Some people like to choose a “word” of the month/season/year for themselves. That’s never really appealed to me —maybe it’s not my style, maybe I’ve got vestiges of resistance to being categorized (which picking a word has tended to remind me of), or maybe I’m just too indecisive to settle on something thematic.
However, this season, a word — or rather, an idea pulled together in a word — has grabbed me. It started late this past winter one day when I was shopping at Walmart. While pushing my cart past an endcap in housewares, I saw a little yellow ceramic bird with a light green wing. It was a kitchen spoon rest, which is handy, but I knew already that the little bird was something more for me than utilitarian.
There were little reasons why I was smiling to myself after making the commitment to purchase the little yellow bird. After many years of raising and homeschooling six children on a modest income, choosing to buy a non-necessary but beautiful item felt a little bit like staking a little claim. Nothing extravagant, but something tied to me and not to family practicalities.
Happy reason #2: This bird happened to be in the same colors I was finally — after long years of dreaming and incremental painstaking wallpaper removal progress — going to paint our kitchen.
The ceramic bird gave me a little push of hope for finally finishing that project. I could see it sitting on the kitchen counter and feel closer already to my painting goal.
However, another happy surprise has been that the little bird has been evolving as a motif for me in other ways.
I am a book lover and former children’s librarian, so the little bird started me thinking about the many literary references to birds that help or bring hope. I especially like the robin in The Secret Garden, who helps orphaned and sour-tempered Mary Lennox find the key and the hidden garden that lead her to find health, trust, and hope. There’s also the thrush in The Hobbit that helps Bilbo and the dwarves identify the door to Smaug’s lair, just as they were losing hope for their quest. There are the many origami cranes that young Sadako’s friends fold for her and hang in her hospital room to give her courage, support, and encouragement as she fights leukemia in post-war Hiroshima. And, of course, there are the famous lines from Emily Dickinson:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
I recently re-watched the film This Beautiful Fantastic, in which the main character, Bella, is drawn away from her fears, compulsions, and loneliness partly through meeting an inventor of a mechanical bird, Luna. Bella is also pulled out of her writer’s block and writes a story about Luna. (Making a garden also figures largely in the film.)
I think often of the folk song, beautifully rendered by Elizabeth Mitchell, “Little bird, little bird / Fly through my window.” It makes me think of fresh air, dreams, and hope.
Birds are also showing up in some of my small recent creative endeavors. A little red bird sits in the center of an embroidered felt coaster I was working on. I find myself drawing birds in my prayer journal. This morning, as I walked to the garden to stitch, a bird was sitting quite still on my bench.
Some explanation will be necessary if anyone ever asks me if I have a word of the year or season. “Little bird” may not immediately connect other people to themes of hope, creativity, open windows, progressing past creative or mental blocks, or growing away from bad habits and toward health and joy, . . . but for now, “little bird” means a lot to me.