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A Charm of Goldfinches


I’m a bit of a folk head when it comes to music and I recently chanced upon a collaboration of some of my favourite artists called “The Lost Words”. Their intention is to bring to the stage the oh-so important message of a book by the same name; here’s the “about” section from their website:

“Once Upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on a stone. The words were those that children used to name the natural world around them: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone! Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow, wren…all of them gone! The words were becoming lost: no longer vivid in children’s voices, no longer alive in their stories.”

The book began as a response to the removal of everyday nature words from a widely used children’s dictionary, but then grew to become a much broader protest at the loss of the natural world around us, as well as a celebration of the creatures and plants with which we share our lives, in all their characterful glory”.


I glanced at Jackie Morris’ artwork across the website and book and got goosebumps…immediately recognising the connection with a loose thread in my year. There was a book on the shelf at the B&B where I stayed with my sister in Malvern at the start of April. It caught my eye because of the beautiful depiction of goldfinches on the cover. Goldfinches are so important to me; feeling symbolic, as they do (their arrivals in my garden are rare but always well timed…) of something important we are on the verge of allowing to slip through our hands as a collective that is doing dire things to our planet and running out of time to make amends. Also, symbolic of what I call Golden Energy, which is hard to summarise but if you want to catch its shirt tails, think yellow brick road and stories of hidden gold beneath our feet; a treasure that has always been there, if long forgotten and oh-so important for our times that we refind it again…and soon. Its a joyful energy and it reminds us who we really are, beyond all the crap. Whenever goldfinches arrive in my garden, they are never in ones or twos but an an entire noisy flash-mob and its always synchronous with something exceptional going on with the energetics of the day. To me, they have become messengers of gold!

“Charm on goldfinch, charm on. Heaven help us when all your gold is gone…” (From Charm on, Goldfinch – The Lost Words: Spell Songs.)


A charm, by the way, is the collective noun for a group of goldfinches…did you know that? Not many people do any more.

For some time, I had been almost desperate to manifest some sort of artwork to convey this goldfinch message and those of all the other birds that “speak” so much to me but inspiration had remained elusive…like I didn’t know where to start, fussing over my medium. Suddenly, there in my peripheral vision over dinner was this glorious book cover looking pretty-much as I had imagined; a book I didn’t even get to lift off the shelf of our host’s collection as there was never a good moment. Then I remembered in the night….must look at book over breakfast…but I got sidetracked as were leaving that day and got home kicking myself; tried to find such book on Amazon from a description of the cover but didn’t get anywhere.

Still, it had lit a torch in me and so I immediately started on my series of bird-themed digital paintings – my king-of-song blackbird, my robin with his divine song (I added the detail of the robin’s breath to convey this, following an experience I had with a robin’s song at Glastonbury – see my post Crystalising and its follow-up The frequency of Birds), my musically-mute but important magpie sat in stately balance and my little wren…always oh so important to me, with her powerful voice, though she is seldom noticed due to being so small, plain and brown; like me, she always has much to say but tends to remain tucked out of sight. I did all this and more bird-themed work in 2019 but, for some reason, I encircled yet could not get started the goldfinch artwork that still fluttered in my head…

So, of course, when I found Jackie Morris’ illustrations for the book “The Lost Words”, there it was (as I knew in my gut would be the case…); the very same book I had seen on the shelf all those months ago, now identified at last through a piece of wonderful serendipity; and, on the cover of the related album “Spell Songs”, my little wren with a tiny curl of song breath from her mouth, just as I had given to my robin. The synchronicities were so undeniably powerful that, within an hour, I had ordered the book and tickets to see “The Lost Words” being performed live next year; and was ready to start work on my Goldfinch piece.

A couple of weeks later, A Charm of Goldfinches was the result and you can see it here; as well as order it as prints and cards.

From this, a new fabric has also been born (detail left), turned into scarves and bags in my Vida shop and I suspect more artworks will arrive on a similar theme as I’m not done yet.

It was a case of, once the golden inspiration began to flow, there was no corking it any more and I sense a whole lot more work leading out of this late beginning on my goldfinches!

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