In one of my early forays into the Verde River’s piles of sticks, a year ago, I came across two very similar sticks. Both were shaped like birds. Their major difference was that one was charred, blackened. The other was a burnished brown. I took these pieces and mounted them onto the same branch. I had two birds on a branch. I could almost hear them sing!
This piece became one of the centerpieces of my burgeoning art. I put it out for visitors to my new gallery to admire. In the summer I worked with Ericka from Firefly Gallery to select pieces to display in their Jerome gallery. The birds was one of the first pieces she chose. I set it aside. It didn’t go with her.
In the fall I was asked to share my art and write a poem for a celebration of the river. This piece became the inspiration for the poem, about the ghosts of birds who had flown over the Verde, left their spirits behind.
I set these birds on my desk in my storage space. They began to collect dust. Other pieces came and went, but they sat. I made a new friend. Amber the baker at the incredible bakery in Clarkdale, Violettes, was pregnant. She had named the pastry shop for her daughter. Now she was expecting another little girl. I looked at the birds. There they were, two beautiful birds on a branch, like the two beautiful daughters she would be blessed with. I would give them to her as a baby gift.
I listened to others discuss Amber’s pregnancy. She was going to go onto maternity leave. Could we bring her gifts first? The opportunity never materialized. The birds remained on my desk, collecting dust.
Amber had her little daughter, Juliette. From the beginning pictures of her featured beautiful eyes, like her mother’s, a sweet demeanor. I asked Amber’s brother about Amber and Juliette frequently. When would Amber return to the bakery? I kept trying to find a time to get my gift to her.
Amber returned. She worked in the early mornings baking her scones and brioche. Then she left to be with Juliette by 7 a.m. I never saw her. Pictures of Juliette showed her beautiful development, one month, two months old. I was struck by her bright, large eyes, her peaceful countenance. And Amber seemed so happy!
Eventually I changed around the pieces I had in my space. The two birds, now dusty, and their hangtag, now somewhat wrinkled were placed in the showroom. But they did not go onto one of the higher shelves where visitors might see them. They went onto their side on the bottom shelf, tucked behind other pieces. I looked at them as Amber’s, but made no effort to get them to her.
Then last night, after Artwalk was over, Amber, her mother, her grandmother, and Juliette walked into the room where I was sitting, sipping soup. We hugged. I held Juliette for a moment, but it was late and she was fussy. This was the first time I had seen the delightful baby in person. I asked Amber and her family if I could give them a personal tour of my studio. We spent ten minutes looking at the art I had displayed, and the workspace behind this. Then we returned to the case with my pieces.
“Are these pieces for sale?” Amber inquired?
“I love ravens. How much for that raven?”
I thought she pointed to a raven displayed on the third shelf down, another older piece. “Fifteen dollars.”
“I will take it!”
I reached for the single raven. “Oh, not that one, the one down below.”
I had almost forgotten those birds were down there. “This one? It’s not for sale!” Amber’s face dropped. “No. It is a gift for a beautiful baby. It has always been yours.”
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"