Friday, December 18, 2009

winter, majestic

deer in winter

The winter can be carried majestically.

Find your majesty, en JOY .

Monday, December 14, 2009


Mergence has been a motif in the last few blogs, and also memory. Winter often blurs the land and the sky; snow can make the sky and land snow. Of course. These snow-made mergences can make a still scene moving.

The images here are mostly pastel, many-layered, on paper.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

JT's gift

Here is a wonderful work by JT, a quiet, small, bright good-friend.
in those rare moments,
      of unexpected clarity
when we and what we see merge,
and we cannot later describe the sensation,
      not even to ourselves,

in those transient moments--
      the iris, the sunset, the ocean wave
      and we become one--
we glimpse the center
from which we have fallen away.

no act of courage or kindness
      can restore us to our home,
only longing--the common stream
      where our thirst was born.


Thursday, December 10, 2009



We are in the midst of a blizzard here. Autumn, any vestige of its color, is gone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Lorrie Moore writes, with some passages of woman-bird transmergence, about a breakup at the end of her story, "Willing." Haughty, distressed Sidra gives up on a waffling Walter. The tawdry scene is relieved for us by the words themselves. Gosh.
She sat down on the piano bench. Something dark and coagulated moved through her, up from the feet. Something light and breathing fled through her head, the house of her plastic-wrapped and burned down to tar. She heard him give a moan, and some fleeing hope in her, surrounded but alive on the roof, said perhaps he would beg her forgiveness. Promise to be a new man. She might find him attractive as a new, begging man. Though at some point, he would have to stop begging. He would just have to be normal. And then she would dislike him again.

He stayed on the sofa, did not move to comfort or be comforted, and the darkness in her cleaned her out, hollowed her like acid or a wind. . . .

. . . he was saying. But she was already turning into something else, a bird--a flamingo, a hawk, a flamingo-hawk--and was flying up and away, toward the filmy pane of the window, then back again, circling, meanly, with a squint. . . . and she was gone, gone out the window, gone, gone.

Lorrie Moore's book of short stories where "Willing" appears is titled Birds of America.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

albino bird, sparrows, and red-headed woodpecker

albino bird among sparrows

Some birds are more special than others.
Red-headed woodpecker, whenever he appears in our yard, stops me cold, for a good long time I watch.  Fred Astaire in a smartly tailored tuxedo and bright red fez of the bird world. Simply stunning.

For the second year, albino bird has come into our yard, flitting and pecking around the feeders in the company of sparrows. Albino is slender and slightly dun on the head, blackless on the primary featheres and tail--surely not a Bunting then, and probably a female. Probably a "partial albino," because her eyes and beak are not red or pink. She is not bullied, as some odd birds are; she seems to be another sparrow. Except that she is a special bird. My eyes go to the sparrows around her only to compare: is she slightly larger? does she feed, does she move in the same way as the sparrows? I look for her in the yard, and when weeks, months, go by I wonder if she is lost. My spirit hops when she reappears.

Here is a little painting I have done of albino bird (white sparrow) among the sparrows. It is gouache and graphite and pastel on paper.

Sketches of Red-headed woodpecker and white sparrow are in the next (previous) blog entry. These sketches are lost, try as I might to find them. At least I have the photos. Still, I will have some bit of joy to see the originals again, if they reappear.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

lost and found backyard birds

To be explained tomorrow, these sketches of a Red-headed woodpecker and a white sparrow?. Come again?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

11. 26. 09

Thank you day.


Astonishingly bright light tiny berries clustered like grapes, or like barnacles, on stems of a shrub: oh my gosh, look. I came across these berries-of-amazing-color this week (late November, when everything else is mostly entirely leafless).The late afternoon light was upon them.
The sketches do not come close to the waxy shine of the lighted light-grape color. Still, I could use the sketches to remember and to identify the shrub, American Beautyberry, one I had never seen before.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

doves with messages

uplifting TOUGHdove / Gretchen's charcoal TOUGHdove

These doves, together with the two looking back doves, were painted some months ago. They are part of a series of dove paintings called Toughdoves. The Toughdoves carry messages with various looks, as you can see. A bit of goofiness, logo-like simple-ness: the two charcoal doves here have different "carriage."
Looking at you TOUGHdove
You can see all of the Toughdoves at I hope you enjoy the gaggle.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

another dove looking back

Here's another dove looking back. The dove here is mostly gouache and some charcoal and pastel, on a printimaking paper.

Friday, November 13, 2009

dove looking back

My Dad died some years ago on November 12, yesterday. He has become smaller but, still, quite clearly near. And I look back to see him again, mostly. Sometimes he is around, and not smaller but quite large, all around me, so that I am not looking back to see him.
This mourning dove sketch is mostly charcoal, with some pastel marks for color.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

tufted titmouse

Tufted titmice around here often seem to pause askew. Sideways-looking and head cocked a bit: I've seen a Pomeranian at Dog Park with the same kind of look.
These birds carry around the distraction of a goofy name. "Titmouse" actually means "small bird" (tit from Scandinavia and Iceland for "small," and mouse from an Old English word, mase, meaning "bird"), but who knows that?
One spring I heard the most wonderful, bright sound and singing and found it to be from a titmouse. Not so often in autumn they sing this way; still, I "look" for the sound in the backyard whenever they're around.
The sketch is mostly charcoal. Maybe this titmouse looks just-landed, about to dart again, which is how I saw him.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

M and T.S. Eliot

M, after noticing that I added a subtitle to my blog, said to me," at the still point of the turning world."
"What's that, M?"
"It's a line from Burnt Norton. From Eliot's Four Quartets."
Soon after, he brought me the Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot, marked and open to these lines.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Please click on this towhee's image to make it larger; the truer rectangular shape of the sketch will result.

Here is a quick sketch of a towhee-- a Rufous-sided towhee--done from an even quicker thumbnail sketch that I did last Thursday after the towhee came into our yard. I'd never seen a towhee before, but I knew immediately that this was no robin. Look at that dark head! And upright tail.

The towhee was in and out of our apple tree and mostly on the ground below it, rifling around in the fallen leaves. Kicking around. ("Rifling" is an odd verb isn't it.)

This sketch is mostly gouache and charcoal. I did put in the white belly that bird books show, but I did not actually see the white belly. I was looking down from a deck and besides, the bird's belly was mostly covered amid leaves and stems and branches.

The thumbnail sketch here (below) impressed what I saw into my mind's eye until I could identify the new bird. Even now, the thumbnail brings the towhee alive to me. The bird books' photos are wonderful, and this gouache sketch gets something of the uprightedness of the towhee's look and movements. Still, it is the thumbnail that opens my live memory.

Monday, October 12, 2009


We go to Gretchen's cabin when we can, once or twice a year. We walk around in the woods, unless it's raining heavily as it was Saturday, and we have a wonderful lunch at the round oak table. Then we clear the table and set up for painting practice. This time at the cabin we had three vases of autumn flowers on the table with us, many of them chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemum is one of the four friends of traditional Chinese painting. It is the flower that "braves the frost." Below is a footnote about painting the four friends:

As with orchid, bamboo, and plum, painting the chrysanthemum as an independent subject was a fairly late development (about the x century), inaugurated and influenced by the literati. The associations of the chrysanthemum as the flower of late autumn, announcing the coming of winter and able to blossom in the cold, were developed through the xiii century.

This footnote is on the first page of the chapter on Chrsyanthemum Painting in The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, which was first published, in stages, in the late 1600s. Besides bravery, pride and dignity are ascribed to the chrysanthemum in the chapter. My sketch is quite simple. I used charcoal and zinc white with a touch of grey green. The stem is darker green. The sketch needn't suceed; I was just spending time with the upright-graceful bloom. While I was at it, I did two quick watercolor sketches of thin branches outside the oak table's window. Here is one of them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

black- capped chickadee

Busy, and bossy, a pair of black-capped chickadees at my feeder just above Alice's shoulder while Alice and I paused beside the feeder during a yard-scoping tour. Buzzing at us in flight and in voice, these two, pretty darn fearlessly. I did this 5x5" sketch of a chickadee in the late spring. The bird is remarkably still here!
Alice told me about an "Ay" from Egyptian history, someone around the court of Tutankhamen, also pronounced "eye." Maybe you all know about Ay? He is not familiar to me, so I'll not list this Ay in my profile here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Persian chicory

I hope you like this translation/amplification of chicory.

It is gouache and pastel and some charcoal on a soft paper, probably Stonehenge. It is 5"x5." I saw chicory on shining gold field grasses and came home and did this little painting.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Chicory, like the sparrow of my first blog, is said to be alien and invasive. Well it can be ubiqutous. It's a beautiful plant, the blooms of which can range from pale mauves to sky blue. At Lois's community garden last Saturday, very late in the afternoon, chicory were showing a very deep blue bloom. This color is unusual. Maybe the silvery light from the drizzling rain "popped" the color. Unusual also was the time of day of the blooms. Chicory blooms close even by noon often.
Chicory is everywhere around here. It actually likes the dusty ground beside roads. It grows by itself or surrounded in fields. I sketch it often when I'm out. I can forget that the blooms will close, starting with a wide dotting of the blues across the field on my paper or canvas and, oh, six hours later suddenly looking out and wondering about their disappearance.
The blooms open one at a time, my books say. I'm not entirely sure what that means. I've sketched a sprig with one bloom, thinking that I might see a bud open as I sketched but no. In a vase, the blooms' color looks, I think, wan. Spent blooms are milky pinkish, almost milky white. The color has faded. In a vase I suppose the chicory fades fast, like some wildflowers do, even ones that can hold a bloom in hardscrabble places. The bloom here is slightly wan in color.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

chipping sparrow

The chipping sparrow was letting fly tiny chips of earthstuff while it beak-picked around for food: busy.

This sketch is 5"x5," mostly pastel and charcoal, on Stonehenge paper.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Sparrow sketch: 07. 19. 2009: Ubiquitous, yes, these sparrows. They are all around us in our yard and in our neighborhood. They are said to be bad, alien, crowders-out of other birds, and worse. The sparrows of course are oblivious to these charges. I've seen no bad action. It is true, though, that they crowd the feeders, that they are many.

I came across a poem last month, entitled A Ubiquity of Sparrows. The poet is Craig Arnold. His poem appears in the summer 2009 issue of Paris Review, where I saw it. Here is the quote that Craig Arnold puts above his poem, under the title:

A certain traveler who knew many continents was asked what he
found most remarkable of all. He replied: the ubiquity of sparrows.

-Adam Zagejewski

Here are three lines from Craig Arnold's poem. The poem is wonderful.

Sparrow whose feet barely sway the twig of a willow
who leaps into the air with the smallest of leaf-shivers

Sparrow the color of dust and mud and dry grass-stems

I start my blog with the sparrows because of the convergence of bird, sketch, and poem: a convergence I am glad about.