Birds and Books

Am I poisonous?

Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 5:56 AM
subject Re: Faith
hide details 5:56 AM (13 hours ago)
I also purchased a book by an author I had never, ever heard of, Janet Frame. I was drawn to volume on the shelf by its spine: a chemical green repro of a mountainous land. The titles of the three works printed bright pink in a text box of white background.

Owls Do Cry. A lovely name for a story. Also, The Pocket Mirror and An Angel at My Table. I mostly liked the crying owls.
They said she was “crazy” – poor Janet Frame. It must have been hard to love words and birds so much when the world was so strict about our affections.
The back of the book explains that Ms. Frame was born poor in New Zealand in 1924 and was misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic and spent years in mental institutions, she was able, however, “to preserve her creative spirit through the written word.”
The first sentence of Owls Do Cry:

“The day is early with birds beginning and the wren in a cloud piping like the child in the poem, drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe.”

Lovely, isn’t it? I can see, however, that (so many decades ago) Ms. Frame may have been thought quite crazy, for so clearly indulging in the wondrous words one can find to describe birds.


There are so many ways to wrap our world in words>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

My small wire birds are on the counter at Downtown Books and News. However, in speaking to the kindly manager, I came upon the notion to leave these small tokens of possibility anonymously around town. Presents For Strangers.
As I drove past this pig, I noted that the bird I had tucked in its tail was missing. I wondered if someone had picked it up. And then I saw that it had simply blown/been dropped on the sidewalk across the street. It was just laying there. I kept driving.

By doing so I would not earn any funds to donate to local schools. However, I would be reverting back to my original inclination: which was to simply make presents for everybody/anybody…

So, everyday, I will leave five birds, tagged with the blog url, in some place where they may be found by someone who momentarily notices small things left behind.
I will note the location of the presents I leave and instruct (by words on the small folded tags) the finder of the bird to keep it or give it away, but to please let me know, via blog comment what they did with their small gift and what they happened to think when they saw that the small tangle of wire was actually a bird in flight.

ATM bird

The birds will remain available for purchase at Downtown Books and News and the Asheville Art Museum, but I’m giving them away as well. I’m curious: who will find them, what will they say.

Will they say anything at all? Do I really care?

On the subject of drawing: more pen sketches (no erasing!) of wire birds and this morning I will “draw the drapes” like Amelia Bedelia. My daughter does not think I will be able to capture the “fancy parts” of the children’s book illustration of heavy drapery.

I think I can.

show details 8:23 PM (22 hours ago)

I purchased Yankee Doodle’s Literary Sampler of Prose, Poetry, and Pictures: Being an Anthology of Diverse Works Published for the Edification and/or Entertainment of Young Readers in America Before 1900 Selected from the Rare Book Collections of the Library of Congress and Introduced by Virginia Haviland and Margaret N. Coughlan.


This book AMAZING! It has scanned reprints of Beauties of The New England Primer(1818), The History of Insects And God made everything that creepeth upon the earth. (1813) (Note the intentional un-capitalized ‘earth’) The Youth’s Instructor In Natural History (1832) and, best of all, a reprint of all the pages of The Young Child’s ABC, OR, First Book (1806) – this book offers the most clear presentation of phonetic organization in the English language that I have ever seen. Straight-up rote: ba be bi bo bu by ca ce ci co cu cy da de di do du dy fa fe fi fo fu fy…every consonant vowel combination possible, followed by triple letter sounds and finally words, and then bigger words. It is such a dramatically different approach than the reading programs in modern schools. These oldoldold programs seem more concerned with arranging the language in the way that makes the most sense linguistically and phonetically – the map preceeding the territory.
Which is not a bad thing, when the territory is something so vast as reading. Modern programs – oriented to developing natural readers with whole word fluency – pander to the reader and to those students whose unique processing of written language is compatible with the agenda of the book/program. Those students will likely learn to read far more easily than the students who need very clear understanding of the structure of the language and who have a system-oriented approach to experiencing information (meaning they rely on patterns and past experience to integrate new information into their base of knowledge – and thus the language -based information they take in must be well-scaffolded with adequate skill in fundamental mechanics in order for them to attain fluency – that is to know and understand the word instantly and to be able to focus on the meaning and not the symbol.
——Original Message——
From: Me
To: Me
ReplyTo: Me
Subject: Faith
Sent: Feb 16, 2010 6:25 PM

Today, as I was waiting to meet with the manager of Downtown Books and News about putting the Presents for Strangers project on the counter of the shop (a bookstore of the very best kind!) I looked through books. Here is what I purchased:

I have “always” “loved” Kahlil Gibran. Meaning I had a copy of The Prophet filched from the living room book case of my parents home. I read it, but it didn’t resonate. Still, I moved it everytime I moved. It was always in a box with “special things” – things whose meaning was more worthy than their actual-ness proclaimed.
I am 1/4 Lebanese. I have no de facto connection to the culture or geography of Lebanon. My mother’s Lebanese father died when she was ten. Had he not, perhaps the family would eat flat bread more often and would use lamb in “meat pies” instead of hamburger. (gross.)
Nonetheless, I knew that people directly related to me had not spoken English and that they had come “here” and that my brown eyes came from them. So, I took Arabic for four years to over-satisfy my language requirements. I can still phonetically sound things out, but the word-sounds are difficult to associate meaning with. So, this copy of sand and foam is an English translation, just like that copy of The Prophet, which suddenly I haven’t seen in years.

It is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book.
Exactly what I needed.

One thought on “Birds and Books

Is there really anything to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s