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Birdwatching

October 20, 2012

Today I’m posting my friend Becky’s poem about wasting time on a hobby you love. I spent the day at a yarn festival admiring hand-spun, dyed, and knit sweaters that cost about 5 times as much money and infinitely more time than the machine-made ones you can buy in any clothing store. I believe there’s no economic theory that could possibly explain why thousands of other people were just as excited as I was to be there.

——

What pastime could be less economically productive?

Owl swivels her tufted attention,
fixing her severity
on a silent stirring
in the fraying field
a mute meditation
just beyond
my upturned incomprehension.

What activity could be of less social value?

Hawk tears into hare
with his Swiss Army face,
unblinkingly slices
the limp sinew of snow,
a leap of fur
a moment before.

What hobby could be of less measurable benefit?

Egret unfolds her fistful of light,
lifts her improbable wings,
no metaphor for an angel
but the real deal –
You can see for yourself
how Spirit fancies feathers.

What avocation could be a more fervent waste of time?

Only Prayer –
Hummingbird’s eggs are a pair of pearl earrings
nestled in a pocket of lichen and silk –
and Love,
Loon’s lone lament.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Like the poem, but NOT the questions!… as a birder I can think of a LOT of human activities with less physical, emotional, mental, social, and even economic benefit than birding. If Becky finds birding a waste of time, she ain’t doin’ it right! ;-)

    • October 20, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Hi Shecky, Thanks for your comment. By grouping birdwatching with love and prayer, I intended to imply that there are pursuits whose value can not be calculated by economic measures. I suppose I should edit it if the irony didn’t come through. – Becky

  2. Vince Gay
    October 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Watching birds and fondling yarn and taking way too long to make expensive sweaters–This pricelessness is what it’s all about. This is what all the economic activity and all the grand schemes and term papers and diaper changes and major surgeries and household chores are for: so that as many of us as possible can, after survival is assured, spend as much time as possible working on the part of the needs hierarchy that involves simply enjoying “uneventful” moments. It’s to live as worry-free as we can hope to, and appreciate our lives, our world, ourselves and each other. It’s looking for ways that as many of us as possible have viable options about the grand and the mundane, and even about how we’ll contribute meaningfully to the economy, perhaps helping someone else and improving the world a tiny bit, in the process…as soon as this hummingbird flies away.

  3. Kaleberg
    October 22, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    George Orwell had an essay, “Some Words on the Common Toad” in which he pointed out the pleasures of nature and the turning of the seasons and how this seems to set some people off. (http://www.george-orwell.org/Some_Thoughts_on_the_Common_Toad/0.html)

    “Is it wicked to take a pleasure in spring and other seasonal changes? To
    put it more precisely, is it politically reprehensible, while we are all
    groaning, or at any rate ought to be groaning, under the shackles of the
    capitalist system, to point out that life is frequently more worth living
    because of a blackbird’s song, a yellow elm tree in October, or some
    other natural phenomenon which does not cost money and does not have what
    the editors of left-wing newspapers call a class angle? There is not
    doubt that many people think so. I know by experience that a favourable
    reference to “Nature” in one of my articles is liable to bring me abusive
    letters, and though the key-word in these letters is usually
    “sentimental”, two ideas seem to be mixed up in them. One is that any
    pleasure in the actual process of life encourages a sort of political
    quietism. People, so the thought runs, ought to be discontented, and it
    is our job to multiply our wants and not simply to increase our enjoyment
    of the things we have already. The other idea is that this is the age of
    machines and that to dislike the machine, or even to want to limit its
    domination, is backward-looking, reactionary and slightly ridiculous.
    This is often backed up by the statement that a love of Nature is a
    foible of urbanized people who have no notion what Nature is really like.
    Those who really have to deal with the soil, so it is argued, do not love
    the soil, and do not take the faintest interest in birds or flowers,
    except from a strictly utilitarian point of view. To love the country one
    must live in the town, merely taking an occasional week-end ramble at the
    warmer times of year.”

    He would have made a great blogger.

    • October 23, 2012 at 5:59 am

      Word.

      • October 24, 2012 at 3:45 am

        Thank you, Kaleberg, for introducing me to this essay! I went through an Orwell phase a while back where I read everything I could find of his, but never stumbled across this gem. Here’s one of my favorite passages: “If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be happy in a labour-saving Utopia? What will he do with the leisure that the machine
        will give him?”

        And he’s so right about the sexiness of toads.

  1. January 6, 2013 at 10:50 am
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