Bird From a Crown of Knives

In the song, you gently built your nest in a crown of knives.

In the song, you gently built your nest in a crown of knives.

Somebody sent me a picture of this bird on Facebook. I believe its proper name is a “Silver Eared Maltesia,” which sounds like a medication you take for the clap. One often sees these birds in the Asian bird markets, where they are sold tethered to sticks as cage birds–a stupid and cruel practice which I wish would cease. In fact, I wish all trafficking in exotic birds would be outlawed. I’ve never understood the instinct of people who would cage a creature meant to fly.  It seems contrary to the creature itself, and identifies a deep and abiding cruelty.

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Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 11:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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La Duo Infine

blackburnianwarblerThese are actually Blackburnian warblers. They blow through here during migration. My pal, Greg, knows a place where you can see them every year in Lincoln Park.

I met with a bunch of the Chicago and Illinois Birders the other night at The Rail, a joint up on the north side. We watched the Bears get creamed and talked birds. It’s amazing to be in the company of people who know so much; where the owls will be, where this bird and that bird will be and always having to adjust estimations because of stuff like climate-change and adjust expectations accordingly. Sometimes I feel like I am WAY too late to all of thit, but these folks made me feel at ease. The only desire that is important to them is the desire to see birds, and to share in the wonder of what they magically bring into our world. I’m very grateful to be in their company and it’s wonderful to be able to learn so much new information at my age. I’m lucky.

 

Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bird for Palestine

Bird for Palestine

Published in: on August 19, 2014 at 11:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Volo

 With Your Bloody Bib, In Secret, You Do The Work Of The Songs.


With
Your
Bloody
Bib,
In
Secret,
You
Do
The
Work
Of
The
Songs.

Published in: on August 14, 2014 at 1:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Last Child

The Ice Bird

Last Child

 

Published in: on May 8, 2014 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Birds for Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse Tashunca-uitco My land is where my dead lie buried. A flock of red birds or a necklace of stars. He wished to be black leaves--flying over water...

Crazy Horse Tashunca-uitco
My land is where my dead lie buried.
A flock of red birds or a necklace of stars.
He wished to be black leaves–flying over water…

Crazy Horse wanted little to do with other people, red or white. He was happiest out wandering in nature. He was as content to sleep in a cave or a hole, as he was in a camp. He loved being out under the stars and was comfortable with his own company. There was a reason the Oglala Lakota referred to him as “our Strange Man.”

His nonconformity set him apart in a tribal culture. He had much responsibility in his tribe. He was among the most fierce of warriors; a brilliant tactical fighter and a superb hunter, and to his tribe, he was necessary and he was up to shouldering his immense responsibility to his people. He hunted buffalo, he led war-parties and raids, but when the opportunity arose, he would go off by himself to be in nature and fast and seek visions. He was curious about the spirits and the next world and he sought wisdom. Like Basho, he was always searching and seeking knowledge.

In Tokyo, I visited some Shinto shrines and was struck by how much Shintoism reflects the beliefs of some Native American beliefs as well. I’m not religious at all, but do tend to cede the power most attribute to god, to nature. The Shinto teachings have an intense reverence for the natural world and the shrines are sublimely beautiful.

In battle Crazy Horse adorned his forehead with three hailstones and red lightning bolts on each cheek. He also carried a small pebble or hailstone behind his ear. These images were powerful talismans in his life and visions. When it would hail, the Native American believed it was raining stone and, depending which text you read, this was alternately ominous and hopeful at the same time.

It may sound odd that I once went to Japan to better understand Crazy Horse, but I think it helped. In every culture, there are these odd-spirited men who don’t quite fit into the world easily, yet they push that culture forward for better and ill. They are necessary people who don’t want to punch a clock or color inside the lines. There is an otherness about them. In Japan, the Haiku monks were thought to be oddballs in their day. Basho was an admirer of Li-Po, the great Chinese poet of the 8th century, another wandering spirit enamored of wandering in nature. It is not an accident that Haiku is rooted in nature and reflects the seasonal shifts of one’s lifetime.

I hope that after Crazy Horse was murdered, he went somewhere. He certainly deserved better than he got. I don’t believe in the afterlife, but I’d like it if he had one. Haitians refer to the land between the living and the dead as the “Gray World” and there is no time continuum; it is a place where Basho and Crazy Horse could meet. I hope wherever Crazy Horse went, he wore a necklace of stars.

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lunch Drawing #46: Two Birds for Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Godspeed, Mr. Marquez: From Aracataca to Mexico City–Every Sentence; a satellite of your desire.

á

Published in: on April 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lunch Drawing #45: Blue Steel Bird

Blue Steel Bird

She
is
a
gem-
Blue,
Blue
as
a
Murmur.

Published in: on April 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lunch Drawing #44: A Story Bird

Lunch Drawing #44: A Story Bird

It is the old story:
Hidden in shells,
and chains, and burning barns,
Carried on migrations by singing blood gospels;
It is the story only told by birds

Published in: on April 7, 2014 at 5:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lunch Drawing 41: Cinderella Blackbird

Lunch Drawing 41: Cinderella Blackbird

Published in: on March 19, 2014 at 11:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lunch Drawing #29: The Snow Wren

The Snow Wren

It seems like the end and the beginning of every year I draw birds. I always told myself that rather than do anything stupid like retiring, my idea of retirement would be drawing birds and naked women. I don’t mean “nudes.” I mean NAKED WOMEN. There is a difference. I also decided I would just make up some birds. Rather than draw the many existing species, I’d just make up my own. This is one of those. As far as I know, there is no such thing as a “snow wren.” There could be; I haven’t looked it up. There are snow buntings, snowy owls, and snow geese; so it stands to reason that there could be such a thing as a “snow wren.” I don’t care if there is or not. This little bird came to me as I watched my feeder on Xmas morning. All of the colors in this bird were present at the feeder that morning. On a blanket of snow ; the colors of each bird were sharp and lovely and alive with the exigence of a winter feeding and I realized I could distinguish the different kinds of birds because of the high relief of the white ground. I could suddenly tell a purple finch from a red-headed house finch. . .and this is harder than it sounds. The different sparrows, of which there are many kinds, now are distinctive to me. Does it mean I am a better bird watcher? Probably not. It just means I’m still learning how to see; and for this, I am grateful.

Published in: on December 31, 2013 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Autumn Dream of Blue Jays

bluejay

In early folklore, blue jays were thought to be hand-servants of the devil because of their noisy and boisterous nature. I remember them as a pleasant and mysterious part of childhood. The mystery being that I would see them everyday for a while (a week or so) and then they would disappear for six months until I’d almost forget about them and then they’d be back. I was always wondering where the fuck they went. They were the Houdinis of the natural world.

In high school, I had a job cutting grass in Queen of Heaven cemetery during the summers. The place was full of pine trees and thus, blue jays. In fact, if you want to see a lot of birds, go to any cemetery. It is a relatively safe place for them. As accidental bird sanctuaries, they are a safe place to nest and enjoy relative safety from humans cutting down trees and shooting birds.

I kind of liked that job. I worked with lots of guys from Mexico and in the middle of the afternoon, one of them would hop the fence and go buy six-packs and dirty magazines. We’d hide our mowers and drink beer in the bushes and smoke cigarettes and take naps. It was great. Learned all of the dirty words in Spanish I could think of and met people from another part of the world who were nothing like me, except that we wanted the same things; to work outside and to be left the fuck alone.

I loved watching birds with these guys. They could imitate bird calls and told me in Mexico, at night, the birds turned into angels.

Published in: on September 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The House Made From Leaves

The House Made From LeavesThis is one of those late summer drawings.

I read some stories about the Shaker culture who used to construct this canopy of a great bough of leaves, called a “Bower.” It was a place they went to worship and receive divine light–what they believed to be the light of God. Somehow the sun was not miraculous or divine enough for them, so they would go into the Bower and shake and chimp out thinking the sun was laying a different, holier kind of light on them.

Dip-Shits.

This time of year, especially a day like today, late summer comes with a whisper of autumn; a chill to let us know what awaits us in a scant 30 days or so. I love days like this, the sun still high up in the sky in the late afternoon and the shadows creeping ever longer each day.

My back porch is a magic place this time of year; cool enough to draw outside and watch the birds at my feeder. Every once in a while, a squirrel tries to muscle in on the feeder and I have to throw shit at them. I mostly let my dog, Chooch, out in the yard because he doesn’t bother the birds and will chase the squirrels away. He has introduced three squirrels to Jesus and they don’t fuck around with him anymore. The word is out in the squirrel community.

In my neighborhood, there are gorgeous pines and oaks and maple trees, the odd exotic here and there, a Japanese weeping cherry tree in my neighbor’s yard and some tall elms frame the end of the block. The Ukrainians who settled this neighborhood planted as many trees as they could. My neighbors say it is kind of an effort to recreate the place they come from. Whatever the reason, I am grateful for the green thumbs of this neighborhood’s settlers. They’ve added much beauty to my life.

Published in: on August 14, 2013 at 1:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Every Radio In America

Every Radio in America

Thinking about summer; when one sometimes walks down the street at night and every radio in the world is tuned to the same song. . .magic like that and the Chicago sky and all of its sparkling jewelry. . .

Published in: on July 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Orange and Black Bird: Portal to the Mercy of Autumn

Published in: on June 5, 2012 at 6:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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