The roosters were at the fair.

August 18, 2013: All of life moves on, the summer, the seasons, time. And I felt like, for a while, art just did not fit in until, well today. In taking pause, I remember a trip we made to the fair this last month.

The idea was planted when a man working the counter at the tractor supply store told my daughter that we should go visit a real country fair and make the trip out to the thumb. My daughter excited, we proposed the idea to my husband when we got home and made plans for the weekend.

Going to the fair is not foreign to me. As a kid, I had owned and showed rabbits and chickens at the county fair. My sister and I would spend every day at the fair taking care of our animals and making our way up and down the fairway. It was a kind of celebration for a year’s worth of work, keeping those animals alive during the hot summer days and during the cold January nights. And there were rides to boot! The community came out to celebrate, maybe not our triumphs, but to follow in the yearly tradition of the rides and elephant ears and derby. It was a fun time for me as a kid.

The smells and sights nearly completed the memory that I had of the fair and the experiences that I had as a kid. My daughter was instantly in love. She savored every moment. My husband is convinced 4H would be a good choice for her.

We walked the animal barns. In fact we walked the animal barns three times. I have since asked my daughter what her favorite part was. She reports the Ferris wheel. Although, she was afraid to ride it at first, edging around it until curiosity got the best of her. We ended up riding it over and over again that day. She also reports she liked the cows, rabbits and chickens. I understand why with the cow. We did moo at one and it *did* moo back. The chickens were wonderful. The small-stock barn was over filled with rabbits and chickens, a testimony to the resiliency of country people making due during a recession. The roosters crowed the entire time. Even in the heat they would stand and crow, challenging each other over and over. The roosters were fun to watch. In remembrance, I have created The Rooster, in pan watercolors. I am out of practice, but it was fun to paint!


The Rooster, by Mary Champagne, done in pan watercolors

Edit: I have updated The Rooster picture, with one that is the dried version photographed in natural daylight. Enjoy!


Visiting the Shiawassee River State Game Area

June 9, 2013: Last weekend, Ted, Elaine and I went for a walk around the Shiawassee River State Game Area. It was Memorial Day weekend and with the sun returning to us after some rainy days, we felt the call to the outdoors.

The camera charged and our feet ready for the business of hiking we began a walk down a trail. Our first journey was cut short by a change in the river. The river had eroded away the dike, leaving no place to put our feet without getting thoroughly wet. We smiled remembering we are not in charge of what rivers do and made our way back for the car. I wondered what it would be like for all of the fish and crayfish to find themselves new homes along the new river’s way.

Certain of our second stop we unloaded out of the car. Right away we were greeted by a pair of Baltimore orioles. Bold in color, timid by nature we observed them at a distance. Pairs of blue herons occasionally made their way across the sky. The low wet lands were calm. The water was smooth like a paved path with the only break in the plane from lily pads poking the surface not yet unrolled. My daughter thought that she should be able to walk on the surface. The slight movement of air currents moved the tops of the tall grasses. It was a peaceful day. Yet the birds were all in commotion.

Shiawassee Black Bird

Loudly calling were the blackbirds. The males would take their perch and sound off, raising and lowering their tails, announcing their territories and attracting mates; making a beautiful display. There were tree swallows dancing over our heads and geese honking while making their trip in v-shaped patterns while traveling north. We spotted a snowy egret in the distance and some coyote tracks. There were some early butterflies out for the sunshine. The dragon flies were also around. My daughter took to shaking the grasses to spook them up.

After returning home, I did a quick sketch of a picture that I had taken with a red winged blackbird in the foreground. I highlighted it with some watercolor. Then trying out my new sketch pad, I sketched out a red winged blackbird, putting a dab of oil pastel where the red patch belongs.

Red Winged Blackbird

Tightly Packed, The Fledgling

May 24, 2013: Today is cold! I have been outside all morning with a garage sale to sell my daughter’s baby stuff. She is entering grade school and it is time to make room for the new things in our tightly packed lives.

Speaking of tightly packed, last week I visited my Mom with my daughter in tow. She had the day off of school due to parent teacher conferences and she had not yet visited Grandma’s new house. She was so excited and loves that her Grandma is nearby. Following lunch around the table, Mom had updated us on the condition of the robin’s nest. The three eggs, with the Mother’s care, had been exchanged for three baby birds that were now getting ready to leave the nest.

Baby Robins

Baby Robins

My mom found her camera and I took pictures of the birds. It was a nest that once protected and enclosed them. Now the birds tightly packed, had tails and bills hanging over the sides. It was only through cooperation that they managed to stay inside.

Complete with feathers and hungry appetites the robins have since left the nest. And with that I present ‘The Fledgling’. A young robin ready to take on the world.

A Robin Fledgling, watercolor, Mary Champagne, One Chickadee

A Robin Fledgling, watercolor, Mary Champagne, One Chickadee

The pleasure of daffodils

Because it is spring, my daughter picked daffodils at grandma’s house. Her grandma is an avid gardener and has many, many daffodils this time of year. My daughter was *delighted* that she could pick to her heart’s content and could bring them home to keep. She brought home a large bunch. They sit on our table and remind me of the daffodil poem by Wordsworth. I love this poem! Every time I read it; I am struck with how beautiful it is. Here is the poem in its entirety.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud” (Revised version)
By: William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

I think those last two lines are stirring. When writing, I like to think that is where Wordsworth started from. He seems to be having such a deeply personal experience. While personal, it is a feeling felt by anyone who has been awestruck. Wordsworth does a great job capturing that moment.

Spring with Royalty!

April 27, 2013: Today was a spring day. There is a sweet smell outside making a grand entrance for spring after its late arrival this year. My Mom  recently purchased and moved into a home. She and her husband are wrapping up the care on the inside of the house and with the promise of warmer weather, have turned their attention outdoors. As we walked the yard, it had begun to rain. It was the most pleasant kind of slow, warm rain that seems to gently awaken the plants and trees from winter. We tried to look past problem areas and squinted just a bit, in effort to imagine how best to work with the backyard, what features to keep and which ones to dispose of. We talked over the best course of action and made some plans. My mom had recently discovered and shared with me that there were other inhabitants that have been calling this place home too. Under a bedroom window, in a tidy little nest, a robin had laid three eggs, blue and perfect. Just the sort of thing that is welcome, but can never be ordered. As we rounded to the backyard a pileated woodpecker  appeared, like royalty complete with a bright red crown, taking roost in a large dead tree right on the property line, that abutted to the woods. It was a grand and wonderful sight to see. In honor of that woodpecker I present, Spring with Royalty!

Spring with Royalty, One Chickadee, Mary Champagne

Spring with Royalty, watercolor, One Chickadee, Mary Champagne


Along the trail, a pheasant!

Dec. 2, 2012: Today the family and I went for a trail walk. Shortly before the walk my daughter and I were enjoying our new Gray’s Journal. The product of this luxury produced itself when my daughter insisted we ‘stalk’ some deer. We left the trail finding ourselves cross-country looking for scrapes, droppings, and tracks. Finding adequate *sign* of deer, my daughter was satisfied. We saw where rabbits had nibbled the small trees. Then suddenly the silence was broken by the call of a pheasant. We looked up and saw a rooster broadside. It’s wings and tail spread in perfect profile. We watched it flush just over the tallest grasses in the meadow. My husband and I tried to race to where it was to catch another glance, a futile attempt, but fun none the less. Inspired I sketched a pheasant.

rooster 4.2013

Thanksgiving turkeys

Thanksgiving 2012: Today is Thanksgiving and my family and I took a long drive across Michigan to spend the day with my husband’s brother and his family. My silver lining today was the sight of a small group of turkeys on the side of the road during ride. They didn’t look stately crossing the road. There were no big toms. But they were fit, brown and gray, perfectly representing November. Flocked up as they were, maybe they are the grown siblings from spring’s newness, a family together on Thanksgiving.