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Lions Roar : March 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MArcH 2011 81 her late husband, David M. White in their new book, Zen Bird- ing. “Spirituality is about being aware of and participating in the connectedness between sentient beings.” Through close observation, we come to understand on a gut level how little separates us and other creatures. Birds, like hu- mans, look for mates, have families, feed themselves and their young, strive to stay out of danger. Birds, like humans, suffer. They get sick, grow old, and die. Realizing our essential sameness has the potential to make us more compassionate. We realize how our actions affect birds and their habitats, and we choose to be better stewards of the earth. Like meditation, birding asks us to be still, to be quiet, to listen. And it allows our awareness to grow. We can become aware of ourselves—of ourselves watching—and we can develop a sense of gratitude for our physical body, for our senses. “Consider your eyes,” says Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Fragrant Palm Leaves. “How can we take something as wonderful as our eyes for granted? Yet we do. We don’t look deeply at these wonders. We ignore them, and, as a result, we lose them. It’s as though our eyes don’t exist. Only when we are struck blind do we realize how precious our eyes were, and then it’s A fRIeND TOLD Me that if I went to a certain park across the bridge, I would see black-capped chickadees, and if I cupped some seeds in my hands while softly singing chick-a -dee-dee-dee, then they would perch on my fingers. These instructions sounded like a witch’s spell, complete with incantations; the promised outcome sounded like a franciscan legend. All very enchanting. So my hus- band, Adán, and I bought ten pounds of birdseed and drove across the bridge. The stuff of magic and miracles, however, was not forthcom- ing. We followed paths lined with spruce and birch, but it didn’t seem to matter which one we took; we saw nothing but crows, squirrels, and people walking dogs. “Which way do you want to go now?” Adán asked. “I don’t know.” The birdseed was heavy in my backpack. He chose left. After walking a few feet, we came to a very nar- row path between two clusters of saplings. “Listen!” said Adán. I couldn’t tell whether it was an insect chirping its wings or a birdcall. I just knew it didn’t sound like chick-a-dee-dee-dee as I was singing it. We slipped between the saplings, and found our- selves in a clearing. I scooped seeds into my palm and held them out to invisible birds. Invisible until I saw one flitting from branch to branch. “That’s it.” I whispered to Adán. It was tiny, with its distinc- tive black cap and bib, its white and buff belly, and its head that, though little, seemed a size too big. I sang for the chickadee, and it came—wrapped its feet around my finger and took a seed. Then it darted off and another chickadee touched down briefly. Both birds took one more seed each and that was all; they flew away like two hooded fairies. “Birding can be a spiritual practice,” say Susan M. Guyette and Bird Songs Review Zen Birding David M. White and Susan M. Guyette O Books 2010; 194 pp., $16.95 (cloth) Reviewed By andRea miLLeR DeTAILfROM“fLOWeRSANDBIRDS”BYuNkOkuTOkAku.COLLeCTIONOfYAMAGuCHIpRefeCTuRALMuSeuMOfART. andRea miLLeR is a deputy editor of the Shambhala Sun and a member of the nova Scotia Bird Society.