In my usual burst of enthusiasm for the things I love and the desire it creates to imitate them (I love to eat—I should learn how to cook! I love to read—I should try and write a novel!) I have been building a bird’s nest.
Now the root of this passion is two-fold—I have always loved bird’s nests—I have collected obviously (and sometimes barely) abandoned ones for years. (Usually to have them disintegrate on a bookshelf after a time). I also love artist’s books and altered book artwork and recently made a pact with my oldest artist daughter, Ceinwen, that I would make a piece to enter in the annual MOCA (Marin Museum of Contemporary Art) altered book show and auction, if she would.
It’s due in a month.
The first step, for me, was to find a book to alter. So I visited the Reader’s Bookstore in Fort Mason to look for a vintage book that might be the foundation of my piece. I knew I wanted it to be something to do with birds and/or trees. I found an old library book from the 1940’s, a novel titled The Trees. The deckled pages are thick, slightly buckled and yellowed, the cloth cover is a faded blue. I cut a deep hole in the middle with an exacto-blade where my nest could rest.
Now making a bird’s nest is not as easy as it might look (neither is writing a novel!!!) I can definitely say that the slanderous term ‘bird-brain’ is a mislabel—birds are incredibly clever architects of little woven miracles.
After I took a walk in the woods and collected some leaves and twigs, I made an awkward skeleton out of some copper wire. I soaked the twigs, then bent and twisted, snapped and cursed and tucked until I had a funky little bowl of twigs.
What I have created is an imitation of a bird’s nest. It’s a pretty good imitation— there’s little question as to what it’s supposed to be. I think most people would look at it and think, oh, that looks like a bird’s nest. (As opposed to oh,…that’s interesting…what is it?)
It’s the same as when we write and try to create a well-rounded, believable character or a realistic setting—we are creating a plausible imitation. And sometimes we have to distort reality to make what is written work. This is especially the case in writing dialogue—if we as writers were to write a page of dialogue the way we all normally speak, it would be unbearably boring and dull with all of the um’s and uh’s and you know’s—so what we write is an imitation of dialogue.
They say that imitation is the highest form of praise.
I say, praise be to the birds, to their beautiful nests, to the trees that hold them, to their wood that is made into paper, to the books, to the stories told and written and read. And to all of those who imitate them with love in their hearts.
Take Good Care,