Sheltered in place with autoimmune disorder and socially distant from her boyfriend for almost two months, La Quinta–based freelance writer Crystal Harrell turned to her craft, launching a spoken word project to express her feelings and hope.

“Like many others during this time, social distancing has affected me emotionally and sometimes stifles my motivation,” she says, “but I still want to create something from what I am feeling. I hear life persisting all around me. Nature prevails on the same earth we walk, and if the birds are still finding a reason to sing, that brings me a bit of hope.”

With the spoken word project, Harrell — a Coachella Valley native who has written for Coachella magazine, CV Weekly, The Solstice of College of the Desert, and CSU San Bernardino’s Pacific Review — wants to aspire others during these uncertain times.

Harrell’s work has earned a $500 grant from the California Desert Arts Council (CDAC) to Keep Art Alive. CDAC and affiliate La Quinta Arts Foundation established a $50,000 Keep Art Alive fund to award grants to Coachella Valley artists and arts organizations who create thoughtful, inspiring, and relevant works responding to the crisis.f

Listen to Crystal Harrell recite The Birds, and follow along with the text below.


The Birds by Crystal Harrell

There are these birds I hear chirping outside my window.

It comes early in the morning just when I think the world hasn’t even had enough time to sleep yet.
It comes in the afternoon when darkness starts to bleed out into the sky.
And it comes at night when I sit and listen, alone with my thoughts, sealed and vaulted in a room I know has grown just as tired of me as I have of it.

The chirping continues in the days to follow,
days that I do not dare count because I know that I will run out of fingers that once laid resting in your hand. 
I do not dare count because I will draw a blank in my memory and on the empty space of a calendar I’ve neglected to dust.
I do not dare count because I fear there will be no end to what I have started.

The birds sing on, some louder than others, with a song that slices through the spring like a butter knife on strawberry cake. 
They hold me captive with their sound but they themselves are not prisoner.
The business on broken ground below does not concern them. 
They fly, they feed, and they forget.

How can I learn to carry myself gently with a breeze that I can’t feel behind closed doors?
Who can I bring music to when all that lingers is silence and the ticking of a clock?
When can I leave too?

Nature has found its place,
And we hear its call through our cages.