I grew up with a dad who would kneel on the ground on a nature walk, beckon me to do the same, and tell me to stare at a certain square foot of earth "because you'll see interesting things if you study closely." Things? I didn't know what things - likely only bugs in that small of an area. Other times, on hikes or even walks in our neighborhood, he would point out flowers, leaves, birds, everything. I was taught to observe, notice, and appreciate.
As an adult, I still enjoy nature immensely. This is probably largely thanks to my dad's influence. I've been on hikes and wondered about the types of trees and plants around me, and the breeds of birds as well, but the wondering never went further until I met a real-live birder. She spends time looking for them and at them, and keeping track of what kinds of birds she has seen. She showed me her bird book and I was hooked. I bought the Peterson Field Guide for myself, got a pair of binoculars for my birthday, and love when I can spend time out searching for birds.
This might sound strange, but birds occupy a similar space in my mind that small business does. For years, I've been intrigued by unique stores and their owners and the spirit it takes to set up a shop or a service. This may have been enhanced by years I spent living in small towns, one of which worked earnestly to prevent large business from encroaching on its idyllic downtown area. Because of my conviction that small businesses are usually excellent places to support, I once convinced my husband to patronize a privately-owned bike shop rather than WalMart in our search for some cycling stuff for our kids. He found it to be a marvelous experience and he has since commented more than once that I was right (!) -- small businesses can often offer expertise and service that bigger places can not.
As with the friend who showed me the bird book, enhancing my interest in birding, the clincher for me with small business was moving to my current neighborhood. We no longer live in a small town, and the large avenue near my house has been called "soulless," (by the husband of my birding friend, by the way) but the small businesses dotting the thoroughfare add character. (Now if we could get some art to pervade the area, it would be even better. But that's another topic.) I've paid attention to a bunch of these businesses: cafes, home decor places, a toy shop, a karate studio, a theater company, a bakery, an indoor park for kids... the list goes on and on. With birding, I bought a book and binocs. With small business, I find myself craving more contact with owners and entrepreneurs -- I'm reading articles and books and looking into starting something of my own. I doubt it will have much to do with birding, sadly - because it would be cool to merge these once-latent loves. And I can't help but wonder what the rest of this decade holds for me in light of what I've uncovered so far in the way of new pursuits.
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