Gilt Edged Tanager (Draw a Bird Day)
I Dream of Brigid
In the beginning I was alone, carefully unwinding the wormlike stem of a large plant. It seemed like a cactus to me at first, but gradually it reshaped itself into a huge iridescent flower. I was surprised to suddenly find that instead of tendrils I was in possession of two glittering aqua and golden wings. They opened my arms like bridges in the street of the sky.
Night walks, scattering poems, uncoiled in a spiraling serpent around me. Feathers became flaming scales became feathers again, mercurial rainbows scattering glowing seeds, crossing and recrossing the portal that explored every direction between the darkness and the light.
My blood began to sing, an echo of bells vibrating, calling my name. All the words I had lost or abandoned returned to me, transformed into candled threads sailing like a sea of flames on a river of stars.
I really did have this dream, at least the first part, which led me to look for a bird that fit those wings. The gilt edged tanager came closest. Native to Brazil, its habitat is fragmented, and though not considered endangered, the population is found primarily in protected reserves of moist lowland subtropical forests.
There are close to 400 species of birds in the tanager family. A few species live in the United States, but most of these colorful birds live in Central and south America.
Tanagers are associated with the goddess Brigid, which seems odd since they are not native to Ireland. But many cultures, including the Japanese, consider them to be messengers from the spirit world. They do look magical.
The story of my dream was written for dVerse prosery, where Linda provided a line from ee cummings, in the street of the sky night walks scattering poems, to be included in what we wrote.
I was not really happy with any of my renderings of this bird when I did them, but they are growing on me. In order: colored pencil, gouache, inkpen with watercolor, neocolor. It’s been a long time since I painted with gouache.