Ordinary, everyday encounters are easy to dismiss. We take them for granted, or consider them too insignificant to matter.
European Starlings are the peskiest of birds, noisy and gregarious. They’re also referred to as Common Starlings, Sturnus Vulgaris, and have been around for a very long time.
“The common starling was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae in 1758 under its current binomial name. Sturnus and vulgaris are derived from the Latin for “starling” and “common” respectively. The Old English staer, later stare, and the Latin sturnus are both derived from an unknown Indo-European root dating back to the second millennium BC. “Starling” was first recorded in the 11th century, when it referred to the juvenile of the species, but by the 16th century it had already largely supplanted “stare” to refer to birds of all ages. The older name is referenced in William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Stare’s Nest by My Window”. The International Ornithological Congress’ preferred English vernacular name is common starling.”
We see them everywhere around the Lower Mainland — great flocks of them sometimes — but strangely, they rarely appear on our property. This morning, however, a half-dozen caught my attention as they swooped in and settled on the back lawn (probably looking for the Crane Fly larva which are munching down on the roots of algae-ridden grass in a couple areas).
I glanced at them, then away. It took a minute before I looked back with the realization that in nineteen years here, I’ve never noticed them before or taken a picture for my bird photo album.
That’s now remedied, but also has me thinking about what else I take for granted, especially when I’m writing.
My critique group members regularly remind me that I neglect to include the ordinary little details of a setting or of my characters and their activities. In my first drafts I habitually skip over what I already know about them, forgetting that readers aren’t privy to what’s left behind in my head!
The common, ordinary details are what enrich a story’s visibility in the reader’s mind. While description can be overdone, of course, a certain amount is essential. I think I need to learn the tipping point between purple prose and none!
How important is description to you in what you read…and in what you write?
P.S. Have you ever seen a ‘Murmuration’ of starlings?
Check out this brief but fascinating video.
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