Welcome to Insights and Implications!
We hope this newsletter finds you and your family healthy and in mostly good spirits. Today, Sandy Krot shares her hobby of bird watching and explains what this hobby has taught her. Maybe it will inspire you to watch birds, or maybe it will inspire you to simply slow down.
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Why I Love Bird Watching
When I met my husband 20+ years ago, he was an avid bird watcher. I loved nature and all of her creatures, but frankly, I didn’t often notice birds. We would hike in the woods and he would stop to check out a bird. In those early days, he would describe the bird and then painstakingly point to where the bird was in the tree. I’d look and look and sometimes I would see the bird briefly before it flew away.
I wasn’t a very adept bird watcher at first – for a couple of reasons. I didn’t pay much attention to birds when I was outside. I noticed them peripherally but they weren’t a main attraction. But there was another, more significant reason – I was usually in a hurry even when I was hiking. Birding takes patience.
That’s why I now love bird watching. It requires me to slow down.
Bird watching also requires me to notice details and to be present, an enormously useful skill, it turns out. It’s a skill I have generalized to my personal and professional life. Whether I’m outside, in my living room, or working with a leadership team this presence and ability to notice details allows me to see and hear things that could easily be missed.
This is how Nicholas Cannariato described bird watching in a recent New York Times Magazine article:
Birds have taught me to love what is small, what is delicate, what is elusive. I’ve learned that a truth is many details comprising what seems like a unified whole, and I’m more inclined now to immerse myself in the details for their own sake. In looking at common birds in my neighborhood, there’s a refreshing variety in their sameness, a consistent challenge to discern what seems too normal to even notice after so many times noticing. Spotting rare and beautiful birds is thrilling, much like seeing elephant seals or whales. Yet common birds and their details can feel hard to see, because they’re everywhere. Seeking these birds compels you to plumb your memory, to refine the past, to sift small details in service of the present. And those details anchor you, precluding temptations toward self-absorption, self-importance. Bird-watching, in short, is about taking in the most in the shortest span of time.
Learning the principles behind how my mind works provided me the foundation for turning the hobby of bird watching into a lifestyle. Insights into the inside-out nature of my experience, have taken more and more thinking off my mind. Much of my worry, bother, and judgement playlist gets limited play time. I notice my feelings and I remember that my feelings are telling me what’s happening inside my mind, not what’s happening “out there.” My mind is quieter more of the time. The perfect state for bird watching.
Watching birds closely gives me a deep appreciation for the intelligence that exists in the natural world. There is an observable rhythm and pattern to bird life that is a blueprint for their success. I am reminded of the design of the human mind with all its built-in capacities and intelligence. I settle down even more.
Nowadays, I sometimes spot birds before my husband does and I’m the one directing his eye toward a specific spot in a tree. Of course there are also days when I get in a hurry and I miss everything. It’s good to know that in the next moment, I might remember to slow down. A new thought is always possible.
In these times of uncertainty it is helpful to have constants to look to – like birds and the built-in design of the human mind.