I didn't want to harm the bird at all. I wanted to see it up close and admire it's majestically commonplace beauty. So I used a box trap. You know-- the kind that's made from a box propped up by a stick with a pile of bait underneath. You tie a string to the stick and cleverly hide yourself at a distance (in my case, usually about 5 feet) from the trap. When your prey inevitably comes to eat your irresistible bait, you yank the string and trap it.
I never got a bird that way.
However, I would never concede that my attempt was unsuccessful. I had built my trap, I'd waited patiently, and sometimes birds just aren't hungry. More importantly, I knew (as all boys do) that birds can tell if you care too much about catching them. If they feel that you are too interested, or excitable, or dramatic, they shy away and will be 10 times harder to catch next time. Today, I don't really think birds have quite that much perception, but I'm positive that songs do.When people ask me how I write a song, it's always an awkward question to answer. I never really feel like I set out to create the song I ultimately end up with. In some ways, I'm discovering the song as much as the listener is--I just get an advanced copy. For me, songwriting truly feels like I am luring my songs out into the open to catch them and show their beauty to the world--just like the birds I diligently stalked as a kid. If the songs suspect that I'm too intent on catching them, they'll flit away into the shadows of my mind. Songs are skittish creatures.
Nowadays, I've traded my cardboard for mahogany. The trap is baited with a moment of quiet reflection. I still use string--but now there are six of them. And you can still find me on the other end; waiting to pull them at just the right moment in my unrelenting (though often clumsy) endeavor to capture beauty.