For the Birds

“Owls have a peculiar knowing way, a strict sense of personal space, a connoisseur’s restful delight in their food, a certain repose, a remarkable capacity for necessary aggression.”

Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

When M read this to me recently, I thought, “What a great character sketch!”  The style and flow of this sentence (and believe me, the book is full of them) makes me involuntarily smile as I pick each phrase apart and apply it to a person.  I make plans for pouring this sentence (like a syrup) into my morning writing, infusing that delicious penchant for a chapter’s worth of information in such an adorable little package … and then realize I have gotten lost in its magic and am going to be late for work.

This is why reading, on a voracious level, is so important.  I have accepted (to some degree) that I will not be able to read everything I want before I die.  Even if I lived to be 110 years old, I would not be able to accomplish this feat.  But think about this.  Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds was published by Sasquatch Books in 2001 and won the 2002 Washington State Book Award, yet I would have missed it if M wasn’t a bird crazed darling who decided to read it.  Further, author Lyanda Lynn Haupt has apparently been a prodigious writer since then, receiving another award for a book called Crow Planet, and putting out a more recent delicacy – The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild last year.  I mean, with writing like this, I now feel obligated to add every one of her books to my reading list.

As a very analytical person, I have taken a step back from my fascination to write this piece and to ask you, “Am I overboard here?”  Sure – it’s just a sentence.  Maybe I could just read the one book and pat myself on the back as a writer, telling myself “Due diligence,” and all that.  “We must read as much as we write.”  This has never seemed like a chore.  It seemed like selection of reading material was like a builder planning and acquiring supplies … prioritizing those areas where the absolute best must be purchased, and compromising where less expensive materials will do to make sure the finished product is better than the last one.  “Trash in trash out,” must equate to “Artistry in artistry out,” I surmise.  It’s a sentence.  I ask you once more, “Am I overboard?”

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