Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Song for a Starling - In Memory of Men

I've been perusing journals to honor and reflect on my trip to France last year. Besides a thousand photos, I've journals of varying sizes in which I made notes.

One line recently caught my attention, a question I had jotted in a tiny notebook the morning of my birthday which started in LePuy in what is called the Deep Heart of France.

The question read: How can we get blackbirds to sing in America?

Yes, I learned during my trip that blackbirds sing in France. I heard them repeatedly. (My friend Vera says they sing in Germany too and I believe her.) On this particular morning, I sat on a curb outside our hotel at 5:00 am in a tiny triangle of a park filled with fairy roses. I cozied up against a pink cluster as the rising sun cast a similar pink in the sky. A blackbird was in its nest to my side. I could have spent all day there perfectly content on asphalt surrounded by roses and blackbirds.

Instead I left tokens of gratitude, dried rose petals from my father's grave and a crystal bead, at the base of the rose bush then boarded our little travel van driven by dear Pedro for further ventures into France's Deep Heart.

It has been a year and I have not forgotten the singing blackbirds of France. Periodically I take out my little recorder and listen to the files I recorded of their song. My mind calls up the lyrical sounds even as I write.

Meanwhile home in Tennessee, I could not write with similar fondness of our blackbirds as this past Spring, blackbirds, starlings and grackles descended upon our bird feeders like never before. I initially wrote of this in "Loving Black and Blue."

After that Musing, words came to me which I quickly noted. I first titled them "Song for an American Starling ." I recalled them upon seeing the question: How can we get blackbirds to sing? These are the words that came to me.

I am so far away from home
Came here a stranger as families roamed
I feel so lost without a land.
Somebody help me, if you can.

The heart is deep and it is wide.
It carries pain I try to hide.
I'm looking for someone
to redeem these lonely sons.

Soldiers died in foreign soil.
War is hard and it is toil.
Yet the heart goes beating on

finding wings on many a song.

Blackbirds and sparrows were brought to this land by our ancestors as reminders of home. I sometimes wonder if our blackbirds don't sing because they are homesick, strangers here in this land.

Homesick strangers reminds me of a plaque I saw in Orleans Cathedral southwest of Paris. The plaque honored the half million Americans who gave their lives in two world wars and the 67,581 of them who died on French soil, their bodies never found, never returned to American soil. Yes in time they returned to Mother Earth, but I find myself still thinking about those men and wondering if their spirits aren't homesick like the blackbirds just on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

I also found myself wondering if the collective American soul fully grieved these losses. Let's be honest. We American's don't really grieve. The funeral is held and we're suppose to be over" it" when in truth the dark days, the days of missing, of loneliness have just begun.

I found myself wondering how this chapter of our history is connected to the lost or misplaced heart in our country as well as its continued impact on our world. Since WW II we have gone to war repeatedly not for the same overt reasons, yet war is war, lives are lost and grief still buried.

Hearts abound commercially in ads during certain holidays.  Likewise we open our hearts relationally when we're "suppose" to feel loving during these times.  Then heart's relegated to the sidelines. The grief locked in the stoic heart when it is far from home be it the blackbird, the soldier or one's own is a lonely heart.

How do we call the men of whom I read home?

Maybe it isn't the blackbird that needs to learn how to sing, but instead our hearts, yours and mine. Heartful singing, just as grieving requires a vulnerability we are not taught, a willingness to dive into our deep hearts and embrace our feeling selves as men and women.

No one said this to me while in France, but I felt the deep sorrow and grief the French have known as wars have ravaged their land. Yet I also felt their joy. I suspect they've been to the bottom of the deep heart where all feels lost, loved ones and land, and they found their way back to love and joy. This is so evident in their appreciation of beauty in valuing the soil, the animals and plants. They (or at least the areas in which I traveled) value living and they value the feminine.

Maybe, just maybe, if we allow ourselves to journey the path of heart, of feeling, we would sing the spirits home of these 67, 581 men. I imagine calling their hearts home to the soil of our collective hearts and in doing so free ourselves to discover the beauty of our deep American hearts.

-Dawn!, The Good News Muse, 19 June 2010
reposted 11 November 2013
* Click here to hear what for Veteran's Day I've retitled:  "In Memory of Men" 
* After writing this piece, I found that blackbird symbolizes primal feminine energies and that the color black symbolizes the feminine. Now I am certain our discovering our deep hearts allows our blackbirds to sing.

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