Northern Cardinal (male)
Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.Ray Bradbury
I generally prefer the term, “birdwatching” to “birding” when it comes to describing my bird-observing activities (and now that I write it, I think I like “bird-observing” even better!). I even came across the term, “bird-looking,” recently, which I also like very much. What’s the difference? “Birding” has a more active connotation than “birdwatching,” at least, to my mind. That is, generally speaking, birders go out looking for birds. And I don’t think that’s the best way to describe my relationship with my pastime. I watch. I sit in the backyard with my camera and wait to see who shows up. And I’m less interested in photographing specific species than I am in capturing moments.
I realize, as I write this, that the importance of capturing moments is something I’ve written about before. Or, the idea that the moments of our lives really come to life when we allow ourselves to experience them fully. That is, when we are creative with the stuff of everyday life, when we engage with the routine in such a way as to make it non-routine, when we allow our thinking minds to rest and engage fully, sensorially with our environment. It occurs to me that, at the heart of many of these activities, is a kind of letting go.
As in the Bradbury quote above, these are the moments in which we “touch” life. In which we cease trying to control, resist, strangle. After all, we cannot capture the magic of a moment if we’re attempting to control it, as we cannot experience the miraculous all around us if we’re always looking at others through the lens of our own wants and needs.
I find birdwatching, for me, serves the very important function of letting go. I use those moments of sitting in the backyard serenely with my camera to simply be. To watch and listen to whatever might be there. And if that means I end up with a huge cache of Mourning Dove photos (because they’re always around), then that’s fine by me. As long as I’ve succeeded in capturing the moment.
As long as I’ve put my controlling mind to rest and poured all of my energy into experiencing something of the bird’s personality, of the magic of a sunny, spring afternoon, of the little piece of eternity that seems to somehow reveal itself in the moment.
Control, in these cases, or the desire to control, is not only the enemy of creativity, it is the death of experience. Said differently: if we really want to experience the moments of our lives, we need to let go when it’s time to let go. The moment we start thinking of other creatures in terms of what they can (or should) do for us, they cease being miraculous. Or rather, we lose the ability to see them as such. That’s also how we dehumanize other people. The moment you start looking for magic, you lose it. The moment you grab hold of a miracle, it slips through your fingers.