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August 15, 2011
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Why the bird?

Someone asked me the significance of the bird in North Adams yesterday. The visitor was making connections between the birds in all of my work right now–and the Mike Glier giant grackle at the Porches Inn. My work is completely unrelated to Glier’s, and both are not, at least to my knowledge, related to North Adams.

My bird imagery relates to ideas of nesting and rebirth. I imagine the womb as a nest and an incubator for creative ideas, not just babies. I also see it as a gestation place for learning, gaining strength and life. The nest/bird/baby/idea that grows there then must come out somehow–through song, creation, and birth.  The bird inside and outside of the body outline tries to express this.

I then weave tree imagery with the bird to suggest other relationships. Sometimes it’s fear and darkness, which the forest often is. Sometimes it’s comfort and peace, which the forest also is.

Rilke comes to mind too, here’s a piece from Rilke’s Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Johanna Macy:

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hole of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
Each think–
each stone, blossom, child–
is held in place,
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us;
to fall, 
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

 Trusting the heaviness, trusting in general, and being patient with that process is crucial for any of us to fly–to whatever it is that we need to be or do in our lives. This bounces back and forth in my brain as I create, hoping that I’m making the connections visually that will resonate for me and for others. Look for a post in the next week with some of the more recent prints that continue to explore this.


  1. BTW I love the font of this comment box.
    What a wonderful insight in to your creating Melanie. I am inspired by the Rilke. I have heard the last stanza but only now the whole poem. Something about today and poetry. I am posting about it on my site today too.
    Thank you for the deeper look in to your work.
    Love, S

    • admin says:

      I look forward to having you here to print one day, and hopefully soon!
      Thanks for the great comment–love knowing people who are inspired by Rilke.

  2. spike mason says:

    Just thought I’d comment on your post – as I thought you might be interested that I’ve released an album called “Widening Circles”. I have become totally smitten by Rilke and so the album features an english translation of a handful of the poems (including How surely gravitys law) from the Book of Hours set to my compositions.
    You can watch a short film of the recording process
    here ==> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIkfYDRLuls
    You can have a listen to the album to see if you like it
    here ==> http://www.thepoatinatree.com.au

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks Spike–I will definitely take a listen to the album, and here it is the anniversary of Rilke’s birthday! Thank you for sharing.

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