Things with feathers…

Note:  The memoir, In the Garden, portrays my mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God at every crossroads of her life.  She chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair.  “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra.  Ellen lived her entire life in a house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan(the site of present day Country Dairy)rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her.  There, alongside the love of her life, Henry, she found her calling as a helpmeet for him and transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for their family.  To view the memoir visit or

In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

                                                                Northern Mockingbird

                                                                “Things with feathers”

          “Things with feathers…”  –  Emily Dickinson’s symbol for hope.  So states Billy Collins in the  preface of “Bright Wings,” a collection of poetry he edited.   Here is the “things with feathers” poem:

“Hope is a thing with feathers

 That perches in the soul.

It sings the song without the words

And never stops at all.”     (Verse 1) Emily Dickinson

       This post is for lovers of Emily Dickinson and her poetry, and lovers of “things with feathers”  as well.  First off, let me admit that while I have immersed myself in Emily Dickinson’s life and poetry this year, I find her works illusive and extremely hard to get my mind around.  Having said that, I am so bold as to declare that I’ve written a book based on her “things with feathers” poem.
     My series of children’s books, Tales From Pelican Cove, describes nature and the wild/shore birds of Florida (where I winter) and beyond.  My 5th Tales book is entitled, “Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration,” and features the Northern Mockingbird and the  migration of the Great White Pelicans to the Mississippi River Valley in mid-February.  The book is due out in fall 2014.  It is a tale of hope and remembrance. 
     A brief preview:
     It is mid-winter at Pelican Cove, when Mimi realizes her friends, the white pelicans, are preparing to leave for the north country.  Mimi spreads the word to her friends, warning them: “It’s time.” She urges them to meet her at the cove the following evening.  There, they gather to say farewell to the mighty birds as they form a “V” and flap off for the Mississippi River Valley, the first stop on their journey north. Afterwards, Mimi gathers her friends together, along with the fledgling pelicans, who are not strong enough to make the trip north, and recounts for them a poignant tale of how she was saved by the white pelicans on one of her migratory journeys north – thus her bond of friendship with them.  The themes of hope and remembrance are the underpinning, not only of Mimi’s story, but of the book as well.

                                                    Mimi’s friend, the Carolina Wren
     “And sweetest in the gale is heard;
     And sore must be the storm
     That could abash the little bird
     That kept so many warm.”  (verse 2) Emily Dickinson

     The importance of hope in life is a no brainer, but the value of remembering might be overlooked in our culture of speed, devices and endless activity.  How often do we take the time to remember events in the past for ourselves and our children – events that have shaped and molded us into the people we are? 
     According to the philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, “Hope is the same thing as remembering.”  Remembering people and events was important to the great novelist, Alexander Dumas, as well, and a recurring theme in his books.  According to Tom Reiss, the author of “Black Count,” the story of Alexander Dumas’s father, to the novelist Dumas, “The worst sin anyone can commit is to forget.” (Black Count, pg. 3)
     Every year, when “it’s time,” Mimi and her friends gather to say goodbye to the white pelicans in order to remember how they saved Mimi many years earlier.  For them, it is a ceremony; a ritual.

Mimi’s friends the Great Blue Heron and Great White Egret

     “I’ve heard it in the chillest land
     And on the strangest sea;
     Yet, never, in extremity,
     It asked a crumb of me.”  (verse 3) Emily Dickinson


        I actually think I understand this poem somewhat and my book takes a stab at sharing what this poem has come to mean to me.  If any of Emily’s followers, out there, would care to share your ideas on the meaning of the poem, I’d love to hear from you.  And, when my book comes out this fall, I hope some of you will be intrigued enough to want to read it.  It is a story that parents and adults will love as much as the children for whom it is written.

Another of Mimi’s friends, the Wilson’s Plover

     P.S. I recently finished “Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief,” by Roger Lundin.  It gave the reader great insight into Emily’s spiritual journey.  I highly recommend it for anyone who hasn’t read the book.  




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