Age 40 (as of 12/29/2014)
Resident of Northeast Wisconsin; more specifically, the Fox Valley
Want to know more about me? Below are the things that drive me.
Duh! Considering this blog is focused on birding I think I should start here. If you would have asked me 10 years ago – at say, the age of 30 – if I’d be an obsessed birder, I would have called you frickin’ nuts. Granted it was 10 years ago, 2004, that I first got this feathered obsession. I was camping at Three Johns in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Eagle River and we had a pair of loons nesting on the lake. For a week I was pretty taken with following their movements, listening to their calls, and seeing them swim (yes, I have a shot of one underwater near our canoe), take off, and land. On a run into town to get ice and firewood I stopped by a local shop that had a 60 page book on loons. I returned home as a bird watcher – someone who put up bird feeders and houses and enjoyed the backyard birds that decided to show up. Over the next 8 years I really only paid attention to birds around my feeders and outside the windows. I remember taking 1 or 2 trips to a local nature preserve, but not really IDing anything.
The true obsession took hold in the fall of 2012. I completed my B.S. in history in December of 2011 and was working full-time. I wasn’t your typical college grad as I went back for my bachelors degree in my mid-30s so after landing a full-time job and being closer to 40 than to 35, most of my friends were settled down with girlfriends/wives and some with kids – the life I’d sworn off since I was 12 or 13 years old. With time on my hands, I decided to actively try birding. Within a matter of weeks I went from birdwatcher to birder. What’s the difference? In my mind, the word “birder” is a verb and the person who is a birder is someone who actively seeks out birds. Whereas I consider birdwatchers people who watch and enjoy birds out their windows, I think of birders as people who go to where the birds are. I could go on and on, but if you’ve read this far, you’ll likely come back and read my blog posts in which case you’ll learn more about me as time goes by.
Obsession #2 really conflicts with obsession #1! Or is it the other way around? In either case, birding and reading are like the angel and devil on either shoulder. Which is the angel and which the devil? It’s impossible to tell. Where’s the conflict? Well, both of these worthy desires take time…..lots of time. If you want to be a good birder, you need to spend time in the field watching, finding, enjoying birds. If you want to be well read and keep up with new literature while still reading the classics, you need time. So how does one manage? I’m not exactly sure, but here is my method:
January thru February, July, November thru December – that’s 5 good months of solid reading. Obviously, November thru February are winter months in Wisconsin. As the prime birding winds down, my reading load increases. There is also the July lull when all migrants have passed through and the first shorebirds are just starting to return south. I try and get about 75% of my yearly reading done in these 5 months. I still try and reading during the other months, but it’s really on the backburner. This past May I spent 17 days in the month birding…..and that was on top of closing on a new house, preparing to move, and getting everything in order for the new house! The year before I spent 18 days birding in May. And let me tell you something, March and April aren’t to far off that pace. So basically, I still read, it’s just that instead of burrowing through a book every 9-14 days, it’s usually every 3-6 weeks.
So what do I read? Mainly literary fiction, but also to a lesser degree I’m into biographies (one on Rodger Tory Peterson set to read early next year), sci-fi, non-fiction essays, and nature writing. If you’re wondering what literary fiction is, it’s fiction that is character driven more than plot driven. It looks at character interaction, especially within a cultural or social context. There are usually underlying themes and motifs, many which I never uncover or just overlook. One way I think of literary fiction is it’s Mark Twain…..not John Grisham. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Grisham and I’ve read and enjoyed a few of his books. I just believe in the long run, we’ll still be reading Twain 100 years from now and that to me is good literary fiction. My current favorite author: Jonathan Franzen. Others include Jeffrey Eugenides, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colum McCann.
My 2014 Goodreads goal was 16 books. As I’m writing this, I’m at 13 books and have another 2 in progress. I think I would have completed those two and ended at 15, but as I developed a head cold a few days back, my reading has taken a hit and completing those two may not occur until 2015. For 2015, my goal is 20 books and I know at least two will be 700+ pages (The Goldfinch & The Brothers Karamazov).
If you want to see what I’m reading, have read, or plan to read – or if you’d like to chat about books, hit me up at my Goodreads account here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/23840692-matthew-wk
About 75% of what I listen to is jazz. The rest is divided among all the other genres except pop country, which I’d rather sit through a marathon of Housewives of Beverly Hills than listen to.
I prefer records to CDs or digital, but since everything is not pressed to vinyl anymore, I have a large collection of both.
Other obsessions – NASA missions & space exploration, conservation issues
What doesn’t drive me? Money. We probably don’t want to discuss politics, capitalism, American consumption, advertising, or any other field related to money – let’s just not go down that road. Suffice to say, I am a minimalist. One of the misconceptions of minimalism is that you give up all comforts. The truth is, minimalism can take many different forms and each individual defines what minimalism means to them. Since this blog isn’t about minimalism, I’ll just give you a brief overview of my form – I prefer clean rooms with little clutter and a clear focus. For example, the 4 main rooms in my house are: bedroom, reading room, music room, and birding room. Let me break a couple of these down to give you an idea of what I consider “clean and focused rooms”:
Birding room – most would call this a dining room, but since the room has two large windows that overlook my backyard, I have turned this into a birding room. There are 2 barstools, a sofa table for birding books, binoculars, and DVDs, and a corner table. This room is also home to my fledgling gallery wall.
Music room – Papasan chair, recliner, turntable & audio equipment, end table, and media storage (mainly for records).
Reading room – Fouton couch, rocker/glider, two bookcases, end table.
Probably way more information than you wanted to know, but since this section is “About” me, I figured those things I consider important should go here. And if you haven’t figured it out – uncluttered rooms that serve really only one purpose are important to me.