I painted this indoor Santa Fe birdhouse and added the bear, the eggs and the angel. It's my favorite. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

I painted this indoor Santa Fe birdhouse and added the bear, the eggs and the angel. It’s my favorite. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

I painted this birdhouse for Jim's mother, to match the colors in her house. Her address, plus !/2, for the bird address. My parents had a similar bird house in their colors.

I painted this birdhouse for Jim’s mother, to match the colors in her house. Her address, plus 1/2, for the bird address. My parents had a similar bird house in their colors.

Dear Mom,

You used to hang sturdy little bird houses in the trees around the yard and from the house eaves.  Outside your kitchen window, you kept a feeder stocked with bird seed.

I think it was your outdoor bird houses that later drew me to making decorative indoor bird houses. I knew the myths about birds flying into a house—an omen of bad luck or impending death—and I knew about ravens, not in football but in Poe’s “quoth the raven, never more.” But I also knew the church song, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over me.”

The first bird house I painted for you and Dad was in the colors of your house, with brown shutters on the windows and plants on the steps. Across the front door I painted the numbers 1402 ½–your address plus one-half–an address for the birds.  When I moved you and Dad to Presbyterian Village, we left it hanging on your porch, under the eaves, with grass and yarn inside, a cozy home for the family of birds nested there.

As an English and literature teacher, I taught Langston Hughes’ lines: “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

Victor Hugo wrote, “The soul has illusions as the bird has wings: it is supported by them.” And Anne Baxter wrote, “It’s best to have failure happen early in life. It wakes up the Phoenix bird in you so you rise from the ashes.”

Now, as you heal from your hip surgery, while you sleep most of the day in your bed or rest in your recliner, you seem to see and dream of other times, and you wait.

And Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”  I believe you have that kind of faith, Mom. His eye is on the sparrow, and whatever happens, you trust He watches you.

Now THIS bird house would be a bad omen for birds!

Now THIS bird house would be a bad omen for birds!

Enough room for family and friends.

Enough room for family and friends.

Every writer needs a Post Office bird house.

Every writer needs a Post Office bird house.


Filed under art, art projects, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Different kinds of homes, lessons about life, Lessons from birds, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Spiritual connections


  1. juliabarrett

    Your love for your mother is so deep. I hope she continues to heal well. Sounds like she’s in a place of peace. The bird houses and the quotes – perfect.

  2. Thanks, Julia. As a hospice nurse, I’m sure you’ve seen the mixed reactions to having birdcages with birds present in the room vs. bird houses hanging outside the window. Some view birds with interest and joy, other with fear.

  3. dear Marilyn, such another touching post. Many good wishes for your mom’s speedy recovery.
    groetjes, Francina

  4. Thank you, Francina.
    She is definitely winding down, but she is comfortable and content and has excellent full-time care.
    Your good wishes are much appreciated.

  5. Dear Marylin, How wonderful and prayers for your mother’s recovery. I love your birdhouses and quotes. Ellen

  6. Carol Stoffel

    As a fellow birdhouse collector, I love this.

  7. You’ll appreciate the layers of dust I found when I took the birdhouses down from the top of the bookshelves, Carol. I was overdue for “spring” cleaning, by a long shot. I have 15 indoor birdhouses, and many outside.
    Sounds like the blue bird of happiness has visited you since your knee surgery–can’t wait to have you back at the round table!

  8. Nancy Parker Brummett

    How fun, Marylin. I love your birdhouses! Nancy

    • Thanks, Nancy. When I want to paint–and since I no longer get excited about painting a big house or even moving the furniture and painting a small room–my favorite thing to do is paint a bird house!

  9. Oh Marylin, these little houses are lovely, and as I was reading through your post, I was reminded of a jolly little song with lyrics I’ve never really understood – so I looked it up and now it makes perfect sense. It’s the song ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’ by a group called They Might be Giants. You can hear it on You Tube with the words displayed here:

    Hope your Mom continues making a comfortable recovery.

  10. The message to Mum is touching as always. The bird houses are FANTASTIC, such great work.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  11. What beautiful birdhouses. If I was a bird, I’d be winging over to move in to all of them – except the cat birdhouse. 🙂

    May your Mom heal quickly. I hope you like this little quote I found:
    “Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”
    Rabindranath Tagore

    • Bless you, Judy. I hadn’t realized I’d misspelled Tagore’s first name–I’m going to have to put on my reading glasses when I proofread!
      I love buying unfinished birdhouses or old ones at yard sales and then merrily painting and creating with accessories. I’m glad you like them!

      • OK. Now I’m embarrassed. I just realized that you already have that quote … and, just remember, just because it’s spelled that way on the internet does not necessarily mean that’s the correct spelling. I do humbly apologize for my faux pas. 🙂 (But I know you’ll forgive me.)

      • Absolutely!
        (But I checked, and I had a B where it was supposed to be an R…)


    Marylin: As always your thoughts are beautiful. My character Rosie has just fed the doves on Scott’s ranch for the last time. She is preparing to leave and the last task she has chosen to do is feeding the doves. She mummers snatches of “the Ave” to them and they perch on her broad, sturdy shoulders and sing along with her. Best, Betty

  13. You’re so talented, Marylin! These birdhouses are wonderful! I’m trying to decide which one I like the best…it’s impossible. I do love the Post Office…so cute! Oh, the Langston Hughes quote is perfect, just perfect. My mom, like your mom and myself are bird lovers. Right now I’m watching the Cardinals eat the sunflower seeds I sprinkled on the patio…they are gorging themselves. 🙂 I hope your mom’s healing continues.

    • I have friends who can hear a bird sound and know exactly which bird is making it. I’m not an avid bird watcher and identifier, but I do love birds of all kinds, their colors and sounds and just having them nearby. You and I are in good company with our moms!

  14. I dearly love that Santa Fe birdhouse!!! I like the quotes too…I also taught Langston Hughes whenever I could. The one that came up most often was Life Is No Crystal Stairs. It is wet and cold here today…at 50. The dark day is a harbinger of winter…not ready!!!

    • Oh, I don’t like that kind of news from Kansas, Claudia; we’re already getting it in Colorado, and after the summer fires and recent floods, we’re not ready. The Santa Fe birdhouse is my favorite; it was strictly free-hand painting and then adding things I’d found at flea markets and garage sales.
      I agree; Langston Hughes had a wealth of good poetry to teach!

  15. Painting bird houses looks like so much fun and , as you say, an excellent substitute for that desire to repaint the main house, or rearrange the furniture. What sort of paint do you use on the bird houses?

    • You know, I use everything from leftover house paints to tempera and art paints, whatever I have handy. I paint on the trellises and flowers and all accents and addresses, but sometimes I’ll add extra pieces, as I did on the Santa Fe birdhouse with the bear, the eggs and the angel. I get carried away sometimes, but it’s a lot of fun.

  16. What beautiful bird houses. I have not seen anything like them before.

    • The two at the top of the post are examples of birdhouses I’ve made. Those at the bottom of the post I found in craft stores, garage sales, flea markets. I have so many tucked around the house, between books, beside plants, on shelves. Quilts, birdhouses and vases are my favorite collectibles! What do you collect?

      • Note books and trinket boxes 🙂

      • I’ve made only two trinket boxes, Elizabeth, but over the years I’ve made probably 50 journals and note books! One year I made journals for everyone in my writing groups, and I found quotes to use as writing prompts and scattered them throughout the journals. I loved doing it, and I still find myself thinking of those quotes when I’m doing free writing.

      • What a fantastic idea – to send people journals and inspire them with quotes!
        I have my own quote collection for inspiration and never thought of passing them on in that way.

      • It really is a fun project, and a great gift to give. Some of the covers of the journals I covered in fabrics tied with ribbons or decorated with an assortment of buttons, etc. The covers were created with the receivers in mind, personalized to match personalities.
        Hey, Christmas is coming, Elizabeth!

  17. Jim

    Very inspiring post and super pictures, Marylin. Some very good comments from your readers as well. Your mom would love the bird house theme.

    My favorite bird image comes from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur,” where he compares the image of a dove with widespread, protective wings to the Holy Ghost to express his faith that God oversees our world and will ultimately deliver us from our folly to a bright new dawn. The Dove of Eternal Life is preparing a brilliant new ‘home’ for our Mary.

  18. LOVE this post Marylin! “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over me.” – Beautiful verse to read this morning. Ever so comforting and full of hope. And, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” – one of my favorite quotes! Have a wonderful day my friend. Blessings, Robyn

  19. molly

    Wonderful post, mom! Grandma was always just so calm and matter of fact with nature and natural things! I can’t wait until Christmas when we get to set up her bird Christmas tree…I believe thatshe will LOVE it. Thank you for anothet beautiful story portraying Grandma!

    • Oh, I’d forgotten about the bird Christmas tree! I’ll have to take a picture of it and share it with our blog friends. There are so many birds of all colors and kinds on that tree; it’s like setting up a natural aviary for Grandma. Thanks for reminding me, sweetie.

  20. Don

    Very touching post Marylin, So filled with soul. Enjoyed your birdhouse. Lovely image.

  21. Marylin, I love the first one, the Sante Fe one.
    Beautiful post. Hope your mom recovers quickly. xo Joanne

    • Thanks, Joanne. I had more fun painting and decorating that birdhouse than any other one I’ve ever made.
      I hope Mom recovers quickly, too. Until the hip heals, she’s restricted and can’t move around. She’s sleeping more, eating less, and slipping away. Whatever happens, though, she has a peace and calm acceptance, and I know she trusts what is ahead.

  22. Marylin, your moms faith is inspring. I hope her hip heals quickly.
    I love all the birdhouses. The cat birdhouse made me smile. 🙂

    • When I saw the cat birdhouse I broke out into a smile, too, Tracy. Such a colorful contradiction, to make it a birdhouse, which is supposed to be safe shelter for birds. But the cat was so funny that I couldn’t resist!

  23. I love singing “His Eye is On the Sparrow” at church, but it’s been a while since we’ve sung it. Time to bring it back. A friend gave me a bird feeder — the head of a cat with its mouth wide open! I think your mother would laugh if she saw it.

    • She would love it, Darla. At least yours is a bird feeder and the birds “get” something. My cat birdhouse is just a trap!
      Lately, I find myself singing or humming “His Eye is On the Sparrow” a great deal, and it helps.

  24. Diana Stevan

    Thank you for the quotes and the words of wisdom. Like mother, like daughter. Yes, the light of faith keeps one going. How beautiful! And thank you Marylin for the endorsements. You’re a gem.

  25. Love these indoor birdhouses! They’re so beautiful! And thank you for the uplifting thoughts.

  26. I really love your birdhouses. When we had a large gathering of family from England and local last summer – we had everyone sit in the screened in porch and choose a birdhouse to paint. They also had to paint a wooden letter (their first name initial) It was wonderful to see the adults quietly sitting, intensely painting for over an hour. Hardly a word was spoken and every house was unique. We hung the houses in a tree – unfortunately we used paint that deteriorates in sunlight 😦 but it was a lovely time and the tree looked so good with all the houses.
    The letters are nailed to the wall by the door and have kept their colours. We arranged them in family groups. From youngest to most experienced we all had fun.
    Our houses were rather amateurish compared to your little works of art. Glad your mom is peaceful.

    • What a great idea you had for the family reunion, Rod! Some of the best conversations happen very naturally while everyone is busy making art.
      (FYI–to protect dried pain projects like birdhouses, spray with silicone clear sealer. To really protect from the elements, repeat the spray every year or so.)

  27. These are simply precious. I love them all, especially the post office. You are multi-talented!

    • Oh, Tracy, I wish I could take credit for the post office mailbox, but I bought it on sale at a craft store! Of those pictured, only the top two are my creations, but I’m glad you enjoyed them all.

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