Friday, February 16, 2018

Just the Right Extent of Loneliness

Necessarily, I welcome time alone and have arrived at a phase in which I've got all that I could want of it. Day by day it seems I have to ask myself how much is too much. Connections from home are by phone, internet or a walk to a few businesses or kindly neighbors.

Last summer I was putting the lawn mower away when a neighbor I'd yet to talk to stepped into the doorway and invited me to stop over, two doors down, no matter when, saying "I know how it is." I must have known she was talking about social isolation; I think to be exact she may have meant marital strain at the same time since she stays local while her husband does construction 180 miles away in the Twin Cities, being gone for at least a week at a time.

I eased my problem of isolation by finding a guy my own age to love but it's a situation similar to hers as he, a carpenter, has to locate near a customer base and a clinic, at least for now. So as I work from home weekdays I confront weekends right along with my own aging process, recoiling from new episodes of being all alone. It's this fear, or distaste, that I have to try and take apart. A week at a time in northern Ontario I have coped and enjoyed my days alone, free to my own choices, with loneliness coming and going. This state of being is possible. I embraced it before, during and after. But didn't I know I'd be coming back to pick up the phone if not actually see family and friends?

Remembering that book, Women Who Love Too Much, by Robin Norwood and its advocacy for women who endure an emotional bond, marriage or whatever, with a man who isolates and wears them down invariably body and soul, I recognize the behavior pattern in myself. Getting beyond my own troubled history in the child-rearing years, too often, in bouts, I fret because of the distance in miles between the man and me and our differences in temperament. I'm given to this sort of thought-convoluted suffering, time and again. It has to be taken on, dismantled all that I can dismantle it, even if it imposes itself for years and years as a daily internal therapy. That gets back to comfort in aloneness.

I see myself suddenly as a clear stream in rocky-hilly country, high in oxygen and rippling free, inviting, involving and frank, sensitive to disturbance. My origins make me how I am. Loneliness will make me ache with cold and I'll seek solace and a functional re-integration of all my inner currents. The sun may sparkle pleasingly, which I can reflect for all to see. But does embroilment in aloneness come easier the more it's practiced?--so many conditions are that way. Over months and years, conditioning. I would learn a new serenity and long-term contentment, maintain myself against heart soreness and shriveling and even, who knows, cancer?, this way if able to master  inevitable, especially longer and longer stints of aloneness. The lonely feelings all by themselves might have subsided.

There has to be a discipline to this. So many survivors learn it or already know it.

Books, lately a masterpiece by Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves. The bog, its roads with the tamaracks and spruces shouldering close alongside, its moss hummocks helping to hide animals which may, some of them, endure heart-ache that would shock an imagined human inquirer who won a chance to resonate somehow with exactly how that creature feels, for want of its own kind or anyone. Experiments--for me, with fishing bait and technique, with bread recipes or new foods. Music. Conversations that collapse time. Chores, plants cultivated or wild, errands to town, conversations. Then another foray with the paints and pencils and pens, rag and paper and brushes, to where the eye sees and the mind's eye harmonizes, the hours pool into my own best efforts to make a realm of beings on the paper, a community in balance for the sake of wonder, magnificence and surprises. The loneliness by then would appear to be a medium for everything that matters. Day by day this will have been lived out.

.      Hearken Midwinter     9 x 11 1/4" watercolor mixed media painted in and near the Sax Zim Bog   Visit or inquire at

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Travesty That Is Today's America

Imagine that you are a big girl in a society where everyone is struggling just for food and enough water, and you have no prospects to set you apart from anybody else in the struggle. Any skills you learned have no value because no one can pay you to use them and there are no raw materials. You can't afford to think beyond the struggle. Maybe you have a sick parent or brothers and sisters who depend on you. The only thing anybody will pay you for is sex, so you can only capitulate, get a dollar or two that way and make yourself available to other possible clients for their other ideas of sex. You get pregnant that way, for sure, and maybe you pick up a disease which you will have to live with till you die. There are no clinics and no one to go to for birth control. You or girls much like you commonly deal with ten or eleven pregnancies, if not surviving sons and daughters, before your reproductive system or your body wears out. Then those offspring, almost certainly, face a future of despair comparable to yours, if they live to grow up.

This is the way current U.S. policy wills that life should remain for the world's poorest poor women in equatorial or sub-equatorial Africa and Asia. Every Republican president since Reagan has ruled that the vile A-word should be the crux guiding foreign policy as regards family planning assistance. If a clinic in a foreign country offers abortion, makes referrals for it or recommends it in any of their practice then no U.S. funds must go there. No more evil medical procedure has been condoned through official channels than the A-word, which means the snuffing of the innocent life of an unborn child by the whim of the heartless mother. It's clear-cut and it's wrong and it speaks of the innate evil in the souls of many who are of childbearing age, particularly women. So we will not condone it by any sort of U.S. funding. That's the way the official Republican thinking goes, whatever many thinking Republican sympathizers may arrive at in their own judgment.

If we are religious or spiritually-inclined and believe that a soul is given to every mortal body at conception but admit that not all who are conceived are born (for any number of reasons) and that mortal life can under some conditions be little more than wretchedness, WHY ARE WE NOT WILLING FOR PREGNANT WOMEN TO GO FOR HELP IN TERMINATING--OR EVEN PREVENTING--PREGNANCIES THEY DID NOT WANT AND CANNOT HOPE TO RESULT IN A CHILD ABLE TO SURVIVE, FLOURISH AND BE WELCOMED INTO A PREDATORY, DESTITUTE SOCIETY?

If souls are eternal, better that they populate somebody in some time or place who can expect the community to value the person, where there is hope of some earthly reward. Let pregnant mothers be free to assess that and get on with OUR OWN BUSINESS, not mind theirs as if we knew anything about what they have to cope with. In this world approaching a population of eight billion people, why do we make policy that says more, endless more children are God's will? Do we believe that God's will is a squalor of wasted lives, wars, unmet need and destruction of water, air, soils and other living creatures we've been sharing the earth with because we should observe no limits on ourselves? We have our own sacred cows in the U.S. value system, apparently, and these are human embryos and fetuses.

Under the Trump administration, the Global Gag Rule, revoked by President Obama, is back in fuller force than ever under previous Republican eras, taking away funding for any form of health assistance including treatment for malaria, HIV, malnutrition and any and all family planning if the recipient organization won't sign a statement that they never provide abortions or refer women elsewhere for them. So, how draconian, mean and ruinous to the whole human and earthly community do we want to get in this disunited spoiled brat of a nation?

We are intelligent enough to know that any organism including the human that grows without limits hits limits, on its air supply, its water and its lands. Only a cancer tries to grow forever and so it destroys the body it afflicts. How is American Christianity, the originating belief system in support of the U.S. Global Gag Rule, upholding God and the Lord Jesus Christ by imposing early death and misery on thinking, spiritual human beings in countries that have the least remaining resources to cultivate? Those people are no less holy than we are. Why do the most sanctimonious U.S. Christians feel that God approves the using-up of what may be the most beautiful, diverse planet in the universe by ourselves and our industry? Do we really choose depletion, extinctions and squalor in favor of money in bank accounts and the stock market? Yes?

The situation in which we find ourselves, and the U.S. system of values as it appears, makes me absolutely disgusted to be an American citizen. I would sooner, if I could, retreat into history and have some other identity from before there was a United States. I would rather that the United States had never existed, with some juster sort of nation in its place.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ancestral Strawberries, Lying Low in Bits of Field

Since Trump said the U.S. was no longer a party to the Paris Treaty on climate, the Sierra Club, among other environmental organizations have advised Americans on ways they can commit to remain in the treaty individually or as a community organization. Cities, universities and other U.S. entities have made their own pledges to remain signed on. Copied below is a Sierra Club-issued example.

           Pasque Flower, a spring American native plant evolved in the chilly climate regime of northern prairies

The American People Support the Paris Agreement

We, the undersigned people of the United States, will continue to support climate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
I commit to:
  1. Reduce my own carbon emissions and do what I can through everyday actions such as taking public transportation or carpooling, making my home more energy efficient, switching my home electricity to renewable sources, and limiting food waste.
  2. Support U.S. states, cities, businesses, investors, universities, and other entities taking strong climate action and showing the world that the United States is still working to fulfill the Paris Agreement - and call on others to join them.
  3. Urge President Trump to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement and protect federal safeguards for our health and environment from regulatory rollbacks and budget cuts.
  4. Call on Congress to hold polluters accountable and oppose any efforts to weaken the environmental protections and climate policies that protect our health and well-being.
So much assorted people activity is to blame for carbon and methane choking the atmosphere that it seems to me that a person not especially talented at hosting parties or political organizing might devote herself/himself to cutting emissions on a whole range of lifestyle-enhancing fronts, going so far as to advertise all the ways and all the other implications including symbolic or totemic. Think in terms of gasoline ignitions and idling engines, as well as current being drawn from wall outlets. Remember that nearly all synthetic manufacturing is carbon-emitting at some stage of production in our times. So then ask, what is my vocation and on whose behalf do I do my daily work? What do you value about yourself enough to nurture and what else might be your legacy, toward everything you revere including Creation which is now at risk.

     Now that I have a yard of 12,100 square feet, counting the house and gravel parking spot, and no power mower for the grass I'm remembering the summers fifteen years or more ago in a smaller yard that I'd planted with native prairie flowers all around the skirting of the house. That yard got mowed with a Sears Craftsman reel lawn mower that husband Jerry bought me. The item was in storage mostly for the past dozen years, but now I've gotten it back. Lately I had the blades sharpened by a qualified neighbor and this is my intended mower for as long as I am master of my fate. No carbon spews from this mower, other than whatever-all that I am breathing out.

     A reel lawn mower tends to cut the grass selectively, rolling over but not cutting stems that stand above the thickness of turf below. Sparse herbage of whatever kind tends to be spared by the tumbling blades. The cut grass ends up not shaved like a conventional power-mowed lawn but noticeably shortened and textured with longer tussocks lying over against shorter in a beautiful effect reminiscent of hay maturing in a meadow, or prairie grass quivering to puffs of wind.

    Slow-mowing the way I do it won't work for a lot of people; it verges on being strenuous exercise at moments, good for shoulders and upper arms. But for other folks that's a point to recommend it. However, combining your mowing practices with cultivation of wild native plants is a best-yet approach to phasing carbon spew out of your yard care. City rules where I live say grass is to be kept no higher than 5 inches. At least the front and streetside regions of my yard can be kept like that for the grass growing season by slow-mowing. Around the corner on the north where the lawn blooms this time of year in orange hawkweed and patches of white pussytoes I've begun contouring it with mowed pathways around the thickest orange and white stands of those meadowy flowers. On the highway side are a couple more long patches in which pussytoes and a few blue forget-me-nots (like the hawkweed, not native but naturalized from old Europe) rear their blue and white heads. The yard so far looks groomed, with a contrast between naturally occurring moss where I have wet ground, a low carpet of grass and high waving tufts, and it's colorful like a proper northern Minnesota forest clearing. I don't see how it could be considered unkempt or unsightly.
     Manual, non-motorized yard care edges out the need for physical fitness routines, if you have any. Then, which errands can be run on foot or by pedal-power? What if you really do have time for these self-energizing chores because you make a living--at least some of the time--from home? This is habit-building that can preserve bodies, the air, the climate, and the wild neighborhood of distant kin that have been succumbing to pavement, traffic, commercial/industrial chemicals and the changed weather regime with its symptomatic harsh flooding rains, angry heat and opposing runs of drought. 

                                          New-cut lawn with standing summer wildflowers left as found

       There are less-kempt lawns than my own in this town, here on its northern end maybe most of all, and where ground is allowed to diversify from monotonous grass back into its old mixture, hoisting and lowering broader-leaved standbys of the natural community that was, you will have food plants for everything including ourselves. This thought opens out a long green-gold rug of memory, as I recall crops picked in open air in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and to a lesser extent later. Wild red raspberries,  black raspberries with seeds lodging in the teeth till poked loose and nibbled to fragments, wine-tart blackberries and dewberries, blueberries in Lake Superior country, mulberries along fence rows, apples in orchards long untended except by bees still free to flourish, a plum tree, a forgotten peach tree that let 32 immaculate peaches the size of softballs onto the lawn's edge, and the wild strawberries of late June. The strawberry blossoms (Fragaria virginiana) were a signature of well-drained ground abundantly warmed by sun at summer's onset. The fruit, big as thumbnails at a maximum, hid hanging just above earth, screened in grasses, with the beacon property of new-found Easter eggs. Nursery-grown strawberries could never be as sweet. A hilltop's picking of strawberries could add up to the 3-4 cups called for in a pie. 

     Shown below is my newest botanical in watercolor and ink, brought forth out of preserved memory and thanks to obsessive lawn care abandoned in the face of the foreclosure crisis and of all the things that have hounded midwestern U.S. citizens out of the towns lying along remnant strips of countryside. At least here, a dainty ancestor to one of the fruit crops most acclaimed in this land still keeps to its life cycle.

Conservation, conservatism and, yes, liberalism are roots to the same huge plant...

       Wild Strawberry Marked your Path  - appearing soon at

Friday, May 5, 2017

Does Someone Wanna Coax him Out?

It's the beginning of May and we birders still have a lot to look forward to. Yesterday I heard a northern waterthrush in soggy woods by the river within a mile of home.  It's the phrase of momentary music and the debonair image of a bird that always gripped my heart in the presence of birds: even more than most animals they are the utmost subjects of art. That heard bird, a warbler after all, foretokened the 2017 arrival of breeding warblers.

A seasonally recurring bird in watercolor/pencil, seen in fall along the shores of Lake Superior: Calm and a Pipit

Since birders are people of all different kinds of drive and talent, it seems there are various attractions inherent in birds that may trigger any one person's fascination with them. I've known of birders to come from backgrounds as varied as industrial manufacturing, auto repair, law and politics, the military, music, teaching, graphic arts, medicine, the biosciences and the hospitality industry. Some birders are assertive types who will challenge others and campaign against civic wrongs; others are retiring, comparably meek sorts who prefer the company of nature and animals over the rest of us, even if they will turn out to meetings in order to confront disaster. So, out of the cross-section of types described here, why couldn't an invitation be made to Donald Trump to come witness a spring bird migration?

Of course he could turn out to be bored, lacking the eyesight or the will to sort moving birds out of their backgrounds and watch them exhibit the angles of their splendor and so be unable to formulate any idea of a real wild bird about its business. But what if he's never been properly tempted with the opportunity to seize it and make it his own kind of sport? And what do I really know about Donald Trump beyond what I've read, including suggestions that he's got dementia coming on? But if all it would take is a certain kind of appeal to a certain trait in the mind of Donald Trump then would someone who knows him, or knows someone who knows him, try taking him on a field trip? If he could see beauty in a slice of cake, what mightn't he see in a bird that's in motion, especially if he could spot the bird before his companion(s) did. It would give him a personal triumph, which he demands at all costs, from what the articles about him say. Going after new and different birds could stoke his need to pursue a flying quarry worth more, maybe even in his own opinion, than a tiresomely white golf ball on a green, though he'd have to let go of old biases toward getting laid. Of course too he could walk along, or roll if he must, at his own pace, and once coming in from the trail he'd find his day changed and even some kinks loosened up--somehow. At any rate I'm just saying what if... because, in a desperate response to his executive orders, simple measures like this deserve a little considering even if they come from daydreams.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wolf in an Enriched Setting

Flat countryside full of watery pockets that freeze and relax back into cool swampland spawned this painting. My home region along the Canadian border remains wolf habitat, and for a person a wolf sighting tends to be remarkable and quickly over, since the wolf wants to get away. I wanted to portray one wolf that stood, seemingly sadly I thought, in front of me in a way that so much wildlife art does not pick up on. When I reflect on North American paintings of wolves I think of wolves in glorious poses with heads high, or wolves engaged in chases. My Tuesday morning wolf from the spring of 2016 paused broadside to me, ducking her head and exuding suspicion at being viewed by someone from the road. I had a moment's vision of German shepherds or similar dogs made afraid by a family member's loud impatience, cowering. This wolf cringed with lowering head and ears a bit but then exited tall and trotting, with a sense of her own dignity coming back to her, I felt, as she went. Her path was I think of her own making, from off a piece of ATV trail into a convenient grove of aspens.

This art piece aims to exalt our continent's lingering timber wolves in all their well-warranted shyness, which helps them save their own lives concurrently with all our industrial expansion and superstition about how cruel wolves are and how eager to eat us, not to mention prejudice with regard to wolves slaughtering our livestock. The composition seems overpowered by the flatness of the lands hereabouts. Depth occurs in layers, with rain clouds behind a distant line of forest, and then the grove of 'doghair aspens' all squeezing from the flat meadow behind the wolf, who is assuredly the star of the painting, exposed like a potential victim in front of a human ogler, whether or not the human is armed and dangerous. A land's marshy flatness combined with cold climate or soil infertility may work in favor of its remaining vacant from people's standpoint. But this little wolf landscape was too flat and too inconclusive, to my judgment. It might to someone else evoke a scene out a window, in which a solitary wolf is vanishing at a run. But the open-ended issue for me is how that in-the-flesh wolf would or wouldn't convey fear of whatever had sent it off at a run. That picture, outside my own experience, is still a mystery. An art piece about a fleeing wolf might better be dominated by grass and landforms, the traditional retreat of wild wolves which cover so much countryside ( up to125 miles in a day, according to Barry Lopez in his Of Wolves and Men) in all their questing, long-legged might.

So the first wolf scene as it was lacked context. I still needed to show that the wolf knew how to save itself from the hazard that comes with a human encounter. Through that context comes more of the poetry of little trees whose whole purpose from their tender beginnings is to reclaim open land, making cover for littler and larger lives both plant and animal and sparkling, quivering, delighting us as we cross the country looking out along it. Is it possible that this wolf in art, whose form never underwent any revision except a little more contouring of its fur coat in the meantime, has gained in dignity because a grove of sapling aspens grew up around its route of escape? A bit of added downslope, as well, takes away from the earlier sense that the wolf is on a course into a hole in the ground, or oblivion.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Lonesome Retreat vs. a Frenzy of Adaptation

In winter when soils and bog waters are frozen there is a creek I walk just about due westward, out of hearing range of most anything human except the odd gunshot or a plane, high up. I'm on the ice or on erratic marginal land petering into islets sometimes just big enough to support one of my feet, with little bog plants bearing leathery reddish leaves all between my strides, which are slow and ponderous in case I start to hear a sheet of ice cracking. Also I'm listening, since I want to see the most secretive, other warm-blooded creatures that venture through our spruce bogs. On each side stand the tree citizens of the bog, old black spruces and tamaracks maybe as tall as a store building on the edge of town. They take a long time to grow in the acid-rich watery soil, which in certain spots is a living upholstery that bobs on top of water if stepped on.

A boreal chickadee, more predictably found at one of the feeders in prior winters, would be welcome if I could hear any chickadees at all, but this time hardly a chickadee throughout the afternoon, and no wheezy boreal chickadee voice this whole winter long. They're shyer than the every-day black-capped chickadees, much more selective of their habitat, and--could it be--learning to stay away from ourselves, the bipeds that talk and lift binoculars at them. Yesterday I noted only the chet-chet of white-winged crossbills calling from one to another high up somewhere where there must have been cones on firs or spruces.

It's become significant to me how much oftener, if it happens at all, I see my wild four-legged kin from the road where I'm driving than I do anywhere I happen to be walking. Or if I meet a big mammal from a trail I'm walking or skiing it goes by in a flash, like the cougar silhouetted off to my right in post-sunset forest by a river, or some low brown animal or other deep in grass ahead of me on a fishing afternoon. Cars quietly coursing a county road or driveway seem to be more trusted since the other creatures know them not to swivel around suddenly or leave the road but to keep their bearings, though risk is intensified if a car stops at any point. What wild animals make of ATVs probably fits parameters of its own including the particulars of terrain.

In any case rare creature-sightings come as surprises in places to any degree wild or worked through our own industry, like bird rarities dropping in on suburban lakes or farmers' mud flats. In the Anthropocene Era, the geological time period that mass human activity is said to have launched beginning with the atomic bomb in the mid 20th century, every shy outnumbered animal a person sees can be thought of as having some human influence brought upon what it breathes or circulates through its tissues, or where its travels have taken it. But if it lives, rejuvenates itself, bears offspring and shows itself off to respectful gawkers that it halfway accepts, it's made some adaptation to our ever-growing takeover of earth, so far. For those of us excited by novelty and resilience in the animal kingdom, hope endures.

                            Mixed-media pencil-watercolor: Pecking Order in the Collapse of Seasons

Right about now, worldwide, leading people are crazed by the opposition of one imaginary vision--impossible endless growth and monetary enrichment--to the need of limits so that diverse peoples and other creatures that we know and don't know can hold on, in their life cycles replenishing what humans in their mega-dreaming have continued to sap--all kinds of natural resources. We're in the gravest of danger from wars that beget other wars that successively undercut what we all need to sustain us. The struggle seems inexorable, since too many business-immersed people making up corporations know nothing but the mandate of growth; there can only be a crescendo and a collapse. All kinds of living things, meantime, are moving to where fear or new atmospheric conditions sweep them. We have exotic plants and animals, and we have extinctions where these things were stranded in the only homes they knew.

Only a cancer grows until it kills its hosting organism, in this example the mother Earth.

The mixed-media art piece shown above, Pecking Order in the Collapse of Seasons, was drawn from an initial scene in grittiest downtown Duluth, Minnesota where imported, naturalized bird species like the English sparrows and the Eurasian tree sparrow shown on the wall commingle in the breezes, in the wake of confused, abbreviated seasonal phenomena, with stray plants that will grow in the poor soil at the footings of a parking lot, or out of cracks, plants whose seeds were borne from nearby beaches or abandoned farms or gardens way inland. Sorrow yet wonderment at all kinds of transitions out across the natural world amid the chill of this past winter attended this work in a corner of my new home, which I think I get to keep for a while. Dried clippings of last year's weedy fruit and flowers served as my models. The piece is 12 x 9 inches or 30.2 x 22.7 cm. unmatted, and is painted in watercolor and pencil on cold-press 140 lb.watercolor paper. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

In which the Wind-borne Find themselves Impelled

This winter, for two full days on separate week-ends I've been one of the birders heading over northwest to try and see a rare bird visitor, the curve-billed thrasher who should normally be found in warm arid places mainly in the far southwestern U.S. My work priorities during the last three episodes of rare birds have made me postpone the drive over to wherever the sighting was happening by at least a day while I ran errands or took care of some first thing first. Then by the time I got there the bird would be out of sight, maybe or maybe not gone for good where less attention would be on it. Storms, or gales, have a lot to do with odd bird arrivals or departures. Yet why a thrasher from hot lands of chaparral, sage and cacti would opt to roost in spruces, both ornamental and native, in Itasca County, Minnesota all beset by frozen peat bogs in January's deep freeze no one has explained so far as I know, but it's interesting to think about animals no matter what kind they are, and what some sports among them may do partly by choice. For reasons of our own, too, birders are compelled to zoom across miles of highway to see a new kind of bird for its unique evolutionary splendor, never mind that it might be immature and in drab plumage.

If this bird continues to be seen in the same neighborhood I figure on making time again to go and try finding it along with the others who will be trying, most having come a lot many more miles than the 36 I've been traveling to get there.

Meanwhile I'm most of the way through the homespun travel memoir From Blueberries to Blue Seas by friend and neighbor Curt Bush, published just last year by the Savage Press of Superior, Wisconsin. In 2013 Curt followed where his heart and fascinations were leading him, taking a 28-foot sailboat he had bought and re-outfitted for a long solo journey out of Duluth and down the other Great Lakes, out the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Coast of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, ominous with winds and seasick rollers, crags and sunken rocks and three-day fogs. Having trained himself on earlier, less-well-adapted boats on the perilous near-shore waters of Lake Superior he had gained the skills it took for him to survive storms, mysterious tidewaters, shoals and other deceptions of nature besetting the long route from the Upper Midwest to the sea. The story is as lighthearted as the teller's own typical manner, but  recounts his stresses and moments of rage along with his delight in places, landmarks and friends met, cherished and left behind. In the part I read today he is nudging his way along the coast of Nova Scotia in a fog and a headwind, with reefs and boulders to either side, making only 30 miles in a day, using charts, an instrument called a chart plotter and his anxiously squinting eyes in order to keep from wrecking against a surface he might not have seen. He puts up for the night in a bay on an island wrapped in fog, the only sheltered bit of water the maps reveal, demonstrating how, even in the technological age, a person can still painstakingly venture with something of the attitude of fear, daring and triumph known in the Age of the Explorers over lands they crossed, at a pace truer to that period before mechanized transit. No human may have been there before him, he'd have supposed for at least a moment. This reader would love to have had the know-how to make this trip herself, or a different trip lots like it.

The thought came to my mind as I was reading, and not for the first time: what if an ancient overland traveler, a North American of 200-300 years ago, could be reincarnated and sent walking the familiar country, with at least a vague idea of how much time had elapsed. What would the person see that still evoked the place in those bygone centuries; at what rediscoveries, besides the stark changes, would the person exclaim to some modern-day companion, like me? Could it be that as long as there is humankind there will still be be a few trekkers on foot or by sail or by hand-powered boat, seeing what there is up close and intimate, ending up spellbound by the hand of nature?

In our time when the urban hordes and the businesses supposed to serve us all threaten to use up or wash away soils, acidify waters and ruin the climate for anything out in the sun, it seems to me a kind of learned adaptation to detach in happy-go-lucky style and move within the moment, eternalizing it inside the self. Whatever the weather we'll weather the weather (if the means persist) as some old song said. It's easiest if the present weather is a kind you savor--bright if you adore the sun, dim if that fits your temperament..

Remembering back to last fall when week after week of August-balmy sun prevailed and unusual people like me, not particularly a sun lover, fretted that we might have crossed into a new winterless era marked most of all by long dark nights with the interspersion of a little frost, if nothing else, I've been drawing and painting a different, recent bird visitor. Day after day back then we had had southwesterly winds. Those must have been the impetus for the sudden, startling Eurasian tree sparrow seen on a weekday morning from within my car where I slouched in the driver's seat looking over a call list I had marked up. This was in an alley-side parking lot in downtown Duluth where English sparrows whirl and forage, pigeons peck and gulls swoop for morsels dropped or kicked out of cars. I had seen my first Eurasian tree sparrow not quite two years previous, a visitor to Hastings in southern Minnesota during that January. But now as I looked at the specimen just an arm's length the other side of my windshield, on top of an embankment, I was stirred with a memory of rushing from the car in weeks recently past and glimpsing what may have been an earlier Eurasian tree sparrow but dismissing it through inattention. Some days later a local authority on birds up the Lake Superior shore saw another Eurasian tree sparrow in the town of Two Harbors. I connect these strays with the southwesterly winds that must have swept them from Missouri or neighboring Illinois where their species, by some whim introduced from Germany in the 1870s, can be most reliably sought among the much commoner, more raucous, grubbier-looking English sparrows.

Work-in-progress with English sparrows and sole Eurasian tree (or German) sparrow on top of a cracking, very American retaining wall

As the days lengthen and thaws allow me the chance, I will keep at this little 12 x 9" piece of work that shows both species (not true sparrows) side by side but mostly minding their own affairs each befitting their  kind, with a background that suggests crumbling, dispersion, residues and traceries of what once made up the area environment. The mood should suggest the whimsical and fleeting, the weather-borne, soon gone, restless and unstable, given over to wandering for maximal stimulation if no other gain.