Here is Splendor

Aesthetic aspirations of an avian artist.

closeup photo of purple gemstones

Deep in the forest, on the floor where the art risks trampling by a large mammal or easy pillage by interested parties, the bowerbird assembles his offering. His shrine is an elaborate risk of time, energy, and attention, a seemingly superfluous display of beauty.  

Here, a passageway built of two rows of arched sticks bending into one another. Here a wide arc of blue feathers, blue bottlecaps, blue plastic knives, marbles, a costume ring. At the center, a wide-eyed doll, arms splayed and open-mouthed.

The offer comes with no promises beyond the pure beauty he makes visible by this daily art. He makes no pretense of protection, procures no food for the young. You will not catch him visiting the babies in a nest. The audience observes, moves closer, weighing the draw of what beguiles against the risk of being fooled. 

This is his hope: to put forth something so dazzling in its excess of devotion that the ideal witness will find it and be moved, close enough to offer some hope of continuance.


Inspired by reading about the beautiful structures built by  bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea (by the males of various species, in the interest of courtship), which brought to mind Robinson Jeffers’ observance of “divinely superfluous beauty.” 

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

4 thoughts on “Here is Splendor”

  1. That’s awesome. Never heard of them but appreciated the link to bowerbirds Stacey! Thanks. So awesome.

    1. Glad to know you appreciated knowing about these guys, too, Bill! I can’t believe I have gone until this morning not knowing they existed.

      1. Well that was a lovely tribute. At first I thought it was some clever stage show at Las Vegas but then was glad to discover naw, it’s just nature. Better yet, infinitely so!

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