Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Bittersweet Gift from Nature

This past week, I received a bittersweet gift. In the winter months, Meeko and I walk almost every day on the little forest path not far from our house. At this point in the winter, the scenery is quite familiar and predictable: snow, tree trunks and shadows. I love it but there aren't many dramatic changes from day to day. We know what we are going to see at each curve of the pathway. One day last week, Meeko hesitated beside one snow bank and it made me glance over. Scattered over the snow were the most beautiful spotted feathers.

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.

I created a composition with sixteen feathers. Midway through working on my painting, I thought that maybe I should have included less feathers as it would have been so much less work but I like that there are so many shapes and variations of feathers included. The photos show my work still in progress but I am happy with how it is coming along.

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




10 comments:

  1. They truly are beautiful!

    http://tinajoathome.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! I've never seen a spotted bird before. How wonderful nature is indeed! I had a similar experience with a hawk, though in this case he snagged a bird out of the tree right over my head. I too went through all the upset and I too came to the realization that the hawk too has to eat and he doesn't do anything out of meanness. In fact, I believe the hawk is my own personal totem. Love all the feathers and have to consciously put the bird itself out of my thoughts. I do not like knowing any animal has been hurt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The downy woodpecker wings are spotted although you don't really see the individual spots when all of the feathers are together. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downy_Woodpecker

      I have learned to respect the hawks and admire their beauty. A beautiful and powerful personal totem. :)

      Delete
  3. I am very happy you finally found a way to 'paint while breathing' (lol), and completed this very beautiful painting!! Your backyard holds many treasures (even if some sad stories too). Thank you for sharing this beauty:-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paint? Breathe? Breathe? Paint? The choices! :)

      Nature is full of beauty and complexity. Maybe painting helps us understand it a bit better? Thanks for your lovely comments.

      Delete
  4. Dear Kathleen - these are lovely...certainly my kind of painting. I collect all kinds of bird feathers and stick them in vases in my home. They serve as a lovely reminder of the beauty that can be found in the most simple of gifts. Hope you are having a wonderful day. God Bless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Debbie. I'm glad you like the painting. Vases sound like a lovely way to display feathers.

      Delete
  5. Beauty can be found not only in happy things. There is beauty in decay, for instance. These feathers are very pretty, and you've painted them so realistically. Thanks for sharing both of them (the real ones, and your painted adaptation) with us. Big hugs xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree, Sonia. I love flowers even as they fade and get brown. :) Thanks for the lovely comments about my feather painting. xx

      Delete

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and to leave me a comment. I love reading them. -- Kathleen

(Please note that comments with links to ads or commercial websites will be deleted.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...