Across and above the creek the Ponderosa Pines stand, anchored in the good earth, staring south toward the willows lining the creek. Further south, a creature with my name sits in a clearing, waiting for a bird to appear.
There ought to be a White-breasted Nuthatch somewhere around here, I think. This is a mature forest, with water, insects, seeds, and cover. It’s the right time of the year, it’s midday, and later it is going to rain.
And, after a while, a White-breasted Nuthatch makes its upside-down appearance, climbing down one of the pines, gracing my thought of it with its reality.
I don’t mean to imply that I conjure up birds by thinking about them. Far from it. Unlike my wife, I just haven’t been birding long enough to know where to look and what to look for, without thinking about it first. While I was busy thinking that this is good habitat for White-breasted Nuthatches, I probably missed ten other birds.
Because I am not much of a birder yet, I often have to think about a bird before I see it. If I was better at it, I would see the birds without having to think them first. Like other artists, truly adept birders don’t have to do as much thinking. They transcend the thinking process; they just “see.” Of course, their “seeing” is an educated seeing. Following their avocation for years enhances and refines the skill and they do their homework about the kinds of birds that live around them, so that flicker of movement conveys more meaning to them than to an uneducated eye.
Perhaps one day, if I live long enough, I will reach that plateau where thought comes after the sighting and not before. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll just have to keep thinking if I want to see any birds.