The Word Bird

When I first began my writing career my family and I had just moved off our sailboat and into our first Hawaii house, a classic 1940s three-bedroom, one bathroom clapboard structure on a hill in Honolulu’s bedroom community, Kaimuki. We’d been living aboard Discovery, our 33-foot sailboat for nine years and to say that we were crowded was a gross understatement.

Now, we each had a some real privacy. We had our own bedrooms, with small but adequate closets for our clothes, and a big bathroom with tub and shower. Family living included a very big kitchen with plenty of room to sit around the dinner table, and a living room with a glass sunroom offering a view into Diamond Head Crater and out to the horizon off Waikiki. To us, our new house was a McMansion.

My husband and I used one bedroom and our teenage children had the other two. Right away my artistic husband converted the basement garage into a studio where he could paint, but where was I supposed to be alone to write?

Fortunately, I found the perfect place in my son’s bedroom closet. It was bigger than the rest of the closets in the house and had alcoves on each side of the door to hang clothes. I rehung all his clothes on one side and moved a table and old wooden chair into the other. A lightbulb with a pull chain hung down on an electrical wire and there were wooden floors. My husband built shelves for books and papers and I began to plunk out stories on my manual typewriter. It irritated the heck out of my son when I would wake him up so early, typewriter clacking and chair scraping on the closet’s wood floor. I came to think of myself as the classic closet writer.

What got me up at dawn every morning to write before I left for downtown Honolulu and the office where I worked as a secretary eight hours a day? That was easy. Our bedroom was surrounded by plumeria trees with birds in them, and at first light they would sing me awake. A particularly insistent bird, bent on getting me out of bed to start writing, settled right next to the window and his chirp sounded exactly like “word, word, word.” In my still dreamy state, I came to think of him, her, it, as the “Word Bird,” and I wish he was still perched outside the window today, because as most closet writer’s know­–sometimes it’s just hard to get out of bed to ply your craft without a little encouragement.

While I was writing today I came across this song called “Surfin Bird” written by the Trashmen in either 1963 or 1964. That would have been long before we ever got to Honolulu and I remember the tune so I wonder if that’s where I got the idea for Word Bird in the first place.

Video courtesy Fox Broadcasting, Carol Hogan photo


7 thoughts on “The Word Bird

  1. It’s funny that your say that because the term “word” can also imply agreement or basically “I get what your saying.” My friend and I were in a forest one day exploring, and a bird was chirping near us and I said to it “word, bird.” Such a story is short and simple, but it is something that I remember! Your stories are quite amazing, and to know that you lived on a boat for nine years astounds me. I bet your learned a myriad of things while on that boat and I hope to hear more of it soon.

  2. Nice reflection on the “word bird,” Carol. I also liked the “closet writer” phrase. I’ve often wished for a large closet where my desk would fit — it would be better than the very messy corner of my bedroom.

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