January 6, 2015

2015: A New Year of Renewal

A new year. A blank slate. A chance to renew ourselves. To revisit our goals. 

This time last year I revisited my goal to be a working nature writer and illustrator. I had had enough of just-scraping-by doing work that taxed me, rather than rewarding me—mentally, physically, monetarily, and emotionally. I admit, turning 40 had something to do with it. A birthday of introspection. “What have I done with my life thusfar? How much time might I have left? What will I do with it?” I realized that I spent the past two decades doing work that satisfied others’ needs, but not my own. I skipped over the path that I felt drawn to, and settled for the “easier” one. The one that would pay the bills. Well, it used to.

Staying on this lackluster path had taken a toll on my body. Structural issues in my cervical spine flared up beyond tolerance. It was becoming impossible to draw and paint just for fun when I wasn’t doing graphic design work, because the computer work forced my body into positions that pinched nerves and caused muscles to continuously spasm. It was too much. I reached my limit.

The path grew darker as I imagined myself unable to draw or paint for the next 40 years of my life. Art is not just a hobby for me—it is an essential aspect of my identity. Who I am. From the time I could hold a crayon, I have been an artist. Without art, I am… nothing. That’s how it felt. If I could not create art, life would have no meaning. I would be forced to give up my dream of illustrating books and articles for children. I would lose my connection to my child self.

No! I could not allow this to happen.

With the support of my partner, Brian, and a heart full of hope, I made the decision NOT to take on work that forced me to lose my Artist identity, no matter what the purse. You would think that giving myself freedom to realize my dreams head-on would be liberating, right? Wrong. It was terrifying.

“What if I finally put 100% of my self into being an Artist… and then fail?” asked my nervous mind.

Not trying is giving up before you even start, answered my heart.

I realized that I had dillydallied on the easy path for so long for fear of failure. That is forgivable enough.

Forgiveness—another difficult challenge. I blame myself for everything, all the time. I’m always seeking forgiveness from people outside myself for things I didn’t actually do. Who do I really need forgiveness from? Me.

Sometimes the best way to do something seemingly unattainable is to pretend. Pretend you are what you want to be. Act like someone who has mastered what you want to master. Get a little theatrical if you have to. Eventually, you won’t be acting anymore. You’ll be doing it.

So I did a little bit of acting like someone who forgives herself and stopped apologizing to everyone but me. I tried on some boundaries. I said “no” to some design projects. I took some risks. I signed up for another workshop at the Highlights Foundation, because that’s what someone who was taking their career as a writer/illustrator for children very seriously would do. I crawled off the easy path, put on my bushwhacking gear, and started forging a new path. My own.

The result? I AM a working writer and illustrator. Birding magazine paid to publish my illustrations of Passenger Pigeons. I received an unsolicited scholarship to another workshop. Mentors appeared. So did followers. An ornithologist approached me about illustrating a children’s book. I received an award in a juried art show with the Valley Forge Audubon Society, who then invited me to exhibit with a select few established artists at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. I was invited to show my original Passenger Pigeon art at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, where it will hang through July 2015—alongside works by the great Don Eckelberry. I applied for the Eckelberry Fellowship. I submitted a book that I wrote and illustrated to publishers. I have more stories in progress. I’ve got a Philly Nerd Nite presentation to prepare for February 4th.

The more risks I take, the greater the rewards. More than I could imagine (and I can be pretty imaginative)!

Turning 40 was really hard, but yesterday, I turned 41. I am one year closer to achieving my goals, rather than avoiding them. I’ve got mentors at my back, and the life I intended before me. It’s going to be a big year.

End note: the pain in my neck and arm is still an issue I deal with every day. I’m working on resolving the pain, every way I can. It may require taking risks. But so does doing nothing.

• • •
September 19, 2014

That Martha’s Kept Me Busy

It’s bad form to go months without blogging. My only excuse is that I’ve been working hard on something greater. I knew that if I wandered off-course to talk about what I was doing, then I would no longer be doing it. I’d be digressing. As I am now. No time for that. No time!

I’m happy to report that I’ve officially finished my dummy for my picture book about the Passenger Pigeon. It’s in the hands of an editor who asked to see it. A solicited submission. I can’t even describe what a humongous deal this is for me. Up to this point I’ve only ever submitted illustration samples and portfolios—never with my own writing. I have long suffered an impostor complex when it comes to adding “author” to my illustrator name (a #TBT post for another time). Let’s just say that my inner poopynannyhead of a critic has been banished to sulk in the corner.

Such good things come from spending time at the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA.

This time last year I spent a long weekend in a crash course led by the godfather of aspiring children’s authors, Harold Underdown. It was the first time I brought all my scraps and bits and pieces about Passenger Pigeons together, and laid them on a table for feedback. I came away from the workshop feeling nurtured, like someone important who knew better than most people actually believed in me. It gave me courage to take bigger baby steps in my writing. You might say I hatched from my protective shell that weekend.

Then, I applied for the Highlights Foundation Writing About Nature Retreat, to be held in May 2014. I was accepted, I attended, and gobbled up seeds of truth and wisdom like a hungry little squab. I grew quickly with the support of my own flock.

A few weeks later, I received a call from Kent Brown, inviting me to attend Chautauqua East in June. Well now, I wasn’t prepared for that! That’s like, one of those serious conferences for those really serious writers who have written and published a hundred thousand things, right? So I thought until I was invited. Honored, I packed my bags again and this time spent a glorious week in the barn in the field by the woodland stream. I wish I could impart just how much more knowledge, support, encouragement, confidence, belonging, and nurturing flowed through me during this magical, week-long adventure. In keeping with the bird analogy, here I fledged.

Fledgeling birds step out of the nest partially feathered, then flutter clumsily to a branch or lower elevation, while receiving continued meal deliveries and guidance from their parents. So it has been for me. I have private Facebook groups with my fellow attendees and faculty from each of these retreats where we keep track of each other, deliver morsels of encouragement, and celebrate each other’s baby giant steps. If I hadn’t experienced such love and validation from the people of the Highlights Foundation, I would likely still be sitting on this pigeon book idea, arguing with my inner poopynannyhead about my right to write it. Instead, I’ve taken my first flight into children’s publishing. I can’t wait to share what happens next.

Pigeon Art is Everywhere

Because I’m an author AND illustrator (yeah, that’s right!), I’ve been painting a lot of Passenger Pigeons. Almost every bird of mine has made it into the public eye at this point. In the May/June issue of Birding magazine, my Passenger Pigeon studies accompany an article by Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, co-writer of the new documentary From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, and founder of Project Passenger Pigeon. Joel connected me with the editor of Birding, as well as the curator of collections at the Woodson Art Museum, and the good folks at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. The Woodson took two of my earlier pigeon studies for inclusion in a special exhibit, titled: Legacy Lost and Saved: Extinct and Endangered Birds of North America, which opened the same day as their annual “Birds in Art” exhibit. I think the super-coolest part about this exhibit is that my paintings will hang in the same room as Ivory-Billed Woodpecker originals by the late, great Don Richard Eckelberry. I mean, for real. And they’ll hang there through July 2015.

The Plight of the Passenger Pigeon at the John James Audubon Center. Photo ©2014 Stephen Kacir.

My group exhibit at the John James Audubon house, The Plight of the Passenger Pigeon, opened this weekend on the second floor of John James’ childhood home in Audubon, PA. How about that. Five of my Passenger Pigeon-inspired originals share the room with bird art by other local artists and illustrators, including Michael Adams, Ponder Goembel, Mallary Johnson, Brigida Michopulos, and Lisa Lapoint Roese. There’s also a Passenger Pigeon specimen stuffed by J.J. himself. The show hangs through November 15, 2014.

Never before has my art enjoyed such bird spirited company. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it.

I sincerely hope that with all these events, and some yet-to-be-announced events to come, I’ll give Martha and her flock of Passenger Pigeons some of the lost attention and remembrance they deserve.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, there’s a Carolina Parakeet named Incas tapping at my window sill.

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• • •
August 29, 2014


Use this image to #RememberMartha in your social media streams on 9/1/14. Full post to come on the subject.


• • •
May 6, 2014

Telling Martha’s Story: The Very Last Passenger Pigeon on Earth

Passenger Pigeon Cuddle by Kate Garchinsky

My mother will proudly confirm that my first word was “bird”.

In my early days of tree climbing, I would drape myself across a branch in our Japanese maple tree and wait for birds and squirrels to come close. I decided that if they could see how kind-hearted I was, they would come closer, let me pet them, and be my friends. Having seen my share of animated movies, I knew it was definitely, definitely possible.

But no matter how still I sat, how sweetly I whispered, or how hard I wished, the birds flushed at the sight of me. I scared them. Why? I thought. Their fear felt like personal rejection. But I would never hurt you, I said to them in my thoughts.

Passenger Pigeon sketch by Kate Garchinsky

Thirty years later, while volunteering in wild bird rehabilitation at Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, I fulfilled my childhood dream of handling wild birds. Raising orphaned baby songbirds from hatchlings to fledglings, I came to understand and respect their wildness. The instinct has developed over hundreds of thousands of years of bad experiences. To birds, we are predators, no different from any other. As soon as they realize we’re not their mother birds, they want nothing to do with us.

Plus, “evolved” as we are, we constantly invent, use, and produce new hazards to wildlife (and ourselves): Guns. Powerlines. Energy byproducts. Cars, planes and trains. Fishing lines and nets. Windows. Chainsaws. Warfare. Pest controls. Fires. Toxic waste. Poison. Garbage (well, some birds do like trash). Even violent weather.

Many of these dangers have been developed within the past century and a half—far too quickly for wildlife to adapt. What about before that? Were any North American birds already extinct before the industrial revolution?

Passenger Pigeon sketch by Kate Garchinsky

In August 2012 I asked myself these questions for the first time. In my web search for endangered extinct North American birds, I met the passenger pigeon—almost exactly 100 years after it had met its demise. Its journey to extinction was swift, and the details of its death were painful—almost too hard to bear. What was more unfathomable was the fact that I had never heard of this bird before. Why hadn’t I been told its story when I was in school? Was I home sick that day? Did everyone else know about it but me?

I began to ask around. “Have you ever heard of the passenger pigeon?” The answers I got were a mixture of “no” and, “yeah, like carrier pigeons, right?” Nobody in my family or amongst my friends ever heard of the actual bird, or how it was wiped off the face of the earth in just a few decades. No one knew how there once were billions in North America, and now none. Nor did they believe me when I spouted out the horrid details of their annihilation. No wonder, I thought. It is an unbelievable, gruesome story. One that needs to be told. Not just to grown-ups, but to kids, too.

It’s a story that ends with a little old bird named Martha. I‘m working on it. 

So are othersLearn more right now via #ProjectPassengerPigeon. Or check out the next issue of Birding, featuring my pigeon illustrations and an article by Father Passenger Pigeon, otherwise known as my friend, Joel Greenberg.

Passenger Pigeon, adult male by Kate Garchinsky
Passenger Pigeon, adult male by Kate Garchinsky
Winner Honorable Mention for Works on Paper at the “Drawn From Nature” juried art exhibit at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove in Audubon, PA, April 2014

• • •
April 9, 2014

I Quit You, Facebook!

Kate on Facebook

Or, at least, this is why I’m trying. 

For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from a habit of worrying obsessively about what other people think of me. Preoccupied with the opinions and emotions of others, I sacrificed my own feelings for the good of keeping peace, taking care of others, making sure that everyone around me was happy. I had come to the conclusion that I did not deserve happiness until everyone I knew or knew of was first genuinely happy. I won’t blame all the Catholic schooling because, you know, that would be cause for more shame.

The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. —Virginia Woolf

Babies and toddlers cannot lie about their emotions. Adults can and do. I learned to read conflicting body language, words and emotions, and became very good at it, or so I thought, at an early age. At the same time, I developed a less useful sense of paranoia about all people and their feelings. The only beings who could be trusted to express themselves authentically were not human. Animals, birds, maybe babies—they were ok. Everyone else was suspect.

Oh gosh, so what the heck does all of this have to do with Facebook? (See? I’m worried about what you’re thinking and feeling right now. You’re bored, aren’t you? You’re thinking I’m a self-absorbed narcissist. Ok, so you don’t like me. Fine. I am pretending to accept that.)

The problem with Facebook is that, for someone like me, who is already preternaturally preoccupied with other people’s emotions, feeling obligated to make sure everyone is ok and liking me in order to feel at ease with myself, Facebook is a dangerous drug.

Facebook: the App of Codependency

It’s true, see? I trademarked it. All trademarked things on the internet are true.

A psychologist friend of mine once shared a theory with me, that all people everywhere have the potential to become addicted to something. Her thought is that whether or not a person ever engages in addictive behavior depends upon whether or not they find their drug. Some people have multiple, readily accessible and findable drug matches. Others luck out with an obscure drug they never find at the serendipitous low point in their life.

Many people will overuse Facebook, maybe even become dependent upon it, but not everyone will become a Facebook addict. It was not a problem for me from day one. For six years I was an active to heavy user, but I retained some self-control. Then things changed. In order to meet an extreme deadline last year, I almost completely isolated myself from the outside world. Brian, now my fiancé, provided life support—food, wine, dog walking, and long hugs. Other than that, I was socially deprived, and to compensate, I got in the habit of checking email and Facebook before I got out of bed. Snooze iPhone alarm, read Mail, open Facebook, binge, binge, binge! Until I absolutely had to get out of bed. Get up, brush teeth, sit down to work until a dinner plate sat in front of me. Eat, work til 2, sometimes 5am. My mind and body suffered until I got the job done, and kept suffering.

Nearly a year after the start of that project, the pain is constant. I cannot sit at my drafting table or my easel for more than an hour without triggering level 8-10 pain, accompanied by muscle spasms and emotional duress. To be fair, I already had been diagnosed with a condition called cervical spinal stenosis going into last year. It caused me some pain and some numbness in my right shoulder, arm and hand during periods of heavy use, but I had found ways to manage it with acupuncture, exercise, a TENS unit, and anti-inflammatories. These no longer provide relief. I’ve been without insurance for over a year, so my medical resources have been limited for some time. On May 1st I’ll be added to Brian’s insurance. My appointment at the Rothman Institute is May 6th. It has been a long wait.

During that wait, I reached my breakthrough point, found my rock bottom. Not being able to create a drawing, a painting or a design without pain is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. The thought of this being a permanent problem is nearly unbearable.

Creation is my oldest, truest friend. Like animals, it is safe. Without it, who am I? I have always been “Katie, the artist.” From the time I was reading feelings, I was hiding up in my room with my box of art supplies, painting birds in trees. Back then art was pure escape. These days art also represents my independence, my livelihood, my identity, my true feelings, my self.

Back to fricking Facebook. I have come to recognize how much of my creative energy Facebook zaps. I throw hours and hours of meaningless attention to it every morning. And then again 5 minutes later. And then there’s a notification. And oh, who’s birthday is it? I wouldn’t want them to think I didn’t care. And oh, just the News Feed for a few minutes so I don’t feel so alone, just give me a fix of connection with someone, somewhere. Ugh. Not that girl. I didn’t even like her in grade school. Why are we “friends” now? Oh! A video! Yes I do need to know the top 12 reasons I should be doing something that someone else says on someone else’s page that came from a website that generates top # lists just so people share them like this until everyone has seen it and maybe 1/10 of those sharers clicked on an ad on that page accidentally, and so they’re making money, and OH MY GOD IT IS 4:47PM AND I HAVEN’T ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING TODAY, AND I NEED TO START WRITING, BECAUSE WRITING IS ONE CREATIVE THING I STILL CAN DO WITHOUT HURTING.

In order to start my new career as a writer, I need to stop Facebooking. Hey, if you read this far, I might even have a chance. All I know is, if I spend the same amount of time writing Real things every day that I spend crafting status updates, uploading photos and leaving comments, I’ll get something creative done and be much healthier for it.

*In order to determine how long I had been Facebooking, I had to find the “Joined Facebook” life event on my profile. In the process of searching for it, I was distracted by 6 news stories, 1 video, and 3 notifications—equalling 20 minutes of more wasted time. I can justify it to myself by saying it was a bird video so that’s really research for my next book. Not.
You cannot find peace by avoiding life. —Virginia Woolf

Kate Garchinsky is an artist who draws and writes books about birds. Please do not Like her Facebook page. Instead, follow her blog at PenguinArt.com.

• • •
March 1, 2014

Dead Birds

“I just saw the coolest bird!”

So begin many text messages, emails and Facebook comments in my life. When people who know me spot a bird, they think of me and must tell me immediately. It’s pretty cool.

Such was the case this week when a co-worker of Brian almost stepped on what she called “this big bird that looked like it was chompin’ on sumpin'” on the sidewalk near 5th and Walnut. Brian investigated for me. I never would have guessed from that description that what she found was an American Woodcock.

Whenever I can I prefer to work from life. Sometimes life is dead. This unfortunate woodcock clearly bashed his beak into a building during a nocturnal flight through Philadelphia. His beak was bent and filled with blood, his neck twisted and one of his eyes got pushed up into his skull. Either that or he was a one-eyed woodcock.

American Woodcock building colllision

In the past I have drawn dead birds that I have found on my family’s property, or in passing on the street. Sometimes I receive dead bird deliveries from well-meaning friends and family who aren’t familiar with the statues of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which states:

Unless and except as permitted by regulations made as hereinafter provided in this subchapter, it shall be unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture, or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to barter, barter, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, export, import, cause to be shipped, exported, or imported, deliver for transportation, transport or cause to be transported, carry or cause to be carried, or receive for shipment, transportation, carriage, or export, any migratory bird, any part, nest, or egg of any such bird, or any product, whether or not manufactured, which consists, or is composed in whole or part, of any such bird or any part, nest, or egg thereof…

In other words, it is a federal offense for me or anybody to pick up a dead bird and take it home, keep any part of it, or give it to anyone else.

I believe (and someone can correct me on this) that if someone delivers a dead bird to me without my prior knowledge or consent, that I am not at fault. I will be at fault if I keep it. So, in the case of accidental of receipt of dead birds, I either return the bird to its original location, or if that’s not possible, I bury it. But not before taking lots of pictures, and if it’s in good enough shape and not maggoty, drawing it.

Such was the case for this Red-breasted Nuthatch, also a victim of building collision in Philadelphia.

“Lights Out for Birds” programs exist in many cities, with the earliest efforts starting in  Chicago, and Toronto. The Delmarva Ornithological Society (which I recently joined) sponsors Lights Out Wilmington in Delaware. I cannot seem to find an equivalent program in Philadelphia. The Zoo and Temple University spread some awareness, it seems, but there is no city-wide effort. If there were one, I would volunteer immediately.

Learn more about how you can prevent bird collisions on your own property as spring migration begins through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

• • •
February 19, 2014

The Year I Danced with the Nutcracker

Hey, how are you? How’s it going? It’s been way too long. I hope you’ve been well and happy.

It must have seemed that I dropped off the face of the earth. For a little while, I kinda did. 2013 was a whirlwind that left me quite dizzy and grinny. I swear, I was really, really busy. Like, didn’t-leave-my-drafting-table-all-year busy. Please don’t take it personally.

Busy with what?

Well, it was just about this time last year that I received a request for proposal from a Philadelphia-based design firm called Night Kitchen Interactive. Would I be interested in bidding on an illustration project for a children’s book app for a cultural organization? What? Really? Well heck yeah! So began my correspondence with the lovely magic creators at Night Kitchen. The project: an interactive Nutcracker app.

During the bidding process, Night Kitchen expressed that they also needed a children’s writer to adapt the story for the app. I bid for both, producing both writing and illustration samples. After what seemed like the longest wait ever, I got the good news from project director Stacey Mann that both jobs were mine. Squee! I would later find out just how many talented writers and illustrators—agented ones, even—had been my competition. It was an honor and a thrill, and I was eager to get started. But who was the client? The Philadelphia Art Alliance? The Pennsylvania Ballet?


The San Francisco Ballet. (I know, right?!)

And oh yes, this will require travel, said Stacey, and would I be down for that?

Come on now. Of course I would be. When? April. 

The ballet would want to see something for the meeting. Night Kitchen had sent me a sampling of San Francisco Ballet’s promotional brochures and a rough story outline for their Nutcracker. This innovative company’s holiday performance is very unique to San Francisco, drawing upon historical references to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, aka the World’s Fair, for sets, costumes, and storytelling. Historically speaking, San Francisco pretty much owns the Nutcracker here in the states, having been the first to perform it in its entirety in 1944. Indeed, San Francisco is the oldest professional ballet company in America. Didn’t know that, did you? It’s ok, I didn’t either.

During our meeting, the air was electric with enthusiastic energy, creativity, and just so many ideas. Gosh I love brainstorms. Bam! Here’s an idea! Bam! Another! Bam! It’s a good thing Stacey and Matthew were there to gently but firmly shut the windows, lest we all drown. In the end, Charles McNeal, Director of Education and our head chief for the Nutcracker project was pleased, and so was I. This was going to be such fun work. A lot of work, but the good kind.

After some sightseeing, swing dancing, tree hugging, and friend hugging, I returned to Philadelphia with a well full of joy.

And so I began to draw, to write, and to learn. I learned things like:

– How do you draw a ballet dancer? In perfect form. There is no way to cheat this, even with child dancers.

– What is perfect form? Perfect ballet form is difficult to draw. Especially ballet hands, legs and feet.

– What are ballet hands? Imagine that each dancer is ever-so-carefully plucking an invisible, freshly-laid quail egg from a cloud using thumb and middle fingers.

– What about the legs and feet? Oi. Listen. Forget everything you learned in figure drawing class, because a dancer’s body structure defies all rules of anatomy. It starts getting weird in the hips. When you attempt to draw your first dancer from photo reference, your brain will stop you—No, no, no. That can’t be right. How can her knees bend this way and that way at the same time? How long a neck can a person really have? That child’s posture is so much prettier than mine. It all feels wrong.

Tip: If you need a surefire jumpstart into a fitness plan, try drawing perfect ballet bodies for 8-14 hours a day, every day for 200 days straight. Not only will you come to know the location of every fat cell on your body, but you’ll also learn about all the aches and pains one can create by sitting in a chair for thousands of hours a year, drawing. You may consider switching careers altogether.

I learned all this and much more. How to best use a stylus, how to create natural looking Photoshop brushes, how to set up files and design for an iPad screen, how children’s books for the iPad differ from print books, how to reach out for support, how to outsource for best results, when to bring in an editor, when to stop, stretch, and eat and why that’s all very important, and what it’s like to be truly supported and cared for by an amazing partner in life. You’ll know he really means it when he proposes after he’s lived through a project like this with you.

Then, just in time for Thanksgiving weekend, the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Interactive Storybook App was revealed:

Illustrations and words by Kate Garchinsky

Ta-dah! And yes, it is still available in the App Store

There wasn’t room for a dedication or thank you within the app, so I want to do that here.

Thank you to Night Kitchen Interactive and the San Francisco Ballet for choosing me to bring the Nutcracker to the fingertips of children. I am truly honored to have worked with you on this project.

Extra special thanks to my hands-on project helpers and supporters:
Brian Carpenter, pillar of emotional and mental support, soundboard, procurer of meals and wine, pet care and dog entertainer, birdfeeder filler, break inforcer, twooo wuv
Harold Underdown, editor, creative advisor, validator, attitude adjustor
Michele Melcher, illustrator and inker extraordinaire, workload and spirit lifter, bulge humor
Brian Krümm, illustration support, special effects
Scott Derby, color assistant and positive vibes
Katrina Martin, intuitive healer, energy purger, spirit cheerleader

Dedicated to my colorful, creative family without whom I would never have been able to capture the spirit of Christmas. xo

Kate Garchinsky - Nutcracker

Now What?

Whew. Let me catch my breath, and then I’ll get into the thing about passenger pigeons. No, not carrier pigeons, these are passenger pigeons. They’ve been extinct for a hundred years. Exactly 100. Working on some words and pictures about it.


• • •
September 12, 2012

I Smell Fall Coming

…and I could not be happier about it.

Up late after churning out some informational graphics for a client, I’m kept company by a warm beagle at my feet, and a pair of barred owls in the woods outside my window.

“Who cooks for you, dear? Who cooks for yooooooooooou?” they hoot and hop from tree to tree, as if asking around for a restaurant recommendation. I suppose that’s one way to trick a mouse to dinner.

These and other birds have been stirring my imagination in new ways lately, which only felt like pecking until I participated in a guided meditation. Since then I feel renewed and back in touch with my creativity, and I have my dear friend Katrina Martin to thank for it. She can help you get unstuck too, you know. That’s what healing dreamers who love purple do best.

You go check out her blog while I head to bed and quickly, before the dawn birds begin bickering with the owls.

Oh no, I am too late. It only takes one. Today it is Crow.

• • •
August 21, 2012

In the Midst of August Mist

“How I love the mist of dew drops in my feathers this morning,” tooweets the Towhee.

“Yes! And I am hungry!” barks the Blue Jay.

“Swwweet thistle seed! Swweeet thistle seed!” squeaks the Goldfinch between beakfuls.

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” peeps mother Robin.

“Meeeee?” Catbird mews.

“No! You! Not you! Not you!” scolds Robin.

“Me? Who, me?” Robin’s little fledge pips.

“You! Yes, you! You there!” she replies. “Here! Over here. Get over here.”

“Whyyyyyyy?” mocks Catbird.

“Not you! You! Come Fledgeling, do not dilly, dally not!” mother Robin peeps and chups. “The ground is soft and wormy. Eat! Eat! Autumn  will be here soon.”


• • •
August 15, 2012

Some facts and some personal observations.

Common Yellow Throat, Car Collision, Appleton Road, Kemblesville Pennsylvania
Screech Owls munch on Katydids. Carolina Wrens play with their food. Bats don’t like Barred Owls. Cedar Waxwings flap backwards for blueberries. Don’t look at the Wood Ducks the wrong way. Female Scarlet Tanagers are not scarlet, they are an olive-yellow. Mourning Doves are sweet and far too vulnerable. Pigeons don’t roost in trees because they’re Rock Doves. Baby House Wrens and Carolina Wrens do huddle but trust not! Mallard Ducks make great pets if you really love duck poop all over everything. Bow your head and lower your eyes in the presence of the Bald Eagle.
Grey Catbirds have tiny black whiskers. Blue Jays may seem a bit slow as babies, but don’t get used to it. They learn fast. Ignore the desperate cries of baby House Finches, Cardinals, Grackles and Cowbirds. They will beg until they eat themselves to death. Baby Brown-Headed Cowbirds are never fed by Brown-Headed Cowbirds. A Northern Cardinal is a very large finch. During migration, a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird might return to the same feeder on the same day of the same month year after year. Crows bore easily and require special toys in captivity. They also appreciate mirrors when alone, as do Purple Martins and Barn Swallows. To observe an American Goldfinch chase after a little white butterfly and catch it in mid-air is inspiring.
In 2014 the Passenger Pigeon will have been deemed extinct for 100 years, with its untimely demise due entirely to human ignorance and exploitation. The species went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world during the 19th century to rapid extinction early in the 20th century.

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