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Sunday, March 30, 2008


Picture of found Hummingbird nest for my art class
This week, with the blooming of the native red currant, arrived the ear buzzing hummingbirds and the first white crowned sparrows from the south, and three varied white winter days, flitting hail, sleet and snow from the north! The hummingbirds reminded me of the nest I found while cleaning up at the edge of the woods. It had broken off a tall Douglas Fir tree in a winter storm and lay on the ground underneath. Because I often wondered what a hummingbird nest felt and looked like and where they might be found, knowing they nested nearby, I was thrilled to find one at my feet, pick it up and hold the delicate nest of spider webs and lichens in my hands.
I remember the first time I saw baby hummingbirds at the Seattle Wild Bird Clinic when I brought an injured robin through rush hour traffic with my children in tow to Mrs Butler's door. I was amazed to see her feeding 3 hummingbirds with a hypodermic needle. "Round the clock, every two hours," she said. She kept the solution and needles in her refrigerator and the birds were on her kitchen counter. The babies were barely as big as my littlest fingernail.
Speaking of babies, we are positioning ourselves to head south, opposite the birds, when we get a phone call from our daughter and son-in-law in California that our granddaughter is on the way. We are packed and ready to be with them the 11th if not before. We are wondering what she might be and look like and in April we will get a chance to hold this most wonderous creation in our hands.
"...fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14

Saturday, March 22, 2008


This week, instead of writing, I took an oil painting class from Matt Miller and was reminded of my first blog a year ago "fallen". (see it copied below)

"Fallen" by J. Matt Miller

"Why would I want to buy a picture of a dead bird?” was the questioning look I got when I bought Matt’s oil painting titled “Fallen”. He painted and posted it on his daily life painting blog on Good Friday. In the past I talked to Matt about painting birds, but he said they don’t sit still long enough for real life painting. I recall last summer when our grandson, Andrew, and I sat at our dining table drawing a bird. It was a window-crashed-dead pine siskin after which we buried it with ceremony, a cross as its marker.

Easter Sunday, Matt told me that he did paint a bird on Good Friday, one that crashed into his living room window. I looked at his blog and woke up on Monday knowing I had to buy the painting. I spent the week pondering why. Yes, I have a "thing" about injured or dying birds. Ask my kids. More than once I dragged them and various boxed birds with concussions through rush hour traffic for 20 miles to the Seattle Wild Bird Center, then the only state-licensed wildlife clinic in the area. I learned a lot about helping birds survive a crash.

So now, in our island home closet sits an electric heating pad and a cardboard box with towels just for these occurrences. The picture reminds me of two winters ago. Upon hearing the all too often terrible “thud” against the window of our island home, my heart and I race outside to find a spotted Tohwee, feet up, not a good sign. As only its red eyes move, I gather it in a soft towel and place it in the box, out of the way of noise and traffic, and set the heating pad to low. All the while softly muttering, “Please God let it live”.

With many hours passing and several tries taking the box outside and lifting the cover to release it, it finally flew to safety. Often when I see what I think is “the” Tohwee scratching at the grass for seed and scurrying with its mate under the lavender bushes that line the flag patio, I thank God for its revival. Perhaps I need to do more about the ignored problem of our window glass.

The Bird Conservation Network gives some solutions mentioning window glass crash as the number one human caused bird mortality with an estimated 1 billion birds killed in the U.S. each year. I’ve hung metal birds from the door frame on a raffia chord and stuck an outdoor chair in front of the glass door, neither of which works well. I pull curtains when we are gone.

So today I try “designer” vertical lines of soap every four inches down the window. We’ll see what my husband says when he gets in. “I still think a barn would be best for you,” was his response. Maybe so, at least there are not many windows to crash into.

But then, God, don't you know when a sparrow (or tohwee) falls?1 Don’t we all continue to exist by Your will? You, God, say how much more valuable we are than birds.2

 Stuck in my head this week is the song that we sang on Easter Sunday, “Crucified, laid behind the stone, you lived to die, rejected and alone, like a rose (or a rose-sided Tohwee), trampled on the ground, you took the fall and thought of me, above all.”3 You found me fallen because I saw and worshiped a reflection of your image, not you. I've worshipped a reflection, a visual barrier, that is the form of religion, not you; my own independence, not your way, my sometimes greater interest in birds than people.

You picked me up, wrapped me warm, and put me in a safe place. You loved me so wondrously, God, that you took the fall and died yourself, your substitute sacrifice, not for birds who still obey your commands, but for my sake, so I can be revived and set free. Did you sacrifice the tohwee so Matt would paint it, I buy it, so every time I look at it have a visible reminder of my worth to you Lord who died and rose for me, what Easter is all about.

Notes: 1. Matthew 10:29 2. Luke 12:24b; Matthew 10:31; Luke 12:4-9 3. “Above All”, Paul Baloche and Lenny LeBlanc.

By the way, a year later, no more fallen birds at our windows, the "designer" vertical lines of soap work.
Dead Spotted Tohwee (alias Rufous-sided Tohwee)
Pipilo maculatus L 7 ½ (19 cm)
Friday, April 06, 2007 Painting by J. Matt Miller
"Fallen" 8x10 oil/linen

Friday, March 7, 2008

A two week break

Heading outside

As we came back from our trip, too much else to catch up on...taxes, gardening, planting vegetables, attempting to order my life, spring cleaning, and fitting in some music, art and reading.

I reread Billy Collins poem "Advice to Writers" again.

"Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.

Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks to swab in the dark forest upper branches,
nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and the brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of clean world.
From a small vase... sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods."

from Sailing alone around the room: New and Selected Poems.

I took Billy’s advise. The reason for my increasingly poor writing is the clutter and surrounding disorder. These weeks ahead I'm starting in one corner floor to ceiling with brush and pail and vacuum and rag. The loose wandering papers will be gathered and teathered or placed in caged files. Away with the cobwebs, away with the piles. If I happen to head out the door it might be two years before I fnd my way back to the desk and talk to you, just so you know.