The Good Side of Grackles!

by Judy Kauffman | Apr 15, 2021 | 0 comments

Oh, just look at those grackles! By the hundreds! We didn’t count, but Norman said “250.” They fluttered down from the trees like leaves onto our lawn, then into the garden, and back to the trees again. Their gorgeous black heads shone with iridescent blue and green and oh, who knows what else? Why, the eyes, look at them, stately and intense, black pupils set into a creamy yellow iris. Just watch that bustling bevy of activity out on the lawn—here, there, everywhere.

Common Grackle. Photo © Alain/

Listen to their music…could YOU ever begin to mimic something like it? The rusty hinges of a door? That’s what is said, so I listened. It fit. I’ve also heard them called “a wheelbarrow chorus.” They aren’t ashamed to use whatever singing talent God gave them.

Quickly they finish their morsel of a meal in one area and take off in a large cloud (called a plague), with trailing individuals like a wispy tail behind. Then they land in another spot to picnic for a minute or two. If each of those 250 grackles ate 10 weed seeds at one spot, that means 2,500 weed seeds gobbled up in a minute. (I didn’t count.)

And the starlings. Nobody says anything good about them. But…have you ever listened to their song? Some of it can be very musical with trills and warbles. Like grackles, their feathers are iridescent. During spring, speckles shine like bits of green and blue glitter. In the fall, God turns this glitter into a thousand stars shining from their black coats. Sometimes they congregate in huge swarms of hundreds, maybe thousands. One time we witnessed just such a spectacle in Illinois. Bare winter tree branches became full of starlings, like leaves. Suddenly they decided to leave in a mind-boggling cloud in perfect unified formation (called a murmuration)—circling, swooping, and descending somewhere else.

Leander Keyser (1897) wrote these words:

“Never before had I listened to such divers sounds from a bird’s throat, nor had I even fancied that they were possible…He begins in a low, subdued tone, and seems at first to be quite calm; but gradually he grows excited.

His body quivers and sways from side to side, his neck is craned out, his throat expands and contracts convulsively, and oh! oh! oh!—pardon the exclamations—the hurly-burly that gurgles and ripples and bubbles forth from his windpipe…

It is simply wonderful!”

But still, most people do not have ANY good thing to say about starlings. When was the last time you heard someone mention their virtuous habit of descending on an invasion of Japanese beetles or tent worms, devouring pests by the thousands?

God says there is nothing new under the sun,
Who knows where these ideas may have begun?

This quote was printed in a teacher’s book, The Creative Touch. How true! All of us build on things we have learned from others. Cooking, sewing, wood projects, new inventions, and even good writing all climb up the steps of someone before. Not that we copy their work, though occasionally we do borrow expressions. (Sometimes these expressions become a part of us, and we couldn’t even remember where or when we learned them!) We use the principles from good writers, but create our own “invention.”

I wouldn’t have been able to construct this writing without resource material. But I have also learned that material must pass the “smell test.” (I borrowed that term from Kevin!) Is it authentic? Or does it smell “fishy”?

Consider this example. “Bob personally saw an eagle in Australia, weighing approximately 22 pounds, pick up a 100-pound kangaroo and carry it over a mile!” Does this pass the smell test? It certainly is a reason for research.

Encyclopedias may be authentic because of the extensive research that went into compiling them. However, they fall woefully short of an inspiring story, because they mostly provide only facts.
Book of North American Birds, a Reader’s Digest publication, is excellent. This one provides facts with creativity.

Take notes from a speaker or from ordinary conversation that sparks a story. My cousin heard a sermon about the spider that takes hold with her hands and lives in king’s palaces. From that sermon, a poem emerged later, and even later, it became a beautiful children’s song!

Whenever possible, gather information from your own experiences, and multiple other sources. This is what makes your story your own creation!

STOP, STUDY, and SNIFF. Then begin the creative part by writing what you are learning. I have noticed many times that when I just begin, writing becomes exciting. Isn’t it because one enters into the spirit of creating?

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