Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Possible Sapsucker Hybrid?

As a fairly dedicated “patch” birder (read more about that here), I don’t travel specifically to look for birds, though I will take advantage of errands and longer trips to bird whenever I can. During the winter, especially, I enjoy just seeing what shows up at the feeders.

I was delighted when Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers stopped at our suet feeder in October 2006 and again in 2007, most likely migrating birds. None came by in 2008, but in January 2009, a male Sapsucker came and stayed for the winter. You can read about its interesting behavior here (no photos from that long-ago era). A couple of juveniles stopped by briefly in October 2009 and in January 2010, the same male that had been our guest the previous year returned and took up residence. You can read about its encounter with a localmockingbird.

The same Sapsucker has returned each January since then, staying for a few months until the weather warms and the sap runs again. (D and I have noticed that the Sapsucker doesn’t show up in the yard until the weather gets really cold, say below 20°F. That makes sense, of course, given its preferred diet of sap and sap-attracted insects.)

How do I know it’s the same bird? Well, photos are telling, of course, and I have many, dating back to 2012. But birders, especially patch birders and back-yard birders, are able to identify individual birds; we are close observers of plumage and behavior. In the case of this Sapsucker, it has followed the same route into our yard every day that I have seen it over the years: from the neighbor’s yard to the west, stopping in the dead elm (where an old bittersweet vine provides fruit snacks) before winging into the suet. And its behavior on the suet is the same from day to day and year to year.

Anyway – the point of all that is to establish that I know this particular bird very well. Now to the interesting part.

Harbingers of Spring


It’s been bitterly cold for days, and it was -5°F this morning, yet over the past few weeks I have noted many signs of spring in the behaviors of birds in and around the yard. Yesterday I watched two male Hairy Woodpeckers in their funny territorial display:

Neruda: Bird by Bird

Baltimore Oriole
© Quodlibet 2014 All rights reserved

I’ve wandered the world in search of life:
bird by bird I’ve come to know the earth:
discovered where fire flames aloft:
the expenditure of energy
and my disinterestedness were rewarded,
even though no one paid me for it,
because I received those wings in my soul
and immobility never held me down.


– Pablo Neruda (Chilean, 1904-1973) 
from Art of Birds

Monday, February 23, 2015

In Honor of Samuel Pepys


The English civil servant and diarist was born on this date in London in 1633.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Brâncuși: On Architecture



“Architecture is inhabited sculpture.”
— Constantin Brâncuși, Romanian sculptor (born on this date in 1876; d. 1957)

Spiral staircase supporting the jubé at St.-Etienne-du-Mont, Paris
Photo © 2011 Quodlibet. All rights reserved




Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Michelangelo: The Dying Slave


“Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.”

—Michelangelo Buonarroti, Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet (1475-1564)

Michelangelo died on this date in 1564.

Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564)
The Dying Slave - Marble, 1513-1516
The Louvre, Paris
Photo © 2011 Quodlibet. All rights reserved.














Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Good Times Ahead

.
Here’s what’s on my reading list:

On Reading

“Some say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”

— English novelist Ruth Rendell, born on this date in 1930

Review: Hartford Symphony Orchestra – Rachmaninoff and Firebird


Once in a while, we are fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to witness extraordinary things.

On Friday night, D and I were in the right place at the right time. We were in our seats at the lovely Belding Theater at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, where the Hartford Symphony Orchestra presented a compellingly-performed program of music by Wagner, Rachmaninoff, Bernstein, and Stravinsky.

Of course, the program was marketed as suitable for Valentine’s Day, and in her pre-concert remarks, Music Director Carolyn Kuan teased out some tenuous “love” connections between the selections. But it didn’t really matter, because this music can stand on its own, especially when presented so beautifully.

Hals: Merrymakers at Shrovetide


Frans Hals (Dutch, Antwerp 1582/83–1666 Haarlem)
Merrymakers at Shrovetide (ca. 1616–17)
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review: Wadsworth Atheneum

As part of a gloriously arty weekend, we spent several hours at the Wadsworth Atheneum on Saturday afternoon to visit some favorite paintings and to see the newly renovated spaces for contemporary art and other exhibits. You can read more about the changes at the Atheneum’s own website; I won’t attempt to describe it all here.

I’m not qualified to offer a technical or even a qualified aesthetic review, but I can offer a perspective as a patron who attends museums very often and as one who pays close attention to how art is presented within a museum space.

Stricher: The Red Rocks


I found this on K’s old Tumblr. Arresting.

The Red Rocks
Gérard Stricher (French, b.1948)


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sargent: Venice in Gray Weather




John Singer Sargent (1856-1925): Venice in Gray Weather
Oil on canvas, 1880-1882. Private Collection

Via K. I think she posts some of these images just for me. 

Something is rotten


Several months ago D and I attended a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at a regional theatre. I ordered the tickets online and, as is my practice, was careful to opt out of further email from the theatre. Nonetheless, a few days after the production, I received an email (!) soliciting my feedback about our experience. Here is my response (slightly edited and expanded).

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Everyone Sang

Everyone Sang
Siegfried Sassoon

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on—on—and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away ... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.



"Everyone Sang" by Siegfried Sassoon, from Collected Poems: 1908-1956

CONCORA Has Good News!


CONCORA’s Board of Directors is delighted to announce the appointment of Christopher Shepard as its second Artistic Director, succeeding Artistic Director Emeritus Richard Coffey, who founded the ensemble as the region's first all-professional choir in 1974. The ensemble has been led by guest conductors during the 2014-2015 season, as a national search was conducted to identify Maestro Coffey’s successor. Dr. Shepard will assume leadership of the ensemble starting with the soon-to-be announced 2015-2016 season.

More info at www.concora.org and


[I wrote the news release and developed the communication plan – a three week project in two days.] [“Glue!” “No, duct tape.”]

Moonlight on the snow

Moonlight on the snow
and snowdrifts
like polar bears
asleep
on the deck

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

“I will wade out”


I will wade out
e. e. cummings


i will wade out
                        till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
i will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
                                       Alive
                                                 with closed eyes
to dash against darkness
                                       in the sleeping curves of my body
shall enter fingers of smooth mastery
with chasteness of sea-girls
                                            Will i complete the mystery
                                            of my flesh
i will rise
               After a thousand years
lipping
flowers
             And set my teeth in the silver of the moon



poetry via K
photo via Q

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blow, blow, thou winter wind


Blow, blow, thou winter wind
William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.


Heigh-ho! sing . . .

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Borrowed Light

Sic Vita
(Thus Life)

Henry King (1592-1669)

Or as the flights of Eagles are;
Or like the fresh spring’s gaudy hue;
Or silver drops of morning dew;
Or like a wind that chafes the flood;
Or bubbles which on water stood;
Even such is man, whose borrowed light
Is straight called in, and paid to night.
The Wind blows out; the Bubble dies;
The Spring entombed in Autumn lies;
The Dew dries up; the Star is shot;
The Flight is past; and Man forgot.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

“How Little Can I Realize”

“From Smith’s Hill I looked toward the mountain line. Who can believe that the mountain peak which he beholds fifty miles off in the horizon, rising far and faintly blue above an intermediate range, while he stands on his trivial native hills or in the dusty highway, can be the same with which he looked up at once near at hand from a gorge in the midst of primitive woods? For a part of two days I traveled across lots once, loitering by the way, through primitive wood and swamps over the highest peak of the Peterboro Hills to Monadnock, by ways from which all landlords and stage-drivers endeavored to dissuade us. It was not a month ago. But now that I look across the globe in an instant to the dim Monadnock peak, and these familiar fields and copsewoods appear to occupy the greater part of the interval, I cannot realize that Joe Eavely’s house still stands there at the base of the mountain, and all that long tramp through wild woods with invigorating scents before I got to it. I cannot realize that on the tops of those cool blue ridges are in abundance berries still, bluer than themselves, as if they borrowed their blueness from their locality. From the mountains we do not discern our native hills; but from our native hills we look out easily to the far blue mountains, which seem to preside over them. As I look northwestward to that summit from a Concord cornfield, how little can I realize all the life that is passing between me and it,—the retired up-country farmhouses, the lonely mills, wooded vales, wild rocky pastures, and new clearings on stark mountain-sides, and rivers murmuring through primitive woods! All these, and how much more, I overlook. I see the very peak,—there can be no mistake,—but how much I do not see, that is between me and it! How much I overlook! In this way we see stars. What is it but a faint blue cloud, a mist that may vanish? But what is it, on the other hand, to one who has traveled to it day after day, has threaded the forest and climbed the hills that are between this and that, has tasted the raspberries or the blueberries that grow on it, and the springs that gush from it, has been wearied with climbing its rocky sides, felt the coolness of its summit, and been lost in the clouds there?

—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), September 27, 1852.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

“Willing to pass for a fool”

“I am interested in an indistinct prospect, a distant view, a mere suggestion often, revealing an almost wholly new world to me. I rejoice to get, and am apt to present, a new view. But I find it impossible to present my view to most people. In effect, it would seem that they do not wish to take a new view in any case. Heat lightning flashes, which reveal a distant horizon to our twilight eyes. But my fellows simply assert that it is not broad day, which everybody knows, and fail to perceive the phenomenon at all. I am willing to pass for a fool in my own desperate, perhaps foolish, efforts to persuade them to lift the veil from off the possible and future, which they hold down with both their hands, before their eyes. The most valuable communication or news consists of hints and suggestions. When a truth comes to be known and accepted, it begins to be bad taste to repeat it. Every individual constitution is a probe employed in a new direction, and a wise man will attend to each one’s report.”



—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), July 29, 1857.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A symphony that “broke like a sea upon the silent shores”


Beethoven’s astonishing Ninth Symphony had its premiere on this date, May 7, in 1824, in Vienna. Much has been written about that memorable night, and it’s easy to find accounts in many sources, online and off.

I’ve had the pleasure of performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony several times, a luxury that I treasure in memory. To sing this music is an intense physical and psychological experience, as I’ve written about often.

Perhaps the most moving account I have ever read about a person’s experience with the Ninth is a letter from Helen Keller – yes, Helen Keller – to the New York Symphony Orchestra after having “heard” that ensemble’s broadcast of the Ninth over the radio on February 1, 1924. Here it is in its entirety 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

“This alone is to be alive”

All that a man has to say or do that can possibly concern mankind, is in some shape or other to tell the story of his love ― to sing; and, if he is fortunate and keeps alive, he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities. It is a pity that this divine creature should ever suffer from cold feet; a still greater pity that the coldness so often reaches to his heart. I look over the report of the doings of a scientific association and am surprised that there is so little life to be reported; I am put off with a parcel of dry technical terms. Anything living is easily and naturally expressed in popular language. I cannot help suspecting that the life of these learned professors has been almost as inhuman and wooden as a rain-gauge or self-registering magnetic machine. They communicate no fact which rises to the temperature of blood-heat. It doesn?t amount to one rhyme
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), May 6, 1854.

====

Well, I don’t altogether agree with Thoreau here. Oh yes, to sing is to live! That is my life. But Thoreau’s perspective is so limited …. What constitutes a song?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

“Ready to leap”


Up and down the town, men and boys that are under subjection are polishing their shoes and brushing their go-to-meeting clothes. I, a descendant of Northmen who worshipped Thor, spend my time worshipping neither Thor nor Christ; a descendant of Northmen who sacrificed men and horses, sacrifice neither men nor horses. I care not for Thor nor for the Jews. I sympathize not to-day with those who go to church in newest clothes and sit quietly in straight-backed pews. I sympathize rather with the boy who has none to look after him, who borrows a boat and a paddle and in common clothes sets out to explore these temporary vernal lakes. I meet such a boy paddling along under a sunny bank, with bare feet and his pants rolled up to his knees, ready to leap into the water at a moment’s warning. Better for him to read “Robinson Crusoe” than Baxter’s “Saints’ Rest.”

—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), May 3, 1857.

“Chosen to be a poet”


“You choose to be a novelist, but you're chosen to be a poet. This is a gift and it's a tremendous responsibility. You have to be willing to give something terribly intimate and secret of yourself to the world and not care, because you have to believe that what you have to say is important enough.”

— Belgian-American poet May Sarton, born May 3, 1912.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Childhood Bible


Today (April 27) is the birthday of Roger Tory Peterson, the American artist who created the first field guide for easy identification of living birds in the field (as opposed to shooting first and examining at leisure, as had been previously done). He utterly transformed how people perceived birds and was a catalyst in making birdwatching popular, a factor that helped us understand our environment and take steps toward better protection and stewardship. The Peterson Field Guides also helped people learn about trees, flowers, and all sorts of living creatures in addition to birds. My mother’s old battered copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds was my childhood bible. My own copy, now superseded by newer field guides, nonetheless retains its place as the first of my many field guides.

With Peterson, art was his means of perceiving, understanding, and analyzing birds and bird behaviour, AND his means of communicating his understanding to the world. His life story, particularly his early years is very interesting, and is just one example of how and why the arts need not, nor should not, be partitioned from other fields of study or endeavors.

The Peterson bird guides include pages of silhouettes, a useful aid for those learning to ID birds at a distance. Currently at the New Britain (CT) Museum of American Art is Wondrous Strange, an exhibit of works by James Prosek in which the artist includes Peterson-style silhouettes as part of his commentary on how we perceive nature. From the museum website:
James Prosek’s work takes its inspiration from the long tradition of natural history painting; from animal depictions on cave walls to the works of Albrecht Dürer, William Blake, and John James Audubon. His contemporary influences are wide-ranging, from Lee Bontecou and Mark Dion to Martin Puryear and Eero Saarinen. In particular, Prosek’s work is conceptually focused on how we name and order nature, including the limitations of language in describing biological diversity. His art challenges us to reflect on how our culture, our priorities, and our values are manifested in systems we use to classify and harness nature. The paintings, monumental watercolors, and sculptures in the exhibition range from realistic to fanciful, though all are rendered with meticulous precision and detail. Many are the result of extensive travel, collecting trips and biological expeditions to places as distant and diverse as Suriname and Kyrgyzstan. Ultimately, it’s the realms that science cannot quantify or solve and the power of personal experience that are Prosek’s fertile ground.
It’s a very interesting exhibit, provocative and beautiful at the same time. Well worth a vist. The exhibit closes June 8.



Monday, April 21, 2014

“Every genuine thing retains this tone”

“The birds are singing in the rain about the small pond in front, the inquisitive chickadee that has flown at once to the alders to reconnoiter us, the blackbirds, the song sparrow, telling of expanding buds. But above all the robin sings here too, I know not at what distance in the wood. ‘Did he sing thus in Indian days?” I ask myself; for I have always associated this sound with the village and the clearing, but now I do detect the aboriginal wildness in his strain, and can imagine him a woodland bird, and that he sang thus when there was no civilized ear to hear him, a pure forest melody even like the wood thrush. Every genuine thing retains this tone, which no true culture displaces. I heard him even as he might have sounded to the Indian, singing at evening upon the elm above his wigwam, with which was associated in the red man’s mind the events of an Indian’s life, his childhood. Formerly I had heard in it only those strains which tell of the white man’s village life; now I heard those strains which remembered the red man’s life, when these arrowheads, which the rain has made shine so on the lean stubble-field, were fastened to their shaft.”
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), April 21, 1852.

 

Images © Quodlibet All Rights Reserved.

==============

More about birds and birding at this blog:

Bird Behavior
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Bird%20Behavior

Birding (about the activity of birding)
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Birding

Birds in Literature and Art
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Birds%20in%20Literature%20and%20Art

Birds in Migration
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Birds%20in%20Migration

Birds in My Backyard http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Birds%20in%20my%20Backyard

Birds Out and About [my "patch" around town, outside my backyard]
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Birds%20Out%20and%20About



To Refresh and Strengthen

Northern Cardinals are known to mate for life, and to stay together throughout the year. During the non-breeding months, though they remain together, they are more like siblings and less like spouses.

In late winter and early spring, the pairs engage in ritual feeding to refresh and strengthen their pair bond prior to their mating, egg-laying, and caring for their young.

Usually these feeding rituals last for just a few seconds; I’ve felt lucky to have been able to capture a few of these fleeting moments, such as this photo:

At present, we have two pairs of Cardinals coming to the feeders, and they are clearly two mated pairs.

A few days ago, one of the mated pairs (I think it’s an older pair) stayed on one of the feeders for several minutes, long enough for me to capture their tender-seeming behavior on video:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

“What’s that? A bird? A bat?”


I was chatting with my friends T and R on Sunday morning on the sidewalk in the very center of New Britain. T pointed to the street next to the curb and exclaimed, “What’s that? A bird? A bat?” A closer look revealed this unexpected sight:

Leonardo: Ginevra de’ Benci

To mark the birth anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci, born Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, in Vinci, Italy, on this day in 1452, here are my photos of one of his lovely paintings, his portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Life’s Persistent Questions


Most of the questions that bother me originate, I suppose, in my adult impatience with inefficiency and irrationality, and my annoyance with people who get in the way. Questions such as:

“A fine view of a blue heron”

 “…We had a fine view of a blue heron, standing erect and open to view on a meadow island, by the great swamp south of the bridge, looking as broad as a boy on the side, and then some sheldrakes sailing in the smooth water beyond. These soon sailed behind points of meadow. … When the heron takes to flight, what a change in size and appearance! It is presto change! There go two great undulating wings pinned together, but the body and neck must have been left behind somewhere.”
— Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Journal, April 15, 1855.

I saw a scene very much like the one Thoreau described, on a wet day in November at a small park in my area. I had driven into the area to see what ducks might be there, but my attention was completely drawn to the large Great Blue Heron that stood like a sentinel on the grassy edge:


Peale: A Dessert


I really enjoy the “still life” genre, and seek out examples on our museum visits. Here’s a gem from the National Gallery:


A Dessert (1814), oil on wood
Raphaelle Peale (American, 1774-1825)
National Gallery, Washington DC
Image ©2014 Quodlibet. All rights reserved.

Flickers and Flashes of Gold


A flash of gold caught my eye outside the kitchen window... By the time I looked out, I saw nothing… until I looked more closely and found a female Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker. Here it is:

Can you spot it?

What You Can Learn From the Squirrel on Your Deck


Pay attention … Look carefully at what’s right in front of you, even those things you think are familiar. You might be surprised at what you see…and what that implies.

This morning, I was enjoying watching the squirrels eating fallen bird seed. I looked closely, and here’s what I saw:

Yes, it’s a Gray Squirrel. But look closely:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

“Amazing vitality … clarity … incredible power”: The Hartford Chorale sings Mozart


This evening the Hartford Chorale and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra gave the third of four performances of Mozart’s Requiem (Süssmayr). Thursday’s performance really sizzled, and garnered a great review in The Hartford Courant:

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Word for All You YECs

YECs?

Young Earth Creationists.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

—Galileo Galilei, physicist and astronomer (1564-1642)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Barnacle Goose: “An impossible thing to be”


The recent sighting of a Barnacle Goose in Massachusetts reminded me of the silly origin of the name of this handsome European goose. And since Christians are now deep into the Lenten season, this “information” is especially relevant.

During Lent, it has been traditional for Christians to give up luxuries, including foods considered to be luxurious, such as meat, sweets, etc. The Church carefully defined what was permitted for consumption on fast days, enumerating detailed rules and prohibitions. For example, “meat,” defined as the flesh of quadrupeds or birds, was forbidden on fast days; however, eggs, dairy products, and fish (including crustaceans) were allowed.

So what does all this have to do with the Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis), which is clearly a bird? Well, Barnacle Geese were once believed to be crustaceans, and therefore they were considered suitable for consumption during Lent.

What? Yes. Here’s the story:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

CONCORA and Bach: “Performed … with intensity”

No, this is not a review of CONCORA's stunning performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor that was offered to a sell-out crowd on March 30 ... The Hartford Courant chose to ignore this important musical and community event. (Apparently they had to reserve ink and pixels for an expose of “worst prom dresses ever” that was on the front page of their website the other day.)

Rather, I was mortified to discover the other day that I never got around to posting this review of CONCORA’s 2012 Bach concert. Here it is; it’s worth re-reading.

Discouraging and disappointing


I prepare concert program notes for classical choral ensembles. I invest a great deal of time, thought, and care in researching and preparing good notes that will enlighten, entertain, and engage members of a concert audience.

I’ve given up trying to generate any revenue through my program notes; most choral ensembles simply do not have money to engage a professional annotator. As part of my volunteer service to ensembles in which I sing, I often provide program notes gratis to those ensembles. Occasionally my notes will garner notice, and I receive an inquiry from a prospective client someone who also wants them for free.

A few months back, I received an inquiry from the Artistic Director of an amateur choral ensemble who had been in the audience for a performance by one of the groups in which I sing, a concert for which I had prepared the program notes. What should have been a pleasant opportunity to support a fellow artist turned into a discouraging and disappointing situation.

Here is the actual correspondence between that Artistic Director (AD) and me (Q), edited to remove identifying information.

Can you see why I come away from this experience discouraged, disappointed, and feeling slightly used?


Thursday, April 3, 2014

“Like little celandines”


Melbury perhaps was an unlucky man in having the sentiment which could make him wander out in the night to regard the imprint of a daughter’s footstep. Nature does not carry on her government with a view to such feelings; and when advancing years render the opened hearts of those that possess them less dexterous than formerly in shutting against the blast, they must inevitably, like little celandines, suffer 'buffering at will by rain and storm'.
 ―Thomas Hardy (British author, 1840-1928), The Woodlanders



A celandine is a delicate wild flower, a member of the poppy family, easily bruised.

“That thin stratum”


“The last two Tribunes I have not looked at. I have no time to read newspapers. If you chance to live and move and have your being in that thin stratum in which the events which make the news transpire,—thinner than the paper on which it is printed,—then these things will fill the world for you; but if you soar above or dive below that plane, you cannot remember nor be reminded of them.”
— Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Journal, April 3, 1853.

============

Well, I agree with Thoreau up to a point.

Manship: Flight of Night


On recent visits to the Wadsworth Athenaeum (Hartford, CT) and the New Britain (CT) Museum of American Art, I enjoyed looking at two different castings of Flight of Night (1916) by American sculptor Paul Howard Manship (1885-1966): 

Old Friend


As I’ve written earlier, it’s possible to identify and become familiar with individual birds, both in the field and in the backyard. Maintaining bird feeders makes this easier of course, especially when one watches the feeders carefully on a daily basis.

This is a tribute to an old friend, now gone

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shiny

Purple Grackles at my feeder.

Common? Oh, yes.

Uncommonly beautiful? Oh, yes.

More photos:

May Require Careful Handling


The first thing to do on arriving at a symphony concert is to express the wish that the orchestra will play Beethoven’s Fifth. If your companion then says “Fifth what?” you are safe with him for the rest of the evening; no metal can touch you. If, however, he says “So do I”—­this is a danger signal and he may require careful handling.

—Donald Ogden Stewart, “Revolutions” (Chapter 1) from Perfect Behavior (1922)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spectacular


Near the end of January, on my way home from points north, I detoured through a favorite stretch of agricultural fields. The light was waning, and a hint of color began to develop in the mostly-cloudy twi-lit sky:




I hurried on to my meadow, where I watched in wonder as this spectacular scene unfolded before my eyes:

Scarlet Eye and Rakish Crest


This Cooper’s Hawk stopped briefly near our deck in January. This is the gorgeous adult female that hung around for most of the winter. Look at her brilliant scarlet eye and rakish crest!

Meadow Mist: No Ghost, But Geese


The other day when I was “out and about” (read: birding) I ventured into my meadow—it was a gloriously misty day, and I was hoping to see the Grey Ghost in there, silver wings against the silver mist.

No luck with the Harrier, but there was a nice flock of Canada Geese moving about, their cries mysteriously disembodied in the mist. And their silvery-dun-black-white bodies (actually very similar in palette to the Harrier) suited my frame of my mind.

“So surprised by the fact”


I am surprised that my affirmations or utterances come to me ready-made,—not fore-thought,—so that I occasionally awake in the night simply to let fall ripe a statement which I had never consciously considered before, and as surprising and novel and agreeable to me as anything can be. As if we only thought by sympathy with the universal mind, which thought while we were asleep. There is such a necessity to make a definite statement that our minds at length do it without our consciousness, just as we carry our food to our mouths. This occurred to me last night, but I was so surprised by the fact which I have just endeavored to report that I have entirely forgotten what the particular observation was.
— Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Journal, April 1, 1860.

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Oh, that’s just too funny. Yes, the human mind is an amazing thing. 

Listen to the Mockingbird


The other day I was “out and about” – that is, looking at birds – on my way home from a meeting. I stopped in at a local cemetery that has a good variety of habitat, everything from lawns and shrubbery to riparian and wooded areas. It being a warm and pleasant day, I had the car window down, and was delighted to hear one of my favorite songsters:

“More durable than the eternal hills”

In the Adirondacks, September 2012
Image © 2014 Quodlibet. All rights reserved.
Words are the only things that last forever; they are more durable than the eternal hills.
— William Hazlitt, 
English humanist and essayist
 (1778-1830)

Van Gogh: Green Wheat Fields, Auvers


Here’s a belated birthday recognition for Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, born on March 30, 1853 (he died in 1890, just 37 years old).

On a recent visit to the National Gallery in Washington, DC, we had the opportunity to see a new acquistion, a lovely painting by Van Gogh, Green Wheat Fields, Auvers, painted in 1890:

One must be

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.

—Abraham Maslow, psychologist (1908-1970)

Something more earnest and significant


Methinks I would share every creature’s suffering for the sake of its experience and joy. The song sparrow and the transient fox-colored sparrow,—have they brought me no message this year? Do they go to lead heroic lives in Rupert’s Land? They are so small, I think their destinies must be large. Have I heard what this tiny passenger has to say, while it flits thus from tree to tree? Is not the coming of the fox-colored sparrow something more earnest and significant than I have dreamed of? Can I forgive myself if I let it go to Rupert’s Land before I have appreciated it? God did not make this world in jest; no, nor in indifference. These migrating sparrows all bear messages that concern my life. I do not pluck the fruits in their season. I love the birds and beasts because they are mythologically in earnest. I see that the sparrow cheeps and flits and sings adequately to the great design of the universe; that man does not communicate with it, understand its language, because he is not one with nature. I reproach myself because I have regarded with indifference the passage of the birds; I have thought them no better than I.


— Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Journal, March 31, 1852.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bravo, Maestro!


This lovely editorial was published in today’s edition of The Hartford Courant, every word of it true and right:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Strange Sleep


This morning I was woken by a migraine. Not the cluster headaches that sometimes waken me, but a “regular” migraine, on the right side.

I got up, had some strong tea and two Advil, and fought off the nausea. I considered whether I’d be able to manage getting up and out on time to sing in the church choir; an early call this morning meant that I’d have to hurry. Waves of pain and more nausea made the decision for me. I was able to send off a text to the substitute choir director, then fell back to bed as the usual migraine-induced sleepiness crept over me.

Then the oddest thing happened.