Invitation to Joy
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Please accept Michael S. Lewis, M.D.'s Invitation to Joy, composed of sixty-eight full color photographs of birds from all seven continents.
"Wonder is the first of all the passions." –RENE DESCARTES
I am astonished by the improbable beauty and enduring mystery of birds.
Birds are miraculous. A European Swift can eat, sleep, and molt on the wing while staying aloft for nearly a year. Bar-tailed Godwits can fly nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand, more than seven thousand miles, in nine days. A Wandering Albatross can glide on its ten-foot wing span, without a wing beat, for five hundred miles. Thick-billed Murres can dive underwater to a depth of seven hundred feet. And, to open nuts they want to eat, Crows use cars as their personal nutcrackers, dropping nuts on the road for cars to crush. To further illustrate their cleverness, and maybe their playfulness, one Crow has been seen sledding down a snowy roof on a plastic lid, then carrying the lid in its beak to the top of the roof to sled down again.
For me, looking at birds evokes a sense of beauty and awe, and even that rare emotion, pure joy. From a boat on the Firth of Forth in eastern Scotland, I watched 150,000 Gannets put on a continuous and elegant aerial display near their home, The Bass Rock, a steep volcanic outcropping. It is one of those routine miracles that nature throws at us. Words that graphically describe this scene belong to Adam Nicolson, who wrote in The Seabird’s Cry: “The air is pulsating with birds, populating the sky like the blizzard in a shaken glass souvenir, and endless, like the creatures of a dream.”
Other examples of pure joy abound. Seeing thousands of Scarlet Ibises during the last hour of daylight converging on their roost site in the Caroni mangrove swamp in Trinidad. Watching a Peregrine Falcon, the world’s fastest animal, spot its prey and then dive-bomb in a spectacular head-first plunge, like a light- ning bolt with feathers, at more than one hundred miles per hour. Or stepping onto a beach on South Georgia Island, 2,500 miles north of Antarctica, and being welcomed by 100,000 pairs of King Penguins.
Sitting on the veranda at Asa Wright Nature Preserve in Trinidad was another occasion filled with joy. Hummingbirds hovered a foot away from my head before whizzing away to per- form more aerial acrobatics, accented with flashes of iridescent blue and green, their wings beating more than 60 times a second.
Sometimes, spontaneously and without warning, these moments become especially joyous and mystical. We feel a sense of wonder. We are immersed in the present moment and feel at one with the world. Abraham Maslow, often described as the father of modern psychology, coined the term “peak experience” to explain such events.
It was a delightful, challenging task finding quotations and aphorisms to accompany the images. I so hope that they engage you and add another dimension to the photographs.
In my travels, accompanied by my wife, to seven continents, I have been fortunate to pursue these marvels of grace and beauty. The photographs in the book are simply those that caught one person’s attention. A clear-eyed photograph captures a bird in one specific moment and makes possible a direct and more prolonged appreciation of its graceful virtuosity. Now I invite you to share in the joy of looking closely at these wonder-generating creatures.
The Himalayan Cataract Project
All the profits from this book are being donated to the Himalayan Cataract Project, an extraordinary organization co-founded by Geoffrey Tabin, M.D., which has been responsible for restoring sight to more than 800,000 people. Their website is cureblindness.org.
“Invitation to Joy is a true gem! Michael’s photographs are mesmerizing, taking you deep into the heart of each winged friend. The quotes he pairs with the images bestow humor, humanity, and wisdom. The book does more than delight—it soars!”
–DeWitt Jones, National Geographic Photographer and Nationally Known Motivational Speaker
“It’s stunning and beautiful… and every birder should own it!”
–K.C. Hayes, DVM, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Biology (Nutrition), Brandieis University, Inventor of Smart Balance, Avid Birder and Bird Photographer
"The photographs are spectacular!"
–Daniel Lewis, PhD, Dibner Curator, The Huntington Library, Lecturer at Caltech, winner of the American Association of Museums' Grand Prize for Excellence in Exhibitions