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why I feed the birds

Richard Vargas’ poem reminded me of one I posted sometime ago called Birdfoot’s Grandpa. We each have those idiosyncratic things that make us who we are. We might save frogs, feed birds, serve meals in a shelter, etc. It is in those moments which are largely unexplainable, but clearly visible that we become who we are.

Something that stood out for me in both poems was the role elders played in the lives of others. Our grandparents and parents do things that we do not understand in the given moment. It is only years later as we experience our roles as parents, grandparents, and pedagogues that we come to understand what it might have meant.

When we take time and make the world a better place, we add something no one else can. In that addition, the world does become better. It is rarely in the large and overtly obvious things, but in the small, less obvious contributions that the world shifts from ordinary to extraordinary. It is giving without any certainty and hope of a return. We do it because it is who we are in our particular humanness which is always being and becoming in relationship with the universe.

And, it make a difference to birds, to frogs, and people in need when we add to the world without expecting return. In those moments, they are small gods in our lives. Those offerings make a difference in our lives without awareness of their importance. They add to our lives enriching them and making them fuller.

i saw my grandmother hold out
her hand cupping a small offering
of seed to one of the wild sparrows
that frequented the bird bath she
filled with fresh water every day

she stood still
maybe stopped breathing
while the sparrow looked
at her, then the seed
then back as if he was
judging her character

he jumped into her hand
began to eat
she smiled

a woman holding
a small god


About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

20 responses »

  1. This brought such tender tears.

  2. What a lovely poem! We hold these small gods in our hands in small and mostly unnoticeable moments, and the world changes just a little bit.

  3. Thank you for this lovely poem, you share your very own small gods with such generosity.

  4. je le fais depuis des années… I simply love all animals, so birds, too… 🙂

  5. i thank you for your take on my poem. it provided some insights i had not considered. it’s always enlightening to read what my work makes someone else think or feel. it is from my recent book: Guernica, revisited. this poem was actually featured april 1, on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. you can order the book from Press 53, and i have a link on my website,

    • Thank you for the taking the time and commenting Richard. Poetry is spacious. It is what is said in the spaces between the words and punctuations that adds immensely to the reading. I look forward

  6. As I read the poem such joy filled me with smiles! I enjoyed the post immensely…thanks for sharing my brother!

  7. Loved this poem. My daughters and I used to hand-feed chickadees (our Maine State Bird) winters long ago. Your poem brought back fond memories. THANKS! 🙂

  8. Professions for PEACE

    Ivon this sweet post has moved me to tears! Birds are very precious to me. Robins, finches, chickadees and song sparrows nest in our huge old trees quite safely… considering a wild woman waving towels chases the magpies and free-ranging cats away if they dare enter this songbird-friendly area! (ya I don’t care what neighbors think) While magpies are very clever and interesting, they can go kill young birds somewhere else, and although I am an animal-loving cat owner (servant, you know) I am not a fan of free-range cats. Love this post! Thank you!! hugs, Gina


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