How Birders Are Like Bushmen
I recently read What the Robin Knows by Jon Young and this book made a surprisingly substantial impression on me. Like most nature lovers, I’m always looking for ways to not just expand my knowledge of flora and fauna but also to interact with nature more deeply and skillfully. Field guides are usually more helpful regarding this former, but Jon Young’s expert analysis and practical instruction in interpreting bird behavior should definitely supercharge the latter.
I recommend What the Robin Knows to naturalists of every level of ability. But that’s not the point of this post!
In his book, the author shared a striking quote from a San Bushman, one that resonated with me for what should be obvious reasons…
If one day I see a small bird and recognize it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird. If I just see it but don’t recognize it, there is no thin thread. If I go out tomorrow and see and really recognize that same individual bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little. Every time I see and recognize that bird, the thread strengthens. Eventually it will grow into a string, then a cord, and finally a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman. We make ropes with all aspects of the creation in this way.
Very few of our readers reside in the Kalahari or live a subsistence lifestyle, but we all share something rather profound. What it means to be a Bushman sounds an awful lot like what it means to be a birder, doesn’t it?