Tuesday, 11 April 2017

We are like birds by Deborah Jenkins

Every evening in summer, when the sun tips over the pear tree, this bird starts singing. I'm not sure what kind of bird it is as it sits high up in the leylandii way above the house and I can't quite see it. But its song is astonishing - strong and high, the notes sailing up and down with such speed and clarity that it takes my breath away. How can such a tiny creature produce such a breath taking sound? He starts early, around 4, and is usually singing alone for the first couple of hours. It doesn't seem to deter him. Eventually, around supper time, another starts to answer him. You can easily hear his echoing call followed by a silence then a distant reply. This encourages him to sing louder and stronger, which then seems to encourage other birds to join in. And then, the song is unstoppable.

I love that bird.
"Mum!" groans my daughter, "Are you still going on about the bird? It's just a bird!"
But I can't help it. I love the way he keeps singing - I know it's nature or predisposition or mating, or whatever  - but the bravery of it, the sheer determination, for two hours every evening on his own, before they join in, well, it undoes me.

It's because, at some time or other, we are that bird. We work alone, ink on paper (print on screen), determined enough at the start. This song is going to make a difference to someone, somewhere, some day. We warble away happily, the notes rising and falling eager to produce something original, thought provoking, wise. Then, as time goes on, we get bored or disillusioned or both and the song falters. This is where others join in - a writing friend sends us a note, an ACW contact posts something encouraging, we go to Scargill. Perhaps we start attending a local group. And somehow, against the odds, we see there's something worth keeping after all. We pick it up, reshape it, and the song gets stronger.

I appreciate the ACW so much. We're not perfect, but we have so much to offer each other and a bigger song to sing. Alone we can write well, maybe even produce a breath taking sound. But with God's help, and each other, we are unstoppable.

I worried by Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers flow
In the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it, and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing,
And I gave it up. And I took my old body
and went out into the morning
and sang.

Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver. 


  1. This is such a true and encouraging post and the analogy perfect. You hit the spot time and time again, Mrs J. Keep birding on.

    1. Aw thanks. 'Birding on' reminds me of that great book, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, possibly my favourite book on writing ever. Have you read it?

  2. This is so encouraging to me as I set out to write, desperately wanting to reach others but not quite knowing where to start. As you say, Deborah, we might be working in physical isolation, but the fellowship of ACW is a blessing.

    I was chuckling to myself as I read about your daughter's exasperation at your appreciation of that little bird's singing. I feel like that too. It's overwhelming sometimes and it seems to be the tiniest of birds that belt out the strongest, most pitch-perfect songs. I also loved the poem by Mary Oliver, especially this verse, "Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows can do it, and I am, well, hopeless." That was me when I suffered from Vocal Dysphonia (a neurological disorder that affects the voice muscles). God gave me back my voice about a year-and-a-half ago and although the sparrows still sing better than I ever could, I have voice enough to rejoice.

    From one fellow birder to another, I came across this poem just this morning which I hope you will enjoy:-

    In mid-June’s muteness
    When scarce birdword breaks languor
    Flame azaleas speak.
    Sudden over path, up hill
    Their Pentecost throats give tongue.

    1. Oh that poem is gorgeous! Thanks so much for your kind comments. Really pleased you have your voice back and looking forward to reading your writing at some point too ☺️

  3. What an encouraging post, thanks Deborah x

    1. You are welcome! Thanks for reading and commenting ☺️x

  4. This is so pertinent to me, Deborah - I seem to spend far too much time worrying when I should be singing! Thank you. xx

  5. Thanks for the inspiring post. BTW: it's a blackbird

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Viktor. Ooh, how do you know?!

  6. Blackbirds are usually the first and the last to sing every day. They perch at the top of the highest tree around. Their song is clear, very melodious and every phrase is different, no repetition, not like finches, sparrows, tits, robins etc.

  7. That is so interesting. Must get a Ladybird book of birds. Thank you Viktor!