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Friday Slide Show: Wooden Birds Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

31 December 2021

Somehow we acquired a set of wood bird ornaments. They are small and, despited what you might expect, weightless little wonders of the imagination.

We recognize two of them: the cardinal and the hummingbird. The other two we feel we could research to come up with a plausible identification but we never have.

Partly that's because we'd like to continue imagining that one of them is a partridge. All four hang on our Christmas tree this time of year, although the hummingbird is on permanent display with a hand-blown glass feeder we have never been tempted to expose to the wind.

So, persisting in our ignorance, we believe we have a partridge in our tree each year.

As Leonardo da Vinci found out the hard way, a wooden bird is pretty useless. Its wings may function (these don't) but it won't fly.

Which reminds us of our aunt's famous proclamation long ago when we complained about the fragility of some beautiful thing in for repair. "Beautiful things are impractical," she said.

You cannot have too much beauty around you and having too little is fatal.

But thinking it over (for years and years as we accumulated more and more evidence she had hit the nail on the head), we pivoted from thinking beautiful things break easily (like fine glassware) to beautiful things aren't useful.

That's no knock on beautiful things.

It's a defining characteristic of them. That they are useless. You can't use them for anything. They aren't tools. They aren't supplies. They aren't provisions.

They stand alone, worthwhile in themselves.

So we have these birds. They don't fly. They don't lay eggs. They don't sing. Useless.

But every year we look forward to putting them on the tree and finding them in the light of the colored tree lights.

You cannot have too much beauty around you and having too little is fatal.

When we watch these home makeover shows proliferating on broadcast TV, we are immensely saddened to see the residents have been living with bare walls. And when we walk into a home and see bare walls, we feel a chill.

Even an adolescent's room is plastered with posters.

Of course, sometimes the walls are decorated the same way a house on the market is staged. With innocuous abstract patterns in frames or, worse, big mirrors.

Without soul, in short.

But when we think of other people's houses we've been in lately, we're reassured to recall family portraits, landscapes, wedding photos and the like. Anything personal will do.

Yes, they are useless. You can't put them in the dishwasher or fire the remote control at them (unless they're a digital frame). But they are beautiful.

Our useless wooden birds are just a reminder to look beyond utility to appreciate the beauty before us.

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