It didn't take too long to figure out that what we were witnessing was the aftermath of the tragic end of a woodpecker, most likely a Downy Woodpecker, although all that was left were feathers. I am squeamish about injury and death and hate to know that any creature has perished.
I need to tell you a story. One day a couple of years ago, I looked outside into our backyard and saw a hawk sitting in one of our trees. Our trees are still relatively small so it was a pretty impressive sight. He had a sparrow in its beak. I have been known to walk out into the backyard and announce to the birds (I'm usually talking to the blue jays in springtime) that there will be no murders in my backyard. I was horrified in this case to see that I was too late to do anything. I have to say that my reaction moved from horror to respect over the course of the very long time that he was there. This was not sport. There was no waste. This was his food.
So this week on the forest path, I respected the fact that most likely another hawk had had its lunch and I had ended up with the most beautiful subjects for a new painting. Meeko was very patient as I trudged through the snow trying to gather as many as I could. Do you look at nature sometimes and think 'How could this be so beautiful?' Me too. The markings on these feathers are exquisite. It's the first time I've seen woodpecker feathers up close.
While working on it, I learned that painting while breathing is complicated. My delicate subjects were flying all over the place. (Trying to paint without breathing is even more complicated!) I finally placed my reference feathers under a cello sleeve so they would stay in one place and I could still see them. Much better!
I am thankful to the hungry hawk and my scout Meeko for the gift of these beautiful feathers.
"Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift." Albert Einstein