Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.



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hawks nest for web

The New River, one of the five oldest rivers in the world, is an hour away. If I count the hike to get to the overlook at Hawks Nest State Park, make it two hours.

Clear Fork for web

There are rivers like this everywhere.  This one is in Raleigh County, an hour and a half from my front door.

greenbank for web

ET, phone home. Green Bank, West Virginia is home to the largest fully-steerable radio telescope in the world in the heart of Pocahontas County.  If you wanted to pick one place to go in West Virginia, Pocahontas County would be a good choice.

alban fresco for web

No, it’s not New York.  Just another small town Main Street in St. Albans. When I was a kid, we watched Frankie Avalon and Anette Funicello in Beach Blanket Bingo.  For a while it was a Jehova’s Witness Kingdom Hall.  Now the Alban is a theater again featuring plays and concerts.

So ends the tour of picturesque West Virginia.  Tomorrow we go to Logan.

all images copyright joseph e bird

almost heaven

tree for web

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.

Take Me Home, Country Roads, the signature hit of John Denver, was adopted by my home state, in part because of the first line of the song, Almost Heaven, West Virginia, but also because the spirit of the song is about coming home to the country roads we all love so much.  West Virginians are scattered all over the world, but the mountains seem to have an irresistible pull that tells us we should have been home yesterday.

But let’s talk about the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River.  In truth, both of those geographic features, even though they cross the border into West Virginia, are better known as Virginia landmarks. But let’s call it the songwriter’s artistic license.

It’s easy to understand how the Blue Ridge Mountains could inspire Denver and his co-songwriters.  It’s a relatively short drive from my home to the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most beautifully scenic highways in America.

Overlooks are everywhere.  It’s an incredible sight to see the mountains fade into the horizon miles and miles away.  Picturesque trees are works of art waiting to be painted. Rustic barns, quaint cottages, and chairs on the hillside make you want to slow down and take it all in.  And at the end of every day is the perfect sunset.

blueridge sunset

Here’s another truth.

Though the Blue Ridge Mountains are part of Virginia, there are places just as spectacular all over West Virginia.  So much so, that we tend to take them for granted. The sunset picture above could have been taken in my back yard. A mountain top view is minutes away.  Babbling brooks and rivers winding through the forest are within an easy bike ride.  It’s the stuff that inspires artists and poets.

Almost heaven, West Virginia.



sunset darkened 11-2-15 for web

i could write

or watch a ballgame

or work on a project

but it’s October

and every evening

my backyard is lit

in brilliant yellows

and reds

and colors that defy description

another sunset

and another tomorrow

except that’s not true


take it in

because it’s a gift

and it’s ephemeral

copyright 2016, joseph e bird

Sunday Morning



copyright 2016, joseph e bird



the road glistens from last night’s rain
trees still dripping
the deck boards soft and brown

she looks out across the fields
let’s go to town
might as well, he says
it’s too wet to plow
steady patters in the gutter
birds talk across the yards
leaves lie resting, brown and shiny

he slides the eggs on the plate
today we should rest
she sips her tea and nods
the work can wait
the rain light and steady
as the pan in the corner catches
the occasional drop through the roof

he nibbles on flatbread and drinks warm water
a crow stands at the open door
he tosses a crumb
the bird plucks it from the ground
and flies away

copyright 2016, joseph e bird

why – a poem for the artists

Hiker for web

do you do
what you do?


You see the fall leaves
a season has passed
you pen the good words
and hope it will last.

A memory is shared
it once was so clear
your poetry speaks
to those who will hear.


You comprehend shadows
you understand light
you capture the feelings
of what’s lost in our sight.

Your pictures are poignant
of people unknown
they look faraway
they look so alone.


You see a petal
with colors of fire
you paint what you feel
it sings like a choir.

Your brush touches paper
like a gentle caress
the colors transform
become a child’s dress.


You hear the heart cry
of love gone away
you make it a song
to ease your dismay.

Or light fills your life
and burns off the haze
you sing of the beauty
your song is a praise.


do you do
what you do?

It’s not for the fame,
or to hear accolades
such things are so fleeting
they’re just a charade.

You do it for you
and maybe to share
to give what we need
and to show that you care.

copyright 2016, joseph e bird

A.S. Morgan

sid-on-porch-for-webAlbert Sidney Morgan, ca 1968.

Sid Morgan was one of the most colorful personalities in my family, and the old home place, though it has been gone for more than 40 years, is still seared in my memory. This photo, photographer unknown, captures so much.

Most of the photos of Sid and his museum are in black and white. This one was probably taken just when color photography was becoming the dominant medium and it’s easy to imagine this image in black and white. In fact, with Photoshop I could strip the color down to a grey monotone and create a more retro photo that seems to be popular these days.  But then I’d lose the red shirt and scarf, which I think brings the photo to life.

Check out all the details, starting with Sid himself. There’s almost a smile, at the very least, a glint in the eyes. Self confident, and though past his prime, still very much his own man.

The house, too, is past its prime. The paint long-since faded. Only a little red remains on the porch post. The floor boards have decayed. Dry and dusty. You can imagine standing near the edge and gently nudging the boards downward with your foot and controlling their spring back into place.

The window to the left seems so fragile, as if it could be broken by a stiff breeze. The curtains may be brand new, but the context of the picture tells you they are not.

So many rockers to choose from, perfect for a quiet Sunday afternoon, as Sid tells tales of his trips down the Mississippi, and the Hennis trucks whine down Route 35 in front of the site of the John Amos power plant.

To the right is the front door. My grandmother, Opal Clatworthy, watches from behind the screen, almost hidden. What is she thinking?

What is Sid thinking?

Where is everybody else?

This is how stories start.




Lantz LUmber 1 for web

Time, it swallows everything.

From the mighty to the meager thing.

It’s as dark as it is comforting,

to play along.

— from the song What’s Been Going On, by Amos Lee

Lantz Lumber 2 for web

Signal for web

photographs by joseph e bird, copyright 2016


Ever notice my profile pic? Looks like I could break out in song on a moment’s notice, right? When I was still on Facebook, I had the same photo on my Facebook page. One day an old friend, a very accomplished musician, saw my picture, stopped by my office and invited me to join him and his friends for their jam sessions. Sounds cool. But just because I’m holding a guitar doesn’t mean I’m good enough to join in with real musicians.

I declined.

There’s a lesson in that little story.

There are lessons in all good stories, even stories that are completely made up. Fiction, in other words. In fiction, we meet people, get to know them, and learn from their mistakes. We feel their pain, rejoice in their victories. Kind of like life.

I’ve heard people say they only read stories that are real. They mean history, biographies, and reference and self-improvement books. All good and beneficial. But by skipping fiction altogether, they’re missing nourishment for the heart and soul.

Same with art. And music. And dance. And poetry. And other forms that engage the right side of the brain.

Relying on feelings too much can get is trouble. But we risk missing out on so much if we live only in logic and reason.

“We dance for laughter,
we dance for tears,
we dance for madness,
we dance for fears,
we dance for hopes,
we dance for screams,
we are the dancers,
we create the dreams.”  — attributed to Albert Einstein

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