Bird By Bird

Once upon a time Anne Lamott wrote a wonderful book about writing and life called Bird by Bird that helped give wings to those of us who wanted our words to swoop across a page, perhaps even to perch on the branches of other’s hearts and sing into their lives.  But this is a story of a tea cup with a bird perched on its handle sitting on a bird-shaped saucer recently invited to tea at two. I suppose one could call it a tea party, but really it was a gathering of a flock.

Several months ago a beloved friend passed away after a rather brief but intense illness. Her death rocked a number of overlapping communities – family, friends, neighbors, work, and church. It was hard to imagine life without her. Sheryl’s death heightened our sense of life’s fragility, yet at the same time, deepening our gratitude for treasured friends. Realizing the importance of leisurely nurturing those relationships in the now, rather than being swept away by the tyrannical tides of the everyday urgent, stirred some of us in lovely ways.

As often happens, a great idea was hatched while one of us was out shopping. She discovered this charming bird tea cup and thought a set of four would be perfect for her daughter and her college roommates who referred to their dorm suite as “The Nest.” But then she thought… these young women aren’t always going be together. And… they’re probably not going to appreciate these tea cups as much as I do. So… I think I’ll keep these for myself. Happily, several special friends discovered bird tea cups under our Christmas trees this year and Tea at Two was launched a few months later by one of the grateful recipients.

Our table has now filled out to four. The latest groaning buffet was laden with cucumber sandwiches, stuffed mushrooms, grape tomatoes filled with mozzarella and basil, tiny savory tartlets, scones and soda bread with Irish butter and jams, digestive biscuits, ginger cookies and licorice jelly beans. And pots and pots of tea. But the most delicious part of the afternoon were the warm brews steeped from the leaves of our various lives.

Bird by bird, we nibbled on our goodies and shared our stories – matching paint to fresh bed linens for a newly purchased home, refitting a mid-century bathroom with retro fixtures and hexagon floor tiles, the gift of painting and rehanging kitchen cabinet doors received at Christmas from adult children, recent vacations, visiting children, a milestone anniversary that’s moved one of us into what feels like the bonus round. The important work of our lives, classes we’re taking, relationships we relish. Dreams and minor dreads. The stuff that feathers our nests.

Bird by bird.

If you’ve lost a beloved person in your life, how did that loss influence how you nuture other important relationships? Who is the flock you’d gather around your table for tantalizing morsels and tasty conversation if you were to plan a Tea at Two? What’s the most important stuff you’d want to share from your feathered nest? Bird by bird, what other creative ways might you gather your flock?

Looking forward to your stories.



6 comments to Bird By Bird

  • Sharron Luft

    One week ago this Thursday evening, I lost my old husband and gained a new one, and I’m not yet certain what the differences will be. Let me explain. Last week my husband was having severe chest pain; he and let me take him to the ER only when I told him his only choice was the ER or the paramedics.He wanted relief from the pain, but he persisted in refusing care when the ER doc told him he was having a heart attack; he wanted to go home with pain pills.They don’t have any cardiology care here in our small hospital,so he eventually agreed to let the ambulance transport him to Santa Barbara.As they continued preparing him for transport, he started to say something to the doctor when his eyes rolled back into his head;his head dropped back and his heart stopped beating.Seconds later the alarms sounded and the room filled with people who began chest compressions and lung expansions,who got the electric paddles ready.It was just like you see on TV.It took two electric charges before the heart recovered and began to beat again.Several hours later, my grandson and I kissed him goodnight as the SB Cottage Hospital ICU nurse tucked him and his newly-stented heart in for the night.Last night,with tears in his eyes, he thanked me again for making him go to the hospital.All 6 of our kids have been here or called daily, all 14 of our grandchildren have talked with him.These are big changes already.The two of our great-grands have been on his lap, planting their own kisses on him, and the youngest,our 2 year-old little monkey, Cole, told him, “No more jumping on the bed, Grampa.” I don’t know just what will happen in the future, but I know that God will make it good. So, will you lift your cup with me, as I wish you all a chin-chin?

  • Well, Anne Lamont certainly was successful in that book for at least one writer I know.
    Terrific post Lynne.

  • A few months ago a fellow mom friend of mine died unexpectedly in childbirth. Lisa was not a person that was frail. Lisa was strong. She trained with me and we ran our first 5k together. We have daughters in the same class and at graduation last June, Lisa was radiant with the news and evidence of the baby on the way. Lisa was in a word – LIFE! How difficult it’s been to loose someone like Lisa. She has left behind her three daughters – including the infant that survived and her husband.
    I feel that there are times that Lisa comes to mind, when I feel overwhelmed or tired. She gives me a push to keep on, take that next run, and to live life to the full.
    She is a bird that always gave others wings to fly – and still does.
    Thank you for lifting up the space to recognize her lovely, amazing life.

  • Lynne

    Ladies – Sharron and Tara, thanks you for your tender stories contained in a tea cup! I’m deeply moved. So grateful for life in its various forms – through the miracles of medicine or the inspiration of a life lived well.

  • Judy Siudara

    Thanks,Lynne, for a great verbal picture of friendship. Anne Lamott has written another book called Traveling Mercies .It is her story of her journey to faith in God.Terrific.She has now written one w/ her son Sam about her new grandson.
    My granddaughter ,age 11, and I still play tea frequently w/ a tea set that is small and fragile, but very precious to both of us. Sh eis my baby bird. Judy

  • Hi Lynne, I just ordered the Anne Lammot book yesterday. She brings such a realistic authentic quality to being a woman of a “certain age’ and is so open and unafraid of her doubts and downfalls; one of the few “spiritual writers” that seems real and still enlightening. I think our mortality is most tested when we lose our parents or siblings, and we realize that we are essentially alone ,
    except for those around us fighting the same struggles. For me, the challenge is to live each day without fearing the past or the future…not like “pollyanna” but with an effort to appreciate those we still have. Melinda

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