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Bird of Paradise

By Maggie Turner

December 16, 1999

Bird of Paradise

  "The Phoenix bird, dost thou not know him? The bird of Paradise, the holy swan of song!"

The Phoenix Bird - Hans Christian Andersen


 Spring by Maki


Copyright © 1992 Duane Maki

I have been reading online journals this morning. Two reactions are vying for attention in my psyche. The first is awe. As I write I feel that my words are tiny grains of sand beneath the glorious waves of talent I am being exposed to. As I read I am a child playing in the waves. Magic, I am reading magic.

The second reaction is one of sadness at the play of fate and human weakness.

Experience is a great teacher, it does not always teach us what we need to know.

Many forms of expression call to me. One is singing. Singing is a great equalizer, joined in song voices blend to create a whole sound. All of the voices are part of the whole. This joining is emotional and physical. In my early years at school I loved to sing, until my experience with the Grade 4 Choir. The music teacher taught us a song and then carefully listened to each child's voice as we sang. I loved it. I fell asleep at night to dream of voices lifted together in song. What I did not understand, in my innocent love, was that we had been judged and sorted. I was not accepted to sing in the choir; my name was not called out by the music teacher as I sat with my heart in my throat, hands folded neatly on the desk in front of me. The betrayal cut deeply, my love of song had been spurned.

My humiliation increased when it was explained that those with the best voices had been chosen for the choir. It seemed that only those deemed worthy would be allowed to join together in song. I had been turned away at the gates of paradise. Deemed unworthy, my singing voice followed my broken heart into silence on that day. To this day the beauty of song evokes longing. My singing voice croaks and falls flat, in fear of judgement and humiliation. It is not surprising that the first time I experienced romantic love it came to me through music.

Writing is another magical form of expression in my life. An avid reader as a child, I soon felt compelled to express myself in kind. My Grade 6 teacher encouraged my first attempt at writing. She was a compassionate, intelligent and humane woman who had escaped Germany buried in a coal train during World War II. She required that each student create a personal project to be worked on during his or her free time in class. I wanted to write a children's story. My idea met with enthusiasm and I was provided with a blank notebook for my project. The story progressed slowly but surely, always with warm encouragement from the teacher. It was my unhappy innocence that betrayed me once again. Basking in the teacher's warm support, I took my storybook home to share. I still remember my father's open contempt and derision, my mother's stern look of disapproval. Shamed, it would be many years before I would again take up a pen. I could offer no explanation to my teacher as to why the project was never completed; I could not expose her to my father's contempt.

Years later, in Grade 9 English class, we were required to write a short story. Because it was required I wrote that story. I did not show the story to my parents. To my horror the English teacher made the effort to speak to my parents about my talent for writing, urging them to encourage my efforts. Contempt for my writing escalated into open hostility at home. I remember the names of those two teachers clearly and would love to tell them how much their kindness meant to me. In the years since I left home writing has slowly become a part of my life. To write still feels dangerous. But as you can see, I have not been able to resist the lure of the written word.

My love of song and the written word have increased through the years. To witness their unbridled expression my heart soars with the sweet joy of endless possibility; always my heart must return to the reality of experience. Slowly the good outweighs the bad.


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