If you remember from the last post, Hope Is the Thing with Feathers was the book written by Christopher Cokinos that inspired the artistry of Todd McGrain. Ms. Jeannie just realized that the title came from a poem by this woman…
Emily Dickinson. She wrote the poem in 1861 at the age of 31.
Here it is in full:
Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune–without the words, And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land, And on the strangest sea; Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me.
– Emily Dickinson
It was written during the time in her life where Emily was just beginning to withdraw from public life. She spent her days at home, her birthplace, the Homestead house in Amherst, MA surrounded by family and a few close friends.
The house sat on 14 acres and was surrounded by trees and gardens where Emily drew inspiration for her poetry and writings. There were plentiful garden beds where she would watch the birds dive and dart – the notions and assimilations fluttering about her mind.
It’s wonderful to think that Emily’s writing is still cause for inspiration over 150 years later and for such a noble book and equally noble art project as commemorating the lost birds of America. Here she was, a reclusive soul, interpreting the world how she saw it by putting thoughts to paper in Victorian era America, and now, free like all birds are, her words have taken flight to protect the very subjects she so admired. Ms. Jeannie just loves this. How one bit of creativity can spark another. You just never know how your words can affect others – so pick good ones, dear readers – they might just bloom into something extraordinary when you are least expecting it:)
The other night, Ms. Jeannie watched a documentary and fell in love with big birds. Five in particular. This is one of them…
The documentary was called The Lost Bird Project and was about an artist who set out to memorialize five birds that are now extinct from our environment.
Inspired, after reading the book, Hope Is The Thing With Feathers (great title!) by Christopher Cokinos, sculptor Todd McGrain built man-size sculptures of five particular birds that are no longer living in the natural world. He wanted the birds to be not only memorials for something now lost, but also educational pieces that would make people pause and reflect about their own individual roles in the hands of nature.
The five birds he chose were:
The documentary presents a wonderful arc of a story from creation of the sculptures through dealing with the bureaucratic red tape of state “gifting” to seeing the sculptures placed in the areas intended by the artist (where the real birds were actually last seen).
Compelling, doesn’t begin to describe the subject matter and at the heart of the story is one man’s quest for genuine expression. It is humble. It is grand. It is remarkable. And it makes you think about nature around us… the common sights and sounds we live with everyday… and all that we might just be taking for granted.
Here’s a trailer for the documentary…
If you’d like to find out more about the project and the artist , visit the film website here. If you happen to live near or have been to see any of the bird statues, please comment below with your thoughts – Ms. Jeannie would love to hear.
****** UPDATE – MAY 8, 2017 ****
The Passenger Pigeon – a Lost Bird Project sculpture was spotted in the gardens of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.!
Mid-February marks two special events for Ms. Jeannie and her valentine. First, the holiday of love of course, and then two days later, February 16th, marks Ms. Jeannie’s wedding anniversary. Each year, her and Mr. Jeannie Ology alternate planning something special between the two events.
It’s fun to keep each another guessing as to what’s in store for a special treat. Some years, there are elaborate plans like a weekend getaway or an expensive gift, but mostly they are simple celebrations – a special dinner, a movie, a bottle of champagne. Time spent together is all that matters. Really they could sit at home and do nothing and still have a grand time together.
It was like that right off the bat for them. They struck up this wonderful conversation when they first met here…
in the lobby of the New York Hilton Hotel. Both were there on work purposes involved with running a tradeshow. Ms. Jeannie on the corporate side, Mr. Jeannie on the entertainment side. Ms. Jeannie had just been promoted to a new position with a ton of responsibility and Mr. Jeannie was there to keep the show moving along at an interesting clip. For three days, they worked side by side. For three days, they talked, they laughed, they got to know one another. For three days, they kept discovering small things they had in common…
As you can see they covered a lot of topics! By day three, it felt like they had known each other for years.
On the afternoon of the third day, the show ended. Ms. Jeannie packed up. Mr. Jeannie packed up. Ms. Jeannie felt ill at ease. In just a short while Mr. Jeannie would walk out those hotel doors and disappear from her life. Ms. Jeannie’s heart ached at the very thought of never seeing him again. So what did she do?
By the weekend they went on their first official date here…
As it turned out there was a special celebration going on for the sea lions that day, which involved free cake for all zoo-goers. There was also a film crew, party balloons and a giant fish cake for the sea lions. It all felt very festive! Ms. Jeannie took this as a good sign:)
On a quick side note: If you have never been before to the Central Park Zoo, you must visit. It is a fabulous little hideaway tucked into Central Park and is often overlooked for the much bigger, much more well known Bronx Zoo. A lot of people don’t even know it exists, because it is laid out in Central Park in such a way, that every time you visit you feel like you have unexpectedly discovered it. Ms. Jeannie’s favorite exhibit is the penguins where you can watch them both on land and in the water in the same exhibit.
Ms. Jeannie just loves these penguins. They have zippy little personalities and always seem to be having a ton of fun. If you are lucky enough to find yourself alone in the exhibit – it can be very peaceful – just you and the penguins. Ms. Jeannie could watch them for hours!
Here’s a video of the exhibit Ms. Jeannie found on youtube. It gives you a feel for these active little guys…
So back to the date… the zoo, turned into an all day outing. And by the end of it, they still didn’t want to part. So they went for pizza. Then they went for cappucinnos. Then they walked to the subway – the long way – 25 blocks in total. They just kept walking and talking without realizing! It turned out to be a record breaking 13 hour first date, from 10:00am in the morning until 11:00pm at night. It was grand. Ms. Jeannie felt lucky to know such a great new friend.
Marvelous dates kept occurring. Ms. Jeannie knew she had met her romantic match when Mr. Jeannie took her up on the roof of an old hotel on the Upper West Side. “So they could look at the city at night,” he’d said.
Few things are more romantic then looking down on Manhattan from that perspective. The city almost looked fake. And all the lights seemed to twinkle. It was quite magical. New York provided quite the backdrop for falling in love.
Fast forward a few years, and Mr. Jeannie proposed in Florida on a tiny little boat during a Christmastime vacation. Ms. Jeannie was surprised, she had no idea Mr. Jeannie had such big plans prepared! Ms. Jeannie said “of course” without hesitation. Mr. Jeannie cried the whole boat ride back to shore:)
A few years later they were knee deep in wedding plans. Since it was so expensive to get married in the city, and because they were such big fans of road trips, they decided to get married somewhere else. They looked into Vermont, into Maine, into Connecticut, but couldn’t find just the right place. A friend of Ms. Jeannie’s tol;d her about a fabulous movie she had just watched, noting in particular, the gorgeous coastal New England town setting. Here’s the trailer…
The next weekend, Ms. Jeannie, Mr. Jeannie and their newly adopted border collie, were on the road to Rockport, Massachusetts where the movie was filmed. If you are unfamiliar, Rockport is located on the very tip of Cape Ann, just north of Gloucester (which, incidently, was the setting for the movie, A Perfect Storm). It’s a 5 hour drive from NYC and only a 45 minute train ride from Boston.
When Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie drove into town, this is what they saw…
Bradley Wharf sits in the center of the scenic inlet that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. The town of Rockport surrounds it on three sides. The red barn, known as Motiff No. 1, is the most painted barn in America and Rockport, itself, is an actual artist community. With views like this how could it not be?!
The town sits nestled against the hillside, facing the water and is filled with gorgeous, historic seafaring captain-type homes.
Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie stayed at Carlson’s Bed & Breakfast, the only b&b in town, at the time, that would accept pets. Sven Carlson was a painter himself along with his wife (who dabbled!). They were extraordinarily interesting hosts.
Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie did all sorts of exploring up and down the coast. They went lobstering with a boat captain as he picked up his pods for the day, they went shopping on Bearskin Neck (see photo below) and they ordered take-out lobster from Roy Moore Lobster Company which they took down to the beach to enjoy. True picnic decadence:)
You might also recognize Rockport from the movie, The Proposal, with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. The movie is supposed to take place in Sitka, Alaska – but it was actually filmed in Rockport and the neighboring town of Manchester-By-The-Sea.
Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie returned to Cape Ann several more times for vacations. Each time having more fun then the last. They decided on the Emerson Inn as their wedding venue, because it was located on a bluff right above the ocean. Also Ms. Jeannie loved that it had literary connections in it’s namesake, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It had been lodging house, always, since the very beginning in the 1850’s. Ralph Waldo who spent summers at the hotel with his family, was said to have gathered poetic inspiration from the landscape.
Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie were married at 8:00pm in a small candlelight ceremony, by the town clerk. They wrote their own vows. They held each other’s hand. Mr. Jeannie cried:) They danced to Ella Fitzgerald’s At Last. They had two cakes, a traditional lemon creme pound cake with rolled fondant and fresh flowers and then a red velvet groom’s cake in the shape of a lobster. Both of them agreed they were the best cakes they had ever eaten.
For their honeymoon, they traveled with their pup, up and down the Massachusetts coastline for a week, exploring each small town. They visited parks and cafes and antique shops. They ate lobster and drank wine and walked to the beach every day. On their last night, they stayed near the water’s edge until late in the night looking for their dreams in the depths of the stars.
Fast forward all these years now, and Ms. Jeannie and her valentine are still adventuring together and still dreaming. Their pup has come and gone, their lives have twisted and turned, and their love has lasted. And for all that, Ms. Jeannie feels incredibly lucky. To know such experience and to know such a man.
Thank you New York Hilton, thank you Central Park Zoo, thank you New York City, thank you best dog ever, and above all, thank you Mr.Jeannie for starring in the best love story of Ms. Jeannie’s life.