My friend Eileen picked me up at 7:45 in order to meet the group from the Audubon Society for our birding outing. I have never been a birder, but this was my bright idea and Eileen said she wanted to join me. I figured I’d enjoy walking in the countryside, meeting a group of strangers all of whom would be there to enjoy nature.
May is the hottest month of the year here, but our outing would end at 12:30 before the intense heat of the afternoon.. I was slathered with bug repellent, dressed in sturdy walking shoes and sun glasses, and had a water bottle in my bag, as the online instructions suggested. An old pair of binoculars hung around my neck. I didn't really expect to see much that day, because I’m slow to spot things and because I’ve never been good at adjusting my binoculars. but I didn't really care. Birding with the Audubon Society would be more fun than joining Jack to play pickle-ball.
We caravaned to a nursery out in the country where we left our cars and started our hike. There must have been ten of us, women my age plus 2 men who were bird experts armed with recordings of bird whistles, field guides, and spotting scopes And many years of experience and training, To share with the group. We walked slowly enough to be able to meet a few of the other women with us—all far more experienced than Eileen or me. But they couldn’t have been more welcoming, less pompous or impatient. And it was a fascinating collection of people. One woman had lived in Indonesia for 16 years, another, a British woman, had recently relocated to SMA after 20 years in Viet Nam. They had many stories to tell, but they would have to wait for another day. Nature is too compelling to fill it with chatter. The area was a smorgasbord for the senses as we walked beside the Lata River, the landscape so inviting I wished I could lie down under a cactus and spend the next few hours just listening to the bird songs around us in every direction, and just breathe in the delicious fresh air.
I saw maybe 5 varieties of birds of the dozens that the experts identified that day. Lovely blues, greens, yellows of various sizes. I didn't bother memorizing the names of the birds we saw, though some were rare. It was thrilling enough to catch sight of them in the thick vegetation, watching them before they took flight. At the end of our outing we stopped in a small pueblo to see the famous 450 year old sabino tree, so large it would take 20 men to encircle its trunk.
In the months we’ve lived in San Miguel, we’ve seen incredible, creative, magnificent works of art made by artists working in every medium, ancient and modern. But a day of birding, surrounded by nature, reminded me that God, whoever he or she or it may be, does the nicest work of all.