Life Matters

Hope everyone had a joyful July 4th weekend and thank all of you who were a part of the 12th Anniversary celebration (and sale weekend) of Birdsong. The hands of the Wingfeather Workshop out in the junipers of the Texas “Hill Country” appreciate you all very much! By being a part of this I mean even thinking about us or being interested in any way about who we are or what we do. None of this – attention, interest, a dozen years of business – is guaranteed, no matter how one devotes themselves to their craft or how hard one rows the boat. May the tiniest, most fleeting moment of interaction between your world and mine gift you some seed of inspiration. If you’d like a really great little bass or unusual guitar, and like what we do, please give us the opportunity to serve that. We are very grateful to be here!

Beginning into our 13th year to the Delta blues of Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi Fred McDowell, the workshop is alive not only with gnomes working with the wood but all kinds of life. Part of the beauty of late spring & early summer here is that everything is green and growing and the critters are all busy coming to life or bringing it anew. It is very difficult to live close to nature and not get some of this perpetual springtime on you – and in you. For me it is a personal “True north.” 

Other than the few red wasps who don’t get the message that we’re just one specie in a pretty happy variety out here, we just go about our business and work around each other. Red wasps remind me of a lot of people I see when I look up from the workbench out into the world. A divided people don’t need to be conquered; they do it to themselves. Gray area is an alien concept to a red wasp too - I know they don’t wake up thinking “I’m going to go antagonize everything that's not me today” - life has made them this and that is what they do. But they can do it on the rest of the homestead, not in the pump house. And I’m not going to hate the mud daubers because their loose relatives are troubled and aggressive. They don’t want anything to do with them either. 

The yellow ones I’ve never had a problem with as they fly in and out making their tiny concrete bunkers. In fact, I admire their craftsmanship and ingenuity – remember, they don’t have a brain, let alone opposable thumbs or tools. Sometimes I’m in the way, and one will hover and wait until I move, then calmly levitate by. I could swear sometimes they just give me the cool guy nod on the way. Occasionally I’ll have to remove one of their little projects, and I feel bad. Though I know they don’t take it personally I apologize to them anyway. No harm in wishing well. The deer have been milling about with a little spotted fawn; Harvestmen (“Daddy Longli”) are forming into little merkins in the eaves; lizards are out and about looking me over as I walk by; flies butter, dragon and conventional all abuzz, and there was even a fat little toad hanging around for a few days a couple of weeks ago.

You hardcore DIY types have never SEEN do-it-yourself until you live in the woods and watch all these little beings do their thing. My whole life – this company, the pile of  music I put out, the endless words, the homestead we built – to me this is one guy trying to help accomplish one decent web spanning the trees like the spiders out here do every day or one bird WAY down on the food chain nesting, hatching, and teaching them to fly. I’ll never be as great as that. Especially the birds here, I just love them – we’re named after them. Wingfeather. Birdsong. The new Sparrow bass. There’s a 6” feather on my right arm and a thunderbird on my left. To say there is a kinship to the winged world feels like an understatement given all they restored and inspired in me, regardless of how crazy the world is at times, and all I have learned from watching them.   

So by far the most exciting thing is just outside the main workshop door; there’s a bench top on the deck up against the front wall, and wedged in between a cutoff piece of pecan and an old stuffed pal of Maggie the Blue Heeler, all of a sudden, is a little nest with little eggs and a little fluffy mama bird that comes and goes. This is not the first time winged brethren have decided Birdsong itself is a safe place to hatch, and it reminds me of Uncle Johnny’s workshop.

Birdsong started in the back corner of a new friend’s workshop in the woods years before it was the company that just celebrated its 12th anniversary. More seed than story at that time, it was Johnny’s shop where I got my skills together as I shared them with him and he imparted his backwoods sensei-like woodcrafting knowledge to me. Up high in a single narrow shelf on the back wall about now would be a nest with eggs and a mama bird. They came back every year and he always had a window open for them. I think about that when they come here and see my workshop as home. Somewhere across the river, fifteen generations on, there are birds flying around whose ancestors brought them to be in that workshop and taught them to fly off the benches; got a little sawdust under their wings. In my own way I relate and, though I can’t know if the little fluffy mama here is one of them, if one walks amongst the tribes feeling we are all related it’s not that far of a stretch.  

Listening to: Rev. Gary Davis, live Mississippi Fred McDowell, Shelter Mantra, the Jazz Mandolin Project Xenoblast, Eric Clapton's 1st album. Ah, what's life without a little variety??