Secrets, Adaptations, and Joy

Monday Morning Musings:

Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.

–Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice*


“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

–Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending


 “Raise a glass to freedom

Something they can never take away

No matter what they tell you

Let’s have another round tonight”

–Linn Manuel Miranda, “The Story of Tonight,” Hamilton


Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 7.16.50 AM


We wandered

wet spring stone,

an ancient bough,

poetry of lonely bird & squirrel



I know


this secret garden




The dawn chorus sang

before the sun appeared

their secret language of chirps and trills

floated through the damp air,

early spring.

I began the day.


We wandered old city streets

stepped on bricks and cobblestones




the stories these stones and buildings could tell

the Founding Fathers wheeling and dealing,

letters and documents they wrote, still preserved,

our laws, our past, present, and future,

but what of the buried secrets

items tossed into privies,

and bodies,

uncovered in construction

thought to be moved long ago,

a lie from the past,

the new built over the old,

history in layers,

the way our life tales are constructed

with secrets and stories

hidden and revealed


private secrets and public secrets

the lies we tell ourselves,

the lies politicians tell us,

“Let sleeping dogs lie,”

bold-faced lies

little white lies

lies of omission

lies of commission

“What does the president know

and when did he know it?


We saw a movie about lies,

the lies a man has told himself,

stories he never told his wife


buried in a secret room in his mind

rooms we see on the screen

his past played over and over

more revealed each time,

we all have secret rooms,


where history is written and rewritten,

the personal,

the political,

and as we walked along these streets

we push past ghosts who linger there still

in rooms where they told their stories

and raised a glass to freedom


City Tavern, Philadelphia



We drink to our own freedom. Pondering the second round at Tria.

We saw a play,



Prague and New York City, 1977

there is an immigrant,

a Czech woman in a surreal dream

wanting the freedom to express herself,

to be an artist,

we hear the folksongs of her friend, Marek,

he was arrested for singing them,

a bird-woman goddess,

she who existed before the Thunder God,

shows the immigrant woman,


Her past?

Her possible future?

Men with pig faces,

followers of the Thunder God,

builders of walls,

conquerors of women,

they exist everywhere,

must we adapt,

live our secret lives within a police state,

a surreal dream

for the immigrant,

what will freedom bring,

What happens when the walls are torn down?

What is the American dream?

Is it a cautionary tale

that anyone can become the president—

cowboy, actor, failed businessman?

Perhaps their time is numbered.


We walked past a rally for the current president,

in the neighborhood where men gathered

over two hundred years ago

to give them that right to protest



in secret hearings

closed to the public,

they crafted a body of law,

then explicitly added others,

free speech,

freedom of the press,

I am thankful to live in a place where the president’s supporters have the right

to gather with signs and make speeches–

though I disagree with their views–

and will use my own voice to protest against hate and ignorance

to sing out

against oppression when I can,

but like a bird woman,

I will celebrate the world, too–

we all need a pop of color on a dreary day,

daffodils in the rain

and secret gardens.




*Thanks to Robin of Breezes at Dawn for the reminder about this quotation.

The Oracle gave me the magnetic poem that was perfect for the day.

We saw the play, Adapt, a world premiere by Blanka Zizka at the Wilma Theater. We saw the movie The Sense of an Ending.




20 thoughts on “Secrets, Adaptations, and Joy

  1. A lot of food for thought here – a lot of singing with the birds. I love the idea of women being birds at first, singing/celebrating at dawn and dusk. Perhaps that’s why I’m so fascinated with birds and their activities. At times, they seem fascinated with me, too. 🙂

      • I listened to a fabulous talk on NPR one night driving home from a class, all about the complicated and complex language of birds. As the biologist said, we humans tend to feel we’re superior to other beings in our language skills – and we’re not…!!

      • I may have heard the same talk. 🙂
        Many years ago when I was writing for TOEFL, I did some research on how birds learn their songs. I like how there are dialects–birds in different regions, or even neighborhoods sing slightly different songs.

  2. You’re welcome, Merril. Thank you for the mention. This post is so full of so many things, and I love your bright ending. Let’s all be bird women and let our songs be heard. 🙂

    • Thank you, Robin.
      Yes, indeed to your thought that we should all be bird women!
      It’s a strange coincidence that I read your post with that quotation, and then after that we saw the play that happened to have a bird woman in it.

  3. You’ve done a marvelous job with the word-bricks that I notice resemble the cobblestones and pebble pathways pictured.

    By the way, I have enjoyed Terry Tempest Williams work, including Refuge: An Unnatural History and Place, which features plenty of birds.

    • Thank you very much, Jane.
      It was a strange coincidence that I read that quotation about the bird woman and then there happened to be a bird woman creature in the play we saw.

  4. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t live so close to such history and architecture. I’d probably break my camera. 😉
    Well done, in weaving secrets throughout this.

  5. Life is mysterious and like a secret garden. The secrets that birds chitter and chirp about might amuse us, they certainly entertain us, Merril.
    I may have told you my friend Bill and I would set an alarm, (I usually on the sofa fallen asleep during a movie). I would wake up to make coffee while he would make a fire, to hear the 4 or 4:30 am “chorus.”
    I like this label!
    The birds usually start with a solo, then a duet and finally a symphony of birdsong.
    The poem went very beautifully smooth in its expression of this! 🙂

  6. Extraordinary tale — the bird goddess’ creation of a nest, from both beauty and abhorrence, found on this Earth. You draw from history and current events; weaving an amazing tapestry of words. Brilliant.

    • Wow–thanks so much, Rose!
      It was a strange coincidence–or synchronicity–to read the quotation on Robin’s post, to have the Oracle give me that poem before we walked around the city, and then to see the play.

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