Do you find that you go through phases in life where your interests change suddenly? I do, and I’m moving into another one of those now. I think my recent trip to Costa Rica helped clarify things for me — traveling always helps to get my brain out of a rut. More about the trip below, but first a bit about those changing passions of life.
I spent the first decade of this century immersed in the knitting world, spending hours each day creating sweaters, socks, and hats. I went to knitting conventions, took classes, and bought lots of yarn. I loved it so much I started a knitting design business. I sold my patterns nationwide and had a blast doing the marketing and all the other facets of running a business. And then one day I just lost interest in it all. I think it was because I’d made my hobby into my job, and that sucked the joy out of it.
After the knitting phase, I developed an intense interest in birdwatching, and left my knitting needles to gather dust as I ran around the woods and meadows looking for new species to add to my growing bird list. I joined my local Audubon chapter, attended birding events, and made lots of nature-loving friends. And then I took a job in the birding world. And very quickly after that I discovered that my passion for birding was waning. (More confirmation that it’s often not a good idea to turn a hobby into a job.)
So as I mentioned, I just spent a week at a birding lodge in Costa Rica (Rancho Naturalista) and was surprised to realize that my enthusiasm for finding new birds had evaporated. I’m sure part of the reason was that it was very humid and muddy, and as much as I like to tell myself that I’m okay with that, I’m not. (I hate to sweat so much that I’ve often wished I could do my workouts in the shower so the sweat would wash off immediately. You think I’m joking about that? Nope.) I think I’m suddenly at a point in my life where I’m no longer willing to traipse around on muddy mountain roads getting attacked by mosquitoes while trying to get a brief glimpse of a bird I won’t even remember in two months.
It’s hard for me to believe I’ve just written that, actually, but I think it’s true. I still love birds, but I can’t see myself traveling internationally again for the sole purpose of adding new species to my list. I’d rather spend quality time with birds closer to home. Two years ago, when I went to Panama, I was totally geeked about the birds. But it’s different now. I just didn’t feel it on this trip.
Even when I stood on the balcony at the lodge watching dozens of hummingbirds swarming around a half dozen feeders, I couldn’t summon the interest to try and identify the various species. It’s not that I didn’t get enjoyment from sitting there watching them, but I had no desire to identify every one of them just in case it was a new name to add to a list. I was content to know the names of a half dozen species, and after that I didn’t really care. I know the hardcore birders out there will revoke my “real birder” badge now, but that’s okay. I willingly surrender it.
I do still enjoy trying to get a nice photo of a bird though, and that’s why I’m sharing a few in this post. But you’ll also notice some non-bird photos from this trip. I really loved those Brahma cows standing on the steep hillsides. Talk about picturesque…. (Here’s my Flickr album from the Costa Rica trip, with more pics being added in the next few days.)
Despite this waning passion for the sporting aspect of birding, I did have enthusiasm for some of the birds on this trip. Along with the beautiful Resplendent Quetzal and the Fiery-throated Hummingbird, I was hoping to see some more woodpecker species on this trip. There’s something about woodpeckers that I find irresistible. In fact, if given a choice to watch hummingbirds or woodies, I believe I would choose the woodpeckers. I’ve written a bit about woodpeckers here before.
Here at home we have quite a few beautiful species of woodpeckers: Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Red-headed, Pileated, Northern Flickers, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. (Here’s a link to my Flickr photos of woodpeckers in Michigan and Ohio.) And when I was in Panama a couple years ago, I saw the beautiful Cinnamon Woodpecker, the Crimson-crested, the Black-cheeked, Red-crowned, and the Lineated Woodpecker.
In Costa Rica I saw a few more types, including the Golden-olive Woodpecker and my favorite, the Acorn Woodpecker. We stopped at a feeding station on one of our day trips, and as we walked toward it we saw a small group of Acorn Woodpeckers (aka clown-faced woodpeckers) fly up into the trees. I didn’t recall ever seeing woodpeckers in groups before, but I was so busy trying to get photos of them and all the other birds that day that I didn’t think too much about that interesting tidbit. So imagine my delight when I sorted my mail once I returned home and found that the new issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest has an article about Acorn Woodpeckers! (“The Clown-faced Woodpecker with an Obsession,” by Steve Shunk.)
In this article I learned some fascinating facts about these birds. They often live in small family groups consisting of a mated pair and their offspring from past years. Hmm, that could explain why there were so many together that day in Costa Rica. And in addition to the obvious acorns, which they prefer to eat when they’re fresh in the last summer and fall, these woodpeckers actually catch insects on the wing in much the same way as the typical flycatchers do.
I wish we’d had time to stay and watch them for a while longer, but that’s not how things work on these group birding trips, so it was back into the van and on to the next stop….
I’ve been feeling rather unsettled these past couple months. I thought it was mostly because I’d quit my job and wasn’t sure what I would do next. But writing this has helped me clarify what’s actually going on, and now I know that I’m moving into another stage of my life with exciting new interests. And leaving that job was what enabled me to get some much-needed distance from the intensity of the birding world. I’m sure birds will still be an important part of the way I connect with nature, but now I’m free to explore some of the other things I’ve been keeping on the back burner in recent years. I’m suddenly feeling quite optimistic and purposeful, and I think that’s a very good way to enter the new year.
Here’s hoping you have something to look forward to in 2017 as well.
Things always seem to work out. I admire someone for not being stale & one who continues to move forward, venture & learn. How true about making a hobby into work. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. You will keep journeying on. I’m sure.
Good for you, Kim. You will have a good 2017.
p.s. miss you on FB. I know. I know.
Thanks, Donna. Your friendship and calm, confident perspective on life has taught me so much. The admiration is mutual, my friend.
I so loved this post, Kim, and I’m just sorry it’s taken me a few days to post a comment. The photos are marvelous, of course, but your words especially resonated when you talked about turning a hobby into a job and then losing your passion for it. I sense a lot of hope in what you’ve written and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do in 2017!
Thank you, Judy. I do feel more hopeful today than I’ve felt in many months. I’ve had a spurt of creativity and inspiration and am enjoying making things with my hands, something I haven’t done much of for a while. Right now my table and my desk are messy with projects — various combinations of embroidery, knitting, and drawing — and I feel at peace.
Feeling optimistic and purposeful seems the perfect way to end one year, and to begin the next. I hope 2017 is a year where you find the right balance between hobbies, work, and all the other things that tend to pile up in our lives. Your Costa Rica pictures are lovely, but I have to balance that out with the fact I didn’t have to experience the extreme heat and humidity when looking at them.
Hi Kristie! It’s so good to hear from you. You’re so right about “all the other things that tend to pile up in our lives.” There’s just not enough time for it all, is there? Best wishes to you and the family for the coming year.
OMGoodness Kim! I loved this post. There are just so many things we are kindred spirits with. I get excited when I see Northern Flickers this time of year, and we have a pair of Pileated’s that moved in the area a few years back – and they are not common to our part of the state. I loved your woodpecker photos from the trip. They are some tough birds… and so are we!
Life is about experiencing new things, and then moving on when it is time. You are wise to see and feel the uncomfortable-ness of the desire to let go and move on when the time comes. So many people try to stay and make it work. There is nothing wrong with that either, but I think we can become stifled. I am going through a similar transition with wildlife rehab. There are so many signs that I need to put that on hold for some years (I do see doing it again – but only after FD retires from work). The yearning to write (and I’ve started!) that book that is in me, is strong. That is where I need to be. You’ll know, my sweet friend, when the right thing comes along. For your eyes are open to receiving and living life. I’m so proud of you!!
Oh Lori, I just stopped on the Ohio turnpike for coffee and saw your comment. Now I’m in my car crying…but it’s a good cry. I’m blessed to have your friendship. I’m going to send you a nice long email tonight or tomorrow…but in the meantime I’ll just say that I’m SO excited you’re starting to write that book!!! xoxo
I love reading your posts. I love that you are a most interesting person, especially being a Buckeye. I love the fact that you freely share your feelings with others. Most of all, I love knowing that you are unique. A one and only. I’m hopeful that you take this as a compliment. Last, and certainly not least, I love to call you my friend. Look me up when you head to “that team up North’s” state. Merry Christmas and a most Happy New Year Kim.
Oh Rob, thank you for your friendship and support! I will absolutely let you know the next time I’m up that way, and I hope it’s soon. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Kathy too. xoxo
Its so true that if your hobby becomes your job, it might well take the joy away. But some people have fun working. So its not a given. Perhaps you are taking a break from knitting and might return to it refreshed and recharged, after a soujourn into bird watching or other hobbies!
I suppose it’s possible I’ll knit again someday, but for now I prefer to do more outdoor activities — they keep me healthier than sitting on the sofa knitting! 🙂
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True. A balance would be good!
Beautiful photos Kim! Good luck in your future…you never know what comes around the next corner!
Thanks, Dave. I’m feeling less like running away now and more optimistic about my future. My heart feels unburdened, finally. Thanks for your support!