Tag Archives: November

It is hard to hear.


It is hard to hear the north wind again,
And to watch the treetops, as they sway.

They sway, deeply and loudly, in an effort,
So much less than feeling, so much less than speech,

Saying and saying, the way things say
On the level of that which is not yet knowledge:

A revelation not yet intended.
It is like a critic of God, the world

And human nature, pensively seated
On the waste throne of his own wilderness.

Deeplier, deeplier, loudlier, loudlier,
The trees are swaying, swaying, swaying.

-Wallace Stevens

My necessary Bird has flown.

This season of Thanksgiving is a good time to remember my friend who was known on this blog as “Bird.” She fell asleep in the Lord last year, but at the time I couldn’t find the words to write about her passing. She had been very dear to me, affectionately motherly and sisterly at the same time. Even past her 100th birthday she was thoroughly engaged in the present and was a good counselor and truth-teller. Not in platitudes or the kind of universally applicable advice that fails to touch the individual in a warm way, but in the manner of a Christian, a “little Christ” who comes alongside and shares the joy or pain. Bird took me Bird +K 97into her heart and gave me of her self: her motherhood of thirteen children, her married womanliness shaped by devotion to a passionate and visionary man, her thankfulness to a loving Father.

I didn’t meet Bird until she was already in her 80’s and had been a widow for some time, so I am not qualified to speak about her life as a whole. But certainly if someone can be supremely happy and content from the ages of 85 to 102, that is a huge accomplishment, not to speak of the many good people having descended from her. Even if she hadn’t been so good a friend to me, just the example of her life would have been encouraging. There was nothing flashy about Bird, no career or teaching ministry or fame; her habit of self-giving was gentle and quiet.

Recently her son kindly sent me a copy of the special journal thP1110738at she liked to write in, her Gnome Gnotebook, repository of decades of treasures she had collected in the form of poems, quotes and proverbs. I had enjoyed exploring the original book whose pages had long ago been filled up; when she ran out of room Bird simply wrote any new notes and poems on scraps of paper and kept them tucked between the pages, the whole bundle getting fatter and fatter, held together with a rubber band and always kept within arm’s reach.

As I began to browse the contents this month, a couple of entries jumped right out at me as completely expressive of truths that she had learned deeply and lived out every day. They happen to be written conveniently  right next to each other on one of the bound pages of the Gnotebook, and if any maxims might have been formative for the woman I knew, these would be likely ones.

P1110740 Bird's book

When I tried a year ago to write this tribute, the words “Bird has flown” were in my mind, and when recently the following autumn poem by John Updike came to my attention it seemed to complement my feelings. The world is a bleaker place without her – there is no replacement. And yet, there is that “certain loveliness” still present, spread abroad and noticed by those giving thanks in the spirit of my Bird.


The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The loss of her
departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Displays a certain
Loveliness —

The beauty of
the bone. Tall God
must see our souls
this way, and nod.

Give thanks, we do,
each in his place
Around the table
during Grace.

–John Updike


If you didn’t get a chance to read what I’ve written about my friend before, this post on Bird’s Open Heart features a photo of her as a young woman, and A New Apron for Bird tells a story about our friendship.