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More Met and Central Park (Thursday Doors)

suddenly
visible, exposed
by fallen
leaves—branches
opening new horizons,
hidden reflections

The glass doors-and-windows at the back of the Met showed me something last week that I knew was there but did not expect to see reflected back at me. I turned around and there it was–the Obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle.

This is an actual Egyptian Obelisk from the Temple of the Sun. It was gifted to the United States by Egypt in commemoration of the opening of the Suez Canal in the late 1800s. Why and how it ended up in Central Park behind the museum requires further investigation. I also need to get closer on another visit for more detailed photos.

The fallen leaves make for beautiful patterns, both in the tree shapes and their reflections.

It was a very foggy day. In the photo below, taken on my way to the Museum, you can’t even see that there are buildings beyond the trees.

On the way back, several hours later, the fog had lifted somewhat–bottoms of buildings were now visible–but I was also surprised to see hundreds of geese spread across the empty ball fields. I saw more tufted titmice too.

I have enough photos from the Met now for quite a few more Thursday Door posts. So they will keep showing up every once in awhile. And yes, I did take a photo of the completely decorated tree.

You can always find more doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.

Curlew (Draw a Bird Day)

the small is mirrored
in the large, and what appears,
surprises—the same,

but filtered by air,
particles of refracted
light, pixelated

into fragments, in
to a gridlike layer of
illusion—the eyes

are fooled at first, but
the voice, immediately
recognizable,

permeates, revealing the
inside of the Other Side

I recently finished Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece”, a book in which the curlew has a large role. “It’s flesh, everyone knows, is pure and clean because this bird is known to eat nothing but air and is also known to be a bird that comes as a gift from God to befriend the pilgrims and it exists, the story goes, to weld the heaven to the earth.”

“The stories say it is a bird that likes books and even brings them in its beak to saints if the saints have dropped their holy books in water and they need retrieving or if the saints are short of something to say to people then this bird will be the messenger that brings them books full of things God would like them to say.”

The curlew is strongly associated with the Seven Whistlers, birdlike night creatures whose eerie call is said to bring on death and disaster. But it is also seen in a more positive light as an intimate part of its landscape–moors, bogs, and river valleys, the windswept winter coastline.

Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing curlews,
Hearing the horizons endure.

–Ted Hughes

Five of the eight species of curlews are endangered, with two–the Eskimo Curlew, and the Slender-Billed Curlew–most likely already extinct. A migratory bird, they are found throughout the world. Their vocalizations are filled with complex harmonics and pitch variations.

Through throats where many rivers meet, the curlews cry,
Under the conceiving moon, on the high chalk hill

–Dylan Thomas

Sometimes my research on the bird I choose to draw yields little information, but the curlew is so well-represented in poetry, music, nature writing, and folklore, that I could not begin to touch on even a small piece of it in one post.

If you want to find out more, here are a few good places to start:

https://www.curlewsoundsproject.org/curlewsinculture

Tufted Titmouse (Draw a Bird Day)

not a sparrow, this
small bird—crested forager,
grey dusted with red

When I walk through Central Park I always see lots of sparrows on the ground, along with starlings, pigeons, grackles, robins in spring and summer, and the occasional blue jay, cardinal, or mockingbird. But the small birds always seem to be sparrows. Last week a flash of red caused me to look closer–a tufted titmouse! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one, although I often hear them.

The tufted titmouse, a relative of the chickadee, is a common species in the eastern United States, although their range has been steadily moving northward, due to both rising temperatures and the presence of bird feeders. They do not migrate, so bird feeders have allowed them to live in colder climates. They prefer evergreen-deciduous woodlands with a dense canopy and many tree species.

In the summer they eat insects primarily, adding seeds, nuts, and berries to their winter diet. Holding the seeds with their feet, they open them with their beaks. They often cache food in bark as well.

The tufted titmouse does not excavate their own nesting cavities, looking instead for natural holes, or abandoned nest holes. They will also use nest boxes or pipes. They line their nests with hair, and have been observed plucking hairs from many kinds of living animals, including dogs. That is something I would like to see!

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.

Blue Winged Goose (draw a bird day)

wings open
to reveal blue sky
mirrored lake

The blue winged goose, native to Ethiopia, looks greyish brown when its wings are folded, but in flight the reason for its name becomes evident. They live in wetlands with adjacent grasslands and are largely herbivorous, serving an important role in the ecosystem by keeping aquatic plants in check. They are considered endangered, due to loss of habitat and poaching for Chinese consumers, although no one is sure of their exact population numbers.

I could find out little else about them. Every piece written about them claimed this is because they are largely nocturnal, but I found plenty of photos of them online, obviously taken during the day. Their coloring is lovely. Perhaps they just haven’t been well-studied because they have a limited range.

I’ve written my poem for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday where the first Tuesday of the month we include color in our verse.

Blue Tailed Bee Eater (draw a bird day)

bridge of wings
joyful rainbow dance
skysinging
feathered light
into fields of energy
embodied spirit

Bee eaters are, not surprisingly, often called rainbow birds. The blue tailed bee eater is a resident of South and Southeast Asia, preferring open habitats near water. Like swallows, they eat insects on the wing, especially bees, wasps, hornets, and dragonflies. During breeding season they also eat shells and sand for calcium.

Bee eaters live in extended families of up to four generations in complex social systems of 100-200 birds. Known for their cooperative behavior, they build their nests in tunnels in sand banks, alternating between being breeders and helpers from season to season. This ensures that more chicks survive to adulthood.

Once again I’ve used Colleen’s #TankaTuesday #Taste the Rainbow prompt to write a shadorma about this beautiful and colorful bird.

Swallows (Draw a Bird Day)

one by one
you join the wire—sit
twittering,
gabbing—rest
until a sudden pull forms
a merging with air

ruly dance
of animation–
swooping up
to slip down
in unceasing waves, scattered
between rhythmic tides

you spend your
life aloft, brushing
the berm of
watery
landscapes–embodied spirits,
wandering and free

Our beach bird this year was the swallow–bank swallows, which nest in banks and sandy cliffs, and purple martins, which use cavities created by other animals or in buildings, or increasingly, nesting boxes provided by humans. Native Americans were the first to hang gourds to attract these birds.

They would gather in the mornings on the wires, chattering away, and then suddenly take to the air, feeding on insects and gathering moisture, until they returned to the wire to begin the process again. They also chirped on the wing, providing a constant background of bird noise.

Bank swallows, especially, are extremely social birds, and are seldom seen alone.

There are over 90 species of swallows, and they are found all over the world. In many places they are harbingers of spring.

They frequently reside near water, hunting insects on the wing, and migrating to follow insect populations. American swallows breed in North America and winter in the South American summer.

The feet of swallows are adapted for perching and they are seldom seen on the ground. Some species are endangered due to habitat loss.

My shadorma chain uses some of the Oracle 2 words generated by Jane this week.

Venezuelan Troupial (draw a bird day)

loud and clear
whistles penetrate far–
inside a dry tropical forest,

a bird sings perched upon a cactus–
under a clear sky, sun relentless–

orange, black, wings flash white when aerial–
kin to the oriole–
troupial

The Venezuelan Troupial is the national bird of Venezuela. Besides that country, it is found in Columbia and on some Caribbean islands. A relative to the oriole, its feathers stick out unevenly, often making it look ruffled. The troupial like to perch on high visible places to sing. They eat insects, fruit, and small birds and eggs.

Native to coastal desert scrub and thorn forests, they prefer arid lands, although they have proven quite adaptable to other ecosystems. Who knew there were cactii in Venezuela? Above is a photo from Mochima National Park.

The Venezuelan Troupial is a nest pirate, often poaching nests and driving off the original residents when they can’t find a suitable abandoned one to adapt to their own needs. They are not considered endangered, though some of their habitats are, and they are also captured to be sold as cage birds.

I had a lot of trouble focusing to work this week, and was not wholly satisfied with any of my drawings, but I do think the cactus one captures the personality of this bird fairly well. I keep reminding myself of the drawings of Matisse, who was always rearranging his lines, and letting the errant ones remain to show where he had been.

My poem, for Colleen’s #tastetherainbow Tanka Tuesday challenge is in the Trois-par-Huit form, which you can read about here.

unknowings (draw a bird day)

a motion so finely tuned
it vanishes
in a shiver of light,
appearing as a hush,

an exchange of intersections–
a motion so finely tuned
it enters your breath,
singing your weary bones,

infusing your tired blood
with heartbeats, dancing–
a motion so finely tuned
and completely useless

that it fills you with hope,
measureless and heartbreaking–
whirling you alive inside
a motion–so finely tuned

For the Kick-About #54, “Whirligig”, I made a bird mobile by adding sky and bird collage to three different sizes of wooden rings and hanging them together. It was hard to get good photos, but Phil cleaned up the ones I sent him to give a clearer idea of the mobile in motion.

Here it is flat. I have it hanging in my living room where the ceiling fan keeps it moving.

My poem is in the quatern form, except it doesn’t rhyme, using words from Merril’s random word list that she posted on Sunday. I was inspired by Rumi’s poem “Whirling”, and, of course, birds.

When you dance the whole universe dances.
All the realms spun around you in endless celebration.
Your soul loses its grip.
Your body sheds its fatigue.
Hearing my hands clap and my drum beat,
You begin to whirl.

Tiger Shrike (Draw a Bird Day)

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.