Hope Is the Thing with Feathers

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…

Do you recognize her?
Do you recognize her?

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.

Emily Dickinson's Homestead in Amhearst, MA
Emily Dickinson’s Homestead in Amhearst, MA

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:)

Emily Dickinson, the wise. Photo via pinterest.
Emily Dickinson, the wise. Photo via pinterest.

 

 

 

 

The Lost Bird Project

The other night, Ms. Jeannie watched a documentary and fell in love with big birds. Five in particular. This is one of them…

bird1

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 Carolina Parakeet. Extinct since 1918, was highly sought after by the millinery industry for the bright feathers. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org
The Carolina Parakeet, extinct since 1918, was highly sought after by the millinery industry for their  bright feathers.  This statue was placed at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Okeechobee, FL. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org
Carolina Parakeet. Photo courtesy of extinct-website.com.
Carolina Parakeet. Photo courtesy of extinct-website.com.
The passenger pigeon, extinct by 1914, saw its main decline due to hunting. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org
The passenger pigeon, extinct by 1914, saw its main decline due to hunting. This statue was placed at Grange Audubon Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org
Passenger Pigeons. Photo courtesy of rareprintsgallery.com
Passenger Pigeons. Photo courtesy of rareprintsgallery.com
The Heath Hen, extinct since 1932 due to hunting, predators and development was last seen in the wild on Martha's Vineyard. The last one living by himself on the vineyard for few years - calling for mates with no replies. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org
The Heath Hen, extinct since 1932 due to hunting, predators and development was last seen in the wild on Martha’s Vineyard. The last one living by himself on the Vineyard for years, constantly called for mates with no replies. This statue was placed in Manuel F. Correllus State Forest in Martha’s Vineyard, MA. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org
Heath Hen. Photo courtesy of nhptv.org
Heath Hen. Photo courtesy of nhptv.org
The Labrador Duck, extinct since 1878, was most likely demolished by coastal industry. the labrador duck was north america's version of the tuxedo penguin in all of it's black and white glory.
The Labrador Duck, extinct since 1878, was most likely demolished by a lack of food supply due to coastal industry expansion.  This statue was placed at Brand Park in Elmira, New York. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org.
Labrador Ducks. Photo courtesy of mcq.org
Labrador Ducks. Photo courtesy of mcq.org
The Great Auk has been extinct 1844. Ever present seabirds, they mated for life and found refuge in rocky terrains off coastal waterways. Their greatest predator was man who would use them for food source, oil and feathers. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org
The Great Auk has been extinct since 1844. Ever present seabirds, they mated for life and found refuge in rocky terrains off coastal waterways. Their greatest predator was man who would use them for food source, oil and feathers. This statue was placed at Joe Batt’s Point at Fogo Island in Newfoundland. Photo courtesy of lostbirdfilm.org
The Great Auk. Photo courtesy of itsnature.org
The Great Auk. Photo courtesy of itsnature.org

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.!