Tuesday, September 19, 2023

I Want My Old Friends Back

Happier times, on a visit to Tucson

It dawned on me the other night, right before falling asleep, that what I want is to have my friends back. My partner will read this, and believe it is her fault. My in-laws may think they are to blame. No one is guilty except, perhaps, myself, for not anticipating the loneliness I would feel after moving to a new town. Two-and-a-half years in, and I am still grieving. I truly am misplaced here.

My partner and I agreed to come to Leavenworth, Kansas, to spend quality time with her parents, while they are still healthy, and relatively young. We have dinner out with them, at local restaurants, almost every Saturday night. I’m happy to do that, though the conversations typically cover the funeral(s) of the week, and news of people Heidi may know from her childhood, but no one I have any connection to. I’m used to talking about broader topics, society at large. I rarely do that now because of differences in ideology.

Let me emphasize that I like my in-laws, and most of the extended family of my partner. The problem is that this is my entire universe now. We get back to Colorado once per year. I think it has been close to a decade since we last visited Cincinnati. We both have friends strung out around the globe, some of whom we only know through social media, but are anxious to meet IRL (in real life).

Funny, as an only child many friends in my youth were adults. Now that I am an adult, or at least pretending to be one, I find the need to be surrounded by young people, to keep up my energy and enthusiasm for life. Colorado was a perfect mix of both youth and age. Everyone is physically fit, highly engaged in community affairs and in national and international issues.

Leavenworth, by comparison, appears at least on the surface to skew heavily geriatric. Many people are overweight or otherwise unhealthy, and you seldom see smiles. There are children and teens, of course, but I rarely encounter them. The twenty-somethings I see are wait staff at the restaurants. Fort Leavenworth fairs better, and despite the military affiliation, I have met some nice families there thanks to a couple of events I’ve participated in. You need passes to get on post as a civilian, though, and it is not a daily or even weekly proposition.

All this is to say that I am not incentivized to cultivate new friends here. I am simply not interested. It would take energy I do not have because I am deflated by where I find myself. It is a perfect circular storm of sadness feeding itself.

I want my old friends back. They gave my life purpose that I am lacking now, and I fed off the energy they have. I learned things from them. I helped teach them in return. We shared both optimism and pessimism for the collective future. We made each other laugh.

Practically the only thing holding myself together is an obsession and compulsion to document all the animal species I can find on our modest little property. It is enough of a healthy distraction to keep me away from potentially self-destructive impulses.

In the cold months I struggle constantly. I have lost nearly all my creative energy, and seldom write. It is not that I have nothing to write about, but I am unmotivated to do the exercise of pressing the buttons on the keyboard. Translating thoughts to actions is too daunting.

I believe advice is unhelpful. My situation is something I will have to solve myself. Maybe I’ll need to spend a year somewhere else, on my own. Who knows? I only hope that I recognize the solution once it presents itself.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Why Low Wages in the U.S. Are "Acceptable"

© Getty Images/iStockphoto

I spend a good deal of time thinking about our American economic system, and how it abuses labor, consumers, and the environment. There has, in my opinion, been an elaborate orchestration of the illusion of wage fairness that has helped pacify what should be an outraged labor force. The entire idea of a “Middle Class” is, in fact, an illusion. Allow me to outline first why a minimum wage that no longer keeps up with the cost of living has endured for so long.

Ways in Which Labor is Encouraged to Augment Low Wages

The corporate world has dictated how the labor force is allowed to make up for low wages. We are led to believe that it is our responsibility to make up the deficit in earning a livable income by....

  1. Taking a second job (or third). As fewer and fewer jobs exist with full-time hours, the need to secure a second job is becoming the standard for more and more workers. Even full-time jobs may not pay enough to cover rent, food, utilities, and other necessities, so workers end up taking at least a part-time job to supplement the full-time job.
  2. Side Hustle. Labor is encouraged to monetize activities that they may otherwise consider hobbies. Platforms like Etsy and e-bay are examples of this, but also blog platforms like Medium, and video outlets like YouTube. These are all still largely corporate marketplaces, and subject to the same problems as other corporate entities. Uber, Lyft, and other transportation services, including delivery of food and merchandise, is another form of the side hustle, and they carry added risks to personal safety. In all cases, such endeavors tend to take the fun out of pursuits that one once found pleasurable.
  3. Borrowing. This broad category includes credit cards, lines of credit, conventional loans, mortgages, and other forms of lending through banks, plus loans from family and friends. This naturally produces debt that is rarely paid off in a timely fashion, and the borrower actually loses money in the long run thanks to interest, fees, and other attached expenses.
  4. Lotteries, legalized gambling. National and state lotteries have become commonplace, and there is now widespread legalized sports betting. Most states also have casinos, often on Indigenous reservations or "offshore" on rivers. Once again, odds are stacked against patrons of those enterprises. Enough low-level prize money is made available, with enough regularity, to keep gamblers coming back for more. It can become an addiction that necessitates borrowing again, sometimes from ruthless sources.
  5. Civil Litigation. Have you noticed how many law firms advertise these days? The implication is that through lawsuits, an individual can recoup what they believe they are already entitled to. It is classic displacement. Your wrath over low wages or salary at your job is taken out on a third party when circumstances such as traffic accidents or malpractice on the part of physicians or hospitals present themselves. Guess who is footing the bill for those prime time television advertisements. The expense and emotional stress of litigation is seldom worth the trial, or even the settlement. It is also an enterprise ripe for corruption itself by unscrupulous attorneys.
  6. Government Assistance. Low-level employees at many corporations still qualify for government assistance in the form of foodstamps, Medicaid, the Child Care Credit, and related programs. Because there is still a social stigma attached to receiving government benefits prior to retirement age, there is reluctance to avail oneself to those avenues of income.
  7. Crowdfunding. Social fundraising has become a popular go-to for individuals facing tragedy or trauma, to cover the expenses of medical, veterinary, or repair and reconstruction emergencies. Platforms like Kickstarter can also help someone launch their own business, or creative project, in the hopes of abandoning their dependence on corporate wages over which they have no control. Again, there exists some social stigma over the idea that individuals are self-indulgent and/or "needy."
  8. Pawning, garage sales. Selling one's existing possessions is a socially-acceptable way of generating money, albeit precious little. The assumption is that you are making a sacrifice, something laudible, and also providing other people with items that they need or desire. Pawning something of sentimental value, on the other hand, like a wedding ring, may signal that you assign little true value to the object, and thus the person or institution it represents.
  9. Service gigs. What was once the domain of child and teenage money-making opportunities is now being undertaken by people of all ages. Lawn-mowing. Snow shoveling. Running errands. The classic lemonade stand. All are acceptable enterprises because customers are receiving a product or service. The supposition is that you are also teaching your children lessons in economics, either by example, or by encouraging your children to contribute to family income.
  10. Illegal activities. There are some enterprises that are expressly unlawful, but for which enforcement is lax or applied prejudicially. Selling illicit substances, engaging in prostitution, participating in illegal gambling, and other criminal activity is risky, but potentially highly lucrative. Besides the obvious legal downside, there is extreme risk of physical and emotional abuse. The idea that these pursuits are encouraged would be laughable were it not for the example of decriminalizing marijuana. Can decriminalization of other activities be far behind?

All of the above ways of earning supplemental income are frought with uncertainties, and expenses, if only in terms of taxes. There is frequently great emotional and physical stress involved. Many of these include a social cost where you are subject to incorrect assumptions over your work ethic, morality, or other aspects of your persona. You deserve better.

You are more than your credit score. The normality of borrowing has turned the "Middle Class" into the Debt Class. It is no accident that debt liability is not figured into poverty statistics. If that were so, the veil would finally be lifted and we would see the Emperor indeed has no clothes. Corporations would at last be exposed as the greedy organizations we all know they are, but cannot otherwise prove. Only corporate executives and majority shareholders matter. Capital is not "scarce" as we are told, it is being hoarded. That this is in any way legal is reprehensible.

What is the solution? Until Universal Basic Income and reparations are the order of the day, cancel, as much as humanly possible, your subscription to this corporate economic model. It is, arguably, nearly impossible to do so, but we have to try. The irony that I am writing this post on a platform owned by a monolithic digital tech entity (Google) does not escape me. Still, I buy little beyond food, utilities, communication devices, and fuel. We are fortunate to be privileged by a modest inheritance from my late father that allows us to live debt free for now, but that does not mean we feel safe from financial ruin. More on that in another post.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

A couple of independent social media posts lamenting the lack of social safety nets and related communal benefits here in the United States prompt me to offer a potential answer, or at least an opinion based on personal observations. The potential is there to take our collective power back, if we recognize how it is being taken from us.

Altered image from Komal Tyagi on LinkedIn

The theme the two posts have in common is that we are quick to come to the aid of friends and neighbors, and often strangers through news stories and crowdsourcing platforms like GoFundMe, but we refuse to unite in support of single-payer healthcare and other measures that would alleviate much of that suffering and financial stress. Why is this so? Why must we plead for our lives when faced with a medical emergency that we cannot afford to treat? Why are some so opposed to universal healthcare?

We all know the slogan “justice is blind,” and it should, ideally, apply to charity and generosity, too.”

My initial reaction, and belief, is that it comes down to personal choice. I am not speaking merely of a choice in medical providers. I am talking about a desire for control of who receives those benefits. We do not like others deciding our fate, yet that is exactly the kind of power some people want to have over others. The polarized political landscape only fuels that view, and adds to the intensity of its anger.

A good case in point is donating blood. I try to do this with some degree of regularity. The thing is, I do not get to decide who receives my blood, much as I sometimes wish I had that authority. It could be going to a drunk driver, or to their victim. It could be going to a drug addict, or to a priest. My blood could save the life of a gay man suffering from hemophilia, or to a straight woman. My red blood could go to a deep red Republican gun advocate or a dyed-in-the-wool blue Democrat who might otherwise lose their child to gun violence. That is the blessing and curse of relinquishing my desire for control. We all know the slogan “justice is blind,” and it should, ideally, apply to charity and generosity, too.

There is another insidious barrier to reforming all social programs. We are led to believe that capital is scarce. Money is not scarce. It is being hoarded by a small percentage of our population, or in the case of the U.S. government, by the Department of Defense. All media are guilty of purporting many myths about this. Excessive wealth is celebrated everywhere we look. We are instructed that this lifestyle is the one we should aspire to, and that if we work hard enough, we can attain it. We are led to believe that wealthy people earned their status and influence. We (White people, mostly) believe that financial resources are distributed equitably, and any attempts at “redistributing wealth” are sacrilegious.

None of this is true. We should be aspiring to financial balance, with enough extra to travel, educate ourselves, gift to others, and occasionally indulge ourselves. The rich and powerful of today did not earn their wealth. They either inherited money, or achieved their profits on the backs of laborers working under them, or both. Wealth is not distributed fairly; it is protected where it is through tax laws written by (surprise!) other excessively wealthy people we elect to office. Our capitalist economic system further ensures that wealth is already redistributed vertically upwards, not horizontally over the human landscape.

We can change things, fairly rapidly, if we recognize our power as consumers. Drop out of the corporate marketplace as much as you can. Reward excellence with your dollars, starve businesses that treat labor, consumers, and the environment poorly. Put at least some of your money in a credit union. Speak out and speak up for what you believe in. Let no one wonder where you stand. Remember that your experiences and knowledge are currency, too, far more valuable than paper or coin. Above all, be generous, even to strangers. Live a good example and others will follow. Don’t boast, simply act.

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Colonist I Am

It is not commonplace for anyone to acknowledge their ignorance of, or complicity with, colonialism, in either a historical context or in the present day, but here I am, about to do exactly that. Some of our political leaders, and I use that word with great sarcasm, would prefer we remain uneducated, and our children left in the dark as well. It is up to each of us to confront our own blind spots and inadvertent participation in continued colonialism and racism. The overwhelming aspects of both are subtle and insidious, most of the time.

Someone on my late father's side of the family did our genealogy, and traced our New World roots to the Mayflower, quite literally. There were one hundred and two passengers, and a crew of thirty more, on that famous ship, which landed on the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1620. A year prior, a different ship, the White Lion, brought the first African slaves to a colony in Virginia. Slaves of Spanish explorers coming to North America predate the English transport by nearly a century. My forefathers may not have started the fire, but they made no effort to extinguish it, either.

Somewhere between inappropriate pride in a White heritage, and shame and guilt about the past, there must be a plan of personal action to rectify injustices.

Did any of my ancestors actually own slaves? I have no idea, though it might be worth exploring. I would be interested to know if my family tree has any ties to Indigenous Americans, too. Is it necessary, though, to have a personal stake in the history of slavery to have empathy for the enslaved, the imprisoned, the opressed and murdered? I think not. Somewhere between inappropriate pride in a White heritage, and shame and guilt about the past, there must be a plan of personal action to rectify injustices. This applies even if you have not personally committed some overt act of bigotry, or incidental trespass. It begins with self-evaluation.

In creating a presentation recently for an organization of entomologists, it occurred to me how much overlap there is between environmental devastation and racism and colonialism. I asked myself why the scale of agriculture has intensified, beyond the Industrial Revolution, which amplified the Agricultural Revolution through mechanization, and now automation. Is it because we cannot feed the world any other way? No. In fact, those of us in the Western Hemisphere have an expectation that other nations feed us first, and themselves second.

I drink coffee. I love chocolate....Do my choices in the mareketplace make me a colonist all over again? Still?

Mea culpa. I eat bananas. I drink coffee. I love chocolate, and I no doubt consume my fair share of products made with palm oil. I enjoy pineapple on occasion. These crops have traditionally required deforestation to clear the land for their vast plantations. That is an environmental holocaust, but it also impacts indigenous human populations in a negative fashion. Where they are growing export crops they are not growing food for themselves.

Do my choices in the marketplace make me a colonist all over again? Still? Maybe. I have some soul-searching to do, some critical decisions to make if I do not wish to contribute to poverty and economic colonialism.

Being an ally to Black and Indigenous people here at home requires a different kind of effort. First, we have to commit to educating ourselves. Beyond Black History month, we need to examine the impediments that we have erected, on purpose or by ignorance, that prohibit or discourage participation in our workplaces, our public spaces, and neighborhoods and communities. In short, being an ally does not begin and end with joining protests over the most recent death at the hands of law enforcement, or other racist hate crime. The "everyday racism" is more difficult to detect and takes more work to eliminate.

If we can afford to finance wars, militarize the police, subsidize certain industries and corporations, and protect those with excessive wealth through tax legislation, then we can damn well afford reparations.

At a national level, there is talk of extending reparations: tangible financial benefits for the descendants of slaves. That puts the onous on Black people to prove they are related to former slaves. In my opinion, reparations should be made to Blacks, period, as they continue to face racism. I would also argue that reparations be given to Indigenous Americans. As it stands now, Whites are still mostly deciding where Indigenous and Black Americans can live, what jobs they can hold, and what rights they can enjoy.

Can we afford to pay reparations? If we can afford to finance wars, militarize the police, subsidize certain industries and corporations, and protect those with excessive wealth through tax legislation, then we can damn well afford reparations. You know where this is going. We should be paying reparations instead of financing endeavors that only serve to enrich those who are already wealthy.

As a Caucasian, cis, straight male, I do not feel threatened in any way by the idea of empowering those who have faced nothing but adversity for centuries on end. To the contrary, I believe my life is enriched beyond measure by knowing people of all identities. I learn from them, and I am a better, more sensitive and empathetic human being for it. There is no down side.

Learning how I can effectively participate in decolonization and anti-racism is an ongoing journey I have barely embarked on. With my White privilege comes the luxury of time to think, read, and listen. You, dear reader and follower, are invited to contribute your input, start conversations, and otherwise advance our collective goal of diversity, equality, and inclusion.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

One Hundred Percent AI-Free!

I am old enough to remember a humorous theoretical problem that asked something to the effect of how many years would it take a group of monkeys sitting at typewriters to crank out the works of Shakespeare. Fast forward to today, in the age of machine learning, and the questions are barely theoretical and the time frame horrifyingly immediate. How long before artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms make writers and other artists obsolete?

My one and only avatar, courtesy of my partner, Heidi, running an image through a popular filter in 2021

There is a lot to unpack here, and if you have not devoted time to follow digital and technological advances, you have some catching up to do. I am grateful there are watchdogs like Sean Thomas, who recently wrote an illuminating overview (but dark forecast) in The Spectator.Maggie Appleton penned an even more thoughtful summary in her blog. Few of us in the creative fields pay close enough attention to these things, if only in part because we do not want to know how threatening it truly is.

Artificial intelligence, as it applies to artistic endeavors in general, only came on to my own radar when friends in social media, namely Facebook, began to post about how AI images are generated. My understanding is that the algorithms are “trained” through exposure to countless existing images, overwhelmingly created by living, breathing humans. This is a form of data mining that does not credit its sources. An AI image is essentially a composite of an unknown number of previous images that informed its digital genesis. With no credit, let alone compensation, to the original artists, this is tantamount to theft.

The technology is also quickly outpacing the ability of governments to regulate it. Heck, most people in the U.S. Congress are probably blissfully unaware of it. This has not escaped the notice of the legal community, though, and a class-action lawsuit was filed recently on behalf of artists whose works were used without authorization by an AI program known as Stable Diffusion.

Ironically, and perhaps tragically, a previous legal case, Author’s Guild v. Google, resulted in a favorable decision for Google Books, which took substantial liberties in providing free “previews” of text and images for books in its search engine. Shoot, I thought that was a great thing at the time the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America came out. Only a couple of spreads of plates and text would have sufficed, though.

I hate to be a cynic, but it seems apparent that corporations ultimately want a world with nothing but consumers. Everything on the production side they want automated, or at least outsourced at poverty wages. Material wealth is for CEOs and majority shareholders. Never mind that without earning a living, there can be no consumers. That is an afterthought in this day and age. Advertising copy and imagery will soon be done by computer, and does art serve any other purpose anyway?

To the best of my ability, I will be avoiding anything AI, and will not use it in creating my own writing and photography. Heck, I do not even use Grammarly, maybe because I am fortunate to have friends who are better editors than I am. They will not hesitate to message me with anything that needs correcting. Meanwhile, I will be a happy agitator for the rights of all individual human beings, especially those who are creators. Let not the corporate voices drown out the disadvantaged and underrepresented. Not on my watch.

I want to give special thanks to my friends and colleagues who originally provided the links cited here: Gwen Pearson, J.C. Scott, Steve Taylor, and Jonathan Kochmer.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Book Review: The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair With Nature

I cannot help but see the irony in writing a review of a book written by a self-described “odd bird” in a blog entitled Sense of Misplaced. Perfect. What author J. Drew Lanham manages to convey brilliantly is that biophilia is a desirable affliction that transcends all colors of human diversity. The Home Place is a clarifying window into what it means to be an outsider among the privileged Caucasians who dominate the fields of biology, ecology, and wildlife conservation. Even casual birding presents challenges, but Lanham offers hope for a more integrated future.

Dr. Lanham and I are close in age, so it was intriguing to see what similarities of experience we shared given graphic differences in our home places. He is a Black man. I am not. He has siblings, and now children of his own. I do not. His upbringing was rural, mine urban. I am certain, however, that we both colored the same mimeographed songbird outlines in our respective elementary schools, even though there are no Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, or Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in western Oregon. No “markingbirds,” either. Ok, end of anything “me,” here, though a literary memoir would fail miserably if it did not spark memories in the reader’s mind, and evoke empathy and agreement.

The ecosystems of place, time, family, faith, academia, economy, and wild nature are all woven together seamlessly in The Home Place. Each one influences all the others, none standing alone. Through it all, Lanham expresses an ethical philosophy and physical and emotional vulnerability that is obviously authentic. He would never call himself brave, let alone heroic, but in many ways he is exactly that. Lanham carries a reverence for life that applies to every aspect, from familial relationships to hunting, birding, and conservation research.

The book is organized along the trajectory of Lanham’s personal and professional life, beginning as a member of a familial “flock,” and progressing through “fledgling” to full-blown “flight.” Today, Dr. Lanham is positively soaring, having recently received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, recipient one of the prestigious “genius grants” the foundation awards to exceptional individuals. Indeed, Lanham is one of those rare birds able to effortlessly navigate both the creative and scientific realms, bringing a unique perspective to both academic and public spheres.

No one would fault the author for having an angry tone given past and present injustices to their demographic. Instead, Lanham manages to tread that fine line between justified hostility and denial that historical and personal transgressions hindered their life at all. He is properly assertive, mournful for the lives of his ancestors, and insistent that things be made right.

We can all be better allies for reading The Home Place, a John Burroughs Medal Finalist as a "Nature Book of Uncommon Merit." It is an invitation to explore ourselves as well as the world around us, and to advocate for both biodiversity and human inclusivity.

In case you could not already surmise, I am highly recommending The Home Place for your personal library. It is like adding the work of an esteemed artist to your office wall. Whenever I am feeling a loss, be it mourning the loss of a favorite wild place, or simply at a loss for words, or way to communicate powerfully, I can pick up this book and be inspired all over again. The Home Place was published by Milkweed Editions, a non-profit entity located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2016. The book is 217 pages.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Comfort and Joy of Birds

In an otherwise winter-dead landscape, wild birds bring a reminder that animate life still exists. The sun still rises, the Earth still turns, the seasons march on. When the frenetic pace of humanity becomes too much, birds offer a sense of peace, a reset button that allows us to relax a moment. These basic sentiments and sensations are rarely cited as reason enough for conserving our feathered friends, nor used in arguing that we have a right to nature.

My partner and I live in Leavenworth, Kansas, USA, less than two blocks from the federal penitentiary. One could hardly imagine a more stark, vivid contrast between the freedom of flight and the permanence of incarceration. We can see the dome from our kitchen window, but in the foreground is our back yard, enclosed by a wooden fence and one wall of the detached garage. Heidi insisted we put up feeders, and that gesture has been a blessing.

We moved from a dense residential neighborhood in Colorado Springs, Colorado well over a year ago now, and I have found it nearly impossible to embrace this much smaller town, overwhelmingly conservative in the political sense. Prisons, churches, and Fort Leavenworth define the entire county. The human atmosphere has been utterly stifling, and I have found my creativity and productivity suffering. Everyone I see looks old, unhappy, often in poor health.

By contrast, the birds that visit our feeders are energetic, alert, colorful. They chatter and sing as they compete for seed and suet, or communicate with fledglings they are still feeding (I’m looking at you, White-breasted Nuthatches). The birds are at least a reminder of what can be, the vibrant, happy lives we could have if we only chose to. We subscribe to far too many unhealthy pursuits and addictions as we try to escape the prisons of capitalism, familial discord, and other stressors.

As I write this, the only sounds audible through the walls and windows are gunshots at the firing range on the prison property, light vehicle traffic, and an occasional dog bark. We wait for the birds to visit in waves of brief duration, usually mixed flocks of House Sparrow, juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, Blue Jays, Mourning Dove, and woodpeckers. House Finches prefer to have the feeders to themselves and seldom appear with the other birds. What competition there is tends to be relatively peaceful, though until we can translate perfectly the calls of birds, who knows what is profanity.

Birds are not here for our entertainment, of course. Science tells us they fill niches unoccupied by other species, and provide ecosystem services such as membership in the food web, seed dispersal, and suppression of insects that would overwhelm entire ecosystems without checks and balances from avian predators. Still, such arguments are dry, impersonal, and relatively weak in convincing lawmakers and corporate executives of the need for conservation, preservation, and creation of bird-friendly habitat.

That is where comfort and joy come in. Birds, and other undomesticated organisms, are critical for the personal and social functioning of a great many people. The passion for birds is so great that it creates jobs itself: Seed growers and processors, feeder manufacturers, optical industries, travel and tourism, and parks and recreation agencies all depend on, and cater to, birders. Artists! Increasingly, landscape architects are specializing in planning and executing native plantings with birds in mind. Failing to acknowledge the comfort and joy that wild birds bring to citizens is an affront to human rights, and threatens to undermine our collective mental health, and even some livelihoods.

My partner and I have the luxury of White privilege, enough disposable income to feed the birds, and enough time to enjoy them. We can even travel to see birds elsewhere. We’re so far ambulatory and without most other physical challenges. It is incumbent upon us, however, to improve inclusiveness and promote diversity in birding whenever and wherever we can. We cannot allow anyone to be less than a proud birder, or birdwatcher, free of derision and shame perpetrated by those who have no appreciation for the living world in its natural state.

Share your bird-joy. Wrap others in philosophical, feathery comfort. Lend your binoculars and field guides. Donate to local, national, and international organizations promoting birding. Do not neglect those aimed at Indigenous, Black, LGBTQ, women, and other traditionally ignored demographics. There may be no greater gift you can give this holiday season, or at any other time of year.