Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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Pelican…

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Pelicans in December

One can’t help admiring

their rickety grace

and old-world feathers

like seasoned boardwalk planks.

They pass in silent pairs,

as if a long time ago

they had wearied of calling out.

The wind tips them, their

ungainly, light-brown weight,

into a prehistoric wobble,

wings”-end fingers stretching

from fingerless gloves

necks slightly tucked and stiff,

peering forward and down,

like old couples arm in arm

on icy sidewalks, careful,

careful, mildly surprised

by how difficult it has become

to stay dignified and keep moving

even after the yelping gulls have gone;

even after the scattered sand,

and the quietly lodged complaints.

J. Allyn Rossser

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Apps used: Snapseed and Layers


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Down by the dock of the bay…

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Last weekend was the annual Bird Festival in Morro Bay, California, and we spent five days on the Central Coast enjoying, for the most part, lovely weather. Saturday it was smooth as glass as we glided on the Bay.

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Sunday, however, there were record swells over the breakwater (although the surfers did not mind) and a certain stormy-ness to the environment.

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Terry was off on a field trip somewhere and I wandered. The weather forecast was for rain for the rest of the time and I thought I might miss my “morning sunrise with coffee” in front of the rock because of it. I suspected I needed to walk any opportunity there was when it was clear, because otherwise I would get drenched. I set off…

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I had hoped I could collect items as I beach combed so I could compose small still-lifes in the sand. It turned out, however, that the tide had been extremely high but was now on its way out. It left a thin line of debris at it highest point that you can see behind the gull above. Lots of feathers were mixed in with shards of seaweed and all I had to do was bend over and take pictures of what pleased my eye.

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Stand still and pay attention…

I.

I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me of…

A weekend of wonder at the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. Thursday night ushered in the festivities with a pretty fine display of pyrotechnics as the sun set on the Bay.

A spectacular way to start and it just kept getting better from there. Friday morning’s workshop was with John Muir Laws. We spent his workshop down by the shore trying to capture shorebirds on paper…

John Muir Laws is a skilled teacher who breaks down what he wishes to teach into accessible chunks and always stresses his philosophy of standing still and paying attention to where you are, and in fact enjoying, respecting and being in awe of the environment where you find yourself. This is much different from the type of birding that tends to emphasize life lists and how many varieties you have seen.  (In England the person preoccupied with a life list is called a “twitcher”). Increasing my ability to see suits me better, and anything I produced in my sketchbook, although not great, was acceptable to the philosophy of the day. If I was still a public school teacher, I would be here next summer at the Sierra Nevada Teacher Institute and I would put a sketchbook in every student’s hands.

The anatomy of a bird wing, drawn in the sand to be washed away when the tide rises.

Saturday morning down to the Cloisters Park looking for ducks and geese. Most prominently, we found a red-winged black bird and a coot. Not exotic to most birders, but Laws led us through minute observations and we noted and appreciated.

Then to Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo where we saw coots walking on dry land (oh my goodness, what toes!) and we got diagrams of bird anatomy. (Birds walk on their toes, what we might think of as a reverse knee is really their heel, and the knee is up under all their feathers.) These are his diagrams:

and anatomy of beaks…

and a demonstration of how a goose shifts its weight to stand on one leg…

Laws’ movements mimicking bird movement were a highlight of the workshops.

I screw up my courage, silencing my inner critic and show you some pages from my sketchbook:

shorebirds and a discussion of watercolor names for a palette. (I never in my whole life will get the word phthalo correct without a spellchecker.)

I really had to see if I could manage all the equipment for water coloring in the field, so I tried the tree and lake with the dark blobs being coots! As John Muir Laws says, take delight and joy in the subtlety of details. Drawing is not a gift, it is a skill and the way to develop is to practice and get rid of the art critic inside. The way to see better is to make sketching a habit. And do the chant, “I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of…”

He will be offering workshops at the Point Reyes Bird Festival at the end of April. One of the other participants in the workshop also mentioned the Eagles and Agriculture event in Carson Valley, Nevada in February, if you are in the mood to observe bald eagles and other raptors.