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  • Locked in a Victorian bell jar, seven birds perch and stare out in perpetual paralysis: among them an evening grosbeak, a bluebird, a wren. I picked it up at an antique shop years ago much to my children’s horror and my husband’s disbelief. It makes no sense for someone who yammers on and on about leaving the wild to the wild to possess such a thing. They think me bizarre to place it on a table where visitors will see it, where they will see it.

    I am the oddity, they claim, and should be put under glass.

    Go figure.

    When I look at it, I am propelled back to English museums where explorers left their treasures, pinned and stuffed within vast, cluttered cabinets. That year we lived in Cambridge--a year when the world was spilling apart--I prowled as a child in wonderment through the strange collections at the university museum puffed with plunder hauled back from the four corners of the earth: necklaces made from tiny hummingbirds, clothing adorned by bones and feathers, boxes inlaid with butterflies and shells.

    The birds of the bell jar hold secrets. They whisper of imperialism and greed, of human shortsightedness and willful ignorance. They exhort me to be fully aware, to step into the natural world every day in true wonder as though for the first time.
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