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I am not ready to talk much about my second book, but I will tell you that it involves birds. And birdwatching. It also involves research. Much of it. And I am realizing, re-realizing, what fun research can be.

Last week, I had the distinct privilege of meeting with Paul Sweet who oversees the ornithology collection at the American Museum of Natural History. We talked birds and books. He showed me some specimens. And then.

Then he handed me a pair of heavy-duty binoculars and took me on an impromptu birdwatching walk through the park.

I had never done this before. And it was utterly magical.

We saw Hermit Thrushes, Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers, House Sparrows, Robins, White-Throated Sparrows, Towhees, Blue Jays, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Morning Doves, Ruddy ducks and more.

And I saw something else. Something I see all the time. The park. Central Park.

I saw it through a new lens that day, literally, metaphorically. I did not see it as a place to take the kids, but as a patch of nature in the heart of a jungle. A locus of life.

A different kind of life.

I was amazed at how soothing it was. To walk, to feel the air, to look up and around, to listen. To spot tiny creatures in the grass, on branches, in the sky. The views? They were consistently stunning, both familiar and fresh. On this day, on this day of research and rejuvenation, I was struck with a profound awareness of the importance of certain things: Nature, setting, story, soul.

As we left the park, Paul pointed up and I followed his gaze. We stood there on the corner of 81st and Columbus and watched a vast pack of Turkey Vultures cascade through a blue fall sky, migrating. Those black dots along that expanse of cloud-striped blue? It was something special, I tell you.

And so. I wanted to share this with you. My foray into a new world, and maybe a new passion. I know that none of these pictures contain birds, at least visibly. But trust me. They were there.

Thank you, Paul. For opening my eyes to the new and the old. My story is already better because of this experience.

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How often do you escape your stressful life and immerse yourself in the natural world? Are you fond of birds? Do you enjoy research? Have you ever come at a familiar setting with a new eye, a new perspective? Do you feel calmed and refreshed when you are in nature, or a more natural place?

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