If I Had to Choose, I Would Rather Have Birds than Airplanes*

March 1, 2010

After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.
• Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Daffodils line the walkway to our front door. The trees are blossoming pink and white in the yard, birds are chirping loudly in the holly bush, and outside the bedroom window, gracefully arching branches are beginning to green, their lacey loveliness distracting me from my work. It’s early for spring. Too early, and I remember last year when we were seduced by possibility and planted the garden, awakening to snow the next morning.

I love these natural beauties, but I also love the unnatural world. If I had to choose, perhaps I would rather see Carhenge (Stonehenge recreated in Nebraska with circled automobiles standing on end) or the world’s largest ball of string or the infamous Lizzie Borden house in Fall River, Massachusetts, than amble through the woods.  Or maybe I would rather roam the aisles of just about any bookstore or thrift shop or robot purveyor than visit a glacier. Or maybe not. A wonderful, widely branching tree is a delight and if I could, I’d live in one.

But while camping refreshes my body and soul, for brightening my spirit, inspiring  writing, and jumpstarting creativity, there’s nothing like the odd and unusual output of the human brain. I am not much of a nature writer. I am not a land- or seascape artist. The photographs I take are mostly potential candidates for The Amuseum of Unnatural History. My collections attest to my interests. I’d rather find a rubber alligator than see a real one.

If you’re like me, you may not be able to clearly define your preferences. When you’re a student, this can make choosing a major and determining possible career directions problematic. Then too, preference may be driven by the realities of things like allergies—I love looking at blossoms through the window, but the pollen does not love me. Factoring in all of life’s circumstances is part of limiting the innumerable choices that each of us faces when we decide to go to school or change jobs or do whatever it is that moves us into the future.

What about you? Do you love to camp, to garden, to walk in the woods? Do you find inspiration in the stars or in the crashing waves of the ocean? Are you drawn to causes devoted to protecting the environment? Is green living important to you? Do you love animals? Do plants fill your home? If so, you may find metaphor and meaning in the world around you and may choose to pursue a career related to these passions or at least one that doesn’t keep you desked from dawn till dusk. Or you may, like me, try to have it all–the daffodils and the daffy detritus of the unpredictably quirky human mind.

Rocks and shells, these are my treasures.
• Teacher about collecting, July 15, 2006

To think about as you determine directions for your life: What kind(s) of activity lead to your good ideas? What inspires your creative spirit? What do you collect? Would you rather be inside or outside? What do you want to do when you get to choose how your time is spent? How can you integrate your preferences into your life?

The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.
• John Muir

* Thanks to Charles Lindbergh, aviator, for the title quotation.


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