Sunday, April 15, 2007

Guest Post: Chuckie V

The songbirds sing their songs of praise while flowers I only wish I could name all display their vibrant hues. That reminds me...beyond a rose and maybe a daisy, I've never been able to identify various kinds of flowers. Same thing with birds and trees. I know how to tell a pine from an oak and an oak from an ostrich, but I would never be able to point out the difference between a cedar and a ponderosa, or a jeffrey pine and a bristlecone, or an ostrich from an emu. A douglas fir looks an awful lot like a white fir, which looks an awful lot like a red fir. None of them, by the way, are furry.
The thing is, everyone I know who knows how to correctly label plants or birds or insects are loony. (I realize this argument doesn't hold much water coming from a guy who likes to walk thousands of miles.) They recognize hundreds of different species but every so often one comes along that they cannot identify, one that absolutely stumps them. This is when their true looniness shines. They suggest things like, "Hmmm. You know, that could very well be a yellow-breasted yipper yapper, but then there's the off chance it might be a loose-necked crane snatcher." They know they don't know and they feel duped because of it, like Oprah Winfrey believing James Frey's tall tale.
Show an entomologist an insect he or she cannot scientifically name and I'll show you a miserable biologist. The same thing can be said for ornithologists. For sure, bird lovers are the worst. My friend Jon Sadler, the same guy who first introduced me to the PCT, is a bird watcher extraordinaire. He's been an Audubon Society member since he was nine. He has built his own aviaries. He carries binoculars everywhere he goes. He even---and I'm not kidding about this---listens to gigabytes worth of bird calls on his iPod. Nerd alert, let me tell you.
Anyway, every so often, Jon the bird nerd witnesses a feathered friend he cannot put a name to. "Chuck, you better come check this out," he whispers, as if we were brain surgeons in the middle of something work related. "I think I see a red-necked sapsucker. Well, maybe not..."
When this happens, as it tends to, he sulks around in shame for weeks. He hits his field guides harder than ever and studies as if he were going to be tested on the matter. Indeed, he is. There are thousands of species of birds and Jon only knows a few hundred. It's a sick self-inflicted sort of torture I tell you! And that's coming from someone who knows all about Sado-Masochism.
Methinks you needn't know the name of a particular plant or animal to appreciate its raw beauty. Hell, ninety-nine percent of the women I've ever lusted toward have remained nameless. It's better that way. I don't find them any less attractive just because I don't know their name. In fact, I usually find them more attractive. (Incidentally, please disregard that the English call women 'birds'.)
Anyway, as I walk by fields of blossoming flowers, I know that what I see, whether I know what it is I see, is attractive or not. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in his or her (bird)brain.


jonathan said...

Also, the English call bird watchers "twitchers." And, I never realized birds were attractive. That kind of thinking gets in the way of figuring out what they're called.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the birds and the bees. Now that we know who the birds are, time to figure out who are the bees.

Oh wait! I know. Bees are drones without much in the way of brains, just doing the work they're supposed to do. Ah, yes.