Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ravens, Red-Tailed Hawks, & Coyote Sightings

We are enjoying a warm spell. Blue skies, gentle temperatures, and soft warm autumn light. I took two eight year old girls hiking, to a frozen waterfall on Two Doe Mountain. I like to name mountains that are not named on maps. My paintings are sort of like that—visual descriptions of unnamed territory, or maps of places on maps that I have intentionally not visited.

The raven in the photograph above posed, talking to me, on the roof of Evergreen Lodge in Hyde State Park, where we began our hike. A few seconds later, I snapped this shot.

The only sound better than a raven’s lecture is the noise of its wings beating overhead. No other bird flies with that rhythmic, beating, breathy sound.  I'd like to reproduce the essence of that sound in a painting.  I've a feeling that the image above will appear in a painting soon.  Ravens and trees, particularly aspen and ponderosa pine, have been commanding my attention of late.

Last weekend, as we were driving down our street, my kids and I saw an ascending red-tailed hawk drop a large rodent to its death. In the flash of a second, the rodent fell with the autumn leaves kicked up by a sudden gust of wind. Our brains were a little slower. It took us a moment to process what we’d seen.

I found the skeletal remains of two deer in the forest last week. I’ve noticed a lot of coyote tracks in that area recently. I wondered whether coyote predation on the deer was increasing or my ability to spot bones on the forest floor was improving. Thursday night, over beer & pizza, I was telling a friend that I hadn’t seen a coyote in months, though I know they are numerous in my neighborhood. Friday morning we saw two, as I was driving Carmen to school, in an open brushy area on my street. They paused briefly and looked us over. They looked big and healthy. I though of my fat, white, brain damaged cat, and hoped she had heeded my advice to stay in the fenced back yard. Reminders that nature is red in tooth in claw, and life brief and precious, abound. It’s a theme that surfaces in many of my paintings.

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