In Blakeney, in North Norfolk, England, there is a duck pond. Bear with me here. The Blakeney Conservation Duck Pond sits nestled in the Freshwater Marshes, just adjacent to the flood defense embankment constructed to protect the village from tidal surges. The duck pond is a hive of quacking, squawking and splashing, featuring a veritable smorgasbord of avian wildlife.
Just yesterday, I sat on a bench with my wife overlooking this pond. We watched the dozens of feathered creatures of all colours and sizes mingling with one another, amidst the smattering of curious duck houses perched in the water. One duck in particular caught my attention. It repeatedly plunged its head into the water, kicking out wildly in a vain attempt to dive down deeper. It was amusing, but I had to admire its tenacity.
As my wife and I wondered what the purpose of the self-proclaimed electric fence was surrounding the pond, a voice from the footpath behind us punctured the calm.
“Look at that! Isn’t it amazing?” a man gushed.
Well, I thought, it’s a pleasant spot to stop for ten minutes to eat an ice cream, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it amazing. But each to their own, I shrugged in my head.
“Come on then,” another man said. “What are all these? You’re an expert, you should know.”
I imagined the second man gesticulating extravagantly towards the duck pond, not least because it suited my humorous mental image. I resisted the urge to turn around to see, though.
“I’m not an expert,” the first man drawled. “But look!” he piped up, his voice suddenly alive with excitement. “The pair with the white bibs. See them?”
The other man gave assurances that he could, indeed, see them. I couldn’t have honestly said the same thing. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what a white bib was.
The amateur enthusiast proceeded to describe the objects of his zeal in even greater detail, using terminology that for the life of me I couldn’t understand.
After a minute or so, the men’s chatter faded as they trooped away.
After they’d gone, I still found myself thinking about the first man’s unabashed, unquenchable display of enthusiasm. He was clearly knowledgeable about, and interested in, avian wildlife. To be honest, I found that amusing. If I had been in a more cynical mood, I must confess I may have been given to silent mocking.
But then I started to question why.
I am a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda series. I also have what most would consider a…healthy Zelda collection, shall we say? Sealed games, figures, strategy guides, statues – you name it, I have it. It’s entirely plausible, of course, that this amateur lover of avian wildlife would be completely baffled by my enthusiasm for The Legend of Zelda series.
This is, of course, pure speculation, but perhaps he would argue that his love for nature is more worthwhile than adoration of a video game series. After two weeks strolling through Nature’s magnificence in The Canadian Rockies earlier this year, I’m not sure I could disagree. I do hope, however, that I never have to choose between the two!
As I sat on that bench by Blakeney’s duck pond, these jumbled thoughts crystallised into a clearer sentiment. Forgive me if I come across as sanctimonious; that isn’t my intention at all.
It’s easy to think ‘each to their own’ dismissively, disregarding what one may perceive as odd with an air of condescension. Everyone has their own hobbies and passions, however, so who is to say which ones are more “valid” than others?
The man at the duck pond probably has a wealth of interests, of which avian wildlife is just one. Who knows if he would have been so dismissive if he had heard one of my inane rants to my long-suffering wife about the video game industry, or the new direction of The Legend of Zelda series with Breath of the Wild.
So next time I shrug ‘each to their own’, I’ll try to remember the guy at the duck pond. Dismissive condescension comes only too easily when witnessing people’s unrestrained effervescing about subjects that they love. But I have my own weird and wonderful interests, too. Just because I don’t understand someone’s passion, it should preclude a mutual respect.