the spirits of the places
I move through
appear as birds–
residents of sidewalks,
street trees, roofs, parks–
the spirits of the places
stopping me, waiting for me
to acknowledge them as
I move through
thinking of someone I’ve lost–
as if they had suddenly
appeared as a bird
It would be very unusual to spot a tiger shrike in New York City, as they reside in wooded habitats in eastern Asia, and are quite shy. But if you did, that would be the male with the mask. The female has more more subtle coloring, which makes the eye appear larger.
Like all shrikes, they used their sharp hooked beaks to impale their prey–insects, small birds, lizards, rodents. They are not considered threatened, although populations are declining.
My cascade is a (belated) response to Brendan’s discussion at earthweal about spirits of place. I’ve felt spirits in certain of my residences, although I haven’t stayed in many places long enough to establish a relationship. But everywhere I go in the city I find birds.
Birds are considered in many cultures to be a bridge between the human and spirit worlds. I know I’m not the only person who has wondered if someone I’m missing sometimes visits me in the form of a bird.
sometimes in dreams I
remember a time when my spirit was
lifted by stars, silent
as a secret, and then
suddenly moonbound dark and
ancient and reawakened—like the
hushed feathered womb of owl
wings singing in a windswept quaver
Another orange and black bird for the Year of the Tiger. The striped owl is found in Central and South America, inhabiting savannas and semi-open grasslands.
My poem is another Golden Shovel, with lines extracted from Arthur Sze’s wonderful poem “The Owl”. I’ve used it before as inspiration, and probably will again.
And I’m sure owls will show up, as they have before, on Draw A Bird Day as well.
In your native landscape
they call you taka chor—
always wanting more, more–
Filling trees with loud calls,
to be both heard and seen–
crow to the core
The rufous treepie, a long-tailed bird native to India and southeast Asia, is known locally as taka chor, or “coin stealer”. Like all corvids, it loves shiny objects, and has no misgivings about taking anything that catches its eye.
Also, like all crows, it will eat pretty much anything, and is intelligent, adaptable, and opportunistic.
Primarily arboreal, it feeds mostly among the forest cover, and will often hunt with other bird species to flush out more insects from the trees. As its woodland habitat decreases, however, it has learned to live in urban parks and yards, and has no problem eating discarded human food or road kill, if that’s what’s available.
I chose the rufous treepie while looking for orange and black birds in honor of the Year of the Tiger. That may be my bird theme for the year–there are many to choose from.
The poem is an abhanga for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. Appropriately, an Indian poetic form.
The top bird was done with brush and ink, the middle one is neocolors, and the bottom one is colored pencil with ink outlines–I found a feather quill pen I bought years ago in a box. It’s a bit tricky to use, and I’m out of practice. But I enjoyed working with it again.
the wheel turns–
we follow our tides
ebbing and flowing
Instead of a grid or circle collage this month, I decided to use this embroidery that I just finished. I signed up for a series of video embroidery instruction courses–every two weeks there’s a new one, with new ideas and techniques to learn. That was 2 months ago, and I’ve only just finished the first one…
This was a course on Indian embroidery motifs and techniques given by Saima Kaur. We were to choose a few bright colors and a bright background fabric, with perhaps the addition of black and/or white. My satin stitch has always been sloppy and I thought this would give me plenty of practice for improvement. I can’t say it improved much, though, and I also now know for sure that I don’t enjoy doing satin stitch that much. I did like the long and short stitches I used on the shells, and will use that again.
I love traditional art and the motifs of Indian folk art are rich and full of symbolism. This design is a distilled variation of common figures and themes seen both in Indian art and in traditional and religious art all over the world.
a loud mouthed gathering
of white crested coral–
A Badger’s hexastitch for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday and Draw a Bird Day.
Galah cockatoos are native to Australia, where they live in large flocks on open grasslands feeding on seeds, berries and insects. But they also can be seen in urban settings, where their raucous calls and adaptations to human habitation are often considered nuisances. The word galah means fool or clown in the Aboriginal language of Yuwaalaraay and is used as such as a derogatory term in Australia (or so the internet tells me…any Australians reading this can confirm or deny)
Cockatoos are highly social and intelligent, and are bred and sold as pets. But these very traits make them not only very high maintenance, but possibly destructive and dangerous. I’ve written about this before–these animals should not be confined and separated from the flocks that are their natural social groups.
hands threading needles
delicate like wings
flexible strong like branches
like rivers singing
ancient ancestral patterns
releasing through re
peating remembering re
vealing what was always there
For Colleen’s #TankaTuesday prompt, a Chōka. Jules provided the theme of discovery.
I come from a family where all the women were textile artists of some sort–sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, embroidery–my grandmother even worked as a hat maker before she was married. My mother started me embroidering at a young age, and we did the bird kits, above, together. She loved the color red and cardinals, so that was hers; I stitched the blue bird. And I discovered how much I loved embroidery.
My mother never had the confidence to do her own designs, but always encouraged me in my own explorations. I think of her, and all the women in my family, every time I pick up a needle.
Atlantic Puffins are seabirds that breed in large colonies on cliffs or offshore islands along the North Atlantic coast of both Europe and America. When not breeding, they spend most of their time on the ocean.
Each time I look for information about the birds I draw, I find declining numbers, even if they are not yet endangered. Habitat destruction. Declining food sources. Overhunting.
Puffins are no exception. How to reverse these trends?
Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end. No magic formula to suddenly turn things around.
It’s a process. No moment exists when the fragility and interdependence of ecosystems reaches perfect balance, when humans can relax and ignore the repercussions of our behavior. We must remain always aware, always learning, always willing to make necessary changes to insure continuity. To keep the circle connected and alive.
I challenged myself to see if I could take Merril’s quote from Jo Harjo and do a prosery for dVerse. It actually fit the theme of Draw a Bird Day quite well.
“Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.”
Here’s some information about Atlantic Puffins:
–Their wings become flippers underwater. They are excellent divers and can reach depths of 200 feet.
–The hinges on their beak allow them to carry several fish at once.
–They have been observed using sticks as tools.
–Their nicknames are sea parrot or clown of the sea. Puffin chicks are called pufflings.
–Puffin colonies are referred to as a burrow, a circus, or an improbability.
–Puffins mate for life and often return to the same nest or burrow. They lay a single egg which both parents brood for several months.
–They spend the winter on the open ocean, rarely returning to land.
spread your wings
carry the night in
The eagle owl is both one of the largest and longest-lived owls. With wing spans up to 6 feet, it has no natural predators, although it is sometimes mobbed by crows. The leading causes of death– electrocution, hunting, and poisoning–are man-made.
Nesting on cliffs or rocky outcrops, it has a wide distribution throughout Europe and Asia. I love its binomial name–Bubo Bubo.
Eagle owls are solitary, territorial, and nocturnal. They can more often be heard, having a large number of vocalizations, than seen.
For Colleen’s #TankaTuesday, poet’s choice.
your flashy loud mimicry
a family trait
Continuing my explorations of the Corvid family, I decided to collage and draw a green jay this month. Residents of the Texas borderlands, they are also found in Central and South America. Like all corvids, they are intelligent, adaptable, brash, and have a large variety of vocalizations, including imitating the calls of hawks to drive away food competitors. They also use sticks as tools to pry bark up to get to the insects underneath.
Green jays live and forage communally, in family groups. The populations are currently stable, although habitat destruction is a concern, particularly in Mexico, and around the proposed border wall to be built through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.