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July 2016, vol 12 no 2

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Judson Evans

Wittgenstein's Birds


If we are asked, what do the words red, blue, black, white mean, we can . . . point to things which have these colors. But our ability to explain the meaning of these words goes no further.
          ~ Wittgenstein, Remarks on Color

It happens again each spring at Blue Hills, going deep into glacier-forged woods − the fallout of birds. I learned from my mother and grandfather to listen for their calls, to overlay names from the bird book: scarlet, indigo, red belly, black cap, red start and make the sound called psshing − lispy phoneme − to lure them down. This time, down where the first oak leaves are opening, after a few futile, unskilled attempts, I get it right, the pitch and slur. All at once they are around me, descending in twos and threes, the warblers, vireos, flycatchers, to lower and lower branches as I blow the blustery syllables. All the rush and readiness leaving small nebulae and aureoles of color and sound . . .

hypnotic whisper . . .
the colors outside
the words


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