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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!

December 2022/Icebound

gravel roads follow
me, my feet covered
in ice, blinding wind
blankets the sky, eyes
immersed in elsewhere—

clouds waver
the horizon, wisps
of images scatter
me moonfaced
across the dark window—

I am beyond
ripe for picking, afraid
of falling into the midst
of an isolated
silence, stuck in solitude–

waiting for a pinprick
of light to gather
me in, a reminder
of what lies
fallow, waiting—

not growing yet, but
hushed, all aquiver, molecules
cocooned inside
themselves, waiting,
dancing wildly—

layers shifting, waiting
to become repatterned, re
arranged over and under,
waiting—this is the way
of healing, beginning, return

For December, where Brendan at earthweal has asked us to consider The Witch of Winter.

#share your day (starting with turtles)

everything
needs salt in my world–
butter adds
zest—is it
any wonder my favorite
snack food is popcorn?

It’s #ShareYourDay week at Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. Today is stormy, full of wind and rain, and I’m hunkered down inside. So I made some popcorn and wrote a shadorma for the W3 prompt from Sylvia about one of my favorite foods.

So where do the turtles come in?

The Oracle is enigmatic, as always.

starting with turtles
dressed in thousands of skyclouds–
mountain water green

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.

Weekend Work 10/24/22

I think this is finished. A lot of layers of color here and the result looks to me like a lot of stuff ascending.

Rainy weekend here in Northern NJ.

An actual deer in the headlights. Have a good week! Nina

Friday10/20/2022

A couple of paintings to start off the weekend.

I’ve been glueing the rough paper onto a board. It feels more secure that way.

This is the Hope Springs Eternal before I messed with it.

My daughter decorated. Here are some views. All the macabre items are from our (weird) collections.

The weather is lovely here in Northern New Jersey. Lots of leaves to rake and many acorns: have a great weekend. Nina

Rosh Hoshana/weekend work

Today is Rosh Hoshana, the Jewish New Year and beginning of the High Holy Days. We will spend the day quietly; it is a beautiful day and my husband and I will take a walk soon. I am fervently hoping for peace in our troubled nation and in the world.

I’ve been working on canvas board lately, using elements cut out of other (failed) paintings and creating collages. The boards take glue well and also gouache and acrylic paint. I showed the top one to a neighbor and she thought it looked like Alaska, so I gave it that title.

I hope everyone has a good week. Nina

9/11/2022

remember—(breathe)–
sky clear crisp blue–
time stands still once again–
ghostname voices–
bone rattled leaves–
bottomless sings the wind

I’ve rearranged some of my previous poetry from 9/11 into a Laurette poem for Muri’s scavenger hunt. Images also from past posts.

Just Fooling Around

I’ve been messing around with acrylic paint and just having fun. Here are a couple I’m still working on. The corn came about because I did some green and yellow paint streaks and they looked like corn on the cob.

Work in progress. Layering with acrylics is a definite plus. I think this has possibilities.

Perry chilling outside. It looks like it might rain. That would be good. Happy Labor Day. Nina