Growing up, I knew my grandmother loved birds. She’d make a pheesh, pheesh, pheeshing noise that would get whatever birds were near to look her way. This was cool, but I never understood her fascination with them in the first place.
Jump to years later and I find out that my dad has the same fascination. He’ll see a new bird on the feeders he’s placed around the back yard and grab his binoculars to see what kind of beak it has or what the coloring on its belly looks like. He’ll listen, trying to categorize whether a bird’s call is a wherrring or a chick-a-dee-dee-dee or a trilling. Then he’ll open his nifty guide book and try to match all his observations to a bird.
From spending time with him, I now know a male cardinal’s brilliant red coloring or a hairy wood pecker’s whirring that oddly sounds similar to its pecking on a tree. I find myself eyeing a brown bird with a black beak in order to tell him about it later so we can discover what kind it is. (Brown cow bird. Dad knew this one without even looking it up.) They’re all so beautiful and different.
And I wonder, did I not understand my grandmother’s fascination because one bird was just like another to me and I didn’t know how she was able to figure out new birds? Did I miss out simply because I didn’t ask her questions? What else would I find interesting if I took the time to understand how something works?