Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Start of Something New

I bought my first digital camera after my divorce in 2001. It was a huge step for me as my ex-husband was a professional photographer. We had met in a college photo studio where I was in awe of the magic he created with light, chemistry, and composition. When my daughter was born, I would jokingly say that I took only mommy pictures. After my divorce, I would carry my newly beloved camera through the Starksboro hills like a hunter ready to capture what appeared upon my path.

Once while walking with my good friend Lisa, I spied an abandoned nest in the tall grasses. Golden in the autumn sunlight, it lay delicately suspended between three thin reeds. It became the focus for my camera—and through the years I captured it again and again digitally and in oils.

One might say I've become obsessed with the notion of nests, birds, and eggs. Last summer Jim and I were staying at a summer home in the Finger Lakes. There upon a small wall was a robin's nest, carefully perched by the cottage's owner. I created this small oil of it and then have not painted since.

When I proposed my sabbatical, I desperately wanted to return to painting and to explore whatever concepts were released in interactive form as well. I'm not sure how it will all turn out but the notions of flight, freedom, parenthood, and craftsmanship pull at me.

On my final day working full time, the entire GIV IT staff went out for our traditional end of institute luncheon at Halverson's on Church Street in Burlington. It has an outdoor hidden courtyard ideal for hosting all 25 or so of us. At the end of the meal, as we were saying our goodbye's, I was standing with my good friend the artist Chris Neuhardt. What should I see on the ground but one half of a small bluish eggshell! Certainly a sign of good fortune—or a sign that I've become very attuned to finding such things. Below is the collection in my studio. The eggshell now rests in the upper left nest.

For the past four springs, a phoebe upgrades her nest above a column in the inner corner of our front porch. Just before we leave for GIV IT the first batch of babes leaves the nest and then she sets about to raise a second bunch. Below sitting indignantly is her second group. They flew away in a feathery burst yesterday just after this photo was taken.

For GIV IT, Jim and I are away from home for nine days and nights. This year our friend and neighbor Connor took care of our home and pets. Occasionally Jim or I would hop home briefly to make sure all was well. During one of those visits, I was checking on the gardens and I discovered that a new nest was being built. It was nestled in the crown of a small hydrangea tree we'd planted during a visit from my parents five years ago. Mom had supervised from the porch while Dad, Jim and I planted. Unlike the phoebe's nest of mud, moss, and feathers this was crafted of carefully woven grasses and twigs—identical to the robin's nest I'd painted a year ago exactly.

The tree is only a bit taller than myself and the nest sits at eye level. The mother flies in and out constantly catching bugs and gathering worms from my gardens, leaving two perfect viewing portals. Below are photos of her four babies. At first scrawny, downless, and sleepy, they get stronger every day. I can hear them calling hungrily for food as I work in my gardens.

So starts my sabbatical—beginnings, nests, eggs, first flights. Sitting here I am listening to the flutelike calling of the forest birds and the musical tumbling of the waterfall. Gone is the constant tension headache. Summer breathes in full of the scent of lemon lilies and rugosa roses. What lies ahead? I am not sure. Much like my camera, this is a huge step for me. However even 2000 years ago birds were looked upon for inspiration.
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? "
—Matthew 6:24

First day of hatch.

Third day after hatching.

Four days old. Eyes starting to open. Connor in the background.

Awaiting mom. Hungry all the time.

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