Travel | Birds | Exploration | Learning | Philosophy | Wildlife

How Much Alive

“It matters not where or how far you travel—the farther commonly the worse—but how much alive you are.” — Henry David Thoreau

Sitting outside, listening to birdsong in the magic hour before the world shook the cobwebs off, I watched a couple of large birds fluttering tree-to-tree. I wondered at them, thinking perhaps pileated woodpeckers who tend to behave this way, or maybe a couple of young turkeys waking up from their roost. Definitely not hawks on the hunt. Black and white with a bit of duck-like appearance to them, I quickly exhausted my list of possibilities and remained mystified. The binoculars and camera remained safely in the house where they offered the least amount of help in the moment. So I quietly thanked them for their visit and released them from my attention as they worked their way away from my own perch. I may find out yet who my visitors were, but it wasn’t our moment for a proper introduction.

We aren’t meant to know everything, but we ought to be curious. We all seek answers in this world. We climb to high summits, fly to faraway places, seek solace in the new. Shouldn’t we celebrate the world as it comes to us? Why do we feel compelled to fly across the globe? Because we know it’s out there, and like those birds, once we’re aware of that fact we want to know a bit more about it.

Thoreau traveled too, he just wasn’t collecting frequent flyer miles or navigating security lines. He sought faraway places relative to his time and place, traveling to Cape Cod and Maine and paddling down the Concord and then up the Merrimack Rivers. He sought what was just out of reach just as we do. Credit the pace of travel if you will, but he didn’t postpone his aliveness for when he arrived at his destination, he encountered it in each moment along the way. Shouldn’t we do the same?

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