When Women Were Birds
Bearing Witness

An Unspoken Hunger

The morning place.

From "The Politics of Place," an interview with Terry Tempest Williams conducted by Scott London (on the Insight & Outlook radio show):

London: You've said that your connection to the natural world is also your connection to yourself. Do you think that's true for everybody?

Williams: We're animals. I think we forget that. I think there is an ancient archetypal memory that still exists within us. If we deny that, what is the cost?  So I do think it's what binds us as human beings. I wonder, what is it to be human? Especially now that we're so urban. How do we remember our connection with place? What is the umbilical cord that roots us to that primal, instinctive, erotic place? Every time I walk to the edge of this continent and feel the sand beneath my feet, feel the seafoam move up my body, I think, Ah, yes, evolution. You know, it's there, we just forget....

Faery light.

...I worry that we we are a people in a process of great transition and we are forgetting what we are connected to. We are losing our frame of reference. Pelicans pass by and we hardly know who they are, we don't know their stories. Again, at what price?

I think it's leading us to a place of inconsolable loneliness. It's what I mean by "an unspoken hunger." It's a hunger than cannot be quelled by material things. It's a hunger that cannot be quelled by constant denial. I think that the only thing that can bring us into a place of fullness is being out in the land with other.

Then we remember where the source of our power lies.

Into the light.The full interview can be read in A Voice in the Wilderness: Conversations with Terry Tempest Williams, edited by Michael Austin (USU Press, 2006).


Terry describes the sense of loss and displacement so well. I think we all need to walk barefoot on soil from time to time. Get off the tarmac and feel the earth under our feet.

We also need to encourage the next generation to see the pelican and want to know their stories. We seem to want to squash the ability to ask why out of the young instead of encouraging it.

I heard the dawn chorus for the first time in months this morning, only just realising that it had been muted and missing and I had not noticed. Too wrapped up in modern life to hear.

The most difficult thing to do in a city like New York, is to stay connected to the animal self, and to the earth in it's larger aspect. But it is not impossible. Here, I am constantly looking up at the sky, and down at the roots of trees in tree wells where the roots of the elder ones have twisted into elephant feet, and broken cement for room, and in the parks, especially the upper reaches of Central park where one can still commune with hundred year old mammoths, which, even if they've been topped, still exhibit the wide spread of their branches, and dwarf the humans who pass nearby.

Dawn Chorus

“Pelicans pass by and we hardly know who they are,. . .”
--Terry Tempest Williams

My husband, a country boy,
knew the names of passing birds,
their lineage and songs.
He celebrated each dawn chorus
and its individuals with his parabolic ear.
He recorded conversations, tribulations,
annotations, elaborations, deliberations,
not just songs of joy, but songs of self.
He noted dialogue and dialect.
He sang back.

I grown in the middle of a great city,
where birds were pigeons or were not,
still struggle to place the pelican,
ring ouzel, warblers by the dozen,
forgetting names, faces, the squawks
of bird nations, their Eocenic lineage.
To me, dawn chorus is a blend, not singular,
a crowd, a host, a boast of song.
I miss my mornings on the porch
listening with my husband singing back,
as much as I miss him in my bed.

©2012 Jane Yolen All rights reserved

Yet another beautiful post. I always feel so uplifted by what you post here. Thankyou Terri. My husband and I always lie in bed at night listening to the frogs calling. Such a comforting night chorus, six different species and counting. Oh to be able to write beautiful poetry like Jane Yolen!

The quote is wonderful, Jane's poem is heart-rending ... and oh how I love these magical photographs today. The light!

...Like an Alan Lee painting.

Beautiful poem, Jane. And oh, my heart is with you this week. David was the first serious bird watcher I knew, and taught me to give these beautiful fellow creatures my full attention. (Do you remember taking me to a bird count years and years ago, near your home in western Mass.?)

Alan knows these woods well.

Such a lovely post and such a beautiful poem from Jane. Thankyou both.

Beautiful and heart rending.

Yes, THIS is what I feel. That we have lost the understanding and the ability to speak to anyone but other humans, (and I feel we may be losing that too). Today at work, a bird flew in through the open doors, and fluttered around as we tried to herd it back out again. But it flew up to the high windows, trying to escape, out of reach except to the maintenance man with the the long net. I stood looking up at it, feeling helpless, feeling that I SHOULD somehow be able to whisper to it that it was ok, 'just come down and I will show you the way out.' My colleagues would have thought I was mad.

I spent Monday saying goodbye to the place of my youth. The house has been so lonely...i tell it a baby is coming soon here to fill the echo of empty rooms. I wonder if they will put the baby in my old room? I hope so...you can hear the birds and the wind calling you outside there. And outside is the best place to be here as a child. I sit on the back porch and let a chipmunk run across my feet, a LARGE crow comes to inspect me and the bird bath i just filled. A hawk in the trees a house over is making itself known, a bunny rushes out of the bushes, cardinals warn. I love this yard with my whole heart to pass it over at the signing will be a rough. But it needs a new steward to watch over it as i need to travel to the edge of a new shore. Blessings

It was my good fortune to spend 5 days in New York and poke around non tourist
places. Instead of 5th Ave. I went on 6th, and found the ghosts of the garment district. I came for an event in Bayside, Queens and I was amazed to see how green Queens is. So many Trees and curving roads, birds and squirrels. I am from the west, Idaho, Oregon,
Washington and Northern California. Here in San Francisco we have a lot of secret places
with redwoods and greenery and labyrinths to sneak into and feel the ancient wonders.
I like the idea of you communing with mammoths. I like to think of how we are descended
from mysterious old times we can catch only in dreams.

I feel as if I am invisible and with you, wanting to hug you. I know loss. I know what we
can keep and never lose is the love and the stories they told us, and their unique
presence, never too far away. You are so brave to share this.

"out in the land with other" YES!!!

My daughter took a candid of my rabbit and I, tonight, while I was doodling, and it reminded me of you, darling, dear you, and all the soft you give and I just had to visit, again. I have not been making it to my blog and to others as much as I'd like, but, I must prioritize some of the places that feel like a sweet cuppa. Yours is one of them. I just added you on facebook, as well, (where have I been?) Thanks for the calm you create and again, for featuring my art desk that time! What a dreamy experience. It looks different, now, but, that is the artist's way. Take care dear spirit! Blessings, Amy Sperry Faldet

Christina, I too always want to help the wild ones during their run-ins with humanity and reassure them that I am a friend. Trapped birds or animals, especially, so frantically trying to escape. I get a little excited to see the rare live insect in the workplace, and am the self-appointed rescuer. I have to get there fast because most of my coworkers would just kill them ASAP.

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