I discovered Graeme Gibson’s The Bedside Book of Birds while watching Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power. The day after I watched the documentary, my husband and I rescued a pair of near-fledgling doves. This, coupled with the fact that I found Atwood and Gibson’s relationship moving and relatable, convinced me I had to get this work for my husband, a lover of both books and birds.
Online it was selling for much more than the original list price, but at a bookstore a week and a half later, I watched my husband pick up a more reasonably priced copy. I told him a little about the book: that Atwood’s late husband had compiled it and that it was a collection of works on the relationship between birds and humans—in a sense, the awe the former has long inspired in the latter. I also told him I’d been hoping to get it for him and that if he liked the look of it, I still wanted to.
As we drove home, he cracked open the book. I peeked over to see the title of the first piece, a poem: “Night Crow” by Theodore Roethke. When he read it to me, I had the sudden realization that it was a poem I’d been searching for for years. These miraculous-feeling events coalesced into an experience of serendipity that we had not felt in a long time. When we curled into bed that night, he read more of the book aloud to me and we looked together at the beautifully included reproductions of sketches, paintings, and scientific drawings of birds. We rested quietly in the knowledge that we, through our friend Carol, the surviving fledgling, had been touched deeply by the avian world as well.
The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany by Graeme Gibson. Penguin Random House.
Reviewer bio: Amber Thompson is a Pushcart Prize nominee who recently published her debut poetry chapbook. She can be found at www.amberthompsonwrites.wordpress.com.