A Peculiar Bird with Notable Feet


A Peculiar Bird with Notable Feet, Pencil and watercolor

Dec. 21, 2013: I went to draw up a sketch of Christmas cardinals and instead worked on a blue footed booby. How these things happen, I don’t know. I took up a large sheet of newspaper and the bird took up more picture than again I intended. My daughter busy with her own drawing, chastised me for not including the blue feet. Thinking myself clever, I drew a pair of feet on the upper left of the page, filling them with blue water color. With self assurance of gratitude, I asked her how she liked the picture now. She said it was fine. I now understand it wasn’t that she wanted to see blue feet, but that they were altogether missing on a bird she was growing attached to on the paper.

After some time had passed, she asked with a  giggle and a twinkle in her eye why we called them blue footed boobies. Not because of her interest in peculiar birds with notable feet, but because she could work in the word booby into general conversation. I explained to her people’s perception of the bird as being not intelligent and clumsy, but is in fact an accomplished hunter of fish. She thinks people can be mean, I agree.


Hemingway’s Sea Swallows

Dec. 17, 2013: After Thanksgivig, on a lazy evening, well after my daughter had gone to bed, I was working on a wood burning in front of the fireplace, a full goblet of wine withing arms reach and my husband lounged on the couch. To ease the silence, but in hopes not to end the peacefulness, I put on ‘ Old Man and the Sea’, an audiobook written m Ernest Hemingway and read by Donald Sutherland. (A reading well portrayed and worth the effort to find.)

As the first disc came to a close, my woodburned picture began to show depth. The evening took on a timeless quality. I reached for a second glass of wine. One passage captured, I believe, on that first disc read…

In the dark the old man could feel the morning coming and as 
he rowed he heard the trembling sound as flying fish left 
the water and the hissing that their stiff set wings made 
as they soared away in the darkness. He was very fond of 
flying fish as they were his principal friends on the ocean. 
He was sorry for the birds, especially the small delicate 
dark terns that were always flying and looking and almost 
never finding, and he thought, the birds have a harder 
life than we do except for the robber birds and the heavy 
strong ones. Why did they make birds so delicate and fine 
as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? 
She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel 
and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly, dipping 
and hunting, with their small sad voices are made 
too delicately for the sea.


Hemingway seems to be communicating the duality of beauty and vastness of the sea, the greatness of the winds, and sun and elements, and the smallness and ultimately helplessness of this sea swallow to them. (Much like the beauty and cruelty of life.) And as genteel as this sentiment is, I want to defend this sea swallow. This creature making its existence near and on the expanse. Frailty I think not. But then again, I don’t think Hemingway meant for this paragraph to inform us about sea swallows. How one interprets this passage probably speaks more about the reader and less about the swallows.


Nov. 26, 2013: The bare ground is giving way to snow. Our lives are changing and slowing down as the landscape freezes into place. During the gray days of fall, before the snow came and illuminated our lives, I was reminded of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing. He seemed to completely understand darkness and ruminating. Just how I feel in fall, as the days shorten, the skies cloud over and the air feels damp. Below are some passages from his poetry.

....A route obscured and lonely
 Haunted by ill angles only.
               from Dreamland

...This land of Eldorado?"
 Over the mountains
 of the Moon,
 Down the Valley of Shadow.
                from Eldorado

...Deep into that darkness peering, 
        long stood there wondering, fearing,
 Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever 
        dared to dream before;
 But the silence was unbroken, 
        and the stillness gave no token.
                from the Raven

In watercolor on newspaper by Mary Champagne

Tamerlane Tree
watercolor on newspaper
by Mary Champagne