The Dead Bird

A bird is meant to defy gravity, right?

So finding a dead female varied thrush outside the door is just a heartstoppingly sad experience. I have stickers all over the glass windowpanes to stop birds from crashing into them. Did this bird miss my UV stickers? Was she a window casualty? Such a terrible thought.

She was beautiful, regardless, claws delicately curled, eyes closed, a few drops of rain on her speckled breast. A perfect life form.

And because there is a picture book for every event the universe can possibly render up, my dead bird reminded me right away of The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown. There’s a newer edition of the book, but the one that lives in my mind is the one with the bright green cover, published after Brown’s own death with illustrations by Remy Charlip.

The child sensibility is so strong and so wonderfully eccentric in this book, as when the children sing to the bird. Snippet:

We sing to you
because you’re dead
Feather bird
And we buried you
In the ground
with ferns and flowers

The children put flowers and ferns into the little bird’s grave and they cry, because the bird is so beautiful and because, of course, it is dead.

No question. Picture books are the best life manual one can possibly find.

Breathing Again in Vermont

The last six months have been filled with loss and mourning. Then the VCFA residency rolled around and I had to postpone my travel to Vermont. Apart from travel delays, I have never been late to residency in the ten years I’ve taught here. But I couldn’t¬†be in two places at once. And I had to make time for:

  • laundry between trips
  • recovering my breath
  • dealing with that feeling of emptiness you get when life has just beaten you up and there is nothing you can do


But now I’m here at VCFA with this amazing¬†writing community of students and faculty. Over the years, the conversation of books, life, and the intersections between them has stimulated and energized me and made me a better writer. This is a magical place and what happens here ends up having a profound effect on books for children and young adults in North America and beyond.

Now it is healing me and I am profoundly grateful.