Hawks at Sea, Onslaught in the Morning

I ignored an impulse to bring my camera but maybe I am more present because of this. At the park we see a red tail swoop up in front of us and onto one of the tree branches. The hawk stares down and at one point I put out my arm and the hawk flies right over us looks down and heads out to sea to join another hawk. On our walk we see more hawks hovering in thermals on this windy and wild day.

Last night there is a chamber of sound as two Great Horned Owls situate themselves on large trees on either side of our house and call. The sound vibrates the studio and soon after one loud and clear howl from a coyote all the sound moves further into the canyon until later during the night.

The winter elements bring clarity to sound and sight along with the intensity of wild life moving and migrating in our small berg. This morning there is a veritable onslaught of birds at our feeder. There are the usual visitors but now there are thrice as many of each species as soon as there is light a vibrant sound and beckoning outside our place. The peanut brigade arrives with reinforcements of Steller and Scrub Jays, Juncos , Finches, White and Golden Crown Sparrows plummet in between doves while above the air is dotted by determined Chickadees. Somehow they manage with a modicum of pecking to all find seed and get fed. I breathe a sigh of relief that I have given them a hearty breakfast for the cold day they have ahead of them.

I watch the little Leucistic Junco arrive and stare at a large sparrow as the sparrow seems to  look at it’s white head in disbelief but they begin to eat at a bird-ly distance from one another. Good lessons from small teachers daily.

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Premonition

The night is cold and crisp as I wander downtown before a poetry reading. The edges of people are present in the street scene and the attitude at the far end of of Pacific Garden Mall alerts me to a certain cautiousness. There is more of a rawness in the people with the extra cold weather. When I first park my car it is hard to read the darn pay machine and while attempting to follow the prompts a man stands not far from me. I do not want to catch his gaze but he turns on his cell phone light so that I can see the screen and I am able to finish the task. At the end of the encounter he says all is well. He must have felt my nervousness when he walked up. In the moment he was suddenly next to me I had no sense there was potential harm but knew it was a tough area.

I am the event early and one of the presenters is a good friend and we both want to find the bathroom but the facility we are in has none so we go to the bus station across the street. When we enter the bathroom there is a woman sitting on the floor with bags of belongings and she has a bandage on her head and holding on her forehead, and talking to herself. She keeps her head low and downward. The room is not big and so she takes up most of the floor. We both share with one another our experiences of riding a bus being at a station. The place and then meeting this woman reminds us of those times of unease, and never wanting to ride a bus again as women on our own.

Mental illness wanders our streets and yet we have such limited places for people to sleep. There is so much red tape going on about the tent city that was moved out of the park and people are now living under the bridge.  On the news we hear about the wall and keeping out migrants but I feel my own wall at keeping out the pain of this woman on the floor and quietly throughout the night I think of her as I listen to the poets read.

I listen to two poets read their writing. My friend’s writing is personal about herself, her father and the man’s is about his concerns about nature and his own search to  find what was most like himself in life.

Another friend arrives late to the event and  responds to the various voices of the poets and charged images they want to bestow on us leaving a wisdom to consider about life and a commonality about being human between us all.

Driving home I turn up the familiar windy road and I have this feeling of an owl near and when I coast around a corner I see this white and brown winged Great Horned Owl rise up from a catch on the ground into the sky go above and beyond me as we turn away from one another in this brief instant of meeting. How do I know or sense this before it happens, how do I know anything and then know nothing really about another human being making the floor of the bathroom her motel during this chilly winter night.

 

Flu Clean Up

One bird was looking a bit puffy and not okay so checked with my bird friend and she said to clean up  everything in case of avian flu. This morning is clean up with lots of jet hose stuff, wiping the fence, mud, seed, wet leaves along with feeders washed and cleaned. Everything is spic and span and I have not seen the sparrow but will take all the precautions.

Such small lives living so close together like a tiny city.

Today the sun shines on the gold of the Lesser Goldfinch and the face of the Townsend Warbler who I call “Fast Eddy”.

Another bird moving at a fast clip is the Chickadee, and this bird is followed or tracked by many birds because they find so many possible food sources. Others watch for tips. I watch all the time to learn about the birds and myself. Now I make sure that they have the best chance to make it through this winter.

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Visitations

I dream of a small town that a friend and I stop in on the way back home. The town is sweet and when we stop at a gas station next to it is a museum. I walk in and the first large oil is a portrait of me when I was eighteen and I lean stunned against the wall and take it in. When I try to take some photos of it it is like a bird’s wing where colors change. I see many people and many scenes that move in and out of the painting like a film screen, and at a certain angle can see myself with my long honey brown hair in and out of focus. I know who has painted it and have an image of Irving and Jill and their daughter and son. All four are artists in their own right in palpable ways in the world.

Jill was a muse for her husband and for me the gypsy, flowing feminine of the sixties in her long white dress with her small child that I saw her lift up and put over her shoulder at an art opening for Irving where I fell in love with her immediately. She had a tenor in her voice and poetic way of seeing that made everything numinous and you felt in her presence beautiful.

Over the years we became friends. She brought soup to my mother when she was losing her life to cancer with her hair tied in a scarf, long and ash brown behind her, high cheek bones and gray eyes. After she left my mother said I see why you like your friend but I also felt she saw me cherish an ideal that maybe was not her as a woman and it made me sad. I projected quite a bit on them as people and they had this amazing house that every part of it was like a still life in Irving’s painting and I saw the art in how Jill arranged and held life around her. They opened for me as a family the artistic voice in all of life and I was encouraged to be myself in what I saw and expressed. I was granted a pass to something because they bestowed their blessing on my efforts.

In the dream I go to the station next store and look at maps and nothing names the town and no signs and I ask them what is the town’s identity and they tell me they did not know the place had no name. I asked what city it was close to and if people commuted from there and the said they thought San Francisco.

Soon it was time for us to leave the clouds were gathering and the light changing towards a possible storm and we need to drive back to our lives but I wonder if it is a place that Jim and I can find a little house to live as I am leaving but let it go and return to our town.

Today Irving and Jill’s daughter, Francesca writes amazing books of this fantasy struggling with reality, and I know that was true for their lives and the ideal had to be wrestled with in life and as life can go it was shattered with sickness, death and just the way the world moves at a much faster pace then any ideal can bear.

Irving once made a joke about what if Rembrandt was an ad man which made me laugh many times about our culture. They protested during the Viet Nam war and they continued to provide a hearth in my life over the years and like others that left my life Lew and Edith they were of an era that lay before me that I am in now where I too can cherish the scope of existence. I hope the world can gather itself and engender a respect for nature back into the fold of the future not as an ideal but as a necessity. I always felt with all these people this unbidden yet vital necessity for a certain expression lacking in much around me and luckily knew that in my own family and think of all of them as we move towards the solstice.

When I house sat for the family and their big shaggy sheepdog would jump on top of the table and scatter the candle holder during a storm and their cat would sit and look with me through the prolific sketch books of drawings that Irving did of the family I held a life in sketches not digital selfies and saw the hand shaping those figures, objects, scenes with just a few lines. They were and are exquisite drawings of an assured line with a tender and sparse touch. His paintings had a haze of soft oils with a focus on a figure and objects usually of his wife or something she arranged and many drawings of her asleep on the couch book a book and glasses sprawled out while reading.

She told me once they would talk late into the night after the children were asleep and then lovers before dawn. The kitchen was a nook with Irving propping the painting up and working while Jill cooked, the children would sometimes ask if it was okay to eat the fruit in case it was a still life in progress. There was home made granola and yogurt left for me to eat when I would house sit which I had never had even though I grew up with a rich array of Sicilian spaghetti sauce and Italian anise and ribbon cookies as a child this was unique.

Somehow the place and time is some of what is Christmas and Hanukah and the image of the dark Norwegian wood that translated into the painting in my dream. Even though my work remained a more pastel palate of burnt sienna, yellow ocher and cobalt blue in that soft skin toned sky their work was in it for a long time. There is no image for the entry today it all is much richer in the mind’s eye as they say or resides in some ineffable place.

Good Things Come in Tough Packages

Some small birds really lead the way. I think of many. One of the shy birds that come to our feeder and tree is the Pygmy Nuthatch. I watch it hang upside down and sideways on the suet in front of me and see the bird wipe off the excess on the branch. I marvel at the  the bird’s designed suit that is the blue I would see as a child like the Morning Cloak moth that would capture my vision with unfoldment  of an unnamed lilac grey, and then disappear when the wings slam shut. The nuthatch has the same effect of wings out and shining color, and then tucked in tight in a oval body with a beak.

When I teach drawing about birds I often point out the body is the shape of an egg much of the time. I have stopped eating eggs but I used to hold an egg in my hand and imagine it with feathers and reconstruct the bird from the outside in.

There are colors that are not colors as we know them and they are captured in paint in tubes of Payne’s grey or other colors like salmon skin but not the orange in the sky, or water’s silver slickness but not water itself, and so we build a context for beauty in the surroundings and placement of color. It is a brilliant gift of nature and the creative artist, and the phenomenon is always relinquishing life to a miracle of there and not in transmission.

I think even in a decent Buddhist practice letting go is a transfer not a translation but we like to name it, color it and define what we can and the fine line of luminescence and a substantial light we hold for an instant in our hands offers a beholding experience depending on where you stand as the viewer.

My sweet dog I visited at the shelter has been adopted and today she is in better hands and in her own home and family for the holidays. I relish that this has happened but from another perspective I mourn it and want to hold her next to me in this solid way a dog can feel a presence.

Today is sunshine and blue sky and the birds are exuberant and picking every bit they can off of bushes, ground and edges of the yard. I feel this whole family of beings right here having me look and see the color, the light as the ache subsides. I know the moment is always at hand while you have it and see it. Good to love fiercely and live with grace and heart when we can.

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Fawn and Sylvie Dog

I visit the one blue eye and one brown eye husky I have named Sylvie at the shelter and bring her some turkey. I notice that one of the volunteers is bringing in chicken for the two pens of puppies and says that it is cold out. I look on the chart of the enclosure for the pups and two of them are adopted and are claimed ,and one will remain . At the moment they are all asleep together and I feel like I will cry. I worry that the other pup will miss his litter become cold but I watch the people helping and I know they will make sure that is not the case.

As I stare at the mound of pups I love seeing their bodies overlap like silk on top of one another eyes shut in a deep sleep. A couple of enclosures down from these pups are three more wilder very awake pups, and we play footsie a bit. All the time I am attending to the pups husky princess Sylvie is watching me and has a soft gaze. When I go over to her and bring her more of the turkey she has an easy mouth taking it.

When I am about to leave I tell her about the beautiful shopkeeper that has long black hair, olive skin, and intense eyes like herself that I told about this fine husky being as the shelter, herself and she listens. Luckily I have a small video of Sylvie offering her gentle howl and share it with the young woman. She shares back that she has been thinking about a friend for her male husky she has at home already and we talk about the idea of a pack. We chat for a while about having a husky breed and her concern like myself that they are so smart and agile that they need that time to explore, and play which she seems prepared to do consider her for her home. I hope it is a match although I am smitten for Sylvie.

Last night I dream of being at a house that is surrounded by meadow and woods. I am around some visiting friends. The husky with me flushes out a family of deer and a small fawn tumbles through the low lying grasses as the other deer take off. I lift the fawn up as my curious dog is a bit too rough to deal with the fawn gently. I hold the fawn very close and she tucks her wet nose in the crook of my arm and goes fast asleep.

I want to feed the fawn and realize shortly that I need milk.  I want to find the mother but I also prepare some food, and ask Jim to keep our dog quiet and to protect the fawn’s face as I feed her. It begins to rain and I need to keep the fawn until it stops and then will need to see if her parents will return.

The soft warm sensation of the fawn next to my body lingers with me as I lie in bed. I drift off a bit and I remember the time I found a fawn in a yard I lived in that each year at spring yielded a field of daffodils, it must have been an acre but it was filled with trees and roses and an assortment of plants.

At that time I had to seek help to get the fawn, and then years later on a drive in the neighborhood I want to show Jim where I lived. I see a pair of deer standing in the empty and overgrown lot that no one has cared for  and stare back at me. I wonder if they are offspring of the pair whose fawn fostered I so many years ago when they had left her in the rose bushes and flowering quince.

The struggle of being helpful but disturbing the balance of nature working in its own rhythm weighs on me. I begin to enter the dream again with an intention of letting the fawn go in the meadow for the return of her parents.

Deer seem to be occupying my life this week since two nights before on a walk my rather feral friend and I find ourselves at dusk with the two deer edging along the fence and leading us out of the enclosure back to the path to the outside. I thank them as we turn the corner out onto the street but sad to leave the kingdom they inhabit surrounding us  with their slow gait this evening.

I want the fawn and the husky to have their freedom but hold onto them and continue to feel their warmth and presence for one more brief interlude before dawn.

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The Chase

Often the holidays feels like a chase towards something predatory. The tables can turn at any second but the speed of the chase often is what is invigorating. I want to nestle in rather then shop or quietly find something that makes sense as a gift to a friend, just an offering of some kind, a reminder you are in my heart, and that life comes and goes in an instant.

This year has been filled with gain and tremendous loss. I see courage reside in the state of California in the midst of fire, now rain. The weather surrounds everything right now with both recovery and potential disaster as a tantamount force to be reckoned with each day.

When I look into the sky at the beach there is the grand chase the length of a block with hawk by a three crows. At another juncture another hawk appears and turn around is fair play. It is always in the same stretch this activity happens but each time one bird will go past the others limits of boundary trespassed so the chase begins.

My brother is another year old this week and was born a year after Pearl Harbor. He recalls hiding in the closest with our mother that one year. My father was stationed on a boat in the navy but he lived while others perished.

In this photo of hawk and crow both birds survive the chase and they go on their way. I feel the luck of having a father that made it home from the war and the opportunity I had to be surrounded by his love until he was ninety-two.

I lost my mother in my twenties, she could not out run the cancer that took her life in less then six months. She died during the holidays. This time of year sometimes I picture the hospital room where I decorated her bed with lights and put up a pretend stain glass window that brought colorful light into her room the last day of her life.

I feel how she tightened her hand around mine for a brief moment as I put my arm under her head then we all were suddenly rushed out of the room as they tried to revive her. We could not stay there long after she died, and because it was so fast a shift away from her palpable presence that for months I imagined her still up in that room where I left her, and my father weeping inconsolably.

My father’s life continued for many years past hers and it was a good life but I know he wanted to somehow save her with all his prayers to God and the happiness they found together but he could not.

Saving is all out of our hands but living is what we are given, and so he lived and did that quite well after his time of grief. He continued to court spirit within his heart at a high speed the remaining years of his life.

 

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A Christmas Bird Story

_DSC0048I read in this book about what kind of birds come to feeders and what they like to eat. In the book are stories about the birds and there is one lovely story about a Yellow-rumped Warbler. I have one of these birds coming to the fence and newly installed tray to eat each day. Many of the birds mentioned in the book are visitors during migration along with some upstanding locals and a few fly by night visitors that come and go. I have names for most of them. The book (page 240) and story is ” Birds At Your Feeder” by Erica Dunn and Diane L. Tessaglia-Hymes.

“One enterprising Yellow-rumped Warbler escaped a cold night in Arizona by fluttering against a glass door through which it could see a Christmas tree. When the homeowners opened the door, the bird flew in to roost in the tree until let out again the following morning. It came back the next night too.”

Shelter from the storm is an important feeling of refuge for all of this in a challenging time of year. There is a need in the depth of winter to either to have that experience or offer it in whatever way we can to each other and hopefully to extend that invitation to the birds and beings that visit our land, sea and sky or grow upon it.