Friday, February 19, 2016

Pelicans and Some Broadcast Omens of February

The Sax Zim Bog Festival was this past week-end, bringing birders from twenty-three states and the United Kingdom to tour among our desolate spruce bogs, the northwestern Lake Superior shore and its north-running hinterlands in search of Canadian birds, like redpolls, the three-toed woodpeckers, boreal chickadees, pine and evening grosbeaks. Hopes lingered for boreal and great grey owls, few in number hereabouts this winter. I take part every year as a vendor, offering note cards, prints and original paintings that boast the greys, blackish-greens, browns and taupes characterizing our region for a lot of the year. Mixed in are my new cards with wild plant art from 2015, plus older Minnesota botanicals and birds. Desperately, I love it  that again, this winter, after the cooking-hot, fish-inhibiting July and August last year, we're still able to experience a snow pack lots like the winters of tradition. A typical border-region winter is dark with its brief days and speeds you on your pathways as you hustle to keep warm and on course meeting all objectives. In summer that warmth is a bath that slackens your pace and curbs your metabolism, making you wonder that snow and dark could annually, again, overwhelm this place.

                                                      from along Admiral Rd. in the Sax Zim Bog

                                               the Admiral Rd. feeders, a likely spot for boreal chickadees

This week-end we're below 0 F just for a day or two. In the bog and between forests a kind of steam, or wraith of snow dust, smokes its way in a disappearance out of my peripheral view past the nose of the car which I've taken on a short tour. The hunting spooks of the bogs--fishers, wolves, martens and wild cats, not to mention the owls--are hidden as usual. But a friend's friend's cousin glimpsed maybe four wolves near Duluth days ago; they travel miles and miles in a day and show themselves to us by rare coincidence, more often than not in a glimpse.

We're in a part of the world that people abandon for greater economic opportunity, longer light and growing season, and a brasher, more diversified human history. They come here especially for summer and winter recreation. Trend watchers everywhere wait for the observed and reported-on to rumble into streets nearby, much as I wonder how the well-documented but downplayed U.S. population explosion will impact a marginal regional economy like ours locally. Will this nation end up with cities and suburbs in previously unimaginable places better known for marshes, mosquitoes, winter dark, rattlesnakes, etc.?
As a consequence of my own worries for the future I was glad to read the following message from NPG (Negative Population Growth) in my email, recounting a change in thought among economists including one who heads up the U.S. Federal Reserve: "Economics Might be Very Wrong about Growth."

Drastic changes confront us and no doubt are essential in purging bitter inequalities among towns and countries and bloating excesses that tip chances of survival throughout societies and species in times of future duress, including starvation, flood and heat wave. But it is welcome news, this evidence that vast, policy-shaping notions, taken on in sweeping error, like many assumptions surrounding exponential economic growth, are getting recognized for the rot at their core. Rot or malignancy, as in: nothing grows forever except a cancer, for as long as it stands a chance. And one group's domination of another collapses in the face of eternity; the flaws in the dominant party knock it out and doom it.

As a white female raised among the well-educated middle class I have had to learn about racial and social inequalities second- and third-hand; specifically how racist I am or ever was is a thought, like an egg of clay, to roll around in my palm and fingers, to impress and review for pits and bulges. It would not, maybe ever, cease to be true that I have racist thoughts, because difference between race is there, visible, for me and anyone of a different race looking at each other to see. It's rule-making and law enforcement devaluing one race in favor of another, and all the discriminatory ramifications passed along like lore from old times that deserve overthrow, like rags of nervous reaction. Who may I have marginalized by words or deeds because they were a black or brown person? It's those behaviors, those reactions, I have to consciously quell if I catch myself moved by some instinct shaped by 'you look different/talk different,' because I might, on getting acquainted with this person or that person, find that I love him or her; besides, they and I are equals in the estimation of nature and the state. When I face or speak with a black or brown-skinned person I hope that this, my estimation of them, is showing, and I admire them and many yet-unmet kin to them for uniqueness, hidden or evident warmth, and resilience.

         Pelicanza: Two Forms Intermixing
With adaptation among human beings of separate origins and among wild creatures in mind, I lately set aside this watercolor titled Pelicanza: Two Forms Intermixing, the original measuring 6 x 12" unmatted, on 140 lb. cotton paper. The red sun hints of havoc, as when huge forests burn and leave ash in the skies. A way that the imbalance between our human selves and the other members of creation shows in our era of rapid change on earth is through hybridizing species, foremost examples being whales and bears of the far north, but also many birds and insects. In nature, species are liable to die out utterly or leaving remnants of their kind in a still habitable range. In society, ethnic mixing grows bridges, while old notions fall away--a few, to our hazard, going into storage for re-use in times of terrible rift, when blame for deep unrecognized faults in our fabric gets cast.

    **Coming Up:  At Home in a Wide Echoing Land  - Solo exhibit of wild flora, bird and landscape paintings included among short lyric poems or essay excerpts by Tanya Beyer, opens Saturday, March 26th, 6 p.m.  at Vine Arts Center, 2637 27th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406. Reception is free with refreshments and some background narrative by the artist.