Wednesday, June 28, 2006I'll attempt this creative response to Mike's challenge of meta-bird-blogging: why blog about birds?
Few practices in my life have survived the vicissitudes of my young adulthood. One practice that persistently yanks me back is writing. (You thought I was going to say birding, yes?) I am all too aware of my dilettantish dippings into one mind-body practice or another: I've done yoga, sitting meditation, activism and organizing, visual artwork, jogging. Most of these practices have lasted years, but after a while my laziness or depressiveness gets the best of me and I stop. But not writing--for me it is necessary to read and write constantly. Words stick to me. Sometimes I feel I wear them like a coat of feathers, and if I just get enough of them on me, I will learn to fly.
Enter the great blue heron that dipped in flight across my field of vision three feet away in Boston in 2000. At a time when depression was consuming me, making me disappear even to myself, that bird confirmed my existence in the world. I couldn't do much just then, but I could pick up a pair of field glasses and look at birds. And in looking, I slowly began to notice other things: a polluted river, a threatened woodpecker habitat, glass-fronted skyscrapers, exurban development taking over the wilderness. In short, I began to see the human-built contexts within which these birds survive. This blog, started while I was in graduate school, has given me a space to explore those contexts and to record the birds which I see for myself. I try to stick to listing what I see, rather than what I wish I could see or ruminating on or anthropomorphizing the animals. In cultivating my power of observation, I hope to be able to cultivate that power in others. In a world when our opinions and perceptions are fed to us by popular media, it's one of the most profound things we can do: to see things for ourselves. If we follow the birds, we can begin to see the real impact of human land use. In caring about birds, or any group of organic beings which bring us joy, I think we can get more motivated to do something to stop the excesses and wastes that are harming the ecological systems in which we live. So for me, I guess it isn't really about the birds--it's about people, and about finding out for myself what is going on.