Now I’m back to thinking that small things are sometimes the best subjects to hang onto at certain times. Also, their tiny determination seems somehow even more appropriate at this moment.
While Ben (the crow with broken foot I wrote about last time) is always the first crow to greet me in the morning, the very first birds there, every single day, are the song sparrows. Half a dozen or so seem to be in our garden at all times — more reliable companions than any other birds this winter.
The trees begin to rustle as soon as I open the door and small, drab, brown shapes emerge. At first it looks as if sad winter leaves are being blown loose, but it’s always the song sparrow gang.
They see the crows gathering but they always dive in fearlessly first, grabbing at least one peanut each before melting swiftly and seamlessly back into the foliage.
I always cheer them on.
And when I said they were drab — that is ONLY upon the most cursory of glances. Give these birds a single moment of inspection and it’s obvious that they’re one of nature’s more complicated works of art — and all created with a palette of infinitely varied browns, creams and a touch of pearl grey.
I’ve been spending time making simple bird figures by needle felting wool. Mostly it’s just an excuse to relieve stress and spend more time thinking about birds, but it’s also practice in noticing things about them that I might not properly see when photographing them. When I look at the intricacy of a song sparrow from the point of view of trying to reproduce it I am both defeated and filled with joy at their modest and complex beauty.
I have reference binder of my own photos to work from, and so far I’ve tackled rudimentary versions of bushtits, chickadees, a spotted towhee, a ruby crowned kinglet, mountain bluebirds and a whiskey jack — but, honestly, I don’t think I know where to start with the quiet but infinitely elaborate patterns in a song sparrow!
While the feather markings seems truly daunting, I’d love to have a go at the facial expression of a song sparrow. They have, I would submit, the very best “judgemental” faces of all the small birds.
Midweek brought terrible news from Europe, and also a skiff of snow here.
That morning the sparrows left some cryptic messages. They looked like a combination of frost patterns and a more intentional series of documents in a forgotten script.
So many big and very small things to think about these last few days and, as usual, no real wisdom to be found aside from trying to find wonder where and when we can.
If your mind is drawn to those suffering in Ukraine, you can make donations to the Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. (Funds donated will be matched by the Canadian government until March 18.)
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