Take a second look …
The yellow eyes of the Saw-whet Owl are so startling, their gaze so steady, that we tend to ignore everything else. It’s easy to miss the trace of blood just below the owl’s bill, a smear of something that changes the way we look at the bird, that deepens our understanding of it. What discoveries might we make if we took that second look more often, if we trained ourselves to see?
I have been thinking and writing about Audubon’s story of the Fair Incognito, the woman who commissioned him to draw her portrait in the nude, for the past two or three years. I kept returning to the subject because I never thought I really understood why the artist felt compelled to set this story down in words, and to do so in a letter to—of all people—his wife. Was his purpose serious or trivial? Now, I think I’ve finally found a critical framework that not only helps to explain what he meant by this story but that places it at … Read moreRead More
My friend and sometime birding companion, Lynn Pady, recently sent me a copy of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” a poem about the bird we call a Kestrel. I don’t know for sure but suspect this may be a product of spring fever on Lynn’s part. It’s not the first time she’s emailed me this poem (may it not be the last!), and every time I see the damn thing, I have to stop what I’m doing to read it again, oh, for the something-hundredth time or so. Hopkins wrote “The Windhover” in the form of a sonnet, and it’s … Read moreRead More
I’ve been listening to Lucienne Boyer’s recording of “Parlez-moi d’amour” (1930) on and off for about twenty-five years and have never grown tired of hearing it. I came to the song through a two-disk CD I bought of chansons françaises, the type of music performed in the cabarets and music halls of Paris over the first half of the 20th century. This was the milieu in which singers such as Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Aznavour, and Juliette Greco were formed. Madame Boyer, because of the clarity and warmth of her voice, and to no little degree thanks … Read moreRead More