I would characterize my dad as an outdoorsman. He has been into camping, biking, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, archery, and fishing. Fishing seems to be one of his most enduring hobbies. I have lots of memories of going fishing with him over the years.
I never caught the fishing bug to the same degree my dad did, though I could usually be counted on to go with him to the lake or river. I enjoyed being outdoors as well. Some of our camping and biking adventures have become the stuff of legends between us, being talked about even now, 30 years later.
Probably my favorite type of fishing would be fly fishing for panfish and bass using little floating popper flies. I remember one time in particular on a small lake that he favored for a while, the two of us sitting in our Old Town canoe, casting near the lily pads and pulling out bluegills and crappies. They were little, about the size of your hand, so we threw them all back, but on a fly rod they fought enough to make it fun.
I don’t think I’ve held a fishing rod in at least 10 years. I still enjoy being outdoors and I like being on or near the water, though I’m not such a big fan of being in it. Perhaps I’ve become a more contemplative outdoorsman.
I like birds. I enjoy watching them, especially waterbirds, ducks, geese, waders, shorebirds, grebes, and the like. I like them because they are generally relaxed. I can stand somewhere with binoculars or a spotting scope and watch them for several minutes because they tend not to hide. I’m not a big fan of warblers. They like to flit high up in trees too much making them hard to find. Even if you do find them, they don’t hold still long enough to enjoy.
Maybe that’s why I never got into fishing more—fish don’t hold still. Generally speaking, you can’t see them. They are elusive, but I like peaceful pursuits. I’m not vegan and I enjoy some good fish on my plate, but if fishing is peaceful, it generally means it isn’t very good fishing. Getting a bite is always a surprise. I’m more content to take a canoe out on the lake and just slowly paddle around, enjoying the peace and tranquility.
I can get the same enjoyment out of an alpine meadow or a clearing in the woods. I like it quiet enough to hear the flutter of a bird’s wings when it flies past. I’ve had some really soul-refreshing experiences outdoors. It’s probably the place I most consistently “feel close” to God.
Honestly, birds have become less of a pursuit and more of an excuse in some ways—an excuse to get outside, to feel the breeze in my face and the sun on my skin. I still enjoy birds, but the lure of the pursuit of them has waned over the years. If they choose to show up, great. If not, well, there is still the sky and the grass to enjoy.