Saturday, March 10, 2007

Emma Bell MIles -- Part 2

Of the Baltimore oriole, Emma Bell Miles had this to say: "Its color is splendid, as if brought from the tropical jungle, rich orange, with black wings and tail."

The bluebird: "A wintry roadside may be suddenly illumined by the descent of a dozen bluebirds on a sumach bush, or a pokeweed in late summer may be laid flat under the weight of a flock coming to eat purple berries."

The goldfinch: "The song is quite canary-like, but softer, with a variety of pretty chirps and trills. On the wing, their undulating course is punctuated by a twitter described by the mountain people as 'Meat's cheaper -- meat's cheaper.' "

Miles intended her little book as a teaching guide for school children. In an epilogue, she advised teachers to encourage their students to procure a good notebook, keep records of their observations ("...the most important of them should be written in ink. .."), and discuss in class such questions as "Why birds should be protected" and "How we may protect the birds." I suppose I was one of many youngsters touched by her talent, and it is with pleasure that I acknowledge her here.

Emma Bell Miles lived for common things, she said -- "smells of hot meadows, of rain-wet plowed land, of barn lofts and kitchen corners." And birds, of course. It might have been her life that the writer Eudora Welty was describing when she wrote in her own autobiography, One Writer's Beginning: "As you have seen, I am a writer who came from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within."