One day, I saw a Carolina Wren with nesting material in her beak. I followed her until I found her nest, watching her busily build until my heart felt happy.When I got back to camp, a woman, Laura, asked where I’d gone. When I told her I’d gone for a birding break, she replied
“Ugh, I hate birds”.
Umm, excuse me?
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I stopped short of calling the crazy police on her, instead asking, “Did something happen to make you feel that way?”
She told me a woeful tale of a “Life-Lister” ex-boyfriend.
For my non-birding readers, a "Life-Lister” is someone who attempts to see as many bird species as possible, recording each sighting in a “Life List”.
Poor traumatized Laura continued…
“He dragged me around from park to park, looking for a specific bird. He’d see it and be ready to move on before I could even find the damn thing through my binoculars! Then he’d get mad at me for taking so long and start walking on to find the next bird. It was miserable and I hated it.”
This guy may have been a Grade-A birder, but he was also a Grade-A jerk.
I assured her she can’t hate birds because she’s never actually been birding.
And I swept her off her feet to take her birding - for reals - like it or not!
I brought her to the wren nest, handed her the binocs, and showed her how to use them.
I gave her the time and freedom to explore. When she eventually spotted the bird, she asked, “What kind is it?”
“That doesn’t matter,” I responded.
“Knowing the name doesn’t mean you know the thing. Just notice. What do you see?”
We sat for a long time, talking about the bird’s auburn coloring and its fancy, swooping, white eye-shadow line. Noticed how when we got too close, she got agitated and started bouncing up and down, singing fast trills.
This is birding.
It’s relationship building.
And relationships require patience, intention, and curiosity.
So, if you’ve ever thought “I don’t like birds” or “I’m not a nature person”, I call bull-shirt.
Likely you just had a terrible teacher who didn’t ask the right questions, point out the beauty, or guide you towards falling madly in love with the natural world.
This applies to everything.
Ask yourself, Where am I holding back from exploring and enjoying because of a bad teacher once?
Maybe it’s nature. Maybe it’s sales. Or math. Or creating art.
Whatever it is, is it time for another chance with the right support?
What happened to Laura?
She went on to get her PhD in Ornithology.
I’m just kidding. I have no idea! I never saw her again.
But I do know, when we walked away from that Carolina Wren nest, she had tears in her eyes and a smile on her face.