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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


As a writing teacher, I struggle with my students' struggles with revision. Too often, many of them think that revision is a matter of fixing the commas (which are of course the most important aspect of writing, followed closely by the semicolon). Every year, I point out the parts of the word, leading some brave soul to note that revision means "to see again," and, eventually, a few of them get it. Today, I had my own experience with revision.

A confession: I tend to be disorganized with objects (with the fortunate exception of student papers, which I have managed never to lose). Walking from someone else's office to mine, whatever was in my hand can vanish, even if I don't stop anywhere. Whenever we host a social gathering, the last minute scooping-up-of-stuff leads to something semi-important vanishing, at least for a while. Yesterday, sorting through boxes of scooped-up things from the last pre-sabbatical gathering, I found the good binoculars, the ones I wanted but didn't have for all the hiking I did on sabbatical. They had, of course, been in the plant window overlooking the bird feeders all last summer, but instead of going into the box of field guides that went with me to Toledo, they were buried in the guest-room closet with miscellaneous things from that corner of the living room. Sigh.

Not having had decent optics for a while, I of course had to try them out, and the feeders were busy at that moment with a titmouse, a chickadee, a female cardinal, and something I couldn't quite identify, an LBB with a lot of red. My first tentative ID was house finch, but the binoculars revealed such intricate markings that I thought the bird had to be something less common, perhaps something I'd never seen before.

This little bird had a red head and a light but noticeable white line leading back from the eye and a half-ruff around its throat. The belly bore streaks of rich brown and white, and the wings were distinctly barred in the same colors. They revealed a red patch at the base of the tail as the bird fluttered around the safflower seed feeder. He (no female songbirds around here carry that much red) was so gorgeous that I had to stand and watch until he flew away.

A check of my trusty Peterson field revealed that my first thought was correct: this little guy was a house finch, one of the Western migrants now common all over the East. It had been so long since I had really looked at one, though, that I had forgotten how beautiful this common bird is.  Note to self: take more time for revision.


David said...

Great post, Rebecca; you are very insightful. :)

Not only did I learn a bit about how to truly revise one's work, but I also learned to revisit the common things we take for granted.

Thank you.

Rebecca said...

Thanks, David.