I heard his chirp–a tiny, hopeful chirp.
Then I saw him, perched on the railing next to my table. Plain brown, no fancy plumage. He cocked his head, this way and that, stretched out his neck, ruffled his feathers, and chirped again.
Brave little fellow, I thought. How did you come to be all alone in this big noisy terminal? Well, you’re not really alone, I’m here. And so are hundreds of other people. But birds? Yours is the only chirp I hear.
I wonder, will you find your way out?
Your way back home again?
Or is this your home, like Fly Away Home?
Is this where you live, eating the crumbs left behind by careless travelers, nesting in the rafters under the skylights?
Do you miss the chirping of other birds?
Do you yearn for the great out-of-doors?
Do you long for the rustling of leaves in the summer breeze?
Do you know the terror of storms when rains pour down and winds howl?
Have you ever been stalked by a cat? …a large marmalade cat?
Do you think you are free?
Or is this terminal your prison?
I will fly away tonight. But you, can you fly away?
You tweet and you trill. You hop about. You flutter from table to floor to railing to table. Pecking here and pecking there. Cocking your head as you listen and look.
You don’t know it, little sparrow, but God says that not a single sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing it. And as I watch you, God is reminding me of how much He cares for me.
Thank you little bird for your hope-filled chirp.
Thank you for visiting my table tonight.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
A slice of my life
From my travel notes dated
Friday, August 22, 2008, 6 PM
Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
while eating a sandwich at the food court before boarding a late night flight home
Writing about my writing
Here’s how I framed my thinking for this piece.
- I select an object that I can converse with. Usually something living is easier.
- Sometimes it helps to list words associated with my object. For example, here’s a list of words I associate with birds: feathers, plumage, ruffle, chirp, trill, songs, tweet, hop, flutter, perch, cats, nest, worms, seeds, crumbs, peck, cock (many of are in my piece). For me, the brainstorming of associated words triggers my thinking–it awakens me and gives me focus.
- In my first few sentences, I establish what drew my attention to the object.
- I begin “speaking” to the object–noticing, wondering.
- I ask a series of questions. You know, the basic when, where, what, how, why kinds of questions, probing the object’s life and asking for its thoughts and feelings about things. I don’t worry about order; I just write every question I can think of as it comes to me, without judgment (that’s important).
- Then I share a word of encouragement, inspiration, challenge with the object–one that is significant in my life, meaningful to me.
Here’s my process with pencil and paper and keyboard.
- I wrote the first draft of this piece in one long continuous flow with very little punctuation. I did that while at the airport with the sparrow nearby.
- A few days later, my revision dealt mostly with order–the order of my questions and the order of words within my sentences.
- Then I divided the piece into paragraphs and typed it here in my blog, thinking I was almost done.
- But before I published, I did what I tell my students to do. I reread my piece several times. As I did, a pattern became evident and I began working on its appearance, creating a half prose, half poetry piece. I liked the result. I liked the flow and ease of reading. And I liked the white space it brought to my piece.
Try it; you may like it; you will see.
Tell me if you do.