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Baby Season

Friday, June 22, 2018

Carolina chickadees, thinking I'm Mom. 

 Can it really be more than two weeks since I've posted? That's June for you, when both kids are home for the whole summer (I'm still dazed at this) and I'm conscious of treasuring every minute in their presence, because what else is there to do that is as important as that? Well, I had a big drive to Chicago in there, too, and a bunch of talks to give, but now I finally, finally get to stay home for a little while. Well, there's a wedding coming up on the East coast...but I still have a week here!!

There's also been the little side job of getting Liam ready for college, going through all the forms and financial aid and work study job applications and promissory notes and rooming assignments and buying extra long twin bedding and field trips and orientation...gaaaack it's like a part-time job. I don't remember anything like this with Phoebe. At all. Maybe because she just handled it herself. Or in part because Bowdoin didn't have an orientation, at least not one we could attend. Anyway. It's hectic as all get out. And he leaves for good on AUGUST 11. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE OR HUMANE?? So if you don't hear much from me in the next couple of months, it's because I'm too busy loving him up. And if you don't hear much after that, well, assume the worst. Ha ha. Ugh. Not looking forward to rattling around in this too-big house by myself. Good thing Phoebe will be home another couple of weeks after that. Lord. From feast to famine, it'll be. I have a good project, at least, and I'll be deep deep into it then.

I've finally broken through the barrier and switched gears from finishing the writing to doing the illustrations for Saving Jemima. I think, no, I know it gets harder to do that with every book. I grind my gears for weeks, putting off the inevitable. I love to write. I could write hanging upside down by one toe from a forklift, if I could get the pen to work. But I have a really hard time getting started with painting.  Every time I sit down in front of a blank sheet, I'm afraid I've lost it. Which, of course, I haven't, but try telling my psyche that when I'm frozen up and looking for anything to do but paint.

 I literally got to the point where I couldn't write any more. The story was finished. I had cobbled a fairly satisfying ending out of a story that didn't have a satisfying end. She was here for eight months, and then she wasn't. Rats. OK then, let's recap. What did we learn here? That's the solution I came up with. And I learned a lot from that experience, from that bird. The ending works, I think.

 So I selected a ton of photos for each of 20 chapters, and decided what I should illustrate,  mostly things that can't be photographed. Every morning when I open my laptop it's like "Get Smart," where The Chief tells Maxwell Smart: "Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is..." except that I don't have a phone in my shoe (it's in my pocket!) and I certainly don't have an Agent 99 to help. All I have is me and my watercolors. And that's fine. I love getting the assignment each day. I've got this.

One thing that really helped was teaching a two-day sketching and painting workshop at the Morton Arboretum in Chicago. 

I'd love to post some illustrations but that would ruin the surprises for the book. I'm painting on scraps of very old Fabriano cold press watercolor paper, which I'm sure is a lot better than new Fabriano paper, and loving it so much. Soon I'll run out of that and have to rummage around in the flat file for more scraps. It's not a very big book, so I can paint these things fairly small. It'll be OK.

I have some photos from the last couple of weeks that I like, so I'll share them here, in this disjointed halooo from the Land of Book and Kids and Flowers and Rabbits and Chipmunks.

An extremely rare photograph of a Carolina chickadee sheltering its nestlings. Even got a little catchlight in its eye, practically impossible to do with chickadees. They're skittish, and inclined to come out of the nest box hole like an arrow aimed right at your eye. Staying put is not something they are good at. I had my iPhone camera on and ready when I took the box down to peek inside.

On my run a couple weeks ago, the same one where I saved the snapping turtle, there was a little thank-you present waiting in a little shed not far from the Three Graces--an active phoebe nest on a light fixture, and the light coming through the machine shed siding.  Oh, I like this picture. I could tell by the way the phoebe mom was acting that she had new babies in there. I got my photo and got gone. Looks like years of phoebes in that mud and moss tower.

The chicory was just coming out, and you know how I love chicory. 

One of my continuing frustrations is being unable to shoot The Three Graces in the morning. They're backlit and it just doesn't work. But here they are in full summer dress, in the morning.

Daisies do a lot better backlit. 

A moment when the sun came out for maybe six minutes and I ran around like Daffy Duck taking shots. 

I appreciate cattle. This heifer is absolutely lovely. She's got that deep deep mahogany red coloration I like.

Never mind the dirty bum and the poop bindhi on her forehead. She's still a looker, and she made me laugh too.

The Shadow Barn, from another angle. I'm worried about it. Pieces of siding keep falling off. Dang it.  But there's an orchard oriole nest in that beautiful oak, just like there was the last two years running.

Here's a little video of my first fawn of June with its mama.  You might need to full-screen it to see the fawn, which is barely more than a wake ripple behind the big doe.

And some of the sweetest music I know--begging eastern bluebirds. Yes, I'm speaking bluebird to them. One of my parlor tricks, learned of necessity as a rehabilitator. It's so much easier to whisper to them, and ask them to open up, than to force-feed them. Everybody's happier, and everybody eats.


 And in the perfect metaphor for how time and birds fly in June, here is the same brood recently, at Day 14. This photo taken with my "magic eye," held up to the box hole. I wrote the book, and the change in these birds in two weeks never ceases to amaze me. Time and bluebirds wait for no one.


Gracious Julie, you can turn a phrase- wake ripple, poop bindhi? Imaginative! Incredible! Perfection!

Hey Miz Julie!

How big is YOUR screen at full screen? I did full screen it and can barely make out the fawn. Ripple, indeed. I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to start an art project and the caviling over whether or not I still have it. But you, my dear friend, most certainly have it. Looking forward to the book. Empty nesting, aagh. I'd say you need a sidekick to make that house seem less empty, but I know your limitations. I think about when that is coming here, but can't see leaving a puppy or even a rescue alone for nine hours.

I think you'll find a way. For all of it. I have a lot of confidence in you!


The Boneman

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