How to build a new life:
Bird by bird, word by word.
Why are we focusing on BIRDS this fall?
Truth is, it’s mostly because I love them so much. They’ve been an important part of my own personal transformation these past few years. But of course, there’s more to it than that.
Was it Mrs. Andes? Mom? Or Dad?
I became a bird lover at the age of 7. My piano teacher, Mrs. Andes, put bird stickers on the pieces I’d successfully learned. I yearned to see in real life the colorful birds I saw on the little squares of paper: indigo buntings, bluebirds, and goldfinches, not to mention the stunning scarlet tanager and painted bunting.
Maybe it was the canary my mother kept in a cage in our kitchen at the farm. Brilliant yellow amid the grey ash of cold Pennsylvania winters, he would burst into song when I practiced the piano in the mornings before school.
Or perhaps it was because my father taught me to look up at the sky and notice the hawks. Hawks symbolize the ability to see things in perspective, noticing patterns from high above the fray. I’ve always been drawn to them and the ever-widening circles they make in the sky.
Letting Happiness Find Me
Then it was the birdfeeders. After I got divorced, my father came to visit me in my last home and suggested I hang a bird feeder in the garden. “No!” I said, dramatically. “I can’t take care of anything else right now!” Undaunted, he convinced me to put one up and gifted me with a goldfinch feeder to get started. (The goldfinch, I later learned, is a symbol of resurrection.) Within a year or two, my bird feeder collection had grown from one to 10, including two for hummingbirds (who symbolize joy). Not only did I see goldfinch and hummingbirds, but I also saw the stunning indigo and painted buntings, male and female.
And when the first bluebird arrived and made a home in the nestbox my kids had given me for Mother’s Day, I was well into my own personal resurrection. Bluebirds, a symbol of happiness, had arrived at my door. I only had to create a welcoming space for them to land.
Calling in the Birds
By then I had started dreaming of holding writing circles in my home and building a community of women writers in Jacksonville. As I made my plans, I studied birds and learned they are symbols of women. The singing bird is, of course, a metaphor for learning to use your voice. Birds also symbolize the element of air — our spiritual life, our higher consciousness.
Birds As Spiritual Guides
Using birds as my spiritual guides, I held my first writing circle in the spring of 2014 for a tiny but mighty flock of seven women, gathered around my dining room table. The book I’d chosen as our “text” for the season? Bird By Bird: Some Instructions for Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott.
Now here I am, five years later, a migratory bird perched in my new home, with only five bird feeders visible from my writing chair but a flock of literally hundreds of women writers who have traveled with me on this community journey. I’ve called them in, bird by bird, and we’ve written together, word by word.
The Start of a New Writing Season
This fall we’re kicking off the season with a reprise of our Bird By Bird writing series, plus an outstanding new art show, BIRDS, which pairs up six women writers and six women artists to share their “bird’s eye” view of the world.
We’re also planning an “early bird” tea party on Sunday, September 15, an appearance on First Coast Connect on September 18, a special announcement at FSCJ’s “Musing Women” exhibit on September 19, and our big opening night for BIRDS on Friday, September 20. Also, save the date for Community Day on October 19, when we will launch a bird walk right from our front door, plus other fun writing activities! It’s all going to be spectacular! We hope that you will join this flock of diverse, glorious, and colorful women writers (aka, “word nerd bird herd”).
Details on our EVENTS page. I invite each of you to come in for a landing soon and restore your own soul in the words, art, and spirit of women writing (and painting, and creating, and sculpting) for (a) change, here, in the Riverside Garden.
Executive Director, Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville
p.s. be sure to wear your favorite bird clothing and jewelry on opening night!