Risk means different things to different people. For instance, my husband, Eric Masterson, an expert birder as well as writer and photographer, went “hurricane birding” during Hurricane Irene. He was looking for rare bird species that may have blown off course. As a Floridian raised on hurricanes, I thought he was insane. Strongly averse to physical risk, I stayed safely at home, texting him, “Do the words flash floods and deadly projectiles mean anything to you?” To Eric, it wasn’t risk — it was passion.
On the other hand, I’ve just been booked to perform in front of 2,100 people. I’m totally jazzed because I love to tell stories and I’m energized by large audiences. My husband, not so much. To me, it’s not a risk — it’s a blast.
As I was writing in my studio last night, a Big Brown Bat (about a 14″ wing span — this is a big bat) who’d roosted in the ceiling woke up, and began flying around trying to get out.
After summoning Eric, I stood terrified outside, looking through the studio window, ducking each time the bat flew by, even though I was safely on the other side of the wall. In contrast, my husband stood motionless inside, calmly studying the bat as it flew around his body. Not for one minute did Eric think he was at risk. His passion for all things that fly is what enables him to endure often uncomfortable and sometimes extreme physical conditions so he can photograph and write about his beloved birds. Note to readers: Look for Eric’s upcoming book, The Birds of New Hampshire, to be published in fall 2012. The Big Brown Bat eventually made its way outside and I quit shaking a couple of hours later.
Risk and Reward
I don’t think an aversion to physical risk (or bats) is necessarily a gender thing. Our dear friend and neighbor Sy Montgomery happens to be a woman who writes about animals and birds. In her research, Sy has been “chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire and bitten by a vampire bat in Costa Rica, worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba and handled a wild tarantula in French Guiana.” All in a day’s work.
Passion makes you take whatever risk you need — physical, financial, emotional — to capture the photograph, tell the story, publish the book. And the rest of us, happily, get the reward.