EXPLAIN THE BIRDS TO ME
During my youth’s frequent cinema visits I used to smile at a commercial occasionally presented before the film began – a crane striding in a bog while the speaker voice stated: “Some people like to watch birds pecking in swamps.” Suddenly the bird explodes and disappears into a cloud of smoke with the comment: “But, we like cinema!”
Maybe it was like that, I liked cinema more than bird watching. The main reason was possibly that I did not have a proper pair of binoculars and did not pay any serious attention to the nature surrounding me, never far away since I lived in a small town. However, currently one of my biggest pleasures is to walk alone through the forest around our house by a lake in southern Sweden, listen to the birds and occasionally catch a glimpse of them. Nevertheless, my familiarity with these marvellous creatures mostly comes from books.
Ever since my childhood, I have been fond of bird books. My grandfather had three elegant leather leather bound volumes – Svenska fåglar efter naturen och på sten ritade I-III. Med text av professor Einar Lönnberg och 364 kolorerade planscher av bröderna von Wright, Swedish Birds Drawn after Nature and litographed I-III. With text by Professor Einar Lönnberg and with 364 Coloured Plates by the von Wright brothers. The books were originally published in 1838 and the magnificent illustrations were made by three Swedish-Finnish brothers. I do not know where Grandpa’s von Wright books ended up after his death and I must state I miss them quite a lot. I often sat curled up in one of Grandpa’s armchairs with one of the large volumes in my lap. It is difficult to explain the fascination I felt while looking at these wonderfully clear and strangely beautiful bird pictures. Perhaps it had something to do with a meticulous immersion in details and the wonder of birds.
That I found Audobon in the Dominican Republic was an interesting coincidence, since he was born in the neighbouring Republic of Haiti, during a time when it was a French colony called Saint-Domingue. Audobon’s father owned a slave-run sugar cane plantation. Already as a six-year-old child Audobon was forced to move to France, together with his father and siblings. The ruthlessly exploited and tormented plantation slaves, with whom John’s father, like so many of his slave-owning friends, had a multitude of children, had revolted and no white man could any longer feel safe in the rebellious Saint-Domingue. An eighteen-years-old Audobon then left France for the United States.
Tapina me che amava uno sparviero, Alas, I who once loved a falcon,
Billy is a sensitive and attentive boy, who against all odds has managed to preserve his joy and self-respect. During one night, he climbs, while endangering his life, up the wall of a ruined monastery and steals a kestrel chicken. With the help of a book he stole in a book store, Billy trains the bird to become a skilled hunting hawk. Kes, as he calls his kestrel, becomes for Billy an escape from his miserably circumvented and shabby existence. Through his patient training of Kes and his liberating hunt with his bird of prey, Billy’s self-confidence is strengthened, though he remains a stranger within the biased and vapid society that surrounds him.