Dear Sir David,
There is a creek near our house where I like to unleash my ‘inner Attenborough.’
A profusion of birds reside or migrate through there, probable spill-overs from the wetlands across the freeway. Their variety is intoxicating, especially for someone who grew up madly in love with animals. Mind you, I had not paid much attention to birds when I was a child. It was not until the Life of Birds series that I realised there was more to birds than the sparrows and pigeons that flew over the rooftops of my tropical, suburban childhood.
Now, when I go for a walk along this creek southwest of Melbourne, I make a game of spotting as many different birds as I can. There are swamphens, wrens, parrots, cormorants, herons, magpies, and yes, pigeons. A family of black swans, as well as a couple of pelicans, are known to occasionally feed in the area.
I sometimes bring the camera. I channel you as I take photos – walking softly, fluidly, with no sudden movements, watching for tell-tale signs amongst the eucalypts and reeds. I familiarise myself with the trees they favour. As you know, it can be bloody hard to take pictures of birds. They fidget. They hide. They fly away.
But I bring to mind your patience, your stillness. Your respect for the creatures upon whom you’ve intruded. I learn, through application, what it means to be observant, to wait for the world to open up to you.
As it reliably does.
I thank you for this – this manner of engaging with the natural world without the frills and frippery that now characterise the average Discovery or NatGeo program. Thank you for ensuring that the animals and plants remain the stars of the show.
I also thank you for reigniting in my young adulthood (which is when I truly discovered your work) the sense of wonder and curiousity that had been dampened by university education, and well, life. I thought that I’d lost that little girl who dreamed about becoming James Herriot, fixing up injured animals. I thought she no longer wanted to be Jack Hanna and work with exotic animals at the zoo. I thought she was no longer interested in how the natural world works.
But just by being yourself, in your acclaimed and monumental body of work on film, you gave me – and millions of others – permission to also be ourselves. To be curious, to seek knowledge, to be awed, to engage with the living creatures with whom we share this improbable planet, to be invested in their continued existence.
Thank you, Sir David.
Melbourne writer and former teacher, blogging at This is Complicated. You can find Fatima on twitter as @foomeister. Some of the birds that she has spotted can be seen here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjwAeqtN