Monday, March 16, 2020

Sniff the Air

Just two days ago I sketched this red-winged blackbird filling the morning air with cheer.
Fortunately it is a wonderful time of year to be out and about.  Dale and I have been doing plenty of that.  But when I’m home, I’ve been transfixed by what is going on in the world.  I need to keep myself aware of the current situation, but I shouldn’t let it take over my life. 

Yesterday a good friend, Joe Conrad (and reader of my blog) nudged me.  Joe is a retired professor in Wisconsin.  His comments stuck a cord within me.  With his permission, I’m posting most of what he wrote ….. and I’m resolving to get busy and polish some posts that have gathering dust. 

….. and so please join me in keeping these comments that Joe sent me in mind:

...  We need your blog more than ever  ….  we need to turn to Mama Nature for shelter and peace.

No better method of "social distancing" than going off for a solo hike in the woods or a solitary paddle on a river / lake / marshland.

What can we find there?

Look to the is spring after all.  Look for newly arrived birds.  Look for new budding plants.  Look for the tiny insect life.

Be patient.  Apply your dose of Paulson's Patented Patience Powder, then sit quietly.  Contemplate what you hold nature has sustained you, and will always be there to sustain you.  Open your ears.  Listen.  Is that sound a human sound from near or far away?  Car, truck, pump,  airplane.  Or that other sound---is it a bird?  Is it a squirrel chipping?  Perhaps the racketing click of a grasshopper.  Look for the dragonflies (snake doctors in Missouri).  How many different one's can you spot?

Lay out a figure on the ground with string....a yard across.  Look closely at it.  What all is there?  Grass, dead leaves, ants, spiders, twigs, sprouting new growth of wildflowers, a feather, a bit of fur, droppings of passing deer.  Sand, small rounded pebbles...all alike, or different.  Maybe with real luck, one could find an owl pellet.

Are those birds fighting or are they flirting?  Are they carrying bits of string, grass, twigs, or weeds to make nests.  Does that Eagle beak carry a nest stick...or is that a fish?

Will my phone take a picture of that beetle crawling up the tree?  Will that beetle become woodpecker food?  Will the beetle's larvae feed the woodpecker?

Make good use of glass.  A magnifier can bring new detail to anything found on the little one yard patch of nature.  Binoculars can bring birds and their activities much closer.  A camera allows you to record your nature sights.

Feel the breeze, sniff the air, feel the smooth bark of a sapling, the rough bark of mature trees.  

                                                                                         Dr. Joseph Conrad

Join me in taking time to follow Joe’s advice!

This my 'Prickle-backed Cormorant' which I finished painting today.  (for those of you who aren't bird watchers let me say, there is no such thing as a 'Prickle-backed Cormorant.'  This  double-crested cormorant had just surfaced after chasing fish in a pond filled with aquatic vegetation.  He came up covered with greenery. ) 

A funny thing happened while I was painting it.  I know these cormorants are so named because during mating season they sprout little tufts on each side of their head, sometimes black and sometimes white -- but I hardly ever get to see the tufts because we've spent our springs in Yellowstone for so many years. As I was painting I got to thinking about how this year I plan to look for those little tufts -- then I looked carefully at my photo and realized this cormorant is already starting to sprout whips of white tufts.  

As Yogi Berra would say, " You can observe a lot just by watching."

... and speaking of observing, have you ever looked carefully at a cormorant's eye?  It looks as if it belongs on a crown of emerald jewels.  


  1. Great comments from your friend. Love your sketches.

    1. thank you ... good to see you found me again after my not posting for so long.

  2. I really enjoyed this entire posting. Love the eye!

    1. Greetings Polly .... you probably knew what kind of eye I painted .

  3. Taking walks in my neighborhood have become my sanity-saver. Seeing blossoming trees and hearing birds is so life-affirming during this nightmarish time. Take care, Elva... we all need to.

  4. Hi Tina ... thank heavens for nature. It should help a lot of us keep our balance.