Underneath all those cleverly protective, water-resistant, aerodynamic, heat-retentive feathers, there is indeed a lot of down. Oh, sure, it’s insulation. But I think it’s largely for snuggling little ones.
I also suspect there is good reason for all our bird-related child-rearing terms: we say that expectant mothers possess nesting instincts, that a careful parent is a mother hen, that being protected is taken under someone’s wing, that when our off-spring grow up, they spread their wings and fly away, leaving their parents to be empty-nesters. Birds are good at this mothering and rearing stuff. And back in the day, most people had backyard chickens to look to as examples.
In my chicken-keeping friend’s backyard, I see all that and the wonders of feathers' beauty and function. I love white on white (and oh, that perfect touch of black in just the right places!) And then there's all those layers overlapping and enfolding each other. Like an embrace.
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind being taken under a wing now and then. Warm, protected, and downy underneath... .
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In a friend's backyard flock, there is a plain little hen who lays the most gloriously blue-green eggs. She also turns out to have this other glorious color trick: in full sun, her humble black feathers transform into iridescent jewels. Optical wizardry.
The astonishing thing is that she is such a very under-appreciated genius. This unsung color hero is the beleaguered lowest girl in the pecking order. She has to be fed separately to make sure she gets enough to eat.
I will not make the obvious comments about social injustices and the blindness of gallus gallus domesticus (or the rest of us). I will merely say that over and over again I have been made to see that things I thought ordinary are in some way most extraordinary. Keeping eyes, ears, mind, and heart open are hard to do, but the rewards can be astounding.
Bless you, "Vinnie," for both your avian beauty and your patient perseverance. Look carefully, friends. Good things often come in plain-seeming packages.
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This painting just sold. Went to print out the blog post for the buyer, and whaddya know--no blog. (How did I manage to skip this one, one of my favorites?) Well... here goes, the nick-of-time blog post:
There he sits, in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace (imperial summer residence of the former monarchs of Austria, no less). He is not waiting for anyone; he is not fidgeting, nor chewing gum; he is not listening to music, fiddling on a phone, picking at threads, nor pulling hangnails; he is not doing any of the infinite small things people do instead of being.
There he sits, in solitary splendor, enjoying the sights, smells, sounds, sensations of that particular moment in that place. Making a memory. Taking it in.
It occurred to me that this image is what we mean when we talk about "being in the moment," or being "mindful." And how hard that is, and how infrequently any of us actually manages it.
Worth noting. Worth painting. Worth being reminded--by good example. Enjoy the moments.
What a nice surprise: I was invited to paint live for a few days in the atrium of the San Diego History Center, representing Noel-Baza Fine Art and their gallery there. Very flattering (and only a little panic-inducing!)
The San Diego History Center is in Balboa Park, near the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. They are currently featuring all things Centennial: all about the great expo of 1915, for which our wonderful park was built. Part of that celebration is a show of artwork that appeared at that famous expo one hundred years ago, and a gallery run by Noel-Baza Fine Art of works by contemporary San Diego artists. Very grateful to be included in that, too.
There I was, painting away, enjoying the comings and goings of families and groups of school kids, old folks, art lovers, history buffs, kind volunteers and staff, and a huge gaggle of History Center new members being given a tour. Only managed to finish two little pieces, but got a good start on a third one. Fun to work so small after a couple of years of working large. (Wish I had been living large all that time, but we do what we can!)
Go check out the artwork; the current group of historical works will be switched out in July. The contemporary works are frequently changed out as well, so there's regularly something new. Fun to see how old and new takes on San Diego have changed... and not.
Strolling down the beach on a still day, blowing bubbles and watching them bounce as they landed along the strings of footprints. Went looking for the perfect bare print to land a bubble on. But human ones, even children's prints, dwarfed my bubbles. (Besides, there was something so Robinson-Crusoe-finds-Friday about that... ) I just kept on, blowing bubbles to see which way the air was moving, watching for the detritus of the tide: gull prints and kelp strands, seaweed, shells, and abandoned sand toys.
And then there appeared a string of big, perfect paw prints. I blew bubbles until one crossed the path of that print, dragging its rainbow shadow across it. I thought of all the dog walks that beach has seen, all the quiet, solitary strolls with that ideal companion. Now memorialized with a beautiful bubble for scale (and for fun).