The Gift of Wings and Song
by C. K. Thomas
Seeing birds in flight gave the Wright Brothers a desire to build a machine that would make flight possible for people.
A mythical bird arose from its own ashes and became known as the Phoenix. I live in a place called Phoenix, and birds frolic in my backyard fountain, just as they did in my mother’s birdbath when I was a child.
Robins stood in line on flagstone steps next to our backyard birdbath in Indiana. A Jenny Wren woke me on summer mornings, singing from its perch on my mother’s clothesline. When I lived in Virginia, I kept track of the birds I spotted in my backyard in the back of an Audubon bird encyclopedia. There were nuthatches, blue jays, downy woodpeckers, cardinals, robins, titmice, and many others. Their songs at first light were magnificent. When I moved to the desert, I no longer heard birdsong in the mornings and I missed their music terribly.
I owned a bird book from National Geographic that came with 45 rpm records of birdsong. One very early morning, after completing his newspaper route, my son put one of those records on our turntable, and I awoke to birdsong filling my bedroom through the stereo speakers. Try as I might, I couldn’t put that bird music into those speakers, as my mind was positive those birds were right outside my window. It was a funny trick my son pulled, and eventually I did lure birds to my backyard with seed and water features.
I discovered a whole new roster of birds like grackles, Inca doves, curved-billed thrashers, verdins, and a wide variety of hummingbirds, among others. I still miss the colorful Eastern birds, but I’ve come to appreciate the Gila woodpeckers and cactus wrens of the desert.
Birds have been written about in poems: “quoth the Raven, nevermore.”
In fairy tales: “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.”
And in songs like “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”:
Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder
It’s the truth, it’s “actch’ll”
Everything is “satisfactch’ll”
And everything did become “satisfactch’ll” for me in Phoenix once I felt the presence of birds around me again. I was desolate without them. To me, they’re a precious gift from the power of the universe.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.