|Volume 11, Issue 12||
Birds and People
I was entranced with the pictures of birds in art works, with the stories about birds and people, with the ways in which birds are in our lives—in our coins, in our symbols, in our mythology and in our food chain.
There is history—as in the Northwest Coastal First Nations’ use of Ravens in their totems. There is science— as in the ways in which bird bones and lungs are so different than ours to allow for flight, and an exploration of the mysteries of migration. There is art—with ancient cave paintings as well as modern abstract birds. And there is wonder—about how many habitats birds can fill, about how they can fly for so many miles without stopping, about how the feathers are formed, and how unlimited the human imagination is with these creatures as inspiration.
Birds seem like humans in some ways with their biology, and yet they fly. Birds care for their young like we do, and yet they leave the juveniles to migrate back to home grounds. Birds have the same organs as we do, and yet the sheer beauty of their feathers entrances us. We truly do have “flights” of imagination because of them.
Birds appear in movies—I just rewatched an episode of the Harry Potter series with a magical Phoenix. Birds appear on major holidays such as Thanksgiving. Birds are in our vocabulary such as “hen pecked” or “bird brained.” Birds are now the source of intense ecological study and conservation efforts.
When I look at birds, study birds or listen to birds, I am aware of my place in a grander scheme of the universe—one that I barely comprehend with my limited senses. And I often wonder if the birds are looking at me...and what are they thinking?
This is a book of stories from around the world. The amazing diversity of birds and people is the magic of this book. If you are looking for inspiration, look outside and get this from the library!
Lauretta Young MD is the Director of Student Resiliency Program at OHSU and prior chief of mental health at Kaiser. She now has a private bird tour business where she teaches beginners and more advanced birders how to more fully appreciate bird song, behavior and ecology as well as identification. See her web site at portlandbirdwatching.com.
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