Wednesday, April 29, 2015

For the Birds

The Writer’s Almanac for April 26, 2015, included these sentences:

(April 26) is the birthday of the man who once wrote, "I feel I am strange to all but the birds of America": ornithologist and artist John James Audubon born (on April 25) in Les Cayes in what is now Haiti (1785). Audubon grew up in France, and when he was 18 years old, his father managed to get him a false passport to escape the Napoleonic Wars, and he headed to America. Fascinated by all the new American birds he saw, he began to study them more closely. . .
Audubon fell in love with a woman named Lucy Bakewell. Her father objected to Audubon's lack of career goals and insisted that he find a solid trade before marriage. So, he opened a general store in Kentucky on the Ohio River, and soon after, John and Lucy were married. Audubon was a terrible business owner, and eventually he realized that his best chance for success lay in his birds after all. Lucy took on the main breadwinner duties by teaching children in their home, while her husband traveled all over the continent collecting specimens for his masterpiece, Birds of America (1838). 

Which immediately sent me tumbling back in memory to 4th grade, at the Shepherdstown school. 

In 2007, I posted a recollection of my 4th grade experience in grade school in the United States. Most of my elementary education was in (then) Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and later in (then) Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). But for a little over a year, my parents were in the U.S. on furlough.  So, I went to American schools for part of 3rd and 4th grade.

So what does this have to do with James Audubon? Well, I remember little from those two grade school classes, except this. We did a play in class—all about James Audubon and his beloved Lucy. I have no idea which students played what parts. I just remember being enthralled with such a sweet love story.

Trust a nudge from the Writer’s Almanac to set my memories aflutter.  The things we remember… Sometimes those thoughts are "for the birds."

James Audubon print--Baltimore orioles