenager dealing with a crumbling home life, I was a seagull- a scavenging, rough, tough and fiercely self-preserving type. Seagulls get what they need, whether it is winter or summer, either by digging repeatedly in the sand or by snatching it from some unsuspecting person’s hand or by ripping open a beach bag left unattended. They are hard to pin down, loud and proud of their winged-rat selves, stubborn and even a bit mean. During those years of my life, I could totally relate to that. I mean, I wasn’t all Fagan’s gang or anything, but I certainly knew how to take care of myself.
Now I am more of a hummingbird: quick-moving, voracious, feisty, a traveler of incredibly long distances, but dependent on a source of nourishment. My family and my job feed me as I wing through my days. Anyone who knows me knows to feed me when I am hungry or get out of the way; I loved to travel and explore far-off locations; and fiesty? Yeah, no doubt about that. And even though I have grown into a new species, the seagull is still there underneath as well.
I also love the pure and simple beauty of the color patterns of male birds. Their plumage and their proud splendor is meant to attract female birds; but they also attract this female photographer. Right now as it blizzards outside my window in nearly white-out conditions, I can’t wait to suit up and take my camera out and stalk the bird feeder. I just saw some blue birds I have never seen at the feeder before and I hope they stick around for a few hours. Taking photos of birds teaches me patience, steadiness, and preparedness; all the while bringing me such surprise, joy and wonder. I’m an avian voyeur.
I love cats, dogs, giraffes, elephants, sea lions, ferrets, deer and kangaroos. I love to watch them move, their sleek muscular frames beneath their gorgeous coats are amazing feats of nature. But above all of them, literally and figuratively, rise the birds. The fact that scientists firmly believe they are descendents of dinosaurs just makes the cool factor leap into infinity. The fact that there are over ten thousand species of birds in the world makes me want to travel with my camera more than ever. Some say, in order to enjoy your life more, stop and smell the roses. I say, stop and watch the birds.