Posted by: jeannineatkins | December 27, 2010

The Writer as Bird Watcher

My brother-in-law moved from sunroom to kitchen on Christmas, camera in hand, and tried to get a shot of the chickadees and cardinals busy at the feeder. They’re so fast, he said to my husband. How do you get those pictures?

Peter explained his camera has a special setting for movement, but he sits for about ten minutes watching to get the rhythm of particular birds. When they’ll take flight, when they’ll land. Then he tries to match their timing.

Yes, a bird metaphor is coming. And I expect this one has been made before, but I’m flying forward because the words reminded me of quietly watching how characters behave in their daily lives, then diving for the words when something ordinary suggests a moment that might be revelatory. I imagine characters going their rounds just as I do: there’s breakfast, there’s procrastination, there’s a garden to be weeded or snow to shovel off steps. And sometimes I spot the menace of a rhubarb leaf or hear the sound of shovel striking stone and know it can be of use. I try to see and hear through other’s eyes and ears before I worry about the words to hold their rhythms. And while I’m waiting today, hungry birds and snow keep me company.



  1. I love those bird pictures. I’ve been watching birds on my window sill this morning. I cleared the snow off and spread bird seed, and there’s been brisk bird traffic ever since. I’ve taken a few snapshots which I might post later.
    Enjoy the snow day!

  2. Great metaphor, left me pndering my own WIP & I love the photos!
    Timing is everything =)

  3. Oh I bet that bird traffic was brisk. I’ve been enjoying a snow day indoors, but I think it’s time to put on my boots and restock the feeder. And let the big dog romp. The little dog leapt out the door with great enthusiasm this morning, till his feet sank in the snow and he spun into a 180 right back onto the door step.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Yes, re timing. And hope the pondering is going well!

  5. Gorgeous pictures! We have much less snow than you do (thank heavens) but our feeders are empty and the birds are starting to make rude signs at us through our windows. I’ll have to mush out tomorrow and get more birdseed.

  6. Very nice photos and metaphor. I’m getting some work done today, too, but wish I had some snow to blanket my thoughts.

  7. beautiful bird photos!
    Love the bird photos! — Amy Timberlake

  8. Love this. Very poetic, and very accurate.

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