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Ovenbird teacher

Updated: Feb 6, 2023


In Aldous Huxley’s Island, there is a mynah bird that sings: "Attention, Attention. Here and now, boys." Here’s a dialogue from Island between a young native islander and Will, a shipwrecked western man, who suffers from a disease called civilization. ...she turned, waved a small brown hand and whistled. “Here and now, boys,” the bird repeated yet once more, then fluttered down from its perch on the dead tree and settled on her shoulder. The child peeled another banana, gave two-thirds of it to Will and offered what remained to the mynah. “Is that your bird?” Will asked. She shook her head. “Mynahs are like the electric light,” she said. “They don’t belong to anybody.” “Why does he say those things?” “Because somebody taught him,” she answered patiently. What an ass! her tone seemed to imply. “But why did they teach him those things? Why ‘Attention’? Why ‘Here and now?’” “Well …” She searched for the right words in which to explain the self-evident to this strange imbecile. “That’s what you always forget, isn’t it? I mean, you forget to pay attention to what’s happening. And that’s the same as not being here and now.” “And the mynahs fly about reminding you—is that it?” She nodded. That, of course, was it. There was a silence. The ovenbird also sings an insistent song. It starts soft but gains volume as it continues: teacher, TEACHER, TEACHER! All too often I am like Will, the strange imbecile that needs reminding. Being in the woods in the spring, listening to this song, this insistent little teacher always brings me back to here and now.

Ovenbird song is a 10" x 10" acrylic painted on a wood panel. It sold in February 2023.




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