Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The treadmill (and birds in the mist)
This post is not so much about birding as not birding. And as to why I haven't been birding, the answer to that would be: the weather. As far as I'm concerned, it's just about the worst of all possible combinations: gray, rainy, windy, damp and cold. You know, where the gloomy, dark skies incite depression and the combination of damp and cold ensures that the wind goes right to the bones. And it's supposed to be like this for the next week!
I know, it's like that joke...everybody complains about the weather, and nobody does anything about it! And I've only lived two places where the weather did not periodically make me miserable, Hawaii and California. If my favorite hobby didn't involve being outside, it wouldn't be so bad.
Yesterday after work, the terminal grayness of the afternoon had turned to a thick fog, but it wasn't too windy, so I decided that, since birding wasn't too feasible, I would try to get back in shape by going for a short run/walk along the Constitution Trail. It actually was a little fun, though I am woefully out of shape. Birding keeps me moving, but usually at quite a slow pace.
With the darkness and the fog, I didn't feel I was missing much. I saw a pair of mallards in a puddle, consummating their passion for each other. This is the second time I've seen mallards "doing it," and it never looks very fun for the female duck, that's all I can say. The other time I saw them was on a pond, and the poor female was actually being dunked under the water. Well, that's all I will say on the topic of mallard love, I promise.
I also saw some mourning-dove shaped blots against the sky, and I heard a male cardinal singing. The fog was so thick that even his brilliant redness was reduced to shades of gray.
As I shuffled along, I wondered if birding takes up too much of my mental space and energy. I love birding unapologetically, but whenever I'm birding there are so many other things I'm not doing. Such as, working out, reading, brushing up on my foreign languages (I have studied, with varying degrees of fluency, French, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish and Irish, and would like to learn German and Russian, if only I had the time!), working on my creative writing, experimenting with my art supplies, knitting, doing yoga.... The list of things I'd like to do goes on and on. (At least birding is a better use of one's time than vegging in front of the TV for hours.)
As I think about it, the answer becomes clear--the problem is not birding. I could bird and do other things with time to spare...if it weren't for my job. Work is the problem!
Now, with unemployment so high and the economy so bad, objectively speaking, I am glad to have a job. And it's not a terrible job. The pay isn't too bad, I have benefits, it's not horrible or degrading or anything. On one level, it's what lets me bird, instead of worrying about where my next meal is coming from. Intellectually, I see that, and am grateful for it.
On the other hand, it's the biggest waste of time ever. I feel like I'm on a treadmill, going nowhere at all as I put one foot in front of the other endlessly...and as far as exercise goes, I hate treadmills and all other exercise machines. Running or stepping endlessly in place, watching the depressing tally of calories burned flash before me, going nowhere until the allotted time is up.... Not for me! But, I can ramble around outside all day long, paying no attention whatsoever to the time.
I understand that the problem is not isolated to myself. So many people are unfulfilled at work, just existing weekend to weekend. Suffice to say that's not really a good life.
When I can squeeze in birding before and after work, and on my breaks, I get through the days okay. When the weather is bad for days on end on top of it, it's hard to keep one's spirits up. And why by three o'clock do I always feel like a zombie, yawning and dim-witted and dreaming of the vending machine? Let's just say that left to my own devices, I could never sit still, or in front of a computer, for so many hours a day.
My goal is to find a job that doesn't feel like a complete waste of time, besides the paycheck.... If only I could be paid to bird!
Meanwhile, the sun has to come out again, sooner or later. And I'll be ready for it, binoculars in hand!