Shared Stories: “On Becoming a Bird” by Emily Darrell

Posted on 13 April 2011

Emily Darrell’s “On Becoming a Bird,” which appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly in late 2009, wins the prize for being the shortest story I’ve featured (and probably ever will feature) here in Shared Stories. It’s 188 words long and was originally written as a poem.

Just as in a dream, the flying is all there is. How can I explain it? It starts with an aloneness different from all other alonenesses.

In an interview posted on SmokeLong’s site, Emily said the story came to her when she was “just standing on the sidewalk watching a bird hop around pecking at some trash, when a voice in my head said: ‘Becoming a bird was not what I expected.'”

That made me think of the birds who play in the heavy ivy growing on the building near my bus stop. I often can’t see them but they’re in there, fluttering around and chirping and shaking the ivy.

The whole bird topic also makes me a little anxious as I remember the pair currently building a nest and/or hatching eggs on my balcony. I thought I’d adequately bird-proofed the nook where pigeons try to roost, but these smaller birds (house finches? I think they are house finches…having bird neighbors also reminds me how much I don’t know) seem to like the small crannies for nest building. Now these two birds are constantly hopping around my balcony and flying up and down to their nest, which drives my cats crazy. I figure it’s too late to do anything now without destroying their nest and/or chances for a healthy brood and am just hoping they finish their business soon. Oh well. Free entertainment for the cats, right?

Anyway, back to writing. Emily also said, I wrote this piece without thinking too hard about what I was writing or what it meant.” Something to strive for, yes?

She also said, “But on a metaphorical level I guess it’s about the reason why we don’t all kill ourselves.”

I think we’ll end on that note. Have a great day, everyone.

Photo: Yellow Snow Photography


6 responses to Shared Stories: “On Becoming a Bird” by Emily Darrell

  • Those birds must be driving your cats crazy. We have a cardinal nest in our forsythia. My cats are permanently stationed by the door. Waiting.

    I like the story. It appeals to my dark side.

  • Lyra says:

    “But on a metaphysical level I guess it’s about the reason why we don’t all kill ourselves.”

    I got such a chuckle out of that. So true.

  • lisahgolden says:

    What a great shared story. I love the humor and the philosophical take on flight.

    Birds are my daily companions. Our cats are driven mad by them, too.

  • Bad news on the bird front. Yesterday afternoon, the nest fell and landed facedown in the compost bin. The birds were very agitated. I replaced the nest, but it’s sadly not in a very secure spot and may fall again. I was glad to see there were no eggs yet, but if the nest is unsafe or destroyed, it may be too late for these birds. What a downer.

  • Teri says:

    Last year a mama finch nested in the wreath on my front door and laid 5 eggs. Every time we opened/closed that door, we did it so so gently, which kept the nest secure but ticked off mama, who went flapping and squawking away and back, away and back.

    I watched over that nest everyday. The babies were born, slowly, and one at a time. It was awesome. And then, every morning, one baby would be missing — stolen by the damned crows. Pretty soon mama flew away, I took down her nest, and finally I even took down the wreath.

  • Downith says:

    Thanks for that link – I loved the story.

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