On Strangeness and Love

Fellow Avian Enthusiasts! Something about last night and this morning felt off. I wasn’t sure what exactly until I realized that this is the first Saturday since January that I haven’t had to set my alarm for an obscenely early hour. This is my first Saturday since January without birds.

That's me holding a Cedar Waxwing at the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station, looking deliriously happy. ME AND A CEDAR WAXWING!

That’s me holding a Cedar Waxwing at the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station, looking deliriously happy. ME AND A CEDAR WAXWING! Perhaps the slickest and best coiffed among all avian species, the Cedar Waxwing clearly has a thing or two to teach me about style.

Strange is the only word I have in my arsenal to describe the feeling. It’s almost a physiological strangeness. Like my body should be elsewhere, outdoors — no matter the weather — in the company of my sexy Zeiss binoculars, looking up into the canopies of trees until my neck can stand it no longer, hazarding (usually wrong) guesses about what I’m seeing. Home on a Saturday morning is no longer the norm for me, and it’s amazing how quickly my body has committed that to memory and it’s almost like my body — not my mind — is the one craving a more familiar experience. How is it that birding has now displaced home as the familiar Saturday experience, or rather, how is it that birding has become home?

It’s not that I particularly relished the idea of setting my alarm clock for 4am while volunteering at the banding station; but somehow my body registered this as the new normal, and suddenly rising at 8, without an obnoxious alarm clock yelping at me, feels unnatural.

Oh well. You’ll be relieved to know that after a phenomenal cup of coffee — Nicaraguan Wood Thrush — from Birds and Beans, I felt somewhat rejuvenated and ready to tackle the day. It also helps that today is so entirely rainy and miserable that birding would have felt like a bit of a puzzling chore.

Nevertheless. How is it that certain things become a part of us — a physical part, a need, I think — and how is it that this happens unconsciously? I could not pinpoint the exact moment when I recognized that watching birds had become a need rather than a whim or a fancy or a curiosity, but I can tell you for certain that today, the first Saturday of the year when I’m not out birding, I feel a physical lack, an ache almost, an uneasieness, a longing for something I never even knew I could miss since I had no idea it had become a part of me.

Almost like falling in love. When you realize that being without the company of a particular person causes you physical anguish, or a sense of incompleteness. Not that you couldn’t function without — of course you could, we are more resilient than we know — but that you wouldn’t want to.

And so it is. This thing called birding has turned into this stranger thing called love.

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