Lately some of my days out birding feels more like an old vaudeville routine than a day in the field. A good friend of mine has a problem hearing and I have a big problem seeing but together, as we jokingly like to put it, we equal one complete birder. He depends on me to tell him what I heard and I need him to tell me what I missed. Its part of nature’s many intricate symbiotic relationships I guess. But there is no time to feel sorry for ourselves; nature doesn’t not allow for that. After all, there is nothing more perfect than friends helping each other especially when it comes to birding.
As much as birding is about the birds themselves it is also about our life’s unique journey and as it all comes together to connect and intertwine with the natural world around us. Of course being part of the natural world means that just like everything else, from the trees to the rivers, time passes by. Some may look on that law of nature as being sad or even final but if it was not for those past years and times I would not have ever had the pleasure of seeing the many incredible birds that I have enjoyed so much, or for that matter having the joy and honor of birding with some of the most amazing people I have ever met.
Back when I was the younger guy, I had the privilege to learn about nature from some great folks, all much older and wiser but also along with that they had the knowledge, passion and forethought of any zealous evangelist willing to preach to all who those who cared to listen and learn about our birds and the natural world around us.
They were a little slower up the hill, fumbled for their glasses when looking at the field guide and didn’t always pick up on your many bird questions right away. But they had what seemed like the knowledge of the entire natural world at their fingertips. But as things have always been in nature and always will, nothing stays the same and nothing is forever, and with the inevitability of nature’s perfection many of those special people are no longer here with me.
I can remember feeling everything from sadness to anger when some of my friends as they got older would hang up their binoculars for good, many times with no other choice but for some others out of frustration from not being able to bird with the same precision as they once had. Maybe it was selfish on my part but I was mad that they would deny me more time to spend afield with them. But I also knew many others were being denied their passion and knowledge and even though I thought they had a lot more to contribute they felt it was time to call it a day for good.
Of course now I am that older guy and understand all too well the frustrations my friends had many years ago. And now of course those same maladies have somehow been transferred to me. Now my old legs will no longer take me to the top of mountains, my eyes will deny me the warbler in the tree tops and my ears may lessen the song of a Wood thrush. But hanging up the binoculars will not be an option, at least for me. In fact I would not have it no other way than to be where I am right now.
Age may be catching up to me as it is to many birders but to be frustrated or give up would mean that I am ignoring where I have been, the way nature has always worked and that the birds that I have come to love over those many years are now meaningless and the great people I love birding with not important, something I could never consider or surrender to.
When we accept that we are part of nature then we can better understand where we are in life is where we are meant to be and that it should be joyfully embraced and shared to understand how magnificent life is and that each phase of it is no less special than the other, young or old.
Although there are those days when I wish I had better legs that would take me farther and my eyes see a little better I would never wish that I was any younger than I am now. With my age comes the knowledge and love of all the places I have been, the people I came to love and the birds I will never forget just as nature as intended it all to be.
Get outside, never stop wandering the meadows and woods, and share your years of knowledge and love for nature with everyone you can. For that in the end is what our long journey has been all about.