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Jul 9, 2009

What You Don't Notice When you are Painting . . .

Went back to the ship yard today to work on a new painting. (You can see where I was on the right.) I set up my easel, laid out my colors, and went to work, immediately becoming engrossed as I always do. But at some point there was a flash of movement on the periphery which broke my concentration. I turned my head to the left and looked down and found a finch hopping around in circles, kicking up dirt and sidling in my direction. Normally a finch won’t get too close to a person so I lowered my brush and shifted around to look at it more closely. Then I spotted another movement -- a second hopping about. It was smaller, lighter in color, and difficult to make out since I had just been focusing on the boats in the distance. But my eyes eventually resolved enough to turn the second movement into a grasshopper and I could see the finch was hopping around it methodically. Then I watched as the finch darted forward to catch the bug before letting go of it again. Each time the finch released the grasshopper he would hop after the bug and snatch it up again. It was clearly a game of cat and mouse.
The finch understood I was there, looming over the drama, but he wanted that grasshopper enough to overcome any concern he might have about me. I also wondered if the grasshopper was aware I was there, since it was definitely heading in my direction. I wondered if its world had shrunk down to something so small, so intense, as to be completely absorbed by this run for its life. The finch would pause, cock a neck back and forth between me and the bug, and continue the pursuit. It ended the way you’d expect -- the bird got the grasshopper, the bird flew away -- but the finale was grisly to watch. Both had come close enough to provide me a front row view. The finch ended it by snatching up the grasshopper by a leg and tearing it off. At that point it was game over for the grasshopper. I hoped it was quick, but there isn’t much about nature, or much in nature, which goes that way. Red in tooth and claw.
Made me wonder what else might be happening out there in the grass.

1 reader comments:

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Odd I would read your "finch & grasshopper story just now as I just finished my own little nature drama in the grass...I went painting last night and today after lunch, I noticed a bird fluttering around in the grass under our Magnolia tree. Went out to investigate and discovered an injured Robin (broken body, or sick -- perhaps thrashed by a neighborhood cat). At any rate, I had my wife bring our 3 year old daughter out to see and say a prayer for the bird (she was just about to go down for a nap, so I'll have to explain the circle-of-life thing to her later) Yes, the bird died shortly thereafter -- I hate the suffering we see in nature, but it's not my design, I just try to help make things better when I can (even for a bug when possible). Had a bird fly into my studio window las year -- it lived long enough for me to pick it up and cup it in my hands...broken neck, sad...anyway life goes on for the finch and perhaps other grasshoppers. Point is, life is precious and always more important than the art we create which desperately (and sometimes successfully) imitates it.

(Reposted for Eric Bowman)