Monday, June 19, 2017

Tell Your Friends What You Truly Care About

I finally added a background picture to my Facebook page. Well, actually, Katie added a background picture to my Facebook page. Of an albatross. Seems pretty random but it's not. And here's how it happened...

Of course, it all started with a book...

This stack of small books sits on a shelf in our entryway. The thin slate colored book at the bottom is  a volume containing two poems, one by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and one by James Russell Lowell. The Coleridge poem is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and it is where Kate and John first met an albatross.

This book is tiny and beautiful and over 100 years old. Imagine that! Maybe I shouldn't take it outside. Maybe I shouldn't put a rock on it or lay it on the ground. Maybe I shouldn't open it. What? No! Books are meant to be held and handled and opened and read!

When John was five and Kate seven, I read a bit of this ballad to them each night. We read the old English and we read the side notes and then we talked about what it meant. I took us a few nights to get through it. For those few days, we were immersed in it. Kate and John had never heard of, let alone seen, an albatross. 

Fast forward some 10 years and...this past February, we received a group text, with a photo (above), from my parents who were in Hawaii for the winter. They were hiking in a bird sanctuary and took this photo of an albatross! We thought it was SO cool.

Fast forward again to a morning last week when Kate and I went out for coffee. We sat at a sidewalk table and wrote and read and talked about what we're writing and reading and watching. Katie was telling me about a David Attenborough program she recently watched, Life Story (season 1, episode 1: First Steps), that features a segment on albatrosses. They are fascinating birds whose life cycles mimic human life cycles in many ways. They can live up to 60 years, mate for life, often wait to have chicks until they are 20 years old and then have one every two years or so. (the chicks are funny little puffs of white feathers...look up an'll make you smile!) One type of albatross has the longest wing span of any bird species at 10 feet! I was amazed to learn that albatrosses have lived for millions of years before humans even existed.

There are many superstitions regarding albatross and literature is full of references to the albatross. The most well known is probably Coleridge's poem  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Sailors' legends source the bird as a carrier of dead sailors' souls and, therefore, an albatross sighting is a good omen (thought to mean that the passing sailor is protecting the current voyage) and the bird's death a curse. So, when a sailor in Coleridge's poem kills an albatross which has been following the ship, his crew mates condemn him to wear the large dead bird around his neck in an unsuccessful attempt to escape the curse.

The blank space on my Facebook page, before we added a photo, had the following instructions: "Tell your friends what you truly care about". So, we added the photo that my parents took (and shared with us) when they saw one of these ancient, mythical creatures, which most of us (at least here in the northern hemisphere) have only encountered through literature.

Is what I truly care about? Family, parents, children, literature, reading together, creatures on our earth, learning, talking and sharing together? Yep. They are all things I truly care about.

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