Burrowing Owl

This has to be one of the cutest owls on the planet. They are little and round like fat toads. And they live in the ground, in the abandoned holes of other burrowing creatures.

Seasonally, burrowing owls make their homes in the Bay Area. They are a protected species, so when they come to the Berkeley marina, the groundspeople put up fences to keep visitors from disturbing them. I’ve never seen one in person, because they are very shy. But I’d like to see them. Aren’t they cute?

Great White Egret

Egrets are one of my favorite birds. Their too-long necks and legs make them simultaneously graceful and awkward.

I mean, look at that neck, coiled like a snake – it’s ridiculous. It reminds me of that moment in Alice in Wonderland where Alice eats a bit of mushroom, and, instead of growing all at once (like she did with the bottle), only her neck grows. Long and snakey, she winds up with her head in the trees scaring a family of birds.

That’s two Alice in Wonderland posts in a row. I sense a thread.

Common Eider

I give you the Common Eider duck, from which we get eider down, the softest, most highly-praised feather-bed and pillow-making material in the world. 

In my early years, our family had an Apple IIC (with the glowing green screen and 4-inch floppy disks…), on which we played the Alice in Wonderland Adventure Game. I loved that game. It was the only game I played from start to finish multiple times. And in those early years, we played computer games as a family, taking turns operating the controls. The game included this riddle:

How do you get down off a train? You don’t. You get down off a —-.

For the longest time, we got stuck at this stupid riddle. We tried every family friendly four letter word we could think of… until, in frustration, we put in “fuck.” Almost instantly, we realized that the correct answer was only one letter off.

You don’t get down off a train. You get down off a duck.

Greylag Goose

The weekend of February 19th, Rick and I drove down to LA to visit his Grandma Polly. She was very weak from a series of infections, and we wanted to give her our love. Luckily, by the time we got there, she was feeling well enough to be her fiesty old self again. So we were relieved.

I drew this bird at Mom and Mark’s house. Mom (Laura) tried her hand with my marker set, too. She drew a carrion crow that I wish I had scanned before she threw it away. That lady has natural talent, and I’d love to see more out of her.

Grandma Polly, like my Grandma Claire, is a landscape painter. Talented parentage all around.

Drawing Exchange

OK, so I have a story to tell.
When I was in 6th grade, I had a really really good friend named Rebecca. We bonded over a love of all things crafty and girly – especially a share obsession with unicorns. For Christmas, we decided to exchange gifts. And to make it extra special, we would make each other gifts. We were both crafty, right? Clearly, these gifts would be awesome.
I poured my little heart into this gift. I made her a ten inch tall stuffed unicorn with a spiraled horn. The hair was silky rainbow yarn (remembering not only the mane and tail, but oh yes, those little tufts behind each hoof). I embroidered on eyes and nostrils and horsey smile. I even made fully articulated joints for the top of each leg, to recreate full galloping action…. And in exchange? She gave me a legless ball of colored cloth with a sharpie drawn-on face, unfinished arms, and a dress made of the exact same flowered print as the doll’s face. I was so sad to give up my unicorn to her, but way too nice to complain.
Cut to February, 2010. I am talking to a co-worker about my bird-a-day project, when another co-worker guy interrupts to demand I give him one of my drawings. Um… why exactly do you deserve a drawing – for free?
I put my foot down. I am absolutely NOT giving him a bird from my bird-a-day project. I have lofty dreams of getting them shown together in a gallery or made into a book or… you know, SOLD to people, for actual money.
This guy pleads with me. He wants to do an exchange, “C’mon a quick drawing, drawing for a drawing, a one-minute bird.” First of all, my birds usually take anywhere from 20 minutes to ONE HOUR, so no, you’re not getting any of those. But I hate whining, and I am too god-damned nice to say “You don’t deserve one” to his face.
Plus, there’s something you need to know about this guy: he is so infectuously upbeat, so brimming with positive energy that it is impossible for me to say “no” to him without feeling like a complete asshole. I know, this is my problem, not his… But I cave anyways, and feel the first traces of bitterness seep in: I will draw a three minute bird, in exchange for one of his drawings…
Here are the results. My three minute Great Indian Hornbill…
For his drawing:

Ok, I know that I am to blame for my own bitterness here. I should have said “no” up front. I should have made it clear that my birds were too precious to me. And yet, I feel pretty justified in feeling cheated in this exchange.

Yes, that is an envelope: torn, stapled, taped back together and then scribbled on with pen and marker. The final clincher? When I came to do the exchange, he said, “Oh, I uh, just have to get it out of my bag… I’ll come get you at your desk.” I am guessing after all that earnest cajoling he completely forgot.

Um, thanks?

For Christmas, this same guy gave me a hand-drawn card with Santa stuck in a chimney. It was cute, and funny, and obviously took time and forethought. And I love it. I treasure it. It’s going to make me a mint when he becomes a famous artist (or children’s book illustrator) one day. Why couldn’t the drawing exchange item be of the same caliber? And why was I too chicken shit to mention it to him? sigh.