Who Seeketh Beauty — Myra Stilborn, 1916-2012

March 20, 2012

Years ago, my first singing teacher brought out a piece of music and said, “The lyrics of this song were written by someone named Stilborn. Is she any relation to you?” Yes. My aunt (by marriage, but as close as blood in our hearts).

The song, “Who Seeketh Beauty,” told of someone, who, seeking the beauty of a bird’s song, caught and caged the bird — which then would not sing. Finally, he “opened wide his hands that earth may hear her song.”

The cage has been opened, the bird has flown, she is now singing freely. My dear aunt — wonderful poet, wicked player-with-words, talented tatting-wizard, and giggler extraordinaire — died earlier this evening at the age of 95. I will miss her so much. She was like a second mother to me.

I don’t usually post such personal things on my blog anymore, but I am making an exception for Myra Smith Stilborn. Many of you have been introduced to the writing of her daughter, Beverley Brenna, through my blog. Bev learned about writing literally at her mother’s knee, watching her mother sit in the evenings, notebook on her lap, composing a poem.

I remember my pride in Grade Six, when our class turned to a poem in our readers called “Wild Horses,” and I told the class, “My auntie wrote that.” She taught me how to bake bread and to build birdhouses. She and my uncle (the giggliest people I have ever known) played “Dictionary” with me. When I lived in the same city, and would drop in on a Friday evening (when Bev was out on a date), Auntie Myra would say, “Well, at least one of our daughters is home tonight!” In more recent years, she and I carried on a delightful correspondence, abounding in wordplay. She was a joy in my life.

She shared her joy with others through her love of words and her love of teaching. Her poetry has reached many — google the name “Myra Stilborn” and you will get page after page of hits, all pertaining to her. Go to itunes — there are books available of her poetry and stories. She taught in rural schools before her marriage. In her later years, she spent time with children in schools, tutoring them one-on-one. She entered — and won — poetry competitions. She tatted — and taught others to tat.

Now, with her death (and the deaths of another uncle and aunt in the past two months) my cousins and I are the oldest generation in our family. Those who went before us have taught us well — now it’s our turn to share with others what we have been given.

In 1978, my aunt and her husband, my Dad’s older brother Arthur, published a small book of her poetry and his wildflower photographs. I have always found one poem particularly poignant — I’m sure Auntie Myra wouldn’t mind me sharing it with you.

Wild Flax

Flax flowers opened this morning

and by late afternoon

the petals will be scattered

pale blue upon the ground.

Death makes life precious.

(~~ copyright Myra Stilborn, 1978)

7 People reacted on this

  1. My condolences to you and Bev, and to all your family on the loss of such a wonderful aunt, mother and poet! What a rich life she led, enriching others. I appreciate this lovely tribute to her and perhaps the greatest tribute is that you and Bev are carrying forth this love of words to further generations. How wonderful that you are so close to your cousins, Beth!

    1. Thank you, Joanna. Bev and I will do our best to carry on the rich legacy she has left us. As for my cousins — am I lucky or what? Since I never had brothers or sisters, I am so grateful to have such a close relationship with my cousins.

  2. So sorry to hear about the loss Beth. She was obviously a great inspiration to you and Bev. Writing and the love of words is certainly within your family. My thoughts are with you and Bev, take care.

    1. Thank you, Diane. She indeed set a great example for us. She will be missed — but I have a stack of books on my shelf that will always remind me of her, and a stack of memories in my mind and heart.

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