Category Archives: Birds

Garden Time — The Poetry of W.S. Merwin

I am familiar with W.S. Merwin because Garrison Keillor has read his work often on The Writer’s Almanac. Merwin has written more than 50 verse collections in his 89 years. Visit the Merwin Conservancy for more on the poet, his work, and love for nature.

Garden Time, Merwin’s most recent work (I hope it’s not his last), is the only one I’ve read so far. I was very surprised by its brevity. I was drawn to it by its garden theme (apparently a favorite pastime for him). He also writes about memories, favorite places, love, and loss. In fact, as he was working on this, Merwin was dealing with losing his eyesight. I’ve watched people go through this, and it’s not fun. It absolutely sucks.

I enjoyed the entire collection. Two poems lodged in my memory and didn’t let go. Later, when I looked up specific details, I realized they were about paintings. Most of us think we can interact with art only in a visual way. In reality, many options exist. I hope that Merwin does not give up his interest in art.

One poem reflects on a work of the late Morris Graves, called “Blind Bird.” Here’s a picture:

Morris Graves Paintings | morris graves "Blind Bird"

Merwin based the poem “The Mapmaker” on Vermeer’s The Geographer. Here’s a really fabulous interactive page that explains the painting’s details.

And the painting:


Last fall, I wrote about Picture This tours at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The article starts on page 10. The tours are intended for people who have low vision, but everyone is welcome. They alternate between the East Building and West Building the last week of each month, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Attendees examine one or two paintings in depth. I have attended several of these since the story was published, and it helped me to see in different ways.


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Molly the Barn Owl

In a completely unrelated book search, I stumbled across the Molly the Barn Owl children’s book,which is based on a real owl and her family. Here’s the website. The book is available on

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Ten Enthusiastic Hoots for “The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar”!

I’m a huge fan of animal stories. In fact, the more the better! In my reading, I’ve learned so much about cats, dogs, horses, jaguars, seals–you name it.

The minute I saw The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar on a new books list, I knew I had to get it. Eventually, I will buy my own copy. After all, how many people can say they’ve had  a Tawny Owl as a pet for fifteen years? British historian Martin Windrow writes engagingly and movingly about everyday life with an owl, and how he came to have one as a pet. In a way, it’s also a portrait of everyday life in England in the not-too-distant past.

Mumble had been hand-raised by humans, so she had no fear of them and did not know how to live in the wild. Windrow had an owl named Wellington before Mumble.Some things he did right; others not. But the personalities of bird and man did not match. Windrow credits his mistakes with Wellington as good preparation for Mumble. And with Mumble, it was love at first kweep–and the first ride on his shoulder. You’ll laugh, cry, and share in the occasional frustrations. Mumble was very territorial; she was devoted to Windrow, but didn’t like strangers.

Many lucky people have worked with owls, or been involved with their rehabilitation if they’ve been injured, which takes intensive special training and licenses. From the 30+ books about owls I have read so far, it is a VERY bad idea to have an owl as a pet. The beginning, “A Note on Owls” educates the reader about what to do–and not if you encounter an owl in the wild. He also lists well-known UK resources, such as the Hawk and Owl Trust. Windrow devotes another chapter on the science and folklore of owls. The gorgeous illustrations through the book are very whimsical. I also found the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in separate research.

The London Daily Mail gives a wonderful synopsis of parts of the book, accompanied by some of its photos. Now, I ask you–who can resist Mumble’s face?

I also wanted to hear what a Tawny Owl sounded like. Here’s a clip from YouTube:


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