Monday, February 26, 2018

The Olympics Are Over!

© Eric Eaton 2018

Our marriage is tested a little during the Olympics. My wife loves them. I endure them. My reasons for lack of enthusiasm range from petty to political, but it mostly boils down to personal preference. The Olympics force me to confront my biases and allegiances, and that makes me uncomfortable.

First of all, I have never much enjoyed individual sports. I grew up in Oregon and lots of my friends were skiers; but when many of them came back to class in casts after a weekend on the slopes, I decided that was not the sport for me. It is an expensive form of recreation, too, one that was beyond the means of my family. That idea of privilege also put me off, and it still does today. How many athletes could be competing in international competition if only they were wealthy enough?

Meanwhile, the Olympic coverage on NBC fails to show in its entirety the one sport that they might get me to watch: hockey. It is the same way in the summer games with basketball and volleyball and soccer. Unless you have a cable or satellite package, you will not get to view team sports. Bah-humbug. This time it is the spectator who is punished for not having enough privilege to afford those subscription services. It is unjust, unfair, and I am not going to apologize for feeling that way. They need a new model for broadcasting. What a concept it would be to have coverage over NBC, FOX, and CBS, for example. God forbid they put the public's desires above their own bottom line for two weeks. Two weeks.

It pains me to say this, but I also have an increasingly difficult time telling which team is the Americans, especially in figure skating. The sport has become dominated by Asians, even on Team USA. Don't get me wrong. If you are the highest-performing individual in the sport, then you deserve the right to represent, regardless of your ethnicity. I just personally find a Dorothy Hamill or Sarah Hughes easier to watch. I know, I'm so shallow! I at least have the guts to admit it. These are spectator sports, and every spectator has their own preferences. I will also be the one to tell you that the failure to attract an audience for the WNBA stems largely from the fact that there are too few "cute White girls" on the court. I truly wish we were beyond that, believe me, but the average spectator is a middle-aged White male who wants to be entertained instead of being a supporter of equal opportunities for all female athletes. Yes, we need to grow up, I only wish I knew how.

What did give me a perverse sense of satisfaction is that Team USA was not the leader in medal totals. At this point in time I find it difficult to cheer for my own country. It goes back to privilege and entitlement again, and choices. We Americans would rather pour our money into training elite sports figures for the extremely short duration of their careers, instead of investing in the next generation of scientists, scholars, musicians, artists, writers, and social leaders, to name but a few more enduring occupations. Our public schools might suffer, but by golly we are going to have sports champions! We will cut school lunch programs before we have a skater go without blades. Several sets of blades. Many, many sets of blades. Huge blades.

Ironically, at this point in history, our USA athletes may be the best face of our country. Most have demonstrated humility and grace, win or lose, and a spirit of camaraderie with their brothers and sisters from another country. I wish we here at home could learn from that. Instead, we experienced another mass shooting while our competitors were in Korea, and are now talking about arming teachers and other school staff as a viable preventative measure. Wow. I wonder how our biathlon teams feel about that. Maybe they'll volunteer for school guard duty, but I doubt it. I suspect they want schools to be something different and better than a prison.

When they arrive stateside, maybe our athletes will seek endorsement deals with the Ad Council, and non-profits extolling the virtues of public lands, safe drinking water, clean air and energy, a rejuvenated public education system, and freedom to pursue excellence in whatever career path you choose, even if it doesn't put you on a podium or a pedestal.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Guns Are a Problem And a Symptom

© Eric and Heidi Eaton 2018

So I had a peaceful conversation the other day with a friend who, along with her husband, own at least two guns. She was raised by responsible gun-owning parents, and she exhibits rational and loving behavior. She believes that our current issues are "multinodal" in their causes, and I agree completely. Our collective short-term strategy may require stricter gun laws, but our long-term strategy should be to make guns irrelevant.

We did not get to the weaponization of America overnight, and we won't willingly disarm ourselves quickly, either. We must have an honest dialogue about what we fear, and why we see a solution in firearms. I am no pacifist, but I also don't trust myself with a gun. I can be too impulsive, for one thing. I would pass a background check easily, but I know myself and there is no way any good could come from arming me. I also do not trust many other people to make the same kind of self-assessment.

Our society has become reactive, not proactive, regarding the stresses and threats to our lives. We are constantly subjected to media that teach us to fear each other. It starts with the morning news, interrupted by ads for security systems, and drones all day long. We go to social media and buy into memes that can be overwhelmingly classified as propaganda. The average citizen believes they have no escape from this relentless stream of negativity, but there are positive choices. Physical exercise helps relieve stress. Owning a (shelter) pet helps immensely. Experiencing forests, mountains, meadows, deserts, and other natural habitats brings peace to both myself and my gun-owning friend. She advocates for bird conservation.

I have friends who pursue crafts like knitting with such enthusiasm they do not have time to worry, fret, and fear. They enrich the lives of others by sharing the gifts of their talents, mentoring youth, and channeling their energy into these creative pursuits. My wife sings in the church choir and plays handbells. I write, doodle cartoons, and venture outdoors frequently to find insects, spiders, and other overlooked wildlife that I can show to other people. We even have a Mile High Bug Club of like-minded souls. When I am actively engaged in something I am passionate about, all problems and anxieties fade.

We certainly need a diversity of experiences; and we need to expose ourselves to different cultures and communities to even have insight into, let alone appreciation of, the lives of others. I have not done such a good job of getting out of my comfort zone in that respect, and I am embarrassed. I believe that a certain degree of periodic discomfort is as healthy as the activities we take refuge in. How to stretch our boundaries little by little, day by day. That is the challenge.

We can have illuminating conversations about what plagues our collective psyche. We can craft innovative solutions and even laugh at ourselves in the process. I remember the comedian Gallagher espousing his own solution to gun crime: "Let everyone have a (hand)gun, but just require that the barrel be three feet long. That way, if you see someone limping toward you, you know trouble is coming." Humor is healthy, and in careful doses does not detract from the seriousness of our most heinous atrocities.

It takes a village to raise our children, but the village seems terribly hostile right now. We need to lighten up, support our neighbors, and reject the subscription to fear and anger that is the media and marketplace. Demand products of peace. Preach not "tolerance," but acceptance of those different from yourself in gender, age, ethnicity, religion, and sexual preference. Do not arm teachers with anything but love, an ample paycheck, and maybe a conflict resolution curriculum. We can do this. We must do this. We put it off at our civilization's peril.

We need to imagine a nation in which we are so equal and respectful, devoid of envy and the urge to aspire to material wealth and power that the thought of violence never crosses our minds. I will finally rest when there comes a day when someone cleaning out their closet, garage, or shed, finds a gun, and says aloud "Hm-m-m, I forgot I had this."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Book Review: Never Out of Season

Rob Dunn grabs your attention right out of the gate in his book Never Out of Season (Little, Brown and Company, 2017, 323 pp). Our monotonous diet, and utter lack of crop diversity is not just stunning, it is frightening. The book's subtitle, How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future, is a bit misleading. First, that applies mostly to Western cultures which are affluent enough to import fruits and vegetables from other parts of the world, continually. To his credit, Dunn addresses global agriculture and food security, going out of his way not to ignore Third World nations, poverty, war, and other factors that influence the ability of countries to feed themselves, let alone the rest of the world.

Indeed, Dunn's historical accounts demonstrate how time and time again human populations has been on the brink of starvation, yet are bailed out by individuals and organizations on the far side of the globe. It has been Russians and others who have had the foresight to save seeds in banks and vaults, preserving crop diversity even at their own personal peril. Meanwhile, governments and industries have blissfully ignored the lessons furnished by famines and crop failures.

Never Out of Season is in many ways a real-life thriller, but the reader is largely left to draw their own conclusions as to who the villains are. There are plenty of victims and heroes, but aside from a small group of henchmen who sabotaged a cocoa tree plantation by deliberately infecting trees with a fungal disease known as witches'- broom, few criminals. At least, they do not have overtly hostile intentions. The problem is, overwhelmingly, neglect, plus failure to learn from history and failure to properly invest in efforts necessary to avert future calamities.

The progress of the Green Revolution creates the narrative arc, from its beginnings around World War II through present day. Humanity quickly became dependent on pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals to increase crop yields and exploit marginal soils. From there, agriculture scaled up, and today it is largely the province of multinational corporations with a primary agenda of profit and patent protection over feeding people. Consumers are left with increasingly processed foods in the supermarket, the illusion of choice, poorer nutrition, and a widening disconnect with farmers. Dunn is less simple and direct in his presentation of the state of agriculture, and how we got here, but is captivating, entertaining, and educational in his language. His research is exhaustive and beyond reproach. The end notes take up forty-six (46) pages.

Readers looking for an unequivocal indictment of industrialized agriculture will have to search elsewhere. Never Out of Season presents a series of cautionary tales that inform, enlighten, and serve as examples of the kinds of catastrophes we are in for if we continue to devalue genetic diversity in our food crops. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not painted as evil here, but powerful tools that can help advance agriculture provided we do not become as addicted to them as we did to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and phosphate fertilizers.

Dunn also offers hope at the end of the book, successfully energizing and empowering the reader to plant their own yards with vegetables and fruit trees, join in citizen science projects to enhance our collective understanding of agricultural ecology, and to purchase from local farmers those foods they cannot grow. The variety of approaches to agriculture is beginning to diversify, which is a positive trend, but it remains to be seen whether agribusiness will respond favorably, or seek to bury smaller entities under patent-infringement lawsuits and other legal strategies.

Paul Ehrlich, in his own endorsement, states that "Everyone who eats should read Never Out of Season. This reviewer could not agree more. Even fans of fiction would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling page-turner replete with colorful and heroic characters, and an ending that only we, the reader, can finish by holding our leaders accountable for funding priorities, environmental regulation, making conservation of heritage seeds an overriding concern, and bolstering consumer protections. We can also shop smarter and grow our own.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mandatory Meditation?

© The New York Times,

I recently posed a question to my friends in social media who are gun advocates, for lack of a better term. I asked what they were so afraid of. The overwhelming response was to avoid answering directly. Instead they offered the usual arguments for their position. One even suggested that there should be mandatory gun safety courses in middle school and/or high school, I cannot recall which. That met with some sharp replies and "wow" emojis. It got me thinking, though, about what else we might want to become mandatory in our society.

How about mandatory meditation? We need mindfulness more than ever now. Desperately, in fact. The ultimate in being proactive is not learning how to use a gun, it is learning how never to need one. Maybe we should be required to learn meditation, and to exercise it before we shoot off anything, from our mouths to our magnum .44s. I myself am not entirely sure what constitutes meditation. I know there are many different styles, some related to religions, others that are independent of any dogma, but I am embarrassed that I have not sought to learn more. It is unfortunate that meditation is something of a casualty of dismissing the "New Age" movement. Meditation is not a fad, nor a dinosaur. It is a life skill, emphasis on "life."

The point is that we are all too well-prepared to be violent. No one is prepared to be peaceful.

What is that long-standing joke? "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out." How wonderful it would be if, metaphorically speaking, we went to a mass shooting and a yoga convention spontaneously occurred. Collectively, we have a profound disconnect between our minds and our bodies. We are over-stimulated and on edge almost every waking hour. Then we cannot get to sleep. Advertising has become a substitute for education, and so we believe that exercise must be vigorous, even violent like boxing, and can be accomplished in as little as what, fifteen minutes? We do workouts. We should be doing peace-ins.

"Did he say mandatory medication?" No, but we pretty much have that already, and it is both a blessing and a curse. Pharmaceutical companies are rich enough as it is, thank you, and the side effects of the drugs they are turning out are no doubt underplayed. Perhaps mandatory marijuana would be worth considering, though, to mellow everybody out. Here in Colorado we have decriminalized both medical and recreational use. We are still working out the kinks, but if it ever loses its stigma entirely, I like our chances of being a more peaceful community.

There are lots of things beginning with the letter "m" that might be nice if they were mandatory. Mandatory mediation is a cornerstone of the discipline known as restorative justice. It certainly de-escalates matters, and is arguably more effective in conflict resolution than traditional paths of legal recourse.

Mandatory music? Here is a facet of our school curricula that is often the first to be sacrificed as unnecessary, an "elective" and a frivolous use of our taxpayer dollars. Really? When was the last time you saw an angry, stressed-out musician? What about a hostile mob surrounding a solo musician in the subway station, at a bus stop, or on a public square? Music is energizing in a positive way, stress-relieving, and emotionally moving when it is at its best.

"Did he say mandatory masturbation?" No, but that does seem to help keep the peace in societies of Bonobos, formerly known as Pygmy Chimpanzees, our closest living relative. They are quite literally lovers, not fighters, from what I can gather, and worthy role models for the rest of us Great Apes. There should be no shame in any non-violent behavior that is consensual, self-gratifying, or calming, be it a nap or self-pleasuring.

Homo sapiens, it can be argued, is a violent species because we do not practice peace and love. Again, we allow greeting card companies, candy manufacturers, and florists to educate us about what love is. It is none of that. Peace does not come from any commercial outlet. No weapon is a "Peacemaker," not even the Colt Single Action Army revolver of the old wild west.

The point is that we are all too well-prepared to be violent. No one is prepared to be peaceful. Mastery of weapons is a "death skill," not a life skill. How we define preparedness has to change if we want fewer incidents of mass carnage, if we want the very fabric of civilization to remain intact.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hearts and Guns

© Medi Belortaja and

First, a note to future mass murderers: Remember to check the history books to make sure there is not already a major event from the past that will overshadow the morbid disaster you are planning. For instance, there already was a St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and it was way better than your pathetic bid for fame because it involved two warring organized crime syndicates and not law-abiding citizens. Now, on to a more constructive discussion for how to end these things once and for all.

The overriding barriers to meaningful dialogue are distrust and fear in our American culture. There are other factors that contribute to the stagnation and inaction in the wake of active shooter incidents, too. Arrogance and stubbornness for example. Our insistence that we can only solve this on our own, that we do not need help from abroad in reducing gun violence here at home. We are also entirely too eager to look to the marketplace to solve intractable problems. The answer is sure to be another product, another service, or just more products and services. What we get are more knock-offs, more non-solutions, like another diet fad that does nothing, or is even proven harmful down the road.

What are we so afraid of? Why do we continue to assume the worst about people we do not know personally? When did our society start to unravel so? We have to start with these questions to learn the motivations behind our behaviors, our actions, and our inactions. There is absolutely no room for dishonesty, for saying what you think other people want to hear. We will get nowhere without being brave, even if that means exposing selfish motives or trivial concerns. Maybe you frame your experiences and perceptions differently than others. That is fine. This is how we begin to understand each other. We do not know what has shaped your approach to life unless you share that.

We have to resist the urge to judge others, of course, when someone commits to divulging personal matters. Belittling and bullying we know to be triggers for homicidal and suicidal behaviors, and if we are trying to end those consequences then we need to listen without judging. We have to beware of being condescending, too, or even being too overtly compassionate. It is a fine line between detachment and empathy and most of us, most of the time, are not very good at walking it.

The bravest among us are the unarmed. Not just in the sense of not carrying literal weapons, but in lowering their emotional shields, shedding the armor around their hearts and minds, admitting weakness and fears. There should be no shame in any of that. To the contrary, these are people we should elevate to the heights of heroism, supermen and superwomen who owe their strength to kryptonite, the vulnerabilities that make them human. Step out of your shell, just peek out from under your rock. Baby steps, but steps, please.

Australia apparently has very strict gun laws. Do we look at our friends Down Under and think "wow, what a totalitarian regime they must be living in?" Of course not. We envy them, perceive their lives as sunnier, livelier, and a lot more relaxed than our own. We want to go there on vacation, if we can ever get enough money and time together. Our U.S. government leaders should be inquiring of Australia and other nations that do not have such frequent episodes of gun violence how they have come to make it work. No one has a monopoly on ideas.

We do know what is not working: Ignoring the problem, offering only thoughts and prayers, and relying on the proliferation of guns to somehow level the playing field. Correction, battlefield. Everyday life should not be a battle, a war. It should be about an intolerance of violence as normal.

We are currently an epic failure at loving each other, so perhaps it is fitting that another violent event took place on Valentine's Day, when it should be all about hearts and flowers and everything nice in the world. Go, from this day forward, professing what you love, what you fear, why you don't trust. Do it fearlessly, do it to free yourself of your own dark armor.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sprawl vs. Nature at Banning Lewis Ranch

What we have here is a failure to appreciate. The prairie presents an illusion of emptiness, giving license to unwitting abuse. It looks like a waste of space, Mother Nature's vacancy sign beckoning development. Indeed, how could it have any other value besides potential for human housing, shopping, and business?

A herd of Pronghorn near Jimmy Camp Creek Park, a parcel of the annexed Banning Lewis Ranch at the eastern edge of Colorado Springs

Vastness defines the landscape and the ecosystem. It quite literally cannot exist at a smaller scale. Sprawl, and industrialized agriculture, are killing it. Subdivisions and strip malls are poor replacements for prairie dog towns. Those rodent settlements foster far more diversity than any human equivalent. A prairie cannot even be properly grazed when it has been fragmented into disconnected patches. The deer and the Pronghorn can no longer play; and the bison? Long gone, unable to roam once highways divided the range. Heck, even the railroads spelled their doom.

Some summer day take a walk through the grass. Tall, short, or non-existent, it hides the truth of abundance. You will realize the very ground is alive, a blanket of grasshoppers, crickets, leafhoppers, beetles, ants, solitary bees and wasps, and flies. Horned Larks burst from beneath your feet to alight on barbed wire fences. Meadowlarks sing from the posts. Above them kingbirds perch on power lines and bare tree branches. Higher still soar Red-tailed and Swainson's Hawks and Golden Eagles. Mountain Plovers contradict their name, nesting in the middle of the nowhere plains.

What we have here is the failure of assumptions. We assume that the definition of progress is the erection of man-made structures, opportunities for acquisition of material goods, services, and personal financial wealth. The other side of that balance sheet is environmental health, ecological integrity, and the well-being of those people who value such things. Even if you do not count yourself among those who bird, or otherwise enjoy other living organisms, you are obligated to respect the rights of those who do.

Our collective civil liberties include the pursuit of intangibles, emotions, and fulfillment that cannot be quantified or even fully explained. How does one articulate the exhilaration of seeing a Prairie Falcon blazing across the sky? How do you measure the importance of personal or scientific discovery, such as spotting a Mexican Silverspot butterfly, never before seen in Colorado, or this far north of the Mexican border? That happened in Jimmy Camp Creek Park.

Mexican Silverspot butterfly

We have choices. We can choose to have a city of muscle, bone, and heart at its core, or a city fat with haphazard housing developments and shopping centers flung into the outskirts. It may seem the logical thing to do, adhere to the annexation-and-build model that every city seems to follow. It may even feel like a necessary action. Ah, but that is how an addict thinks.

Our city and county leaders may need rehab. Perhaps they need to be sent to Portland, Oregon, or some other municipality that has learned proper land use planning, worked diligently for public and private consensus, and actually allowed annexation to pay for itself, something that rarely happens. A flexible "urban growth boundary" may be in order to accommodate not just new residential neighborhoods, but local agriculture and wildlife corridors.

There is nothing that has yet been done with the Banning Lewis Ranch property that cannot be undone, but once you build there is no turning back. No recapturing the scenic views. No tearing up the roads, no calling back the birds, the bees, the Pronghorn. We must have all stakeholders at the table before we do anything more. We have to consider all potential solutions, all values. Maybe that means adding more land to Jimmy Camp Creek Park and Corral Bluffs Open Space. Perhaps the state could take over the property as a wildlife management area. Should cattle continue to graze there? What should be the role of local farmers? How do we manage the water? We need honest, open dialogue that includes more than elected officials and real estate developers. It will go a long way toward transparency and true democracy, toward a healthy human ecosystem.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Peace Officers

We have already had three law enforcement officers slain in Colorado this year. The latest casualty resulted from an incident roughly half a mile up the road from my home. A total of four officers were shot, one of them fatally, plus the suspect (also a fatality) and an innocent bystander. What I learned is that we cannot properly grieve for these tragedies any more.

© KKTV News 11

What does it say about our current culture that one of my first thoughts was that I hoped the deceased suspect wasn't Black? That was not a likely scenario, if only because we do not have a high population of African Americans here in Colorado Springs. I think our community suffers from that, a lack of visible diversity and the cultural richness and vibrancy that comes with it. I digress. The line between the good guys and the bad guys is not as readily defined in this day and age as it once was. We trust no one, like we are living in an episode of The X-files or something. Authority has lost our respect, and too often there is a corpse unable to prove its innocence.

Maybe it never really was clear cut. Back in the nineteen sixties and seventies, when I was just a kid, activists used epithets to refer to policemen: Pig. The Fuzz. Copper. Cop. The consensus seemed to be that the police force worked for "The Man," not for average, ordinary citizens. Moreover they were agents of oppression of both ethnic minorities and minority viewpoints that disagreed with "the establishment." Sound familiar? Today, Whites are more likely to consider abuses of lethal force against minority suspects as isolated instances instead of rampant racism and oppression, but Black Lives Matter and other movements would beg to differ.

Alas, the shootout up the street appears to have no such controversy. El Paso County Sheriff's Department and Colorado Springs Police Department were conducting an investigation of an auto theft when things turned violent. A stolen car. That was worth killing for? The shooter was a 19-year old male. He had his whole life ahead of him, even if he had been arrested. The slain officer who died, to the day, on the eleventh anniversary of his hiring, had his two twin children's lives to look forward to.

We are appalled, disgusted, and struggling to come to terms with this as a neighborhood and city and county. We need to have a short memory, yet are told to never forget. I have walked that stretch of street countless times, and now it will never be the same. It has never crossed my mind that but for the grace of God I could take an errant bullet. No one should be living with that fear. Anywhere.

The public trust in law enforcement at street level here seems relatively healthy, for now, but one gets the uneasy feeling that it could all come apart with one incident of questionable use of force, someone's phone video, or a peaceful demonstration met with officers in riot gear. I think the bottom line in any given scenario is that the one who is the aggressor will always be the bad guy. Most of the time that will be a criminal, but once in a while it will be someone in uniform.

There are no easy answers, but maybe we can start with language. We can choose to continue throwing around derogatory slang terms for the police, or we can look at a thesaurus, as I did just now, and see that the first synonym listed for police officer is peace officer. Say it with me. Say it out loud. It has a calming quality, does it not? When was the last time you heard the word peace at all? Have we given up on the notion, even in our daily lives, let alone in regards to world conflicts? Maybe we need hope officers, too.

It takes a special breed of human being to comprehend the potential confrontation of their own mortality on a daily basis, and still want to serve the public good in the name of peace and justice, with the goal of saving lives and preventing violence and crime. You and I may not be that kind of person, but we can lead by example, be peace officers of a different caliber. We can go beyond mere racial "tolerance" and accept everyone as equal. We can walk the streets confidently, unarmed, unafraid, and eager to help others in need. Be not the aggressor. Be like Micah Flick.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Geometry of Luck

Birding and wildlife observation in the digital age means that our experiences in nature are defined more than ever by GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates, maps, and other geography-based intelligence. The wildcard is always time. Your personal success or failure, if you frame it that way, will always come down to the matter of "when."

Immature Golden Eagle

The old philosophical question of whether a tree falling in the forest makes a sound if no one is around to hear it is an apt comparison. Had no one seen the Rufous-necked Wood-rail at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge back in July, 2013, had the bird really been there at all? Were it not for video evidence, and personal experience, professional ornithologists would no doubt still be skeptical.

These days, sightings of rare birds, stray migrants, and aberrant color forms seem to cross social media intersections monthly, if not weekly. Our historical perceptions have suffered from too few data points, it appears, and too few observers in too few places. Today, the likelihood of a birder intersecting something spectacular is greater than ever. Thanks to instant communication, that birder can also greatly increase the likelihood that other birders will have the same exciting encounter, provided they get there in time. However, the odds of the flight path of a Golden Eagle crossing my vehicle's path on my way to look for Mountain Plovers is still infinitesimal.

"Everyone" has been seeing that wayward Varied Thrush. Right here. How could I have missed it? Then again, I hadn't seen Bill and Ashley in about two years....and I got to meet Jeff in person for the first time. Maybe that is why I was supposed to be here, right now, without any birdy distractions. Sometimes, your interpretation of a situation makes all the difference.

Varied Thrush

The frequency with which you are out observing, or even attuned to possibilities of witnessing nature, the greater the chance of memorable encounters. Storm chasers know this better than anyone else, and they also accept defeat more readily than most of us even aspire to. Few of us commit to regular outings. We have jobs, family obligations, and fuel costs to consider, among other variables that directly or indirectly conflict with birding and wildlife watching.

Opportunities still abound. We recruit other members of the carpool to birding. We can bird ourselves during our commute, during lunch. When you least expect it, you may notice birds and other animals in the midst of major, unrelated events. I recall attending a Cincinnati Reds game when the team was still playing in Riverfront Stadium. Admittedly, I am not much of a base ball fan, but I enjoy the atmosphere and people-watching. I happened to glance up at the same time that a sleek bird swooped into the arena, alighting on the foul pole. It was a Peregrine Falcon. At the precise instant I was attempting to draw my seatmate's attention to the bird, Barry Larkin belted a home run. As the ball departed the outfield, fireworks were detonated, launching the falcon on its own departing trajectory.

Even people normally unmoved by birds can have unique and thrilling experiences. A video that went viral in April of 2017 was shared by a businessman who was joined on his Chicago commute by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that clung to his window as he drove to work. He dutifully pointed out the major attractions to his feathered friend along the way. Eventually, the bird ends up inside the car, on the man's collar or shoulder. "I think he's a woodpecker" the man utters matter-of-factly as the video concludes. There is little doubt the bird was injured and disoriented, and may or may not have survived, but in a matter of minutes it had left an indelible impression on thousands of humans.

Mountain Plover

Is it mere coincidence that the specifics of latitude and longitude are measured in minutes and seconds? That recognition of time is telling. Where you are is made important to you by when you are. The intersection of Kingbird Highway and Bluebird Lane is where crisscrossing vectors meet improbability on the axis of time. Birding is ultimately the geometry of luck. Take your chances, as many as you can.