Love is a Special Way of Feeling

April 20, 2014: Today was Easter. I woke up at five a.m. this morning and stepped outside to a loud chorus of birds just before sunrise. They already knew it was to be a beautiful day and it was. After spending the afternoon with family, my husband and daughter and I returned to the house and worked in the yard. My daughter and I dug into the garden area and made it fresh for a new growing season. Many fat worms were in the soil. It felt like a family day, a loving day and it reminded me of a little passage in a used book I found called, Love is a Special Way of Feeling, by Joan Walsh Anglund, copyrighted 1960. The cover is cloth and simply bound.

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Love is a Special Way of Feeling by: Joan Walsh Anglund

It is such a special little book, with the best illustrations, although the illustrator is not named. The story is simple and communicates one thing, love. It does not affix love to just one person or situation, but quietly reminds us of special moments that warm our hearts and define us for who we are.  My favorite passage is found directly halfway through the book.

from Love is a Special Way of Feeling by Joan Walsh Anglund

from Love is a Special Way of Feeling by Joan Walsh Anglund

                                    Love is found in unexpected places …
                                    It is there in the quiet moment
                                    when we first discover
                                    a beautiful thing …
                                    when we watch a bird
                                    soar high against
                                    a pale blue sky …

Happy Easter! Oh, and I do continue to work on this charcoal. I present The Hungry Bird. It is not done yet, but I will continue to share my progress on it.

The Hungry Bird, done in charcoal, by Mary Champagne

The Hungry Bird, done in charcoal, by Mary Champagne

 

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Hope, spring is late in coming

March 15, 2014: It feels like waking up from a long sleep, a sort of hibernation that one does not remember except that now suddenly to be awake.

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I went for a walk today, the first real walk in many months. Feeling my legs, I moved slowly and was overcome by exactly how gray it still is. It seems as though winter may never leave, color may never return and it may always be dark. The air was damp and it had been raining with the temperature was just over freezing. Inside of my jacket I felt protected and ready, the fleece soft and warm and full of color.

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I walked and side stepped puddles. The ground gave way to squishy footholds. It is no longer frozen and for this I am happy. I rounded the corner and put distance between me and the road. I could hear the birds. I saw familiar silhouettes and calls, but none whose name I can remember, it has been so long. It is good to see them return, even if they must bare out such conditions in hopes of spring.

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I rounded the path again, finding the bike trail in good repair. I crossed a foot bridge and watched the water for a moment. The ice was mostly gone. The stream appeared full of life in the flowing current. I thought on the question I was asked earlier today about what it may be like ten years from now. What is the future, if not a projection of the past? Which in this river filled with rain water from the whole of winter, I think on ten years ago. Using that as one point and the present as another, I draw a line and try to see into the future. I try to imagine it, but it is like looking thru a thick fog. Everything is there, but hidden from view.

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I walked up the trail and on my right were a small group of birds around a puddle. Two robins were hopping in parallel. To the casual observer they may look together, traveling the ground searching for food. But in truth they are sizing each other up. One will finally end the charade and move toward the other. They will bristle and one will leave. Spring has begun even if it is a cold one and the competition for life has begun. I look up into the tree and see two silhouetted birds mating. I can see their future so clearly. And I realize the question I had been asked was what I *hoped* it would be like. Going back to my two points, I changed my line to a long curve. Not linear, not here to there. Hope, bending the line with my will.

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I remember traveling on a seasonal road in the U.P. of Michigan. The road went up a great curved mountain, with a drop off on our left. My daughter was asleep in the back and we traveled up the road in our old blue truck. I remember our view in front of us was all sky and behind us nothing was hidden from view. I remember saying it is like we are driving into the sky. As I walked, I thought that is what I hope for, the sky and all the stars and maybe just a little warmer weather, and some sun and the cheep of those little birds that will be here in a month. I hope for them, I hope for me.

The Seagulls are Free

June 23, 2013: A little over a week ago my husband suggested, with snark, what is next a seagull? Well why not? On Lake Superior we saw seagulls that flew majestically diving and plucking fish from the open water, they were wonderful and beautiful.

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Traveling Seagulls, charcoal and chalk on newspaper, Mary Champagne

I have a copy of Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull that my daughter and I have started reading. She is at just the right age where she still enjoys for me to read to her and short stories are not as satisfying as they use to be. I found the following quote moving and thought I would share it here:

“Instead of our drab slogging forth and back
to the fishing boats, there's reason to live!
We can lift ourselves out of ignorance,
we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence
and intelligence and skill.
We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”
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Freedom Seagull, pencil and oil pastel, Mary Champagne

The Traveling Seagulls are on newspaper with charcoal and white chalk. The second picture is done in a soft pencil and the background is in oil pastel. I am still working out the oil pastel medium. I really like it, but don’t know how best to work it’s strong suits. (As I think this is the third post I have featured a picture where I have used it. Practice, practice.) I think it works well here. Oil pastel colors really pop, and I think here it adds interest and texture.

This is not fine art. The White Ibis

June 15, 2013: Last weekend I was out with my cousin. She was flipping through pictures her son had taken when our attention was drawn to a photo of a white ibis. She allowed me to barrow the pictures of it. I have been trying out some oil pastels that I had bought at a garage sale this summer. I set to work and created a reproduction of the bird from a combination of two pictures. Afterwards, I had set it over the fireplace mantel to analyze it, looking for mistakes and doing touch up work. When I walk into the room it catches my eye with all the white space. I did a layering technique to the mulched ground. I was happy with the results. I like the shine and vibrancy of the oil medium. Then I took a picture up close for this post and well, this is not fine art. Huh. This is more like poor art.

I went for a jog after my daughter went to bed. I was contemplating trying new mediums. Then something that I had read recently on MadArtLab came to mind, “we shy away from new things. We fear failure. We disparage mediocrity. We refuse to try. I think that there is value in poor art, more to be learned from hard-earned failure than simple success, and so much to be gained from curiosity that it defies words.”

On foot, I rounded the corner away from my street and rounded another corner onto a bike trail. I was thinking about what is art, specifically. Certainly this Ibis that I had created wasn’t fine art, but then what is. I picked up my pace and jogged past the community garden. There were two men working their plots. One was dressed in a brightly colored shirt and was wearing a straw hat, an outfit may be purchased for just such occasion. He walked the neat rows of his garden plot, careful of the small vegetable shoots. The other man hoed between the rows. A picture of cultivation. They seemed to like just where they were. I jogged on and the gardens gave way to lush green grass. The evening air was coming in big air movements, stifling my jogging efforts. The preserved turf turned to unkempt grasses and wildflowers. I had the compulsion to stop and touch them. I slowed and suddenly everything seemed heavy and mortal and real. It was like I had arrived. This was *fine* to me. Fine art must come from not just technical beauty, but a feeling! I walked a distance enjoying the change in thought and scenery. I managed to the final turn on my trip and ran the rest of the way home.  Here I preset the Ibis.

The White Ibis, oil pastels, Mary Champagne

The White Ibis, done in oil pastels, Mary Champagne

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

Did you have nature in your hand?

Nov. 4, 2012: This afternoon, I was out in the front yard with my daughter. The weather had been brisk and following all the rain last week, we needed some time outside. She was busily digging in grandma’s flower beds and trails when I decided to try to hand feed the birds. They were out making use of the feeders that were freshly filled with oilers. I put my hand out and my daughter was busy running about. I tried to encourage her to be still, but then gave up and concentrated on keeping my hand still next to the feeder. Chickadees kept flying in, but were too overwhelmed by this person by their food and the loud, wild, digging one to come close. Time went by, my daughter calmed and my hand remained in place. Birds, mostly chickadees and a nuthatch, settled in the branches above me. Finally they started landing on the feeder. At first few only landed on the feeder to peek around the side and look me in the face. Deciding that I was harmless they went to work eating from the feeder and ignored my hand filled with seeds. I raised it up a bit making it the higher perch, a more attractive place to land. The birds fluttered just past my hand unsure, then suddenly a chickadee, lit. It landed on the outer most part of my longest finger. It looked at me, seemed to cock its head and took a seed. My daughter saw the whole event and said, “Did you have nature in your hand?” Yes I did. Here is a pictures of a chickadee from my sketchbook.

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sketched chickadee, One Chickadee, Mary Champagne