Category Archives: Lessons from birds

FIVE DAYS TO CLAIM YOUR GIFTS

Before Dad’s Alzheimer’s and Mom’s dementia, they used a tag-team response to childish whining about “There’s nothing to do.” He would say, “Every day is a gift,” and she would say, “If you don’t open the present, you’re wasting it.”    To honor this philosophy, there are five—count ‘em, FIVE!—great gift-day opportunities coming up this week, and every one is better than April Fool’s Day was last week.

Tire Swing  April 10th is NATIONAL SIBLINGS DAY. The picture I’m using here is of my grandchildren. True Irish twins (11 months apart) neither remembers a time when they didn’t have each other, and together they can make even a tire swing a great way to spend the afternoon. I, on the other hand, once stabbed my brother’s hand with a fork…but that was only once, and on numerous occasions he told me I was adopted.   Hmm…maybe I’ll use April 10th to make a list of reasons I’m glad he’s my brother…and actually, there are many.

April 13th is SCRABBLE DAY.   Our favorite version of Scrabble is the kids’ version. You empty all the letters (upside down) each person takes 20 and puts together words, drawing more letters as necessary. The first to use all the letters is the winner. We have a lot of fun, and this is a good mind/thinking exercise, too.   Gannon ~ word scrabble

 

April 14th Is INTERNATIONAL MOMENT OF LAUGHTER DAY. The goal is to get others laughing because, as the saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine.” I’ve kept my favorite “getting older” card–it still makes me laugh–beneath the dour old lady on the front are these words:  “Age and treachery will triumph over youth and skill.”     I also enjoy the humor in nature. Pictures of the Pygmy Owl and The Red-Footed Boobie work for me, and the antics of our puppy Scout keep us laughing, too. There are all kinds of ways to lighten up on April 14th.    In the U.S. it’s the day before taxes are due, so laughter is really important.

age and treachery                                                 Red-footed Boobie (Jeopardy)

 

pygmy owl

 

 

 

Or, if you’d rather, April 14th offers two other choices: LOOK UP AT THE SKY DAY (and marvel, dream, imagine, appreciate), and NATIONAL REACH AS HIGH AS YOU CAN DAY.   What are your hopes, dreams, goals? What do you really want? Make a plan and go for it.    Remember: “It is never Too Late To Be what You Might have Been.” — George Eliot, (pen name of writer Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880)                       George Eliot

look up at the sky day

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Lessons from birds, making a difference, special days in April, special quotations

LESSONS FROM THE EDGE

"Weaver's Dream" ~ the only woven wall art I own. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

“Weaver’s Dream” ~ the only woven wall art I own. (I had to adjust the overall color to show the “mistake”–in reality it’s only slightly different in hue from the rest of the weaving.)

Mom's bird sampler quilt ~ the only quilt she ever made.

Mom’s bird sampler quilt ~ the only quilt she ever made.  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

The 2003 movie/docudrama, EDGE OF AMERICA, is based on the story of a black teacher who is hired to teach English at Three Nations High School in Utah. He’s never been on an Indian reservation, and to make ends meet he agrees to also coach the girls’ unsuccessful basketball team. He is the teacher and the coach, yet he’s the one learning many of the lessons.

One of the most important lessons is about making mistakes, and his biggest one is the demand for perfection. Based on his own experiences, he teaches the girls that out in the real world, their only chance is to first achieve perfection on the basketball court and defeat the prejudice of white players.

The tribal Wise Woman has been weaving rugs all of her life. She says that each is slightly different, leaving openings in the design for growth. This is seen as an imperfection by some, but she believes imperfections are actually spiritual outlets. “Imperfection is beauty,” she says, so in each rug she weaves a mistake…on purpose. Otherwise, “The spirit becomes trapped in perfection…”

EDGE OF AMERICA is an excellent movie; it is also a compelling clash of cultures, philosophies, beliefs and values. I dare say that many of us grew up adhering to the dictionary definition of mistakes: “actions or judgments that are misguided or wrong.” And even Einstein’s well-known comment–“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”–implies that mistakes are necessary in learning, but not desirable for ongoing intentional spiritual outlets. 

My mother’s first quilt was a series of bird patterns. It took her several years as a teen to create twenty blocks of different birds, each hand sewn with a series of basic and combination stitches. It was a training quilt, an introduction to perfecting stitches and developing discipline. When all the blocks were correct—with mistakes carefully taken out and re-stitched until the birds were perfect—then her mother and great aunt helped her piece together the blocks with pink and green accents and borders, and then quilt the design top to a solid pink fabric back.

Years ago I found the quilt neatly folded away among blankets in the closet. It was Mom’s only quilt; when it was finished, she was never interested in doing more than just assisting in others’ projects. It was later that I realized from her comments that the requirements for perfection had dulled her joy of creating. I think she would have agreed with the Wise Woman in EDGE OF AMERICA: “The spirit becomes trapped in perfection.”

I own one hand woven wall hanging. It’s called “Weaver’s Dream” and contains one “mistake.” I have no idea how the weaver accomplished it, but I was assured it was not added on, carefully bleached or altered to look different. It was woven into the pattern…intentionally. The vendor told me the “mistake” had made many buyers choose other wall hangings. I chose “Weaver’s Dream” because of it. It’s a matter of perspective, and although it may be a flaw in my character, perfection has never been my ultimate goal in anything.

Be careful what you wish for.  Personally, I wouldn't waste coins wishing for perfection.

Be careful what you wish for. Personally, I wouldn’t waste coins wishing for perfection.

 

One block from a quilt of "The Flying Windmill" pattern.  Turn it on it's side and it's the Nazi symbol.

One block from a quilt of “The Flying Windmill” pattern. Turn it on its side and it’s the Nazi symbol. It’s a matter of perspective.

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Lessons from birds, Quilting projects, sewing, special quotations, Spiritual connections

THE BIRD THAT FEELS THE LIGHT

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.

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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