Maybe something similar has happened to you. Every morning, while the tea is steeping, a blue-jay comes to rest on the butterfly bush outside your kitchen window. Or you keep seeing red-tail hawks circling every time you take your dog for a walk. For three nights, you dream about jellyfish. Perhaps, suddenly, you notice foxes everywhere -- in advertisements, songs, peeking out from the raspberry bushes in your back yard, on people's license plates (1FXY LDY).
When this happens to me, I begin to wonder if the animal is trying to tell me something.
A few weeks ago, Sam and I were walking in a nearby field.
|Sam says, "What will we find today?"
|Guesses were: hawk, turkey, and owl.
That night, I was cleaning out an old file of papers. A greeting card, opened but still in its envelope, fell out of the file. It was from my favorite professor from graduate school, Muriel Becker. Muriel was a legend in the New Jersey education scene, but she was also a huge fan of good writing, particularly science fiction and fantasy. Because Muriel passed away many years ago, I checked the postmark. The card had been sent in 1993. Nice, I thought.
[There is a literary award in Muriel's name. One of the winners passed away this week, poet and children's novelist Walter Dean Myers.]
It wasn't until the next morning that I connected card to feathers.
|A card from Muriel, sent around the time
of my graduation from Montclair State University,
where she trained generations of English educators.
I choose to believe that the owl feathers and card were meant to tell me that Muriel's spirit is around. I'd been thinking about a work-in-progress during my walk with Sam. Maybe this was Muriel's way of saying: I like this idea! Keep working on it.
The practice of taking nature walks is a nourishing one for me, as a human being and as a writer. That's why I'm such a fan of Amy Ludwig Vanderwater's book FOREST HAS A SONG.
|Cybil Poetry Award winner! Available at B&N.
The poems in Amy's book take a path through a year of seasons. Along the way, the reader finds seeds, fossils, and ferns. There are things to see, hear, smell, and touch on this nature walk. And there are animal visitors.
I'd like to thank Amy for giving me permission to post a poem from FOREST HAS A SONG today.
by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater
Mommy, I'm scared to be this high.
All owls are scared on their first try.
My tail feathers feel so tingly with fear.
You can do it. Calm down. Careful now. Steer.
I can't see a thing through all this black.
Just go to Spruce and come right back.
FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP--WHOOOSH!
FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP--SWOOOSH!
Look, Mom! I made it! Wow! I can fly!
I knew you could. You were born for sky.
From FOREST HAS A SONG (Clarion, 2013)
Posted with permission of the author.
Do you think the feathers Sam and I found tumbled from the sky when a juvenile owl took its first flight? Or maybe they are Momma Owl's feathers, shaken off as she followed, just-far-enough behind.
As I transcribed Amy's poem today, the words of the poem had a different meaning for me. I'd been feeling like the little owl -- afraid of trying something new with my writing project. And there was the memory or spirit of my mentor, Muriel, saying "You can do it... You were born for sky."
|Thanks for taking a walk with me
on Poetry Friday. We're celebrating
Independence Day and
honoring the work
of Walter Dean Myers
at Heidi's blog this week.
Stop by My Juicy Little Universe
for more poetry links.