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dave hopes – month three

May 1, 2010

It turns out my best waiting is done on foot. I get antsy sitting in one spot for too long, and prefer to get up, peek, poke and prod my surroundings. So, not surprisingly, this is the second month where my waiting involves walking.

I am of course referring to that intentional waiting I have committed to at least once a month over 2010. That intentional waiting, and watching, with my Yellow Peace plastic camera at the ready. Ready to snap just the right image for The Art of Waiting project. I have yet to be disappointed.

It is a Thursday morning and I am to host a group at The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse. The raucous hour of 9 AM has been chosen, by others, and so I know I cannot afford to schedule my time in the usual way, showing up at 9:10 after sweating out good intentions to be there 15 minutes early. The speedy car, that temptress who offers me the illusion of “5 minutes more”, has other errands. I am on foot, so I decide to head out even earlier than need be, and when I arrive, to do some serious waiting.

The waiting is serious because it’s brisk on this Thursday morning. The spring sunshine has yet to penetrate the cloud dome, and I need to walk with my hood up to ward off cold-air earaches. The waiting is serious because the coffee shop doesn’t open until 9 AM, and I may arrive a whole half hour early, locked out in the cold with no way to weasel out of my waiting plans. This built in accountability proves unnecessary, because I don’t make it to the coffee shop before my image grabs me in its talons.

I’ve walked to The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse countless times, and I could swear I’ve taken this exact route. Regardless, this cold march morning must have me jolted into a heightened state or alert because, just blocks from my destination, I stumble upon a large house absolutely covered in birds.

It’s not quite like that final, terrifying still scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds, where every surface has become a standing, staring bird. It’s not like that, but only because these birds aren’t alive. They are tin and plastic and who knows what else. And they are everywhere. And they are mostly roosters. And for that reason, every neighbor can thank God that they are not alive. Mornings would be hell next to Rooster Manor.

I survey the entire yard and see more and more birds. I could sit and stare for an hour with birds still left to find. Caught inside a giant “seek and find” picture book, I discover birds peeking out from second story windows. The covered porch houses several birds within. Two tin roosters press up to the window panes and I wonder, if I were to open the door, if I’d be engulfed in a deluge of faux poultry.

It’s at this moment that I think again of myself, there in the wee hours of morning decked out in a dark hoodie, alone. I realize how creepy I must look, stopping and staring, mouth and eyes agape. But surely they are used to this? I take my picture, angling to squeeze as many birds into the frame as possible with a radiant red cardinal in the foreground, right of center. I have what I came for. A gift from the bird house. A reward for my waiting and walking.

I continue on towards coffee and conversation, mulling in my mind the metaphor in my rear view mirror. Anything strange as a house overflowing with birds must, after all, be a metaphor. Birds are often omens or portents or heralds. And spring is in the air.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul

– Emily Dickenson, from Hope Is the Thing with Feathers”

I have told you everything that happened after I left the house on this Thursday morning, but nothing before. I’m in the habit of waking early to write and on this Thursday, I write a short piece on hope, and how it is a theme that has swallowed me whole this year (a theme that waiting has played a part in). My piece, written for, declares this “the year of Hope”, in fact. An audacious claim indeed, needing some sort of validation.

And then I see the birds.

And then I remember the Dickenson poem.

And then I offer a prayer of thanks.

It is long past sunrise yet these roosters, without a sound, have awakened me. I wonder to myself what purpose forged Rooster Manor. Did its owners set out to have the most artificial birds of any yard in this city (and do they)? Or, more likely, did they begin placing birds in the yard, one bird by one, as they caught their eye on vacations and at gift stores and bursting from within wrapped packages from friends who’d caught on to a trend? Was this planned, or did the birds slowly take over? Did they choose this yard to roost? Is this a monument for the owners, for the birds themselves, or, perhaps, for the neighborhood? For passers-by like myself? Do they know something that few seem to understand; that the appearance of silliness often hides great wisdom? That the foolish joy of this yard is what this rough and tumble, all-too-serious inner-city street may need the most. To laugh.

“Hope is the thing with feathers”.

The roosters wait perched within my film.

Hope is waiting in the wings.


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