bird feeders

Precarious

Precarious is the word for the season. It’s how we feel about our health with a new variant blasting its way through our illusions of safety. It’s how I feel when I go outside and encounter the slippy-slide-y snow and ice. It’s the extreme-weather-economic-social angst and a million other things in the news every day.

And it’s what I feel for the birds in their frenzied visits at our feeders.

One day when the birdseed supply had almost run out, I noticed a particular pattern of bird prints in the snow at the edge of our front door portico. Had they seen me emerge from there, even though it’s not visible from the feeders? I got the message and filled the feeders directly. They didn’t wait for me to depart before they started eating.

15 color medium point Posca Pens

So when I finished trying out all the flavors of Posca paint pens in my gift set, the birds outside my window jumped into the picture along with their tracks!

The problem was the hummingbird feeder, which froze solid so the Annas were out of luck. I should have melted it down each morning, but it was so cold I thought it would just freeze back up.

But then I saw a couple Annas on the feeder and realized I’d better try a little harder. Next morning was sunny and when I put the feeder out again with fresh nectar, I had a couple customers.

Next day though I found a one tiny body in the snow below. The heart gone from its 1263 beats per minute to 0, wings no longer beating 80 times per minute but now motionless.

Precarious. . .the life of such a small creature in the frozen world.

one male Annas hummingbird from three angles

Found you,  my tiny iridescent flasher

Beneath the feeder on a pristine pillow.

Did a snow clump fall and knock you out?

Did the cold stop your heart?

Did you, desperate with hunger, drink too much too fast?

Or did it the nectar come too late, after days of starvation and freezing?

My grieving took the form of an afternoon of study of this miraculous little body with the tiniest iridescent feathers that shone electric when in just the right light, but otherwise had become a dull gray. I hoped with my attention to unlock some secret of bird survival in a kind of artful homage to a valiant life.

Or was it a contemplation of the precariousness of life. 

Our First White Christmas

fountain pen, watercolor, Posca Pens in hand.book watercolor journal

No this is not a vacation cabin in the mountains. It’s the view out our dining room window the day after Christmas. . .a white one! And yes, it’s the first white Christmas I can remember since childhood. And the first snow this coastal California girl has seen in over a decade. At this writing there are about 6 inches and more on the way with this Arctic blast of weather lingering for a few days. 

Yes there’s been a certain amount of anxiety about what to expect, but we’re just staying home and so far I find it enchanting. The teens have skied down our street and you can hear the little kids shrieking with delight as they go down the hill across the street on their saucers. And yes, this is unusual for here in the Puget Sound area, about 20 degrees colder than usually this time of year. But my ski jacket from (ahem!) 30+ years ago does the trick to keep me comfortable. I’m so tired of hearing “there’s no bad weather, just bad dressing. . .” from everyone here, but it’s true.

So Andrew was folding paper and making sketchbooks across the dining room table from me and I was gazing out at the birds and playing with my new Posca pens, while Bob and Ben were working on a programming project.

I figured the Posca pens would be opaque enough to draw in the snow over the watercolor-painted foliage. But every watercolor artist knows the truth that the whitest white is the white of the paper. Lesson learned. But it worked for the snow in the shadows! More on the fun of Posca pens and painting snow next.