Winter brings many curious shapes and textures, not just in the lovely arrangement of tree limbs against a silver grey sky, but also in the tangled spent shells of plants long past the greens of summer. Close to one's feet are the delicate star-bursts of Queen Anne's Lace. Curled into a bird's nest, the netting of stalks protect the seeds from inclement weather. On finer days, or when, in this case, brought into the house to draw, the nest relaxes and unfurls into a dainty display of stars birthing into their own space. Considered a weed, this herb not only has healing qualities but is also the Grandmother, the Abuela, the Oma, the Obaasan of what is our carrot today. Something to think twice about before yanking her from the ground without a thank-you.
I'm not the fastest gardener or do-er outside. I tend to take long pauses between things and simply stare off. (It can take me 45 minutes just to dig in a couple of plants.) And so, there I was, standing and staring off into the distance when I notice a fluttering in the tangled mess of shrub, lower branches and the like. I assume it is an acrobatic Chickadee hanging onto a milk thistle gathering seeds when I see a flash of yellow. Something isn't right. My feet are already in motion before my brain catches up. Sure enough, it is a Golden-crowned Kinglet caught up in the burrs of the burdock plant gone to winter seed.
Kinglets are gleaners of the high tree-tops and to see one fluttering two feet above ground is not so normal.
Suddenly my hands are too large and clumsy. The burr, that has impaled the underside of the Kinglet has turned his leg red with blood. How long he has fluttered upside down trying to beat his way free makes me ill to think.
Inside now, I cut, with tiny manicure scissors, the spurs of the burdock seed head away from feathers and downy underside. He is still with fear and exhaustion. I take the opportunity to remove the fine splinter-like shafts as best as I can and gently nudge a tissue into what I am guessing is the wound area.
Not sure what to do next, we both just sit quietly, my hands covering such a tiny thing. His heartbeat I can feel and my hands, having come in from the cold, are tingling with a rush of blood and now they have that strange firey heat. And so we sit, neither of us moving, just feeling blood, heat and heartbeat.
And then he stirs, the smallest amount of softness in my hands. Then a bit more. I take a peek in my cupped hands, his eyes are open. We sit quietly.
Then, true movement. He sits up and his world changes and so we move into action. I go upstairs and ask my husband to call the wildlife rescue. Their office, it turns out, is not far from us. As he is on the phone, I take another peek, he is so small in my hands, but he is looking up at me with such a spark in his eye and he ruffles a bit of red-orange under his golden crown. "I'm good to go", he says but I am not listening. I am still back with the bloodied leg, the burr, the awful upside down fluttering and I am in the future, worrying about the wound and how he will survive the night.
But my legs are walking me to the door and outside now, I crouch low to the ground and open my hands. He is attentive to the sunshine and the air. His intensity is not focused on me but out there. He's off. A few feet. Sits in the driveway, a tiny thing, no bigger than a leaf. And then, flying he settles on the lower branches of a hemlock. He pauses for several minutes. The orientation of what was into the now. He's away and gleaning the tops of the shrubs.
He is correct. We continue. This intermission is over, how long in all, I do not know. But now, I turn and cut down all the burdock seed heads on my property and set a fire in the firepit. There aren't many to burn, but enough to be able to sit in the sun with the dog and enjoy the afternoon light.
I've been asked lately what I have been working on with regards to oil-painting. It is a large painting I had begun in the fall and left to "ferment" so to speak. Some paintings are like that...you throw down the inital phase and enjoy that while always knowing there is more to come. And now, here it comes.
I like all the colours that are slowly working their way in.
Seed pods are on my mind, which is no surprise as I walk down the roads around my home. The last time I went down roads with no sidewalks and nothing but long grass and "weeds" on the verge was when I was a child. Forms and shapes catch my eye as well as textures and colours such as the silvery blonde of the rushes in the ditches next to the maroon twigs of pussy-willows. There are some seed-pods that are easily recognizable but some are elusive and tease the brain. You can almost see in your mind's eye what they were in their flower stage, but it is hazy and suggestive and no doubt I will be completely wrong come this summer when I come across them again. "Oh, that's not what I was expecting at ALL", I will say to the amused plant who will roll its eyes to the other plants as I walk past.
This the start of the painting. Generally for these dreamy style paintings I just jump in and start without drawing. If I draw something underneath, things tend to get too rigid and fussy. I am focusing on the "air element", with the drifting quality of the seedhead. It's a fun process this searching and finding of form and shape.