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After a week of death (literal and metaphorical), I received a small set of binoculars and a book about birding in the mail. As of now, I am not a birder. But perhaps this gift from family would be a start. Still, it has confused me how to bird in the midst of havoc. I looked through binoculars, caught too much of a neighbor’s apartment, and, for a day or two, put them down.

A lesson could have been learned from Sergeant Jonathan Trouern-Trend, who wrote Birding Babylon, a journal of his birdwatching while in the military. We excerpted pieces of the book in our May+June 2006 issue. It is one of those rare things that surprised me. I would not call his book a balm so much as properly unhinged. Here’s a taste:

5/14/04 On the way the helicopter hit a bird. It traveled through one of the windows near the pilot’s feet and into the helicopter…The bird was a male pin-tailed sandgrouse. I’d like to see one alive, maybe later this year.

6/23/04 As I was watching some wood pigeons, a pair of F-16s came tearing down the runway…The birds were unfazed.

So, there you go. That’s how you bird during hard times. I probably should realize—especially because I’m not in combat—it really isn’t that difficult. I’ll try again soon.

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FACT:

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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