Leisure PursuitsWritten by Adriane Berg
Leisure Pursuits: Discover the Joys of Birding, Fishing and Gardening
What does leisure time mean to you? I bet it’s not sitting in your rocking chair. We all want quiet renewal time, but today’s active adult tends to seek out leisure with a kicker--fitness, learning, camaraderie, mental stimulation and sensory appeal. Birding, Fishing and Gardening seem to fit the bill.
Did you know that the fastest growing outdoor activity in America is birding? Birding requires walking and standing, sometimes for long periods of time. But, the primary trait of a great birder is patience; often the bailiwick of the more mature. With new advances in binoculars, eyesite is less important than instinct.
And don't think that birding is for eggheads or that birders are slightly weird. On the contrary, while Birders are some of the most intelligent people you will ever meet; they are competitive in logging their sightings and not above bragging. The slogan of the American Birding Association is “Explore, Share, Contribute.”
It's evening in the Panamanian rain forest 45 minutes outside of Panama City. Twenty men and women outfitted in khakis and sporting camera binoculars stand lizard quiet. Their guide has "birder's eyes”. He can see a flutter or a feather that is barely there. And then it appears. A cave dwelling oil bird, a once in a lifetime spotting. Later we sit at the top of an old radar tower turned into a hotel for birders, sip wine and tell tails of birds we have seen. We cross off the oil bird on our list, with ultimate satisfaction. From Canopy Towers.
Birding in your own back yard gives just as much pleasure as when on an exotic trip. Every February the Great Backyard Bird Count organized makes us aware of the flying wild life with which we share our planet every day. Or create a family holiday tradition by joining the annual Christmas Bird Count. It's a communal experience which takes place across the nation to quantify how our birds are doing.
Speaking of communal experiences, consider a trip to see 500,000 Sandhill Cranes arrive en mass at the Lake Platte River Valley, near Kearny, Nebraska.
We huddle together to quietly wait for the arrival. We are strangers , some accidental birders who heard about the Cranes and came to see; others world class photographers with million dollar equipment. But a common curiosity binds us. From the blinds along the Platte River.
For the ultimate in birding camaraderie with butterfly study thrown in, you can't do better than a visit to the World Birding Center in McAllen, Texas. There are lectures and jolly meals with those magnificent scientists that write field guides.
Fishing brings out different instincts than birding. Fishing clubs create life-long friendships among those that understand the “lure of the lure. “ On a trip to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands (we flew by instrument from Anchorage) I had the privilege to meet the famous Captain Jack from the Deadliest Catch reality TV series.
The waters around Dutch Harbor are home to the biggest halibut and salmon in the world.
Avid hobby fisherman Chuck McAtee who makes frequent excursions to Alaska, says, " The best part of fishing is getting there. You cannot believe how pristine the world can be, how empty and pure. But then you encounter another world, filled and busy.” Chuck only catches and releases. "Except salmon which we cook and eat."
When you take on the big fish of the north country you are communing with nature not as an observer but as an equal , and often less equal than the fish. Even a wearing your waders in the streams along a country road in bass fishing centers like Califon , New Jersey, there is a sense of rivalry with the fish.
And like birding there is also a sense of connection to other fisherman. The Fishing Club Network will hook you up with fishing clubs where you live.
The ultimate in renewal pursuits is, of course, gardening. Count on spring to loosen your grip on negativity. Whether you are a one pot wonder or designer of community gardens, there is something for you in gardening. Stop and smell the roses with friends you make at events held by the American Horticultural Society or through Horticultural Associations and Networks, and other organizations.
Gardening is also a great way to meet your exercise goals. A study by researchers at Kansas City University revealed that gardening meets the daily moderately intense exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
Gardening requires weight-bearing movements like pushing a mower, digging holes, pulling weeds, carrying soil, and other tasks required use muscle groups in the entire body. It’s good for you, but a time may come that you may have to give it up. Right? Wrong!
Universal garden design and landscaping makes accessibility easy. Raised beds, eye level planting set ups let you plant from your chair. The Burpee Company has a line of gardening tools for older adults. Growing too many fruits and vegetables to eat? Trade them through “barter gardens” and makes even more friends through barter clubs.
Whatever your leisure pursuit, savoir the moments. Most of us have waited a long time to indulge.
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