A certain free margin
“You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness – perhaps ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things…” — Walt Whitman
I think Whitman just explained why I get such a kick out of nature. My ignorance of the scientific details in the natural world is so vast as to allow me an enormous free margin to have lots of fun with my own credulity.
The Ligustrum shrubs at our York home used to be a condo for my beloved robins, but a few years ago the cardinals moved in and drove them away. Last week I was sitting at the kitchen table when I noticed the redbirds flying in and out of the bushes, landing on the deck rail for a few minutes before launching again.
I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. It seemed too late for them to be building nests or tending hatchlings, and I didn’t think there were any berries or other edible parts of the plant they might be after. It wasn’t until I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures that the telephoto lens gave me a better idea what those birds were after. Eeewww. Suddenly they seemed less like colorful state mascots and more like vultures eating road kill.
Not only that, but there was what I could only describe as an annoyed expression on the face of one bird who noticed me watching her. I could almost hear Robert DeNiro saying “You talkin’ to me?” Maybe she was just upset at having an obviously bad hair day. I didn’t realize a bird could have those until I saw this one. Does anybody know why her head looks so mangy?
I have no doubt that an ornithologist would laugh at my decidedly unscientific observations, but no matter. I can’t imagine that I would feel more delight in watching those birds– or anything else– if my head was full of facts rather than fancy. I bet Walt Whitman would agree.
So this week, I hope you will go out and enjoy nature, whatever the range of your personal free margin might be. Whether your focus is the fantastic firmament, comical creatures, or just a calming walk on a mild, breezy day, you’re sure to be richer for the experience. Feel free to share with us your adventures, scientific or otherwise.