Chicken Feather Flowers
My Aunt Verna made all the flowers for my wedding, including my bridal bouquet, out of chicken feathers. My future husband’s parents, whom I did not meet until three days before our marriage, were living in Chicago and when they heard of this plan it definitely gave them pause! They knew their eldest son was marrying a farm girl from Oregon, and I can only imagine the visions of chicken feather flowers that might have passed through their minds. My future mother-in-law offered to pay for real flowers herself if money were the problem. When that offer was declined, she said that she would at least buy her own corsage and would purchase it at a floral shop before the wedding reception. I assured her that she would love the chicken feather flowers and eventually she acquiesced, though undoubtedly with some trepidation.
My Aunt Verna, oldest of my mother’s three sisters proclaimed for as long as I can remember, that she was the only one of the four sisters who had no talent. I later realized that to her, the word “talent” meant musical talent—all of her sisters played piano, or sang beautifully, or played a mean accordion. As I watched her develop her own amazing talents in cake decorating (she also made my wedding cake), become a Book of Mormon expert who designed intricate “Book of Mormon Time Lines,” and also learned how to dye, dry and arrange chicken feathers into gorgeous displays, I was constantly impressed by her interesting and unusual talents. She had also developed the wonderful talent of good humor which was severely put to the test as she cared for three of her adult daughters as each in turn died of serious illnesses. I was the recipient of one of the many cartoon books she compiled for family members. She clipped her favorite cartoons out of the newspaper or magazines and then cut out pictures of my face and glued them into the cartoons, providing some hilarious moments as family members viewed them over and over.
No bride was ever happier with her wedding flowers than I was. The white, light pink and dark pink “flowers” were nothing short of spectacular, and I still don’t know how she managed to make rosebuds out of feathers! I even overheard my new mother-in-law exclaiming about their beauty as friends passed through the reception line, saying with obvious admiration: “Jani’s aunt made these flowers out of chicken feathers! Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?” I hope Aunt Verna realized before her passing how she had brightened this world for so many with her talents.
Anatomy of a Talent
Some thirty years ago when I was just beginning a quest to find and share my own talents I read something that truly inspired me. It was written by Vira Judge though I have never been able to find if, or where, it was published. She was speaking of a woman she knew who felt she had no talents:
A woman I know . . .
Liked to hear poetry.
Enjoyed reading it.
Read it aloud to others.
Seemed to develop a style of reading that others enjoyed, and was asked to read it often.
Found herself thinking poetic thoughts.
Used poetic phrases.
Began to write poetry.
Took classes and studied poetry.
Her poetry was enjoyed by others.
She taught a poetry-writing class.
She began to write lyrics for music.
She was asked to sing her lyrics.
She was asked to sing with other groups.
She found a love for and enjoyment in singing.
Through lessons and practice she developed her singing ability and received recognition for it.
She was asked to write poems and songs for special events and tried to print them in an attractive style.
She took lessons in calligraphy and practiced it.
Soon she was asked to hand-letter posters and programs.
She became familiar with a drawing tool and experimented with sketching.
She found she had a knack for sketching and drawing.
She took lessons and practiced, and soon she was really drawing.
Sis. Judge noted that, “This woman who thought she had no talent, developed the ability to write poetry, prose and lyrics, sing, do calligraphy, and draw.”
My Personal Quest
When I decided I wanted to write music, as a 38 year old, I had nothing to recommend me except a love of music, an average ability to play the piano, and a couple of years studying music at BYU.