I recently finished reading Lyanda Haupt's Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent. I'm going to be writing a full review for Birder's World magazine, but for now I just wanted to say that this book has really given me a lot to think about. Haupt follows Darwin as he spends five years chasing birds and other creatures around South America and beyond, and shows exactly how these experiences transformed him from an eager young naturalist into a careful observer and serious scientist.
Haupt shows just how important it was for Darwin to spend quality time closely observing birds and other animals. This has helped me rethink some of my own birding. I'm often way too busy with work saving birds and creating bird conservation programs to spend the hours necessary to closely watch and more fully understand the lives of the birds I care about. I miss the time when I could spend hours on a Saturday just wandering around Hornsby Bend or the woods near my house growing up in Oregon, and I've vowed to find the time I need to really live in close fellowship with birds and other creatures. Haupt characterizes this type of relationship as respectful and reverential, and key to Darwin's transformation into a revolutionary thinker with deep insights into the processes of nature.
So, follow Darwin. Watch closely. Think Deeply. As another hero of mine once said, the mysteries of nature "are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out". Take time to smell the roses, watch the birds, and to ponder the mysteries of the world around you. Join Darwin's posse, and treat yourself to a marvelous ride.