The Bird Book: Alma’s Story Revisited
by Patsy Levang

"Her only hope to communicate with the world lay buried in the pages of the bird book."

Sometimes treasures are found in the most unlikely places. Such is the case when Levang is handed a box of items belonging to the deceased, Alma, an extremely shy woman who spent much of her long life within the confines of her bedroom. The author’s introduction relates the story of the illusive Alma and her family, who lived on a farm in Minnesota. Though Alma rarely spoke, her paintings and the sparse accompanying prose describing the beloved birds she watched from her window speaks volumes about the heart and mind of this mysterious woman. Among the ninety-three paintings rendered in watercolor, pencil, and colored pencil are those birds which Alma observed and those she read about in various books. The author enhances each picture with additional information about each bird but leaves Alma’s paintings as she received them.

The author’s desire to thoughtfully bring Alma’s story to the public is evident in the care with which she presents the work the artist left behind. “Alma’s story is going to live through this book, and we will all be better for it,” Levang concludes in the introduction. Alma speaks through each painting, and the prose she wrote concerning them leaves hints as to her feelings about her own life. “I am quiet like the Brown Creeper. I am neutral to the world.” Though Alma’s prose is not abundant, it is profound and, at times, heartbreaking. She writes of her fear of people and her desire to have had children. These moving revelations offer hints to the mindset of this reclusive woman. The story of Alma and her beloved birds captures the imagination and touches the heart with its beauty and simplicity. Alma’s work leaves one contemplating the vastness of what some may perceive a small, unassuming life.

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