I started birding as a way of chasing new language, new stories, and new modes of storytelling. As an artist and professor of theater students I wondered if our language, human words, were enough to connect us to one another. Has technology brought us closer or allowed us to be even more estranged, less able to communicate the complexity and nuances of sharing a planet? I started walking paths and beaches near my home in Southern Rhode Island. I was overcome by a whole ecosystem that had been flying and singing around me my whole life. How had I barely noticed? How had I forgotten to look up, forgotten that life cannot be condensed into a future plan? It relies on the histories we don’t know and the present moments that can fill us with wonder if only we look, listen, taste, smell. Birds have allowed me to think of new ways of learning, teaching, and most importantly living.
...we can longer picture the story of life as slow and already static, a world view for which the chief emblem of evolutionary change is a fossil in stone. What we must picture instead is an emblem of life in motion. For all species, including our own, the true figure of life is a perching bird, a passerine, alert and nervous in every part, ready to dart off in an instant. Life is always poised for flight. From a distance it looks still, silhouetted against the bright sky or the dark ground; but up close it is flitting this way and that, as if displaying to the world at every moment its perpetual readiness to take off in any of a thousand directions.
Gulls when they fly move in a liquid arc,
Still head, and wings that bend above the breast,
Covering its glitter with a cloak of dark,
Gulls fly. So as at last toward balm and rest,
Remembering wings, the desperate leave the earth,
Bear from their earth what their was ruinous-crossed
Peace from distress, and love from nothing-worth
Fast at the heart, its jewels of dear cost.
Gulls go up hushed to the entrancing flight,
With never a feather of all the body stirred.
So in the air less rare than longing might
The dreams of flying life a marble bird.
Desire it is that flies; then wings are freight
That only bear the feathered heart no weight.