I’ve spent most of my time since Thanksgiving trying to get my semester wrapped up, which means I’ve spent quite a bit more time looking at birds in the works of James Joyce than birds in real life.

Many people don’t realize that Joyce was very into birds, using them as a symbol of artistic and spiritual inspiration throughout his quasi-autobiographical works (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses.) He even makes his alter-ego Stephen Daedalus a proto-birder:

“What birds were they? He stood on the steps of the library to look at them, leaning wearily on his ashplant. They flew round and round the jutting shoulder of a house in Molesworth Street. The air of the late March evening made clear their flight, their dark quivering bodies flying clearly against the sky as against a limp-hung cloth of smoky tenuous blue…”

It turns out these birds are Barn Swallows. Inspirational indeed.

Meanwhile, trapped here in my cruddy apartment in Missoula, I’ve finally managed to lure some birds of my own to my feeder. I’ve got Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Song Sparrows, and perhaps most exciting a wide range of Dark-eyed Junco morphs: Slate-colored, Oregon, and Pink-sided. None of them has brought me much artistic inspiration for this paper yet, but here’s hoping.

Just write the paper, Carrie.

Written by Carrie
Carrie Laben, after years of writing and birding in New York, moved to Montana to pursue her two great passions more effectively. She recently graduated with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Montana in Missoula. When she is not cranking out essays and speculative fiction stories, or wandering around on mountains failing to see the birds she is looking for, she is likely to be drinking one of the many fine local microbrews or attending a potluck with something from the local farmer’s market in hand. On Mondays from 3 to 3:30 Mountain Time you can find her answering questions about birds on live chat at DaysAtDunrovin.com.