Category Archives: Art

Kevin’s Lemon into Lemonade

A month ago there appeared on our patio a piece of rusted metal, a found-art sculpture.  But I was onto Kevin. I had seen it beside his truck in the garage. He had found it beside the recycle bin in the winter and kept it to put on our patio in the spring.

It was bare rusty metal, re-rod, gears, metal plate, and barbed wire. But I did not acknowledge its presence. Instead I went out and bought some spray paint, green and red. And yellow. He thought it was a lemon. I tried to turn it into lemonade.

Now he wants it back to take home. We assume a student had done it for a class and trashed it.

Then this morning he called me out. He has permission to come to the window beside my computer and talk to me. He saw five cecropia moths on the south end of the building. He brought one and put it on our patio table.

It hatches, mates, lays its eggs, and dies in only a couple days or so. Thus, rare to see. It is six inches across. Comes from those big fat green worms.  Here is one with a belly full of eggs.

 

After a neighbor had come to see, and Kevin’s wife came too, charming woman, I took my coffee out and watched. Its wing flapping slowly. It rolled on its side, kicked its legs in spasmodic jerks, and lay still. I sighed for it. Then it up and flew off into the woods.

Where have you found beauty, expected and unexpected? How has life surprised you?

 

 

 

 

A Special Gift

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

Robert was a painter whose wife, Donna, was his agent. Donna contacted me when I was editing a regional outdoors magazine. Robert hoped my magazine would publish a painting that he would create to my specifications. Although Robert had never painted wildlife before, the February, 1978, issue of Fins and Feathers featured a bobcat painted by Robert.

I later asked Robert to paint the cover for my first book, Modern Pheasant Hunting, which was just about to be published. Because Robert didn’t know what pheasants looked like, I invited him and his family for dinner so I could give him a pheasant taxidermy mount to use as a model. That dinner happened in September of 1979. My wife and I were in our third year of living in a pink bungalow in Saint Paul. Our daughter, a chatty toddler, had just turned two.

Robert and Donna were then living in a dinky rental home in South Minneapolis. Although Donna was ferociously romantic about Christmas, their home didn’t offer enough room to put up a scrawny Christmas tree. Robert, a freelance painter, had a meager and erratic income. He and Donna had not felt secure enough to take on a home mortgage.

In some ways, our dinner was “typical,” typical for how we entertained in those days. We served wine—not a “good” wine, for that would have been beyond our means, but a frisky dry white from Napa. I cooked the pheasant casserole that had become one of my signature dishes when guests dined with us. My wife prepared a side dish of wild rice with mushrooms and sliced almonds sautéed in butter.

Because we dined on a crisp night in September, we set a fire in the big fireplace. The old bungalow glowed and filled with the fragrance of burning oak. Robert described his experiences as a combat artist in Vietnam. I probably talked too much about pheasants. Brandy and Brinka, our dogs at the time, wriggled in next to us when we sat on the soft carpets before the fire.

Our dinner happened on a Friday evening. On Monday morning, quite unexpectedly, Robert appeared at my office with an object wrapped in paper. He thrust it in my hands, mumbled something and disappeared.

The gift—for that is what it was—was a watercolor Robert had made of my taxidermy rooster. Robert had painted it in one long, passionate session over the weekend. The painting included squiggly lines on the lower right side where Robert had cleaned his brush when going from one color to another.

On the lower left side Robert had written a message, a note to our daughter. He described the magic meal we shared when she was very young. Robert said he and Donna would never forget that special evening.

 

I later learned more about that. Robert and Donna were bowled over by the feel of our shared evening. It all blended together—the wine, the talk, the food, the charm of a 75-year-old bungalow, the dancing fire. By the time Robert and Donna got home they had decided to buy a home.

We had dreams, or at least the adults present that evening did. The dreams did not fare well, although Robert and Donna did buy an old Victorian home in South Minneapolis. My wife was going to get her PhD and teach English, but she never did. Robert anticipated a satisfying career as an artist, although that never happened as he pictured it. While I was thrilled by my work as an editor, that dream died in a long, sorry struggle. Worse, both marriages eventually failed. I don’t know what became of Robert and Donna’s children. I don’t know what will happen to the little girl to whom the painting was dedicated, although a splendid outcome is still entirely possible for her.

That’s how it goes. I could dwell on the ways our dreams unraveled, but I don’t. I remember a lovely aromatic evening when everything seemed possible. This is easy to remember because Robert’s pheasant and its heartfelt message are on my wall, and I smile to see them every day.

Do you remember a special gift?

 

Hi, Daddy Bunting

I have been accused of producing fake news and alternative facts.

Last year our maintenance man, Kevin, who is by far the best naturalist I have ever known with a life-time acquaintance with wildlife and conservation, spotted an indigo bunting in the brush 20 yards from our patio. Indigos are very shy – tiny and they blend into leaves and shadows despite the blue. When I looked up indigos, I solved a mystery. A small dull gray bird was in my seed feeder all the time, but I could not identify it. It was the female. I only rarely saw the male last year, and Kevin never did again.

I waited to see if they would come back this year. Sandy saw him first, sitting on our patio table looking in at her, which is not indigo behavior at all. An alternative fact according to Kevin. The indigo has done it once more that she saw. I see him often in our feeder or more often on the ground, even when I am sitting on the patio. Kevin keeps looking. No luck, even though he takes breaks on a deck above and to the right of me. That apartment is between tenants. Fake news he says, when I boast about it.

By dumb luck I have proof. On my first try I got a shot of Daddy Bunting, gone a hunting for food. Not quality photography, taken through a closed window to avoid spooking him, but acceptable in a court of law. Monday morning we go on trial.

I declare this boast day. What do you want to crow about?

They say, the people of science, that an indigo is not really blue, but black.  It is, they say, a trick of how the light reflects off the feathers. I get it a bit, but is not all color just a trick of how light reflects off something? Red looks red because all the colors but red are absorbed, I believe the people of science say.  So how is the blue of the indigo . . . oh, never mind.

What is the mystery in your life today?

A Tisket, A Tasket

You all know I love my crafts and I love marking holidays as well. So May Day is one of my favorites.  When I was about 8 I took part in a May Day celebration that involved dressing up and dancing around a May Pole; Nonny made me a beautiful flowery dress and I was in heaven.

To this day I love to do May Day baskets. This year I’m doing 4 regular size “baskets” that will be hung on door knobs in the wee hours (and I mean wee… my next door neighbors are both teachers and one of them leaves at 6 a.m.!)  I’m also doing little baskets for my co-workers.  I know this is a custom that has fallen by the way side, but I figure if I’m still having fun, what the heck!

You have four baskets to deliver to anybody you want (alive or dead). Who do they go to?  And why?

 

Emus As Symbols

Todays post comes from NorthShorer.

Like everyone, I suppose, I made assumptions about what I would be like in retirement. I imagined a man straight of back, steady of hand, with a piercing chilling blue-eyed gaze. Well, make that a deep mysterious brown-eyed distant look above a rich white beard to tell of the lessons I had learned of wind and wave, time and tide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead I ended up being a doubled-over rumpled dumpling who cannot look at much but the ground, lost in pain, not deep thoughts.

You know what they say about people who assume. You end up being as daft as emus, a person who amuses others with fake truths. I like the word assumption, with its sump right in the middle, where one ends up from assuming.

But, of course, it is false thinking that making assumptions is bad. Life is based on assumptions. For example, we assume much about people we encounter on the road, that they will be polite and careful. It is only the few times our assumptions are false that we notice, and then over-generalize about it. It is also wise to assume idiots are on the road and keep a weather eye for them.

Love is a large assumption. If we do not assume trust and fidelity, then we cannot really love. Or in agape love, I assume I can only give and assume from their it is not my concern. Feed a starving dog and it may bite you, they say. But love says you assume perhaps it will. You guard your fingers and keep feeding. Who knows what the starving dog has survived.

So go ahead. Be an emu. Stick your long neck out.

But I assume I could be wrong.

What bird is your totem?

Say It Ain’t “Snow”

I moved to Minnesota in 1974 and at the end of my first Minnesota winter, it snowed 11″ on April  8.  At Carlton we celebrated by having a snow sculpture contest on The Bald Spot.  So I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that it’s snowing right now.  But really?

What trend are you just finished with?

 

Sew Buttons on Your Underwear

Forty years ago I gave myself a quest: to photograph MY North Shore, the stretch from Flood Bay to Silver Cliff, or as locals called it then, Silver Creek Cliff. Because I had use of a darkroom, it was at first all done in black and white, or perhaps with some sepia toning, or duotone effect, or Sabattier effect. Flood Bay back then was not the mass of concrete and curbs and cables it is now. It was then as it is now one of the very few official state wayside rests. Despite that, back then it was just a gravel patch with some posts to keep people from driving into the lake, which every so often people still managed to do. Locals routinely hauled away lake stone and gravel for their use, which left no dent on the amount on the shore. Also, then there was no monstrous resort along the shore. And Silver Cliff was a road, not a tunnel. The pictures I framed in simple shadow boxes without glass. I hung them on our knotty pine living room wall. (More about that later.)

The winnowing process of history to our benefit has eliminated most of the pictures. A few exist in my computer, taken from the negatives. My goal was to push pictures to expressionism. Often with high or low contrast.

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One picture that I took in the remnants of a lumber mill a quarter mile from Betty’s Pies was our Christmas card picture.

Sometimes good fortune favored me, when it disfavored elsewhere with a massive storm.

A few I have drawn in graphite or pastel, often doing some adjustment of reality.

One sad picture remains, even though I did not frame it. How did history not winnow this poor picture out? It must be a sign, must it not. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

When this picture first appeared in the developing fluid, my first thought was it not worth making anything of it. My second thought was that here indeed was a sign. It must be from God giving me my life’s quest. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.) It could not be just random change. I was, in fact, until recently quite good with needle and thread, which my mother taught me at an early age, despite long sideways glances from my father.

I am sad to report that I never did discover how to fulfill the quest. Sigh. And now my chance is lost. Sigh. But I did fulfill one smaller quest and quite by accident. An undisciplined boy a year older than my son lived down the road from us. He was often in our house as small boy but not later. His teens were much troubled, as were his twenties. Now he is a brilliant photographer. I mean that. Does amazing work in the camera and in his computer. Travels the worlds. Makes a good living. Has a happy life. Most of his work is of the North Shore. He is friends with both of my children on facebook, where he told them that his inspiration came from looking at those photographs on our wall. To think such beauty came from such a shriveled seed!

Did you find a life’s quest? How has it gone?