myth and poetry


The Muse: Part 3: A Font of Birds
by Stephanie Pope

"what softened edges move we in a certain way until well-blended sides take on
such curve of person... this bird with words
like watery shapers shaping each of us toward likenesses unteachable...
a bird repeats that likeness through the calm nest"

..........................................................................................---A Few Things She Noticed, - ©2004 Like A Woman Falling

I’ve had a strange week that actually began last Friday. I spent that day helping a friend pack her belongings in anticipation of a move. My friend is downsizing. Not only has she empty-nested but she is getting a divorce. A week earlier I share my notions with her about moving to Fountain Hills ten years ago and feeling the loss of my first home as a kind of empty nest or a center that is now a kind of movable nesting. The image through which this centerless inner nourisher or muse is reimagined continues to re-vision itself like a fountain or font of liquid-like transformations welling up.  

Off and on we’ve been gathering every Friday for lunch and conversation. I usually share my musings around myth and writing poetry when we do. Not this day. This day we meet at her house for a day of packing. It is toward the end of the day when the first bird makes its appearance. This Friday morning’s mythopoetic airing of part three on the muse within the font of a musing life, begins here.

Around five o’clock and after a rather productive day, my grateful friend walks me out to my car to say goodbye and as friends who are very good friends tend to do, we talk for several more minutes. I, backing up, throw the car into park and sit with the motor running idle. It is here and while chatting, a rather amiable goose joins the conversation. We see it as it saunters along the margins between the fence and the roadway.

This strikes us both an odd thing. You see, we live in the Valley of the Sun in the Sonoran desert of the great southwest —saguaro country. My friend lives miles away from the nearest large body of water. “One sees water birds rarely,” she says.

Yet a goose is definitely heading right over to where we are talking. I immediately mention Aphrodite and the Mother Goose image, the goose that brings to bear upon the world its “golden” self buried darkly and very much nested within itself before any creation ever begins. Egg symbolism has always sought after a twice born. This thought is offered just as her birddog bolts from inside the fence causing the goose to let out a whoop and take flight.

goose tracksJust then, I am reminded silently how the “Great Cackler” metaphor is turned by Joseph Campbell in “The Flight of the Wild Gander.” All this happens quickly but not before the bird leaves its mark. There in the sandy soil along the property boundary the goose has left gorgeous tracks. “The story our spirit asks for,” writes Campbell, “is the story we receive.” (37)

In its adult form the geis, a fate laid, is a destiny to be broken; the metaphor of the wild gander, shot from its bow like the path of its own tracks, is the dangerous and individual endowment. It is what it is, without meaning (162-168).

The following Monday I come to help my friend continue packing once more. It goes well and before we know it, it is lunchtime. We decide to meet where we usually meet for lunch each Friday. It has an outdoor grill with patio dining and a rather large fountain where birds come to bath. Usually we sit near the fountain but not today. Today we have a table closer to the grill area. We are talking over lunch when a sparrow flies between us. Neither of us are startled by it but we both remark how that kind of thing has never happened to us in all the times we’ve met there.

Just as we go back to the pleasantness of our conversation this happens again –a second happening but a different bird; the same thing, and yet different. This was a grackle and it was so aggressive I instinctively raise my left arm and lower my face to protect myself. The bird’s wing brushes my arm and I am suddenly grateful I am protecting my face. The incidence makes my friend think of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, The Birds. She’s referring to the scene where Tippi Hendren is delivering a pair of lovebirds to Rod Taylor when a large water bird swoops down and pecks her on the forehead. I must’ve had a similar thought, although I cannot recall thinking such a thing at all. Everything responding was in my gut.

I am stroked not pecked. The awareness is not lost on me. The Friday before I am storked by way of a goose or "goosed" after having packed and this Monday afternoon I am stroked responding instinctually while grateful for not having been pecked.

The stork/packed/stroke/pecked trope is a bird font of an inspiring kind. Nevertheless, I spend my whole morning this morning and one very tiring day yesterday trying to make a reasoned and meaningful connection to fountains and bird baths because I can not help feeling not a little perturbed by the irrational.

It is not until I return to part one of my essay series on the muse in the landscape who awakens the song of a tree that is a fountain that I finally relax enough to see the trope and turn it knowing there is a meaningless connection happening.

It is happening through the song of the image interrupting my stream of being. An outer sheen has awakened the inner images of birds I am to play to and who will answer this music in me with new songs. They will fill me with their songs. I’ve already spent time and passages in writing Solar Music, 1955 Remedios Varo the
image of the passerine bird, the sparrow songbird.

Within the aviary of singers there is nested another, the nature of the font from the point where the inspiration comes and is struck. Ones own music must begin to play here. It plays as it must play, to release in vision a winged and fiery font, a mercurial font. This must be the double of eros the Greeks call himeros, a stream of desire that most draws the soul. Once lit upon, this psychic image interrupts being and brushes the older lumen in strokes that release like an arrow shot from a bow stiff birds cracking new spring skins.


Musica Solar, 1955 Remedios Varo a woman plays a stringed sunbeam with her bow, and the music releases the birds in nearby trees from their cocoon-like capsules. Where illumination from the sun falls, it makes both the forest floor and her mantle green; but it is her own music, rising in arcs from the point where her bow touches the strings, that releases the birds from their torpor. . . "[Page 83] "The creator in Solar Music has the power to affect her environment not by accident or by fate but because she is attuned to the sunlight." –K Nichols, Female Quest /Re-visionist Mythmaking

I suppose middle aged women like my friend and myself, although we will always carry the stiff movements of the stork and the goose, know the other bow-power in creation, too. This one awakens from beyond the torpor of having nested. It’s happening way down inside in the belly of our stories.

The alchemical fire bird of Hermes Trismegistus is already well-known as eating from his own wings to make himself tame. As a divine fountain of writing, this image is credited with tens of thousands of writings of high standing and reputed to be of immense antiquity. For example, Plato's Timaeus and Critias state that in the temple of Neith at Sais, there once were secret halls containing historical records already in keeping 9,000 years. But just now when I thought of the firebird, I remembered the fire that is already within the mind is a wonder and the deepest mystery and I remember Campbell’s recommendation to follow the ways of one’s own bliss.  

David Miller in “The Fire Is In The Mind” points out how in order to do this one must even include the possibility that includes denying that following one’s own bliss is a true way. One need live one’s myth by way of a mythoclastic function that de-stories the repressive, oppressive collective and mythic function in stories of people destroying people and overtaking landscapes. One can do this by remembering to deal with the most powerful ideas and the most potent meanings as merely myth, a story that is already a fiction. Professor Miller writes

Myth is mythoclastic, when it is functioning truly as myth…For myth to work properly, "meaning" must be withdrawn, deferred, itself a catapult into the unknown and the unknowable and to be left behind.  Myth is like a bow disengaging an arrow.  So, Campbell said forcefully in conclusion at Eranos: The world, the entire universe, its gods and all, has become a symbol--signifying nothing:  a symbol without meaning.  For to attribute meaning to any part of it would be to relax its force as a bow, and the arrow of the soul would then lodge only in the sphere of meaning. . . . Our meaning is now the meaning that is no meaning; for no fixed reference can be drawn."  [Flight, 177f, 190]… Myth is always already mythoclastic, or it has become religion or fairy tale, for believers and for innocents without real life-experience.

The font of birds that appear this week awaken in mind to no fixed meaning. Neither birds of Mother Goose nor Hermes-Thoth, these birds lay no claims through anything said.

When I look up the movie, The Birds I discover what critics call the movie’s quilllyrical nature; the movie has a nonending, i.e. an ending that lacks resolution.  Perhaps like the movie I have come to the space where meaning withdraws and soul life is freed to flow toward its own ends like the song living just so in the belly of my story now.

extended reading

The Fire Is In The Mind by David Miller

essays in this site

Muse Series:

The Muse
The Muse Pt. 1: A Planting Song
The Muse Pt. 2: Fountain of Youth
The Muse Pt. 4: Poetic Experience

Essay Archives


Mother Geis

see Kookamonga Square for :

-She Built Her Nest
-The Patio Maidens
-A Few Things She Noticed

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