Today I saw a robin with a bright red breast, sitting in the top of a tree as I drove by coming home from my Pilates class. But wait, I thought, that bird’s crazy. It’s only January. And besides, it snowed all day yesterday here in the PNW and there’s snow piled up on top of the birds’ nests in these trees. Yet the robin sat there ~ bright, beautiful and fearless. It made me want to do more with my life. Just like that. My goodness, if this little bird can hang around Spokane, WA in one of the coldest months of the winter, and sit in a tree with no leaves for protection from the wind, I should be able to do more with my little life as well.
It always amazes me the things I find to think about when I am outside. Walt Whitman said once that huge and melodious thoughts descended upon him while walking under certain trees. I would never try to quote that, but this was the gist of the message. I’ve often thought perhaps I inherited a tiny bit of this poet’s DNA, because the same thing happens to me. I’ll see a bird like the one I saw today and will wonder who his friends are, his family, where was he born? Is he far from home now? I want to ask the little critter the same sorts of questions, really, that anyone would think to ask of someone they’ve just met. But of course we are unable to talk with birds, or butterflies or earth worms … all of those creatures that roam our yards in the summers.
Have you ever thought of which questions you’d like to ask a hummingbird? Well, I have. I usually want to know if they want something to drink besides sugar water, or aren’t they tired of having to flap their wings so often just to stay up in the air, or why they only enjoy pink flowers? With my wanting to ask such questions of the wild life in our back yard, you can imagine all of the questions I want to ask when I meet someone new. I like to think it’s a natural tendency of writers.
This, of course, makes me think that I should finally get busy and write the book I’ve been telling people I am writing, or the one I would like to write. It occurs to me that if I did write a book containing a bunch of different characters, I could ask them questions to my heart’s content, because I’d know the answers. I can name them, give them birth cities that I like, dream up relationships for them, make them lovers, or haters, or whatever I want. They can be tall, fat, slim, athletic, handsome or not. I can even make them do things that they don’t want to do. I can pattern someone after a particular dislikeable individual, and give him a horrible job, or give someone a horrible name … if I wanted to.
Real life or fantasy life? Which is it? I could even give a character a wild bird habitat of his very own, something he has to protect and care for. I could invent a fantasy town for this bird habitat, and a whole town full of wonderful and complex characters. And I could always have a robin in a tree. In fact, I think I just might do that. And that’s a thought worthy of serious consideration.