life list

How to Build an Owl by Kathleen Lynch (Life List)

print “Owl No. 1” by Lisa Congdon, available here

Remember how I was going to memorize 10 inspiring works of poetry for my Life List?

1. Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
2. i carry your heart by e.e. cummings

I never did memorize Where the Sidewalk Ends – my heart ended up not being in it, even though it was one of my favorites as a kid. I memorized this one, though, and counting it for number 3. It’s not specifically an “inspirational poem”, but the fact that this exists, that it is both perfectly quirky and perfectly beautiful, moves me.

Poem via Swiss Miss

How to Build an Owl

1. Decide you must.

2. Develop deep respect
for feather, bone, claw.

3. Place your trembling thumb
where the heart will be:
for one hundred hours watch
so you will know
where to put the first feather.

4. Stay awake forever.
When the bird takes shape
gently pry open its beak
and whisper into it: mouse.

5. Let it go.


  1. jandy

    3 May 2012 at 7:24 pm

    I saw your comment on a cup of jo about living alone, and had to come straight over and tell you that you are awesome xx

  2. Jaime

    25 May 2012 at 11:20 pm

    So simple, yet laced with unspeakable magic. I actually have the print pictured above hanging in my bedroom, and I WILL actually be building an owl to wear as part of my wedding ceremony production. I didn’t know where to start, but now I do. Thank you.

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