While sorting through books on my library shelf deciding which ones to keep and which ones to let go of, I came across a book about birds that I had bought at a used bookstore over ten years ago. I found it about the same time I found a quiet, reflective voice within for writing prose and poetry. At the time, I was in the midst of doing internships and working towards a degree in Journalism and Cultural Resource Management.
Then serendipitously later this week , as I was rifling through a stack of old papers stored in a cardboard box, I came across the prose Bookaburra I had written, inspired by reading the book BIRDS – Their Life, Their Ways, Their World.
The book smelled like an old cedar chest. A handwritten note pressed between the pages read, “conical eggs are often laid by waders and gulls, always pointing inward to minimize the surface area occupied.”
Small gray feathers fell out from amongst the loose pages. I watched them crisscross, lazily floating toward my feet. For a moment, I felt as light as a feather tracking the pattern of their descent, but the weightiness of the book drew my attention back to the open page.
I was unfamiliar with the words pennae, plumulae and rachis, but I did recognize names of birds whose feathers were colorfully illustrated – emu, woodpecker, kingfisher, peacock and sparrow hawk. As I read on, I learned that the Ruby-throated hummingbird has about 950 feathers while the Whistling Swan has over 25,000, and the weight of a bird’s plumage can be more than twice that of its skeleton.
There are songbirds that can sing a complexity of 80 notes per second. A bird’s sensitivity to individual notes is three times greater than that of a human. Although largely a male dominate characteristic, there are female singers and duetting couples. There are birds like the Laughing Kookaburra not recognized as a songbird that have a beautiful, complex call.
This old book about the life of birds puts a song in my heart. I find the scent of its paper, glue and ink to be nesting materials for the hatching of fresh, new thoughts.
The feathers and note remain pressed between pages 80 and 82 of BIRDS – Their Life, Their Ways, Their World written by Dr. Christopher Perrins and illustrated by Ad Cameron. Published by Abrams, Inc. New York. 1976
If you love and are fascinated by birds, I encourage you to visit David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds website and watch his extraordinary series.
For more about the life of birds, visit Not One Sparrow – a christian voice for animals.
The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. Psalms 104:12