Although I just returned from “vacation,” my wife and I have small children, so we don’t truly have a vacation. To paraphrase comedian Louis C.K.: a parent’s vacation is the short time after they strap the kids into their car seats, close the car door, and then walk around to the driver’s side.
Regardless, one of the things I like to do on “vacation” is go fishing. It’s one of the few activities I never tire of. Besides the thrill of catching a big fish or spending time with my grandfather, my favorite thing about fishing is the time spent appreciating wildlife. Living in Wausau, I see and hear birds all the time but am constantly on the move between work, home, and other commitments, so I rarely have time to enjoy them. When the fish aren’t jumping in the boat on “vacation,” I survey what’s flying overhead.
When I returned to work at the Woodson Art Museum, I was greeted by a large stack of papers courtesy of administrative manager Shari Schroeder. The stack turned out to be the in-process 2016 Birds in Art catalogue, which I was to help edit and proofread. Although my job is to make sure names and places are spelled correctly, I take time to peruse the image at the top of each artist’s page. During this preview opportunity, I examine the bird in each artwork and try to grasp what the artist intends to convey. Much like when I’m waiting for that fish to nibble on the hook, reviewing the Birds in Art catalogue is a time to savor the birds around me.
As I write this blog, my work is complete and summer trips are over. It’s fair to say that after the proofreading and fishing, I’ve almost reached my quota of birds this year. I can’t tell you how many times I read the word “plumage” in the catalogue or heard the grating calls of a herring gull out in the boat. I know I shouldn’t gripe too much, because the next time I will be on “vacation,” I won’t be able to see any birds in the darkness of the ice shanty.