“Hope is the thing with feathers.” –Emily Dickinson
In almost every text about hobos I’ve read they’ve mentioned the sounds of birds. For many of them it was the only music left for them. I have a special place in my heart for birds because they’re the first things I ever drew. I started making drawings as a little kid and I only drew two things at first; birds and naked women. Birds were easier to realize, because I’d not seen any real naked women yet, but I’d seen plenty of birds.
When I was a kid, my father had a heart-attack. It was a serious episode and it nearly killed him. For 6 or 7 weeks, my Grandmother Mae stayed with us, while my Mom worked and took care of my father. It was a huge job. There are 8 kids in our family and it exhausted our mother. Every morning my grandmother, Mamie, would toast a couple of pieces of bread and tear them into pieces (sometimes she’d put jelly on them) and she’d throw them off the back stoop to the birds and then she’d watch them through the window. I would always watch and be surprised by this. In our house it was a cardinal sin to waste food. We were by no means poor, but both of my parents were children of The Depression and those lessons stayed with them their whole lives. I asked my Grand mother why she was giving our bread to the birds and she quietly told me that, “For a piece of bread I could hear God sing.” Birds were music for poor people.
I am a rock -ribbed, non-believer, but I always believed my grandmother’s faith was of great comfort to her; as much as my lack thereof is to me.
It was then that I first started drawing birds and reading about them. The starling is an immigrant. They came over from Europe a couple hundred years ago and took over. They were never welcome in the new world, so they had to muscle their way in. They bred in great numbers and stole nests and got their share of the food supply and let other birds know they wouldn’t be fucked out of their new world. Like every other immigrant group, the European starling had to fight for its piece of this country.
Their song isn’t as beautiful, they are a little more crude of behavior, and there are a lot of them– but if you’ve ever seen one in the sunlight and seen all of the hidden purples, greens and golds, then you are glad they are here.