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The Binocular Advisor

OK, your stock portfolio is in the tank, you're wondering about your job, and the equity in your house has dropped in value. Hard times are here, but you can count your lucky stars that you're a birder.

A Sport for Hard Times

Hard Times

Here are some reasons you're lucky to be a birder

1. Binoculars, birding's basic gear—a wise investment

You can get a decent binocular for under $100, which is an amazing small entrance fee into a lifetime of entertainment.

High-end binoculars may be an even better investment, because they hold their value. They're built so well that they almost never wear out. Many even have lifetime warranties, and if something does go wrong, it's likely that you can get them fixed for free.

Right now, even though we've been using them every day, the binoculars we own have kept their value better than the stock market. We could sell them for as much as or more than we paid for them a few years ago.

Zeiss Victory FLEven the very best binoculars in the world are cheap compared to cost of gear for other sports. The daily cost of a $2000 binocular, spread out over 20 years, is only 27¢.

Yellow-rumped Warbler2. Low-cost or even free vacations

Birds are everywhere. You don't have to travel long distances to see them. Spend a few minutes every day watching birds in your own back yard or local park. It's like a mini vacation.

There are birds to be seen in every season. You can watch them all year around. Good fun, on the cheap!

3. Birding relieves stress

Watching PelicansIn times of financial strain, a person urgently needs stress relief. It's vital to devote some time each day to something pleasant and relaxing.

Contact with nature is a tried and tested way to relieve stress. Birding lets our tensions melt away and helps us cope with whatever the world throws at us. And in contrast to man-made entertainments, birdwatching does not merely distract: it heals us.

4. Good exercise

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek who's considered the father of medicine, said, "A man's legs are his two best physicians."  And medical doctors today still recommend walking, for its outstanding health benefits. 

Walking BirdwatcherBirding naturally pulls you out of doors and gets you walking. After an enjoyable morning's birding, you've usually covered quite a bit of ground, without even thinking about exercise.

This pleasant activity is something you can keep doing all your life.  People of all ages enjoy birding.

Dad and Will5. Family fun, without spending a lot of money

Birding unites people across generations. By taking up birding, parents and grandparents can introduce children to an interest in nature that'll stay with them all their lives.

What a legacy!

6. Friendship

Everyone needs friends, especially in troubled times. A birder need never be lonely. Nearly every community has a birding club of some sort, usually with little or no dues.

Birdwatching at a parkAnd because birders love to share their knowledge, newcomers are always welcome.  

Take a friend birdwatching. Or find new friends among people who already watch birds.

7. Happiness, the ultimate wealth

Birding brings solace to body, mind, and spirit. It's great exercise, it sharpens the mind, and the deep connection to the world of nature heals our spirit.

And because the enjoyment of life is the ultimate wealth, learning to bird has the power to enrich beyond measure. The happiness that comes from birding is something that cannot be taken away by the vagaries of the financial markets.

There is a famous Zen story, "The Moon Cannot Be Stolen," from Paul Reps' book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, that seems relevant here.

The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut, only to discover there was nothing in it to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. "You may have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused. "I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."

Text copyright 2008 by Michael and Diane Porter.
Photos copyright Michael and Diane Porter 1999-2008.



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