Seeing bison in preserves like the ones at Land Between the Lakes just east of us makes you wish they still roamed wild. They appear as unlikely visions that you imagine as folklore instead of something alive and breathing. In their natural state, running to the hundreds in wide open spaces must have been spectacular to witness. Sort of like seeing herds of wildebeests in Africa.
But they’re still majestic in their brooding bulk. Their wool hangs in beards around their necks and chins with little dreadlocks as top-notches at the back of their head. When we took these pictures a couple years ago it was a warm Summer day and this fellow was doing the sensible thing. Standing in the only pool of water available. His fellow bison were just beyond munching grass. He eyed us warily as we stopped the car to take a picture of him just along the fence line at the side of the road. So tantilizingly close, and yet so far from here.
Yesterday I painted the companion piece to this one. It’s the same Carolina Wren but taken as he jumped around among the banana leaves and dry stalks looking for bugs. He’s definitely doing that here in this pose. They never stay still long, which makes me wonder how they can see something so small as a bug in such a short period of time.
Last summer we had a pair of Carolina Wrens that frequented our flower gardens, especially in back of the house. This year I never saw them. Maybe I just wasn’t alert enough, but I sure did miss them. I even hung a small bird house made especially for wrens but none ever came nor did any other bird use it, for that matter. For a brief moment I thought it might be inhabited by paper wasps but that turned out not to be true.
We have some kind of wrens in San Miguel around our house there, which we see usually early in the morning or at dusk when they make their way around the rocks and our brick fence looking for bugs in the crevices. I’ve even had them perch momentarily on my kitchen windowsill, an act I consider to be of supreme order.
This little guy (and I assume it is a guy) we saw in the tropical foliage in Florida a couple years ago on a visit to Corkscrew Swamp. I’m sure I didn’t hear him, not being reliably able to hear birds with higher pitched voices, but we managed to spot him from his flitting about the big banana tree leaves. I think I’ve made him look a bit like a robin, but tomorrow I plan to do him in another pose, so I have a second chance of making him even more true to life. Even so, I like to think of this Springtime bird as the weather turns to Fall. Something to look forward to at the other end of Winter.
Malaysia was such a surprise. We crossed from Singapore via bus into a torrential downpour, as if the heavens had opened up, and then spent two days at the port city of Malacca. From there we journeyed north into the mountains to the Cameron Highlands. The high elevations were a welcome cool that we’d not experienced since reaching southeast Asia several weeks before. It felt like we’d been transported into a glorious hidden realm with lush, shadowy, deep forests and rolling tea fields as far as the eye could see. These are the vast tea plantations established by the English and taken over by the Malaysians. They look like endless meticulously manicured gardens that create patterns across the landscape, providing a verdant palate for play of light and shadow. Dave took picture after picture, but still I think we failed to capture this resplendent sight. And if the visual wasn’t enough the tea was perhaps the best we’ve ever experienced.
We lingered a long while in the Singapore Bontanic Garden. It’s hot and extremely humid there but I remember enjoying myself there more than a lot of our wanderings in the heat. There were places of shade, and it was such an oasis of wonder.
This image is of heliconias, one of my favorite exotic flowers, that grow hanging down and form pods in a charming symetrical chain. The intertwined large leaves of luscious green superimposed against lily pads from a small pond give them even more mystery.
My last two posts have been about things up on houses and their surrounding walls. Today I’m back on the ground and have been thinking of Singapore. Maybe it’s the dull darkness of today brought on by the rain storms that makes me dream of sun and heat that enveloped us in the island state of Singapore. Specifically, I remember the botanic gardens with its exotic plants, cool ponds, and meandering paths. We spent half a day there relaxing and exclaiming over the strange new plants we saw.
I felt like doing flowers or something from that experience today so I sought out the photos we’d taken. There among them was a fantastically colored close up of lotus flowers and their pads floating on one of the ponds. The water is an unbelievable purplish blue that causes the lily pads to stand out in stark relief. The white lotus is almost electric as a brilliant beacon among the saturated colors. I closed in even further on it from the original photo and to make it more dominant and the composition simpler. The colors are the thing, and I’m happy to remember Singapore that way.
Everyone in San Miguel, and other villages in Mexico as well, seems to have roof dogs. Most houses have flat roofs which serve as terraces and a place for clothes lines to dry your clothes. They also are a convenient place to keep your dogs that gets them outside and doesn’t require a fence. Some dogs just peer over the side and watch you as you walk by. Others bark and snarl and threaten to leap on your head. We’ve been intimidated by a few roof dogs in our explorations of San Miguel. For a while I carried dog biscuits to throw at them and other stray dogs we’d see around town. They tend to be less threatening if you feed them.
To me the roof dogs always seemed like living gargoyles, strange in their stance and perspective above you. Many of them I felt sad for because they seemed to long for attention. In any case, they came to be representative of a part of the culture where we lived, and I came to expect them.
The painting today is a pair of roof dogs that we saw in Granada, Spain, not San Miguel. Isn’t it strange that the Mexican motherland also has this tradition? Maybe it’s something about having flat roofs. These guys and a buddy of theirs I didn’t paint weren’t terribly intimidating. They looked like old pals and the sentries of their domain. So we felt more at home there in Granada with this familiar sight and Spanish floating through the air.
As you can see, I’m not done with chickens yet. This one is a funny little girl Dave and I saw in a back yard on one of our walks in San Miguel when we were exploring the city early during our time there. She seemed to be patrolling the back fence of her owners’ property, or maybe she just wanted to see beyond her little walled in world.Â From this pose she hopped onto the clothes line strung across at about the same height and became a tightrope walker. You may not be able to tell from the painting but she’s a special breed, though I don’t know what kind. She has a puffy little topknotch on her crown.
Birds in general are on my mind since I found this morning, with my studio window open, that I’m hearing them more clearly. A female cardinal got my attention with her clear ringing song as I read my morning email. She sounded like a bell to me, but when I looked out the window I saw her flitting among the sycamore branches. She’s more clear and different than I heard before.
I had a keen interest in the roosters we saw in southeast Asia on our world trip. They were everywhere in Bali and Malaysia, and I loved their colors. The ones that particularly got my attention had iridescent blue green feathers with reddish accents like the one in my painting. I found them irresistible.
This is an older painting as I’m still getting back into my schedule. I’m preparing for a show here locally at the Mentor House Gallery to open October 9th so that and other things left unattended during my recent absences have been gaining my attention. Hopefully I’ll have a new painting tomorrow.