The Wish of a Feather

November 19, 2011

Words and Styling by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

It wasn’t the first time he had seen me performing this surgery, so this was no WTF moment. He just shook his head and walked the other way. You see, my son seems to understand the oddity of my attraction to the plumage of birds. He’s seen their colorful feathers in specimen jars that line a shelf in my office since as long as he can remember. So, it was no surprise for him to see me sitting cross-legged in the middle of our backyard holding the most beautiful claret cardinal –a casualty of what was probably a lovers triangle. The princely bird, had fallen ass over teakettle from a tree, but somehow landed softly on the cushion of our late summer grass. I could tell by the stiffness of his body that his last breath had been taken many hours before, but the warmth of the afternoon sun somehow made him pass for “just deceased”. With the hand of a surgeon, I plucked the longest and still brilliant red feathers from his South end. Gently, and with reverence, I placed each feather one by one into a clean squat mason jar to join the others in my aviary collection of curiosities. Turkey, Guinea Fowl, Bluejays and Cardinals –their colors, patterns and texture help to inform my work and inspire my life. I suspect they do the same for my son. No longer a child, but now a caring young man, I have recently caught him picking a feather from the ground, lying it gently into the open palm of his hand and blowing ever so lightly for it to sail away. It is with the pause of his body as he watches the wind carry it away that I know he is making a wish. Something we did together when he was just a boy. Back then he would tell me what he wished for.

Now…his wishes are his own.