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Wing & Prayer Installation
Audio: Laurie Allmann
Visual: Sonja Peterson

Laurie Allmann’s narrative poem Wings and a Prayer traces the journey of a single wild migrant—a female golden-winged warbler— from the St. Croix Valley to Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula and back again. In Altered Passages, the poem takes multiple forms: it is expressed in print (in English and Spanish), with underlying themes of pattern and fragmentation explored in 3-dimensional acrylic, designed in collaboration with (and created by) artist Sonja Peterson.

Allmann’s aesthetic is steeped in science, embracing nitty-gritty detail while at the same time celebrating the inestimable mysteries of the natural world.
“…The sun, it speaks to her
in spring with longer days, with light
that whispers through the paper-thin
skin of her skull; her answer in the
cavalcade of hormones calibrated
by her twists of DNA, an urgency
to lay down stores of fat, a ramping
restlessness, until one night
a certain wind
compels her finally to go,
her wings among the multitudes
to flicker on the moon…”

Wings and a Prayer was written in honor of a 2013 Sister Park agreement that created a partnership between 15 National Parks and Monuments in the Upper Midwest,* and 7 National Parks, Wetlands, Refuges and Reserves on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, featured in the poem, is part of this partnership. A copy of Wings and Prayer was presented (in Spanish translation) by Chris Stein, then superintendent of the Riverway, as a gift to the signatories in Costa Rica on occasion of the agreement signing.

Neo-tropical migrant songbirds rely not only on their northern breeding grounds and southern wintering grounds, but also on critical stop-over habitat along the way for resting and refueling on their long, twice-yearly journeys. With exhibition of Wings and a Prayer as part of Altered Passages, viewers are invited to consider the story of these remarkable birds and the vulnerability of their “continuum of home.”

* This agreement also included and the Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network. Find more information here: