What stays in our minds, and why?
As I walked this morning, as the sunlight started to paint the tops of tall oak and pine, I heard a flurry of birds. Blue jays gave their screech, which sounds much like that of the red-tailed hawk, towhees spouted their cup-of-TEA, and the tufted titmice emitted their little chirps. Some mornings I am busy looking at the light arise, smelling the damp oak leaves on the ground, and hearing the various birds call. This morning, though, I tried to focus on just the sounds, just the bird sounds. Hence the flurry of birds in my mind.
This phrase, which also lives in the subtitle of today’s post, comes from a play my wife directed some time ago. It’s a collection of vignettes all set during the American Revolutionary War. The title came to mind because of the internal rhyme with “flurry” and “birds.” Poets have been using this tool for thousands of years. When they want to remember, and help others remember, important people and events, they employ such tools. Devices like rhyme keep things in our mind. Witness this morning’s walk.
Another tool is concrete imagery, meaning language that appeals directly to any of our five senses. This morning, my mind directed my ears to take the reins. The flurry of birds became a symphony. I heard nothing but birds.
And here comes one of the values of concrete images like this collection of bird songs. Now that I have returned to my desk, I will soon start a set of senior essays. By the time I was climbing our driveway at the end of my walk, I had stored the memory of these birds– to use it as an image for my work. In other words, the birds will help me listen to the student voices in these papers. I have long believed that each student sings his or her own individual song. To help these people grow, my job starts with listening. I need to know where they are, in order to help them move into new skills and wisdoms. So, as I grade papers today, what stays in my mind, I hope, is the image of this morning’s flurry of birds. I am looking forward to hearing the range of ideas expressed by these high school seniors, who soon will fly off to other surroundings.