“Big Bad Birds”?

Last year Bainbridge Arts and Crafts presented a group exhibition called “Big Bad Bugs,” and this year I’m invited to participate in their May show: “Big Bad Birds.” The deadline approaches quickly – it’s a temporal truth that time speeds up toward a due date.

Drawing a winter wren for the Twitter exhibition in Oslo reminded me how I love to draw birds. And from a few years ago, I have the photographers’ permission to draw from pictures of juncos, winter wrens, robins, sparrows, chickadees, and other beloved birds – now filling the woods with their spring song.

I’ll post more here later, but the image below is a start –- getting familiar again with bird colors and shapes. In the end I hope to make little paintings – maybe on wood, not big or bad birds, but small and sweet birds.

Bird Study - neighbors

Beginning a bird study – near neighbors in pencil and watercolor on Rives BFK…

 

Walking the High Line

{Note: My next few posts are about a pre-Sandy visit to New York, a tranquil New York with subways, bridges, electricity, and little rain or wind. I’ll go ahead and post in honor of this great city, while sending wishes for safekeeping to all in the path of Sandy. May the power return soon!}

With our younger son and his sweet bride, we walked in New York City for a week in October. Each morning we left our rented apartment on the Upper West Side and set out.

The first morning we walked past the Dakota and the “Imagine” Memorial to John Lennon, through Central Park full of people on a holiday Monday, and emerged at the Fifth Avenue corner by the Plaza Hotel. We watched a Columbus Day parade, celebrating everything Italian, passed glitzy stores with familiar names, and rode a series of elevators up 70 floors to the observation deck at the top of Rockefeller Center. Afterwards, with the grid of New York streets and the green of Central Park in our minds, we headed home, up Broadway from 47th to to 74th Street.

We walked in daylight across the Brooklyn Bridge and, at nighttime in the brighter-than-day light of Times Square. We ambled through Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, and SoHo, with a long stop at the Strand Bookstore (shelves so tall the store provides ladders), and a quick peek into the Prada flagship store (designed by Rem Koolhaas, elegant and tranquil). We strolled through the Greenmarket at Union Square where New York chefs shop for fresh food.

Streams of people walked toward us, so many clothes and faces and conversation fragments – spoken to companions or on cell phones – “I keep playing the typical teenager really well!” (spoken not by a teenager), “I want to eat some ice cream,” “The only reason to have a car is to get out of the city,” “Can we just enjoy the walk?” (I always wish for a bubble overhead, identifying what the person does in this amazing city.)

For years I’ve read about the High Line, about the transformation into a garden path of an abandoned, elevated rail line running north from the Meatpacking District. On a sunny day with wind at our back we walked the mile and a half from its southerly beginning. What a pleasure.

Inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the tracks in the 25 years after trains stopped running, the plantings are sturdy – full of grasses, trees with fall foliage, and shrubs full of berries or rosehips. You walk above the sirens, car horns, and bustle of the neighborhoods below – closer to sky and air.

Sidewalks of aggregate looking like wide planking expand into areas for seating, and for eating from food stands and restaurants nearby. Wide wooden chaise lounges built for two, narrow perching benches by the guardrails, and a set of stadium-style bleachers provide seating in limited space. A shallow stream flows for a while beside the walkway. At one point the path passes through a building, but mostly you tread a garden path.

A huge billboard and unused boxcars make perfect urban canvases for artists – surprising public art pieces. An exhibit of tiny sculptures tucked into spots along the route is titled “Lilliput.” A sound installation – a voice seeming to come out of the bushes – recited the names of animals, dividing them into human goods and bads: panda, swan, spider, tapeworm.

In a week of walking, the High Line was a high point!

Populated Mailbox

We often pass by a larger than usual, old and rusty rural mailbox where someone with a sense of delight in the absurd has installed a “set-up” of small plastic action figures and troll-like creatures. A figure who seems like he’s lost his motorcycle, but wears a party hat, holds down the top of the box. Inside pose a skinny Avatar figure and other bulging-with-muscles articuated beings I can’t name. Floofy feathers adorn some of their party hats since they are safely out of the rain. Recently, a seated, naked baby doll improbably joined the party, looming large behind the colorful crowd.

 

 

September 10th

On Saturday morning, a quiet morning, at the beginning of a weekend full of memories, we walked the beach, salt tang in the air, blue sky, and golden September light. Our boots scuffed and crunched on gravelly sand, gulls cried overhead and dropped their catch on rocks, and then, an explosive THUMP brought us to a stop. Out on the Strait, flashes of water, more thumps and moist, loud breathing – Orcas!

On the beach we paralleled them as they breeched, one after another, headed east faster than we could walk. Sound carried easily to us – tail slaps and blowhole eruptions – and we could see glistening splashes of water off black dorsal fins and flukes. The movements stretched a long way – “There’s another! And another! – Look over there!” – as they passed by little boats stopped at the sight.

The pods’ progress up the Strait ended between Whidbey Island and Point Hudson in a furious flashing of seven or eight shapes visible at a time – muscling in and out of churned-up water. Food is the target – driving panicked fish into a circle to eat.

The sound brought us close – sharing breathing with these creatures – so alien and so local – their excitement carried to shore. They reversed direction after the feeding and headed away. The beach silence seemed loud and empty. But they are there – out in the Strait, around the islands, plying the Salish Sea.

We are lucky!