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.
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.
Birds need no maps of the earth,
no compass to locate the forces
that pull and repel.
Their geography is larger
than what can be painted, written down.
Their landscape is contained inside
their very bones,
invisible roots woven through
Birds move on currents
of sun sky wind and water–
alert to the pauses,
in the movement of the light.
They hear the world
as it slumbers, as it awakens,
as it waits.
They have no need to build bridges
for crossing over.
Birds don’t need to mark their path,
to provide proof
of their connection to the cosmos
with signs or constructs.
Who they are
is part of their being.
The way is within
the first cell of
the first song of
the first particle of
dust from the first star.
I recently read an article about the red knot B95, nicknamed Moonbird. B95 is a banded bird that was both trapped and photographed through 20 years of migration between the tip of South America, where it winters, and the Arctic, where it summers and breeds, a distance of 9000 miles each way. B95 traveled enough miles to go to the moon and most of the way back–hence, Moonbird.
Considering the fact that one half of juvenile red knots dies during their first year’s mirgration, that is quite an accomplishment.
Red knots are robin-sized shore birds that have greyish feathers during their southern winters, but grow red feathers for the summer layover in the Arctic. As recently as 1995 there were over 150,000 red knots making the north-south-north trip, but half of the adult red knot population died between 2000-2002 due to climate change and human intrusions on their habitat. Of particular concern was the reduction of the horseshoe crab population in the tidal waters of the Delaware Bay, an important last feeding stopover before the final flight to the Arctic. Red knots time their migrations to coincide with the yearly egg-laying of horseshoe crabs, feeding on the eggs laid on the beaches. Horseshoe crabs are important to many other species in the bay as well, and scientists are working to restore this vital component of the ecosystem, which was dying due to overfishing and overdevelopment.
Red knots fly in acrobatic groups and perform evasive movements in unison meant to confuse predators like hawks. How do they “know” where to go? One theory is that they have an internal genetic flight map, but they are also known to respond to the position of the sun and the movements of the stars as they often fly all night. Red knots may also recognize both landmarks and magnetic fields. No wonder they have been called “a flying compass”
Moonbird was last spotted in 2014, 19 years after he was first caught and banded.
Red knots were the first bird ever listed under the Endangered Species Act.
well, first the wayward wind—grey—if you tried to hold it, your hands remained empty–
the song of the sirens, spilled into a traverse of stone and sea—perhaps some dragon’s breath—a shape becoming uncovered, a shape turning into a wheel that reminds itself to spiral—
the beach is hungry, but in a subtle way—do not conclude that it can be ignored–
Stream of consciousness for Grace at dVerse. I’ve been doing a lot of this because of a recent prompt I saw that incorporated this technique, where you took a treasured object and wrote a bunch of unedited stories about it. This was from my origin story.
The original writing for this haibun took up a whole page–I just selected a few parts and made a kind of haiku by removing words from one “sentence”. The drawings are once again taken from my archives. I’ve spent a lot of time drawing shells.
caught like a
shadow just beyond
imprinted on the synapse
it flies on
the winds of held breath–
air with blurs
of moving feathers, colors
surrounded by song
My NaPoWriMo poem today has nothing to do with the prompt, and everything to do with it being the 8th of April, which is National Draw-a-Bird-Day. I have never actually seen a painted bunting, but I have painted this bird before, in 2015, when one was spotted in Brooklyn. This version was done with a new set of watercolor pencils I received for my birthday earlier this year.
I love sketching the old Paterson buildings. This was a black and white photo which I took the artistic license of coloring. A lot of the old buildings were constructed in brownstone and I imagine this one was too. I gave it some stained glass windows.
Spring is arriving but slowly. Yesterday I went over to take care of my neighbor’s chickens only to find they had “flown the coop”. I can’t figure out how as the fence was up and all doors locked. But the girls cooperated and I got them back in (as a large hawk was circling). They also laid a few eggs in the yard making same eggs certifiably free range. Love those chickens!
A sketch from a Facebook photo my cousin posted of him and his family.
I intend to paint it in but can’t find my brushes. Things are a bit disorganized here but maybe some progress.
I better not post the photo without my cousin’s permission.
My words repeat. Nothing. Your ears are closed like frozen air. You always move away, shrinking me, disappearing me into invisibility.
My words repeat. I am naming flowers. I am calling the names of birds. They remain unretrieved, hesitating on the edges of sound.
My fences are broken. My guard is falling deeper and deeper into the ground. My map shows no return.
Whispering, I stand
trembling with the elements,
my cells unmoored.
The currents swim without me,
expanding the gulf between.
Jilly at dVerse asked for an unconventional haibun this week. That was easy–all my writing seems somewhat alien to me right now (or maybe my poetry is just always strange and I’m only now noticing it….)
The drawings are from photos of ancient Roman sculptures that have been broken by time. Amazing how much depth and emotion hidden inside the stone was revealed by those artists.
I was discussing swimming pools and memories with our friend Claudia McGill and remembered when my Dad used to sit at the bottom of the pool with his scuba tank. All the kids would dive down and he’d hand them the breathing thing; we would hang out down there and take turns buddy breathing. I hadn’t thought of this in a long time. This is just a prelimary sketch and I’m going to paint it. Claudia said early memories are the strongest. I’m going to have to think of more memories that I can translate into visual ones. Maybe a series?
They’re doing construction in my neighborhood. There are piles of Belgian blocks for the curbs, wood and other building materials. The pattern of these stacked concrete blocks appealed to me so I did a drawing. I must admit I’m rather pleased with it.