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.
gan in friendship,
narrowing the spaces between
in methodic madness–
shared creations expanding from
working in parallel–
threaded layered multiplied back
more to explore–
branching like trees and scattering
to inspire each
other, to our surprise
we found ourselves weaving a web–
“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”
(this quote is the first thing I posted)
Nina and I began our blog on May 6, 2014, as a way to show each other the art we were doing. We had both let our creativity languish and were hoping to inspire each other to produce more. We made the above two combined logos–the top one merging art from each of us in the center, and our avatar which contained a drawing each of us had done of the other from the 1970s, when we met, working as designers in a textile company.
the news is full of sorrow
not should have been–two years
On May 7, I received my firsts “likes” for the above post. I didn’t have a clue…where did that come from? When Nina told me we had acquired followers I was mystified. Two of those first likes came from blogs I still interact with–Robert Okaji, and Outside Authority.
In the beginning I mostly posted drawings and old art, with the occasional 17 syllable poem. I got my first comment from someone other than Nina on May 30, for my first Beach I Ching post. I started writing more poetry in 2016. For the first few years Nina and I posted almost every day, and we did a number of collaborations.
Above is one of our collaborations with the Oracle.
Life has tossed us around a bit in the past few years. I’m posting less and doing some of my art/poetry at Kblog now, but you can still find me here for my monthly circle/grid, Draw a Bird Day, and Thursday Doors, with The Kick-About, and a few other things thrown in from time to time. Nina and I hope to get back to collaborations too.
I would not be doing the art or writing I’m doing today without this community. I’ve learned and been given so much–thank you, thank you, thank you! for your continued support .
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.
The paper waits.
There’s nothing on it yet.
I print the photo,
measure in my mind
where to place the door.
Is that the focal point of my drawing,
or is it the guardian, the mirror?
The paper waits.
With tentative lines,
my pencil begins.
Lines, circles and squares
fill in the details.
And then with pen in hand I scribble ink–
and gradually a form starts to appear.
I’ll be the first to admit that architecture is not my artistic forte. Still, since Colleen’s #TankaTuesday prompt was to share a photo from your day and write a poetic accompaniment, I decided to give it a try for my Thursday Door. The poetic form I used was Duodora.
I don’t always pencil in things first, but in this case it seemed necessary if I wanted any kind of successful result. The proportions are off, but you can definitely tell it’s a door.
And you might even recognize it as the side door to the Lucerne Hotel, on West 79th Street. The entrance is quite wonderful too, but I’ll need to get up early to try to capture it when there’s not much traffic, as I need to take the photo from across the street. The Lucerne was used, controversially, as a shelter for the homeless during the Covid lockdown, but I think now it’s back to just being a hotel. You can read a bit more about its history here.
my eye attempts to join
with wings, lifted
by an unseen wind–
a blurred displacement
of air expanding the horizon
beyond all sense of limits–
the sky trembles, held
in a featherlight embrace,
as if it, too, would rise,
into the cosmic sea
A quadrille that includes the word eye for dVerse, hosted by Bjorn. It’s not specifically about an oriole, but in the spirit of Draw a Bird Day.
The Baltimore Oriole, named for its orange and black feathers that are the same colors as Lord Baltimore’s coat of arms, summers in the Northeastern and Central United States and Canada, migrating to Florida, the Caribbean islands, and Central and South America in winter. New World orioles are not related to Old World orioles, but are part of the blackbird and meadowlark family.
Residing in forest edges and open woodlands, the oriole’s diet includes insects, flowers, and fruits. They especially like ripe fruit, and can be attracted to bird feeders with orange slices or sugar water. They weave unique hanging nests that look delicate but are remarkably strong. You can see photos and read more about their nests here.
Females and young males have a subtle grey and golden coloring although females grow more orange with each molt, and may end up close to the bright male coloring as they age.
Orioles are not endangered, but they are in decline, partially due to their preference for nesting in elm trees, which have been devastated by Dutch Elm Disease.
Orioles are the second of my orange and black birds for the Year of the Tiger. You can see the first one, the Rufous Treepie, here.
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.
white flash winging
The Western Meadowlark, a resident of western and central North America, is not actually a lark, but is related to blackbirds and starlings. Like larks, though, it is one of the few birds that sings as it flies. The black crescent on its bright yellow breast and the white flash of its tail feathers when flying make it easy to identify.
Though not yet considered endangered, breeding populations have declined 50% in the last 50 years. The meadowlark’s favored habitat of wide open fields and natural grasslands has been declining due to agriculture, housing development, pesticides, invasive plant species, and fire suppression that alters the composition of native landscapes.
I’ve written a gogyoka for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday color poetry challenge.
of the sun, spirit
extend us your wings
Eagles are one of the world’s largest birds, with massive wings that allow them to fly for a long time and with great speed, all with a minimum of effort. They can go many weeks between meals, and will eat whatever is available in their habitat–other birds, amphibians, fish, small mammals. They can carry up to four times their own body weight, but will often scavenge for food rather than killing live prey.
“Eagle eye” is not just a saying. An eagle’s vision is eight times sharper than a human’s–they see both much farther, and with greater focus. They can also see a wider range of colors, including the ultraviolet spectrum.
I decided to do an eagle this month because Nina sent me this wonderful wooden eagle that her father brought back from Jerusalem. I have a bird totem carved by my sister-in-law’s father that Nina thought would make a good companion–and it does.
Although I began by drawing bald eagles, I realized after a bit of research that Nina’s eagle was more likely a golden eagle, which was once a common inhabitant of Israel, but is now only represented by a few breeding pairs, for all the usual reasons–decline of habitat, human predation. So I drew a golden eagle as well.
My poem is a shadorma. The eagle has powerful symbolism in cultures all over the world. Thanks, Nina, for adding this beautiful totem to my living space!
eyes that penetrate
I had a dream awhile back about hearing a bird calling. Looking for the source, I found it was a tiny owl. It let me get up close to it, but when I tried to take its photo, it went into my daughter’s shirt pocket and hid. Of course I had to try to identify what this owl could be.
As with my hoopoe dream, I recognized it immediately when I saw photos. The Eastern Screech Owl is a robin-sized owl, and would easily fit into a pocket. They are common throughout eastern North America, and though they prefer woodlands, have adapted to living in both cities and suburbs. These owls do not build nests, but depend on tree holes that already exist, often those abandoned by woodpeckers. They will also use nest boxes. Active from dusk to dawn, they eat mostly insects and small rodents, but have been known to catch small fish, as well as frogs and lizards. They also eat other birds, as owls are prone to do.
Their call is unusual, more like a whinny than what I would associate with an owl. Definitely not a screech.
Owls are considered old souls, prophets, protectors, keepers of ancient wisdom. They are also associated with death. But as with the Death card in the tarot, death is never just an ending, but a beginning as well.
As to what my dream meant, I still haven’t puzzled it out.
I didn’t have time to paint an owl this week, but I did a third quick drawing without looking at the page. A good exercise which I should repeat more often.
“The forests are getting silent”
–Hanna Mounce, Maui Forest Bird Recovery
always more words, less
vast human wasteland
Eight birds from the Hawaiian Islands were on the official extinction list released by wildlife officials last week. Honeycreepers, descended from finches, are only found in Hawaii and have been losing species ever since explorers started bringing in invasive animals and diseases and destroying habitat in order to profit from the land.
Almost all the remaining honeycreepers are endangered. Besides their visual beauty, they pollinate native plants and keep insect populations under control.
Mosquitos, which are not native to the islands and arrived in the early 1800s, are one of the biggest dangers. They are hard to control and impossible to eliminate. The Avian Malaria and Avian Pox they brought has decimated the lower forest dwelling birds. As honeycreepers have retreated to higher elevations, climate change has followed them, raising the temperatures of the upper forests to levels that mosquitos can tolerate. The Maui Forest Recovery Project is working to save forest habitats and the plants and animals that live in its unique ecosystem.
I’ve written a shadorma this week for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday, poet’s choice.