Friday, March 9, 2012

Hawkwatching As Meditation

Gunning from Brockway Mountain, MichiganI’m occasionally reminded how unusual hawkwatching really is as a subculture of the birding world, to say nothing of society itself. Many of you probably find it as difficult as I do to fully explain to the uninitiated your compulsion to spend so much time in a single spot, looking for birds. As a counter, I hear it all too often, “Don’t you get bored up here?” But I don’t. This is not to say I don’t experience more than my fair share of boredom, especially on slow, hot, windless days where the world almost seems in stasis apart from the sun creeping a slow arc across the sky. (Or slow, cold days, for that matter!) But to say I am bored, generally speaking, even when firmly mired in a string of slow bird days, would be completely incorrect. Put simply, the questioner assumes motivations on my part that would not be sustainable in the long-term if they were my only reasons for going out to watch hawks. It’s not just hope for strong flights or rare species that keeps me coming back up the hill each day, because I’d probably spend many of my days there disappointed if that were so. Instead, I rarely ever feel more keenly alive, if you will, as when I’m out hawkwatching. And one of the reasons why is because hawkwatching, for me, is as much about a certain reverence for the passage of time seen most obviously in the change of the seasons. To stand in a single location for so long is to witness Magic, firsthand; a single location can exhibit an astonishing spectrum of personality throughout the year, one that is usually missed unless one is willing to stand there, receptively, and become part of what you see. The confluence of birds, foliage, and cloudform can be intoxicating! And I think anyone with loyalty to a particular hawkwatch, even one that might not command mind-blowing end-of-season figures most years, probably knows, at least subconsciously, what I speak of.

If all this is too “New Age” for your tastes, I apologize! But for so many of us, even those entrenched in analyzing the vast amount of data that hawkwatchers produce each season, I believe that there is an almost spiritual underpinning for our passion, one core to our reasons for spending some slice of our lives doing this and not some other activity. With many spring sites now online and posting daily to HawkCount, I find myself with a bit of Zugunruhe as I prepare to depart to the Midwest US to conduct my own count. Or, perhaps, it’s really just a twinge of envy for those hawkwatchers fortunate enough to have counts that start earlier than mine. In any case, my feeling is not logical, and I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way. So I share some of my feelings for why I do what I do should you have the same yearnings each year to use your time at your favorite hawkwatch to take in as much of the world around as you possible; and, if only for a moment, to see past many of the expectations we impose on ourselves and simply Enjoy.

From all of us at HMANA,
May spring bring you spirited flight!

1 comment:

  1. OMG, Arthur! You have very beautifully articulated what few of us have ever been able to explain. I have long wished I could find the words to express what you've SO eloquently written here. Thank you!