A Strange Bird

This post is dedicated to my Mother, Coby Sikkema. Thanks mom!

My parents recently returned from a trip to Europe. Dad brought back photos of cathedrals and monuments, along with stories of his Reformation heroes. Mom brought back pictures of alpine wildflowers, and souvenirs of her childhood home near Dalfsen.

Mom and Dad explore alpine meadows. July 2016
Mom and Dad explore alpine meadows. July 2016

Mom’s parents (my grandparents) recently dismantled their centuries-old farmhouse, along with it’s sagging timbers. The threat to safety it presented has now given way to a more modern structure. My grandparents continue to live on the farm, after 60 years of marriage. They had a great time celebrating.

The old farmhouse (back in 2007), what’s left of it, and the modern structure that replaced it.

Oceans aren’t supposed to matter in 2016. Hop on a plane, right? It would have been great to join them for the festivities. I miss these amazing people. And the smell and wholesomeness of the lowlands. Things have thoroughly moved on. The demolition has come and gone. The work of memorializing has commenced. I’m going to miss that old place.

Flashback to 2007

With my Grandparents and Aunt Jenneke at the old farm in 2007
With my Grandparents and Aunt Jenneke at the old farm in 2007

Beyond a few salvaged leftovers of the old farmhouse, mom also brought home something else. Something that made all these decades and the festivities around them much more tangible to me: a hand-tooled wooden bird that she created as a child around 40 years ago. The creature and its carver embody a humble and intensely local kind of permanence.

They stir my imagination.

Strange Bird
Strange Bird, carved by my mother, circa 1976

It is perhaps strange to dub this bird strange. (Mom, can you think of a better name/title?) But it is a strange bird to me. I find it poignant how this bird has been sitting in storage for so long. And striking, too, that it should be revived at a moment of demolition. Beyond its own elegant form, the bird has brought to light the very fact that my mother is a sculptor. While I always knew (from her immaculate gardens) that she had a creative soul, it comes as an utter delight to find that her keen sense of design and form also have a sculptural edge. What other talents and capacities may yet lie latent in those familiar people you (think you) know?

The proportions of this bird, the very minimal adjustment she made to bring it to life, and the energy it still carries after all these years are all surprising. They attest to skill and care. I am moved and surprised to encounter this object of beauty made by the hands of my mother. Like her, it has weathered somewhat over the years. Also like her, it stands with strength and grace. She reminds me that opa still makes oma laugh. And that they continue to care for each other. For the decades of this bird, I am grateful. For the decades of my mother and father I am grateful. For the decades of my grandparents I am grateful. And for the intergenerational gifts of the decades themselves, I have only this meandering realization:

What remains, beyond bricks-and-mortar, and wood-and-chisel, is love in scarcity and abundance.

Strange Bird

2 thoughts on “A Strange Bird”

  1. Harold your creative skill is just amazing- your stories, descriptions, and poetic comments really moved me. I’m glad technology allows you to share all this with so many people! Lori

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