An Artist’s Eyes Never Rest!

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“All artists are a little bit crazy!”   “Artists are different.”

Over the years, I’ve chuckled when someone looked at  my whimsical works and noted the difference in our personalities.

Yes, artists are programmed differently, and most of us rejoice that every waking moment is a gift!  Whether soaking in a sun-drenched street scene or admiring an alignment of  overhead pelicans or noting subtle color differences in a landscape, an artist’s eyes never rest!

When living in Costa Rica, I lived immersed in nature and marveled at the beauty that surrounded me.  I was also intrigued that most of the handmade products I bought were made in Ecuador.  Hammocks, pottery, linens, masks – Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador.   From my first exploratory visit,  Ecuador stole my heart!  I divided my time between Ecuador and Central America and eventually weaned full time to Ecuador.  There have been good times, and there have been bad –  Destructive tides, the evolution of ‘Casa Loca,’ Dengue and Chikungunya epidemics, light-pole painting competitions, impromptu painting sessions, visits to the oldest hacienda in the country, a wedding on the equator, shrimp harvests, floor-painting memories.   The April 16/2016 7.8 earthquake upturned the coastal area, and with a heavy heart I watched the ‘Casa Loca’ chapter come to an end.

Most of my posts feature light-hearted stories, though at times I poke and prod at much-more serious topics.  Deforestation and continued abuse of our planet’s natural resources remind me to speak up for those who have no voice.  Our planet is sick, and we are the ‘predator’ responsible; it’s time for all of us to remember that the other species deserve the right to thrive in their natural ecosystems.

This site will give you a glimpse into the life of the zeebra.  Hopefully you’ll emerge with a lighter heart!

Thanks for stopping by!  Z

* (Click the sidebar  at the top left to receive updates in your inbox, or scroll to the bottom of this page.)

WHOOPS

I have to laugh.

That mustang of an epistle fired out of the gate just minutes after it was pasted into the WP format, and while I was searching for the images.   I wrote it last night, went to sleep and have not edited it at all.

The WordPress format showed a new ‘red’ attention-getting notice to ‘Refresh connection with Linkedin’ which I did – and I suppose that prompted the “Publish’ option.

Perdon!  The post was totally unedited, so I will follow now with images and other links.   I also intended to mention this approach to the equinox.   Years ago I remember reading that ‘more storms are spawned on the September equinox than any other day of the year.’     I have no idea if it’s true or not, but the Atlantic seems to be extremely active during this period – especially this year!

September 2019 – How the world has changed since last year’s Killa Raymi Equinox ‘Girls’ Trip.’ What a serene experience.

After brushing the blues into the still-wet white, I left for a walk in the park.

Always great to look down and see something looking up! Ah, we share this world with all species, but often we forget about them.

Portoviejo Ecuador

I poured the gifted sangria into a pretty glass! In the background is the wall sconce which needs something higher to balance against that white space…

The LinkedIn page just popped up to confirm the WordPress connection.  Will we have to do this with every new post?    Ah WordPress, things were just fine before these changes!

The pizza box…

Two coats of acrylic ‘roofing paint’ and then some fun hurried swirls of paint. So very easy!   Next I taped the edges to reinforce the shape.

The left-over mirrors from past projects… and a little heavy-duty glue…

Allowing another day for the mirrors to ‘set,’ the Pizza Van Gogh is ready to hang!

Dady also shared this cover of Starry Starry Night.

Here’s the Kathy Mattea SERFA talk:

and the Hope for the Galapagos fundraising page – go HERE.   (Updates needed for anyone who can provide info to what’s happening now.. the laptop battery is almost depleted!)  I found this ABC news link from this month:  ...Fleet Still Near Galapagos

Now I’ll hit ‘publish’ – and should be back online tomorrow or Tuesday.

Love to you all,

Lisa

 

Buffered.
After staring at the blank page for the umpteenth time, I thought, “Buffered. I’m slightly buffered from the outside world which continues to get a bit crazier each week.”
Starts and Stops.
So I stare at the blank page and wonder how to start a post, when several have been written off line – and are waiting for time online to juggle photos and perhaps the new format on WordPress. I ponder what was written and think, “No. These are not the times for sharing ‘What I did or read or saw this week’ posts. But you need to write something to acknowledge you’re still alive and well.”
Circles.
So I go in circles – never finding the right words for these strange times we’ll call ‘The Year of 2020.’
Sometimes music can lift the energy of a room, even a faux room like this blog post that connects us across the globe. Let’s start with this star-studded Stay Home Live Lounge video from BBC Radio:
Live Lounge Allstars – Times Like These

These past few months find me a bit altered; all is fine in my self-contained creative world, where I dodge the city’s noise pollution by painting at night – sometimes all night – and sleeping all morning – sometimes until mid afternoon! Painting is going well, and I am presently working on two complicated and demanding mid-sized paintings. I remain amazed at how ‘doing absolutely nothing’ except breathing, blinking (or not blinking) and holding a paint brush can totally deplete my energy – but it does. Sometimes I go to sleep at 2 in the morning – and other times I might stop and cook pancakes (!) and paint until four or even six. When I do stop, I always sleep well – eight hours and sometimes up to twelve. By evening I’m ready for the next session. Or a book. Recently I read again Corelli’s Mandolin, and this time the details about the war and politics seemed a bit spooky – that perhaps our species never learns from history.

Restrictions are lifting here in Ecuador, though I think that many people remain cautious and suspicious of that new freedom. Covid plays hardball, and I am glad to have limited interactions with the general public. The easy walk to the park offers an important dose of vitamin D as well as interaction with nature. The outings are always worth the effort, traffic fumes and all, and the mandatory mask helps screen the pollutants.

I sometimes take my computer and stop at the restaurant on my return, and the restaurant is often empy during those late-afternoon hours. With several almost-finished WP posts ready to publish, I place my order, sit at the corner table and log onto the internet. Sometimes I check emails first, and othertimes I check the news. There have been challenging hurdles regarding paperwork and emails with government agencies which – because of Covid – often take months for a reply. I was told in February, ‘Three weeks,’ and that was after a year’s wait. Those challenges are tiny compared to what many people face in this bizarre year that hurls new surprises each week.

Recently the owner of the restaurant called my attention to the news on television and stated, “Mississippi.” That was when Hurricane Laura was approaching the coast. (Or was that Sally?)
One hurricane after another seems to be barreling across the Atlantic; this week there are so many disturbances that the satellite images look like Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night. Those early-warnings help save many lives, though the tropical storms and hurricanes leave a wake of destruction. Electricity, water, shelter – and so many displaced people.

While slow-moving storms drench some areas, scenes of wildfires leave me almost physically sick – how horrible it must be to see fires like that in the distance – or approaching way too fast. Given the mandatory evacuation orders, my Colorado friends benefited from an abnormal cold front which doused the approaching fire with snow. Others not so lucky only received the winds which fed the fires. To those of you in California, Oregon and Washington, I hope that you and your loved ones are fine – it must be a huge worry throughout the fire season. The protests and riots were bad, and now this.
The various news sources and videos capture the good and the bad side of human nature, especially the bad these days. The USA seems to have become a country divided, and we are in need of peacemakers – lots of them!
In her 2017 talk, How Music Saved My Life, Kathy Mattea opened with a story about music and its effect on human behavior:
” …I did a workshop with Bobby McFarrin the great jazz singer, and 120 of us gathered together and we stood in a circle and they divided us into sopranos, altos, tenors and basses and they would come around – and give just an improvised part in the moment – to each section – and we would keep singing as the next section came in and the next section came in – and then, Bobby McFarrin would improvise over us … and then somebody else might take the mike and somebody might change the bass part – and then change the soprano part and stop the tenors and then do a whole other section and the thing would just keep morphing — and we would do this for 12 hours a day… We did this from 9 in the morning until 9 at night…
“…about day three or four – you just find yourself standing there (sniff sniff) singing and crying, singing and crying and you’re like ‘I can’t even believe this!’ and he looked up about day four or day five and he said, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty amazing isn’t it – singing together is just such an amazing thing – I keep wondering, you know, what would happen if – every time Congress met – for the first thirty minutes they had to do this… I wonder how it would change the course of history.'”
Kathy Mattea Keynote remarks and song – SERFA 2017
For those fluent with ‘the oldies,’ look for her cover of The Ode to Billy Joe.

Three or so months ago a young university student and I were talking about Covid; he is studying to be a pharmacist, and two of his brothers are doctors. On the television were scenes of USA protests about masks and restrictions. He said, “I used to think that people of the USA were the most intelligent people on the planet. Now I don’t think so.”
His parents own the restaurant – (which is my office away from home.) About a month later we visited again, and I said that Covid was a lot like a Trojan Horse, and I asked if he knew that story. (Of course!) He replied, “I don’t think so. It’s not sneaking in – those people are opening their doors and inviting it inside.”

I have suggested to him more than once that he should consider taking some courses in philosophy, as he’s a natural!

I think that seeing things from a distance sometimes helps, but then sometimes one has to be right there to truly understand the issues. Sort of like being in the bullring as the matador and not in the stands… yet one can also think about a co-dependant relationship, and one sometimes cannot see what’s happening until being able to step away. It’s sometimes hard to see things from different tangents. These are challenging times.
When one ponders all of the people in this world – each with a specific story and lineage and history, and all of us learning as well as teaching through actions and behavior – we are either adding something positive or something negative or maybe neutral. This planet is one very-complicated organism, and here we all are on somewhat of a pause mode – or the Timeout Corner. Will we have grown in our compassion for our fellow man? Will we emerge with the same attitudes, the same concerns, depending on our personal interests?
As for me, there are some concerns about not-so-good news some might have not heard about:
Galapagos /Chinese Fishing Fleets… friends Stephen and Xiomara started a Go-fund-Me project.
Via The Watchers, https://watchers.news/2020/09/16/bird-die-off-new-mexico-2020/
which links to articles from these respected sources about a”Bird Die Off – New Mexico” The iNaturalist link is a citizen science site with reports and images.
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/southwest-avian-mortality-project
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/09/14/us/new-mexico-birds-died-migration-trnd/

By the time I’ve scanned the news, loaded hurricane updates to read at home – three in three weeks for those aimed at the Texas/Louisiana/Mississippi area – the tired battery for the laptop has usually shut down for the session. I return to the apartment with a browser full of open pages, downloaded videos, interviews and some music sessions. If I am lucky, the browser doesn’t crash.
My friend Dady stopped by a few months ago to hand me an unexpected gift – a personal-sized bottle of fresh sangria! Wearing masks, I stood at the door and she stood on the sidewalk and visited. Recently she and her sister shared a take-out pizza, and they volunteered to take the box to throw it away. No, I smiled, I would like to use it to illustrate something I wrote a few years ago. I showed them the booklet with my reply to Hugh Curtler regarding ‘Are Poets Mad.’
” – …but at the moment I swatted the thirty-fourth mosquito I realized that WHY I was hanging out the window and scrawling the moon’s image on the back of a takeout pizza box …”
I told them that I had been wanting to paint a small picture of a moon to go behind a wall sconce – with mirrors glued to the painting to reflect the candles – and that box would be perfect for that project!

As the third tropical disturbance ‘Tropical Storm Beta’ aims toward the Texas/Louisiana/Gulf Coast, I leave you with the almost-finished Pizza-box Art and Lianne La Havas’s cover of a classic song that seems appropriate.
Thank you for hanging with me – and for understanding my long period of silence. This long epistle surely balances against all of those weeks of ‘nada.’
Would the peacemakers please step forward? The planet needs every one of you.
Love,
Lisa

Ecuador’s Independence-Day Weekend – a Short Outing to the Park

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Portoviejo EcuadorAugust 8/2020   Strong afternoon light provided an easy excuse for a stroll to Parque las Vegas after five this afternoon. Several blocks before the park, a dozen street cats posed for a portrait session. A dear older lady feeds those cats – and five times as many pigeons each afternoon. Her kindness warms my heart.

P3080222 the earthquakes legacy and pigeons

The earthquake-damaged city of Portoviejo slowly rebuilds.

 

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With many more restaurants now open for business, the well-fed iguanas need no more special attention at the petite park across from the museum. Still closed to the public, this small park offers established plantings, a gazebo and small fountains, and an alamanda-draped pergola.

P3050466 look up iguana

From June 2020

 

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The Plumeria and Royal Poinciana trees’ flowers caught my attention, though my goal was the larger park – surely busy on this Independence weekend.  (August 10 is the official date.)     Keeping my camera tucked inside my bag, I observed various small groups enjoying an outing in the park.

P2970367 portoviejo parque las vegas empty mar 21 almost noon

March 21,2020 – empty exercise lanes in park

A lone man sold inexpensive kites at the intersection beside the park, and several people flew their kites from the amphitheater’s highest point. A gaggle (!)of young boys pedaled their bicycles along the exercise lanes at full throttle; each one wore the socially-responsible face coverings. I considered pulling out my camera but decided to take my own visual snapshots to imprint that scene to long-term memory.

P3080385 LOST BALL

Today the water hyacinths claimed someone’s ball!

Two more youngsters kicked a soccer ball across a vast expanse of concrete.  Already built like a long-distance runner, one agile child sported official soccer attire, knee-high ‘stretchy’ athletic socks and serious black running shoes. About six or seven years old, he illustrated a seriousness about his sport. I wondered if he would one day become a world-famous soccer player!

P3080244 5 pm light at the segua

 

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The late-afternoon sun provided dramatic light for admiring and photographing the various species. The Neotropic Cormorant, Striated Heron and Purple Gallinules competed with the lone turtle for my attention.

P3080336 5 pm light at the segua purple gallinule JUV and lily fruitP3080337 5 pm light at the segua purple gallinule JUV and lily fruit GOOD LIGHTP3080347 5 pm light at the segua purple gallinule JUV and lily fruitP3080563 5 30 LIGHT GALLINULEP3080533 5 30 LIGHT GALLINULEP3080564 5 30 LIGHT GALLINULE

P3080441 5 pm light at the segua TURTLEP3080462 5 pm light at the segua TURTLEP3080492 5 pm light at the segua TURTLE

Content after half an hour of communing with the aquatic residents, I began my return trip.P3080585 TEA PARTY FOR FOUR

A ground-level picnic caught my attention, and I glanced in that direction. Four women. Fresh flowers. A white china tea pot. A straw mat. Already passing them, I paused and asked permission to photograph them.  They invited me closer.

 

I asked if they were celebrating Independence Day? (No…) or a birthday? (No… We live nearby and are just out… We do this often…)  We talked briefly about the earthquake – still imprinted on the people of Manabi.   I commented on the flowers and the beauty of their setting.   One lady pointed to another and said, ‘My sister gets credit.’

They all get credit, as each person contributed her own serenity and natural beauty to their outing.

P3080589 TEA PARTY FOR FOUR2P3080591 TEA PARTY FOR FOUR

P3080592 TEA PARTY FOR FOURP3080593 TEA PARTY FOR FOURP3080594 TEA PARTY FOR FOURP3080595 TEA PARTY FOR FOUR

“You are all artists!” I said to them and motioned to the flowers, the mat, the easy and natural style of their entire setting. “You have provided a gift to my heart and to my soul,” I thanked them again and left them in peace.

Not planning to be out tonight for internet, the finale with those four beautiful women prompted me to go home, write this, process the photos and share them with all of you.

Hopefully their little tea party has warmed your hearts as much as it did mine!  I’ll end with a fun closing – the selfie while walking down the hall… It too made me chuckle!

P3080214 jajaja selfie in hallwayP3080215 jajaja selfi w big eyes in hall

Still doing well, gracias a-Dios!

Happy Independence Day to everyone in Ecuador!

Lisa

 

Art, Meditation and Cooking

P2530760 bamboo leaves

“Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so you must let go of your subjective preoccupation with yourself… Your poetry arises by itself when you and your subject become one.” Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)

Sunday, July 12 – Portoviejo Ecuador – After a check on the iguanas in one park and the gallinules in another, I returned home with a handful of bamboo leaves for reference in an 8″ x 8″ design. Drawn a few weeks ago in ink, this textile design was scanned to the computer then fine-tuned to make it ‘seamless’ on all four sides. Printed on card stock, it was ready for a second more-painterly option.

P2990128 beets beet leaves

The cutting garden includes beets purchased at the market then planted for their fast-growing leaves.

Each day I simmer a batch of ‘tea,’ made from dried guayusa and stevia leaves as well as fresh ginger, turmeric and ‘Cuban’ Oregano. (Spreng – Plectranthus amboinicus) Some days a jalapeno adds a fiery change, and other days various sprigs of just-clipped mint or basil add fragrance to the brew. This was a hurried batch, as the bamboo study awaited my attention.

Just beyond the kitchen I retreated to a light-filled work area, where the watercolors and bamboo leaves replaced a just-finished acrylic experiment on a scrap of ‘reject’ vinyl flooring. A not-too meticulous wash of Naples yellow and a brighter yellow would unify the bamboo design, then more layers of color would define each leaf while the center vein remained untouched. Watercolor usually works best when working from light to dark. This I know.

P2540046 Bananaquits y Bamboo cropped Acrylic

Bamboo leaves and Bananaquits – painted last year

“Learn the rules well, then forget them.” – Basho

The little 8 x 8 design had other plans and quickly seized control and demanded that I reach for the white acrylic (NOOOOO! No acrylic allowed on those brushes dedicated for watercolor!) um, I repeat: I reach for the white acrylic (no!!!) and float a wash across the entire still-wet design. I obeyed the design’s wishes, and since I was using a cheap purchased-nearby brush, it was a guilt-free choice.

When finished, I was directed to dip into the tropical blue latex house paint, which I knew would darken as it dried. Mixed with a very strong-willed Winsor & Newton Cadmium Yellow acrylic – and the still-wet white, the pigments floated and fuzzed into background imagery, painted directly across the once-distinct leaves in the foreground. What a mess, but a lovely mess which had a clear end-result in mind. So long watercolor and hello mixed media!

P1090300 COFFEE CUP I NEED A WIFE

Sorry; I did not consider photographing these stages. The camera was at the other end of the apartment!

Switching between pure white to white with yellow to blue and yellow and back to white, the various layers of the design found more depth. When completely immersed in the painting process, I realize that time seems to vaporize as if I am in a dream-like trance. Every so often something might awaken me, like the sudden realization, ‘The tea!’ Continue reading

Never Outgrow Simple Delights

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for…. In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportsmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.” – JOHN LUBBOCK, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In

P3050915 VIEW OF WESTERN SIDE OF SEGUA

A petite segua/marsh-wetland area anchors one corner of Portoviejo’s Parque las Vegas.

Portoviejo Ecuador – Totally content with several creative projects, I had no need or wish to leave the apartment, except for a visual check on the rapidly-growing Purple Gallinule chicks. A visit two days earlier provided ample photos to record the recent changes; those five little balls of black fluff resembled gawky pre-teens dressed in entirely-different attire. Much like their older (and quite-responsible) adolescent siblings, they sported buff-colored plumage with a distinct star on their foreheads. That frontal shield will eventually turn pale blue against a bill which resembles a giant kernel of candy corn.

P3050538 PURPLE GALLINULE BABY GROWING UP TESTING WINGS

The Purple Gallinule babies are growing up – testing wings!

P3050136 juv and baby gallinule baby w wings up

Juvenile Gallinule feeding the youngest generation.

Not as talented as adults at locating the water-lily fruits, the juveniles struggle to locate then fish for the sunken fruits. Nervously pacing across the lily pads or climbing higher to peer into the clear water, they remind me of a long-ago swimming/diving game we played: Match! (Do children -and adults – still play that game?)

P3030774 JUV GALLINULE SEARCHING FOR FOODP3050512 JUV GALLINULE Y LILY FRUITP3050513 JUV GALLINULE Y LILY FRUITP3050514 JUV P GALLINULE WITH FRUIT

P3040257 ALONG COMES THE JUVENILE

P3050532 JUV Y BABY GALLINULE

Juvenile with the fast-growing younger sibling.

Having mastered the art, an adult bird quickly locates and retrieves a fruit. With fruit in its bill, it chatters while racing across the water hyacinths and lilies. Hearing the unique dinner bell, the babies and juveniles gather for their next feeding.

P3030836 LOOKING DOWN PURPLE GALLINULE LOOKING DOWNP3030837 LOOKING DOWN PURPLE GALLINULE GETTING WATER LILY FRUIT cropped imageP3040235 YAY PURPLE GALLINULE RETRIEVES WATER LILY FRUITP3040245 GALLINULE FRUIT BILL DETAIL

Two Wattled Jacanas forage in the same area of the petite pond. Skittish, these mild-mannered loners walk across the floating vegetation. Never aggressive, they are, however, often targeted by the Purple Gallinules. Quite protective or perhaps territorial, the gallinules sometimes stalk and othertimes suddenly chase the Jacanas. The Jacanas take flight and land just out of range, while the gallinule retains strict control of the nursery site!

P3050841 JACANA GALLINULE Y HERON 2P3040031 wattled jacana y lily pads

Last week I considered a quick check on the fast-growing baby gallinules. Having spent hours working on photos from the previous outing, I preferred to stay home and work on projects. Like an urge to raid the refrigerator for another serving of cheesecake, I often felt a nudge to check on the birds. Having learned to pay attention to those subtle nudges, I set out for the park, the gallinules and an important dose of Vitamin D.

 

With a working title of “Looking Down” for my next show (who knows when?!) I now pay closer attention to random wild vegetation as I walk along the streets. Rank growth in empty lots often presents a bounty of material, from ‘Pigweed’-amaranth to delicate sprays of flowers still waiting identification. I recently spotted a rank weed with large faded bell-shaped flowers, quite similar to a species in Mississippi! Could Jimsonweed grow here as well? Of course it could! In addition to checking the Purple Gallinules, I now check the Jimsonweed/Datura between the apartment and the park!

P3050439 datura jimsonweedP3050438 datura jimson weed

P3050456 LOOKING DOWN GROWING UP WHAT WILDFLOWERP3050441 datura jimson weed

The little cat-tailed edged pond provides the bonus for these outings, and even from afar it presents a visual balm to the soul. Extra-large in comparison to the kingfishers, gallinules and jacanas, one lone Great Egret adds an elegant touch to the scene. Unbothered by the humans, it wades in slow-motion stealth in its perpetual search for fish. Sometimes it allows a close inspection of its catch!

P3050914 ONE EGRET Y ONE COMMON GALLINULEP3050070 GREAT EGRET solstice fluff

P3060208 great egret catches fish portoviejo

In three short weeks, the young gallinules evolved from tiny balls of black fluff to smaller versions of the juvenile birds. They often tested their still-developing wings, flexed in brief yoga poses or paused for amusing (to me) splash sessions. Much more independent in a week’s time, they foraged and explored their water-hyacinth kingdom – until a juvenile or adult announced a feeding session! The birds provided ample photo ops, as did the Green Kingfishers, Wattled Jacanas and a few lazy iguanas!

P3040043 SPLISH SPLASH BABY GALLINULE

P3030706 GALLINULE SPLISH SPLASHP3030422 LOOKING DOWN KINGFISHER FEMALEP3050392 solstice noon hour iguanasP3050271 iguana w green eye shadow

Normally punctuated along various sections of the pond, three Striated Herons careened into the scene. Two landed in easy photo range, and the other flared to a more-distant location. Barely moving, I hoped for much-better images of this shy species. For the next five or more minutes, these handsome birds provided a subtle-yet spectacular show.  Enjoy the simple delight of watching these two beauties via this slideshow:

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After seven or eight minutes of ‘My feathers are prettier than yours,’ the herons declared a truce and resumed their ‘wait and search’ foraging behavior.

P3050700 STRIATED HERONS FLUFF FEATHERS FEST

P3050705 STRIATED HERONS FLUFF FEATHERS FESTP3050706 STRIATED HERONS FLUFF FEATHERS FEST

With hundreds of photos to process at home, I pondered this finale of observations. Were those two birds courting, or was one (the adult) displaying an alpha status to the younger one? I looked forward to studying the images at home and learning more about the Striated Herons. Quite sated and basically overdosed on photographing the birds, I prepared to leave. The birds, however, plotted one more diversion!

P3050007 common gallinule y iguana note scale size

P2990182 gallinule common

Common Gallinule

P2980513 striated heron y common gallinule

Striated Heron and Common Gallinule

More bashful than the Purple Gallinules, the Common Gallinule often lurks just out of good-photo range. Swimming in an un-hurried manner around and through the water lilies, it paints a serene and idyllic living picture. Sneaking from its ‘preferred’ larger section of the pond to the water-hyacinth area, it swam and foraged not too far from the footbridge. I ducked as low as possible and crept closer along the far side of the bridge. Seeing a human in pursuit, it would quickly swim and fly out of range. As if conspiring with the Striated Herons, it paraded first in one direction, paused then reversed, which allowed photos of its other side. It then bolted for its preferred location, via a quick flight beneath the bridge to the far side of the pond!

P3040681 public crossing over seguacommon gallinule P3040965 COMMON GALLINULE feeding along lily padscommon gallinule P3040704 common gallinule

Much more-rewarding and long-lasting than a slice of cheesecake, the outing enhanced the quality of my day with a jackpot of simple delights. So many birds! So many close-up views! So little time to capture them on paper or canvas! (I need a dozen lives!)

Happy Independence Day to those of you in the USA.   Stay proactive, and may we get through this with as much grace as possible.   I should be back online on Sunday, and as always, the laptop battery just announced the 10-percent warning!

Love to you all!  Lisa

“In my youth I knew the delight of watching the beauty, wonder and mystery of the natural world unfold before my developing mind; as when one who has climbed to a mountain-top in the night watches the dawn reveal the glorious panorama spread out before him. I have never outgrown that delight, and I hope that I never shall.” – Alexander Skutch / “Delight in Nature” – Thoughts/Volume 6, August 5 1972

The Canary

Canary: a songbird, Serinus canaria, greenish to yellow in color and long bred as a cage bird. Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary

P3030540 SAFFRON FINCH yellow

Saffron Finch – Sicalis flaveola

…Regarding miners using canaries:  “Why was a canary Haldane’s suggested solution? Canaries, like other birds, are good early detectors of carbon monoxide because they’re vulnerable to airborne poisons, Inglis-Arkell writes. Because they need such immense quantities of oxygen to enable them to fly and fly to heights that would make people altitude sick, their anatomy allows them to get a dose of oxygen when they inhale and another when they exhale, by holding air in extra sacs, he writes. Relative to mice or other easily transportable animals that could have been carried in by the miners, they get a double dose of air and any poisons the air might contain, so miners would get an earlier warning.” – from The Smithsonian – The Real Story of the Canary in the Coal Mine.

P3030505 6 SIX SAFFRON FINCHES

Saffron Finches at Parque las Vegas – Portoviejo Ecuador

Portoviejo Ecador – A New Moon AND the June Solstice arrive tomorrow, along with an extra bonus – an eclipse! I hope that all of you reserve time to observe the sun’s shadow at noon as well as its placement on your GPS slice of the planet at sunrise and/or sunset. I plan to spend the noon hour watching the sun’s placement on those fast-growing Gallinules at the nearby park!

P3040357 LOOKING DOWN JUV GALLINULE

A noon shadow like this would be fun! (from June 19)

P3040273 HONEY BEES IN WATER LILY FLOWER

 

A headline from the last cyber check renewed my concerns about pesticides and honey bees and our fragile planet.  50 Million Bees Poisoned/Croatia.    (I have not had time to check this information.)

With important job criteria, bees play an important role in pollination and maintaining the sensitive balance between species. Many times when peering into those gorgeous water-lily blossoms, I am comforted to see the honey bees flitting from plant to plant. The bees and small seed-eating birds often present a reliable ‘warning system’ – when their numbers reduce – or if they suddenly disappear. I’ve witnessed that at Poza Honda, after applications of pesticides for broad-leaf weeds on pasture. The Seedeaters and the Honey Bees were the “canaries.” Seeing firsthand makes one a believer.

P3040566 VARIABLE SEEDEATER

Yesterday at the park – One lone and very-welcome Variable Seedeater!

We too are exposed to the same chemicals that sicken the small creatures. The cattle eat those same grasses, and we drink the milk and consume the beef. How long does it take before a human eventually reaches a saturation point and also becomes ill? It varies person-by-person, and who could be sure that random pesticides were the reason for one’s poor health? We must keep a sharp eye on the canaries – especially the bees – and pay attention when a normally-healthy species suddenly becomes sick.

P3040598 SAFFRON FINCH SQUARE

This post now veers to a very long story about my own role as ‘a canary.’ Continue reading

The Stunning Purple Gallinule

P3010891 ADULT GALLINULE NESTING

Reinforcing nests…

“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.” – Robert Wilson Lynd

P3000434 PURPLE GALLINULE FORAGING FOR lotus while two immatures stretch and preen

Adult Purple Gallinule and Juvenile

With long yellow legs and exceptionally-long toes, the Purple Gallinule paints the wetlands’ landscape with its handsome presence. Quite skittish in most settings, this species has adjusted to the presence of humans in the nearby Parque la Vegas in Portoviejo Ecuador.  It joins a small cast of feathered occupants that claim this petite little man-made marsh not far from my apartment. (I suspect that it was built on earthquake rubble.)  For the past two weeks I have visited the ‘segua’ often to record the rapid growth of the newest generation of Purple Gallinules.

P3030331 PARQUE LAS VEGAS SEGUA

P3020237 june 9 baby gallinule big foot

Baby Gallinule, what big feet you have!

P3020177 june 9 baby gallinule foot detail

The better to scratch my itchy face with!

The new chicks provided a grand surprise when they made their appearance around the first of June, and I try to return often to record their growth. I’ve learned why sometimes the water lily leaves appear disturbed; the adults and juveniles search for and retrieve the sunken flower heads, fish them to the surface with their bills, break off the center then race while calling for the young ones to ‘Come eat!”

(Slideshow of Gallinules in perpetual motion!)

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The babies also nibbled on Water Hyacinth flowers throughout the day – between feedings of the ripening fruits.

P3010016 june 4 baby gallinule peering into water hyacinth flowerP3010008 june 4 baby gallinule with water hyacinth flowerP3020265 june 9 baby gallinule in a playground of flowersP3020244 BABY GALLINULE EATING WATER HYACINTH FLOWERS large file

A week later the adults began foraging for a second prized morsel: Crayfish – aka ‘crawfish’ to a Southern girl! It took several photo sessions before I could identify what small item the birds guarded in their bills. The babies race to the parent bird, which breaks the crawfish into bite-sized morsels and doles them out much like a priest at communion! Continue reading

Quiet Times of Reflection – and Art

“… Blacks and Native Americans share one thing. Native Americans had their land stolen, and their culture systematically crushed. Blacks – it’s the opposite; they were stolen from their land, and they had their culture systematically crushed. We can’t begin to imagine what it takes to come back from that…” – Greg Iles – excerpt from 2017/National Writers Series interview –

About a year ago the National Writers Series interviewed Greg Iles about his new book, Mississippi Blood. Last night while working on a pencil drawing, and the discussions about racism in Mississippi provide timely insight.

Start at minute 55 and listen until for five minutes, and decide if you want to start at the beginning.

For the past eight days I’ve been visiting the nearby park as often as possible – to record the rapid growth of five Purple Gallinule ‘chicklets.’
Here is a (slideshow) peek at those precious babies:

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With ample reference material, I prepared mentally to paint this beautiful species. Going through the hundreds of photos, I grasp tidbits of information about the birds – understanding the nuances of behavior or the tilt of the head.  Eventually it’s as if I know my subject extremely well. It’s a bit like an incubation – and Greg addresses that same process in the interview. When the time is right, BAM – you’re off and going at full throttle. My only wish during that intense burst of creative energy (focus?) is that nothing stops the process until the work is finished. Returning to a ‘cold’ work is difficult; the essence evaporates.

This study is different however, but if possible even more intense! Instead of drawing the outlines in pencil and then switching to paint, I am using a 4B pencil for a pencil portrait of the baby gallinules.

Last night I worked from 6 pm until midnight, took a short break and resumed for ‘just a little bit more’ and worked until 3! In some areas I was sharpening that 4B pencil every few minutes!

P3010989 BABY PURPLE GALLINULES pencil in progress

So why the switch to pure pencil?

BirdWatchingDaily recently announced the Sibley Bird Watching Art Contest (the “Contest”), presented by The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. which requested ‘a although I think that any kind of art is permitted.

I’ve so many choices – and the local birds seem to be competing for my attention! These waterbirds seemed to be participating in meditation week.

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The official rules state:
ENTRY PERIOD: The Contest begins at 12:01 AM (Eastern Time) on May 15, 2020, and ends at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) on June 15, 2020.
HOW TO ENTER: Post an original drawing of a wild bird to Instagram using the hashtag #SibleyBirdWatchingArtContest and follow @aaknopf, @sibleyguides, and @birdwatchingmagazine, as required in the applicable Contest announcement.
The drawing must be your original artwork and can use any medium, including digital. …

The rules state, “Post an original drawing” yet then state, “any medium,” but to me a drawing is very different from a painting.     For more information, start here:  Sibley BirdWatching Contest

Today I returned for a few specific photos of the water hyacinth details. The little balls of Gallinule fluff have a notable change, and this precious pair seemed to be modeling their  new look.

P3020357 baby purple gallinules in pajamas

A week older and a change of attire.  (Pajamas?)

The computer’s being stubborn today, and the battery is now quite weak. The pages are not loading, so hopefully the images and videos are the right ones.

P3020348 baby gallinule pajamas june 9

Will be back in a few days with the finished drawing/drawings.     So many birds, so little time.  (Deadline in less than a week!)

To hear a different Southern author’s accent, one will surely smile when hearing “Miss Welty” read “Why I Live at the PO.”

“It’s going to take a long time, and it’s going to take white people admitting what we did was pretty damned bad.” – Greg Iles – 2017 National Writers Series interview

 

 

The Invisible Fence

P1750084 green vine yellow flower black fruit on fence wire at pond

‘The memory is a living thing – it too is in transit. But during the moment, all that is remembered joins and lives – the old and the young, the past and the present, the living and the dead.’ – Eudora Welty – One Writer’s Beginnings

(This was written a few weeks ago ‘between painting sessions.’  Short internet checks have kept my communication skills hobbled, but it seems timely today to ignore the emails, the news updates (I am anxious to check – but will wait to post this.) I often realized my good fortune to have had so much practice with self-imposed isolation. This present marathon of isolation has barely affected my moods – as long as there are paints and brushes and pencils and books to occupy my time, I am happy. (I do miss my connection with nature.)

Even when recovering from the dengue-chikungunya co-infection in 2015, I realized that earlier ‘lessons’ had prepped me for enduring unexpected challenges. My first introduction to dengue happened in Costa Rica, about the time of the story that follows;  I realize now – that the USA is also suffering from a co-infection…  Having one virus is enough – add another serious challenge,  and the host faces a serious fight back to wellness.   The Covid 19 Pandemic presented enough challenges of its own, yet the ‘newest’ one has been simmering and smoldering.  I am not surprised that it ignited into a second heart-wrenching crisis. The scenes from yesterday’s cyber check made me cry, and with a sense of dread I will watch from afar as the racial tensions play out one day (and night) at a time.

This is titled, “The Invisible Fence” but has been incubating in my heart under the working title, ‘Whatever Happened to Dianne Wright?’   It’s another long epistle, so you’re warned.  Continue reading

You are Treasured

P1250658 SOCCER CHILDREN BAEZA

Baeza Ecuador – Boys being boys!

…Long ago in Yazoo City, Mississippi:  —  “I love you all SO MUCH,” I once declared to a class of private art students, a group of rambunctious 8-year old boys.

Incredulous, they peered ‘up’ from their work and stared at me as if I were speaking to a totally-different group.

I added, “I could go to the grocery store right now and return and find you all still hard at work. Thank you.”

I continue to marvel at the effect art has on one’s psyche. Outside of that art class, the same students were the most unruly ones in the entire elementary school! Perpetually happy, they were also perpetually mischievous and often disrupted the classes. Once one of the mothers peered into the classroom and whispered, “I think you put a voodoo hex on them,” then quietly backed out of the room.

So now I state the same to all of you, “I love you all SO MUCH!” Seeing your comments gave my heart a grand smile, and thank you for your updates and feedback regarding the last post, “Hello from Ecuador.”“Hello from Ecuador.”

On Earth Day, the iguanas at the park received an extra-special fruit salad with papayas, pineapple, beets, carrots and bananas. When I handed the bucket over the fence to the guard, he motioned for me to enter the park and feed the iguanas. I was like a child being told she could help the Easter Bunny distribute the eggs! Instead of dumping the mix into the normal feeding area, I walked to each iguana and tossed them individual servings, then placed more in various spots on the big Mango tree. Smiling as if on mood-enhancing drugs, I kept thanking the guard who watched from afar. Another person contributed lettuce scraps earlier in the day, so I was pleased that this was at least their second feeding for the day.

P2980343 big iguana coming down tree wait fruit stop

“Wait! Is this a trick? Papaya in a Mango tree?!”

I owe each of you an equally-sensitive reply.

The guards at the larger Las Vegas Park gave me permission to observe the birds for Global Big Day. The Soras, now absent from the last two Sora Checks, must be taking their return trip back to the Northern Hemisphere! I ponder when air travel will return to normal, yet I suspect that we will all be adapting when society moves out of the “Pause” mode.

P2980573 PURPLE GALLINULE eye detail

Purple Gallinule

P2980830 global big day p gallinule running on water

Gallinule practicing the triple jump!

P2980810 global big day juv purple gallinule running on water

Juvenile P. Gallinule learning to walk/run on water!

Some people are better suited for long periods of isolation. I ponder my own history and am grateful to so easily slip into sessions of deep concentration. On weekends here in Portoviejo, the lack of traffic provides a blissful 2-day dose of almost silence. Recently while playing a natural soundtrack recorded at Poza Honda last year, I was all but lost in my botanical studies and stopped for a break. When I looked up I almost laughed out loud to discover that I was in the city – and not at Poza Honda! Ah, and I am so lucky to be so easily fooled – even if by my own creative ways of dodging reality!

P2740199 BROWN WOOD RAILS preening each other Poza Honda Ecuador

From the Poze Honda Casa/2019 – Two Brown Wood Rails allowing a rare private viewing of behavior.

Weekdays present new challenges, and the queue of people for the bank (next door) goes all the way to the corner, wraps around the corner and goes down the next street. When I open the ground-floor door, there are always ‘people,’ who watch me wipe the door, lock the door and then say, ‘Buenos dias,’ as we exchange eye contact. I wonder if they can tell if I’m smiling? I am smiling – yet cautious.  Some days there are two lines – going in both directions, which happened this past week/first of the month! One line went to the corner, around down the second street to the next corner – and who knows where it ended! Whew – no, it’s best to stay home on week days or wait until after the bank closes at noon!

P2970614 portoviejo 5 pm spraying

Some days a vehicle fogs the area just before dark.

The 2 pm curfew remains in place, so my internet outings continue to be hurried. When online, I open emails, check world headlines, load pages and news videos, research eclectic subjects and then hope that the two browsers hold everything until each is crossed off at home!  Perusing that small dose of news options, I wonder about those who tune in all day every day – surely that makes one’s blood pressure soar?   Except for the Covid 19 and political news, there is little about other events – like the locust plagues or extreme flooding – or wildfires and/or drought.  I was surprised to see that half of the USA would be enduring a cold snap, while the other half was polar opposite.  Here is one video from ClimateCrocks (When May looks like December) that I watched when back at the apartment:

Of course I load  and too many pages to read at home!  Some days the browsers crash just before time to dash home – oh well, sometimes just scanning headlines is enough – and sometimes I think it’s better to work on my art, photos, writings; listen to Poza Honda soundtracks and ignore what’s happening in the world.

JPG MARACUYA with new old flower scan 3 contrast 25 percent

The drawing ink pens are all dry, so the addition in the top left was added in pure watercolor – much nicer!  The ink studies, which are first scanned, are for a graphic-art project.

However, all of YOU are out there in the world, and it’s because that I love you all so much that I continue to see what’s better this week –  and what’s worse – and send my own smoke signal.

P2980933 global big day young gallinule

If this young bird should “grow into its feet,” it would be a monster! This bird was learning to forage, and many pads would sink – it was fun to watch it learn about walking on lily pads!

Thank you again, everyone, and I repeat, “I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!”  You are treasured.

P2970725 iguana

We are all worthy of love!

Hello from Ecuador

Hello from the Equator!*
* Several Bloggers are using this title, which seems appropriate for this update.   See Nicole, Otto Otto and CindyCindy with their smoke signals!  (Perdon the double names.. the insert has a demon!)

Six months ago, if we had peered into 2020 via a crystal ball, few (none?) of us would have believed what we saw. If we DID believe, we would probably have altered some of our choices, and realized our priorities.

P2980057 arriba park iguana

“Iguana iguana in the tree.. Do you have good news for me?”

Loved ones write from various GPS locations on the planet and state something like this: “Lisa! Ecuador is in the news; I did not realize things were so bad there. How are you: how are things where you live?”
They are seeing the news out of Guayaquil/ Guayas Province, which seems to be Ecuador’s “Hot Spot.” After perusing various (and random) websites and updates, my first thought is, “Guayaquil’s climate is hot; Guayaquil is humid. To those who think that the virus vaporizes in warmer climates – look what’s happening here.”

I’ve been watching the virus stats since early January and sensed back then that ‘this is a sneaky virus’ capable of affecting many countries.  Having not-so-lovely experiences with Dengue (twice) and Chikungunya, I have a profound respect for a virus’s ability to slam one near doorway to the ‘Valley of the shadow of death.’

Ecuador’s first case was in late February, and about ten days later our President Moreno began the evening curfew, which became more strict the next week when 2 pm became our ‘must be home’ hour.
They enforce the face mask rule and the required personal distance, which the latter is prominently marked with large red circles on the pavement/sidewalks outside most banks and supermarkets. At the closest supermarket, one person stands outside and observes the distancing and reminds all to use gloves and masks. Before the next person enters the store, a worker takes a ‘long distance’ digital reading for fever.
With shorter hours to conduct tasks of importance, people often form a long line outside the apartment and wait their turn to use the improvised window at the bank next door. The bank closes at noon, so I usually wait until the people have left before I venture outside. With soap and chlorox in hand, I wipe down the outside door and its hardware, run my errands, then wash everything again when I return (before 2!)

P2980194 PIGEONSP2980198 CAT WATCHING PIGEONS

By noon, most everyone in this part of the city has vanished. The people have had practice in putting priorities in proper order. After the dengue-chikungunya epidemic, the 7.8 earthquake followed a year later on April 16, 2016. The residents of this area still recall the horrors of the earthquake – and of food shortages and of living in a very-basic mode for an extended time. Last week’s anniversary of the earthquake passed via quiet reflections – most in isolation which brought back acute memories to some.P2980213 REMNANTS OF HISTORIC HOUSE

Autos are allowed on the street one day a week, depending on the last number of the tag. On weekends, no driving is permitted aside from the exceptions. The people of Portoviejo seem to have adjusted well, are compliant and respectful of these regulations, and no one wants to be one of those statistics.

P2980210 GHOST CITY NEAR MUSEO

Yesterday morning downtown was blissfully silent, the skies pure and blue with fluffy cumulus clouds. In a four-block walk I saw four other people. With bucket of fruit and vegetable scraps, I walked to the nearby park to supplement the iguanas’ short food supply. Their hunger increases, and the larger ones often aggressively warn other ones with mighty strikes with their tails! One man ambled along and watched the iguanas eating the token ration of food. He stated that many people don’t care about the natural world; they only think of themselves. I did not argue with him, but I would hope more people would remember the iguanas if they knew they were hungry. He said that he would remind others.P2980102 cropped of hungry iguana

a P2980049 park iguanas

P2980089 hungry iguanasP2980130 LOOK WHO IS COMING DOWN THE TREE

On my meandering route back home, I paused to photograph the remnants of an historic house. A man wearing a quite-serious respirator-type mask approached on his bicycle. I mentioned the old house, and he then asked if I recognized him; he is a guard at the bank, but with mask I would never have recognized him!

P2980218 REMNANTS OF HISTORIC HOUSEP2980228 HISTORIC HOUSE

He peddled onward and turned near a popular bakery doing a brisk Sunday-morning business.  I returned to the apartment, washed the bucket – and my keys, the door, my hands, etc with soap and chlorox, then switched to quieter tasks.

P2980226 GUARD FROM BANCO BOLIVARIANO ON BICYCLE

A series of botanical studies continues, and the past week I’ve added color to the ink drawings. Adjusting to the restrictions has been easy for me, as my normal behavior remains basically the same. I wish for the nearby art-business-school supply store to be open, as I could use more paper and specific watercolor and ink for the printer! The latter is needed most, but there are many other options to keep me busy. Adaptation allows us to gracefully dodge frustrations!

maracuya ink then watercolor

One friend wrote and said that he knew that my diet was healthy, but if possible to be even more healthy! I assured him that my diet is ultra rich in nutrients, leans to the alkaline side and also ‘anti viral’ – which I started months ago to try to boot the lingering dengue/chikungunya side effects out of my life!

P2230789 ORANGES

Poza Honda Oranges / 2019

One man sells basic staples fresh from a farm in the nearby foothills from a modest corner location near the apartment. Large slightly-sour oranges: 15 for a dollar, and they always give me one extra! Eggs, 7 for a dollar, and they give me 8! Two-dollar papayas (the size of a watermelon) they sell for $1.50. I have a trump card – the knowledge of what I would be paying if still living at Poza Honda, so they know that I know they’re still making a nice profit. (They always give me more plantains than I ask for, but the extras – when ripe – are shared with the iguanas.)

LisaBrunetti - 01The Guardian, Grandfather Ceibo acrylic 2017-2018 38 x 27

The Guardian Ceibo

April 22 marks Earth Day’s 50th anniversary; check the main website and see what’s happening in your area. They also have a page for artists, and ‘The Guardian Ceibo’ is included in that collection.

https://www.earthday.org/artist-gallery/
Not only painters, but also writers and musicians are featured. There are some amazing projects – spend time perusing, then consider adding your sky photos to this project.

https://skydayproject.com

Rolling back around to the evil pandemic in progress, this ted.com update showcases person reports from people in 23 countries, including Ecuador. http://ideas.ted.com/scenes-from-a-global-pandemic-heres-what-life-is-like-in-23-countries-from-the-ted-fellows/

My internet checks present my greatest risk in dodging this virus. With a small window of time, I am online from a discreet corner table at friends’ restaurant where they are allowed to serve take-out. By two I have to be home/off the streets – not only for my own ‘compliance’ but also to not risk my friends getting in trouble for being open past two. Forgive my silence, although I am reading most posts which are in ‘complete’ for via the email option. The very-talented and sensitive blogger Thom of The Immortal Jukebox thankfully warned us that he planned to go into quiet mode. Thom, you are missed!
https://theimmortaljukebox.com/
Another blogger has been tossing out a few tunes each day with ‘Isolation Radio,’ and it’s my loss that I don’t have the opportunity to explore the varied selection of artists. Every so often there are tunes that I know well. If you’re wistful for a variety of tunes, he’s there – while his wife is one of those ‘still working’ heroes. https://diaryofaninternetnobody.com/

This was written off line, and now I am approaching the bewitching hour of 2 pm.  Time to publish this and scram home!   PS: (I also rebuilt the headboard to my bed – a two-day task – but with new material from Playamart, it is much better!)

DAB Day – April 8

(DAB? “What is DAB Day?”)

April 8 is Draw a Bird Day!

(First: Thank you for your beautiful response to the post about the hungry iguanas. My internet time is very limited, so instead of replying to those comments I’m sharing this Draw a Bird Day story written last night at the apartment. I love you all! Lisa)

04 for post draw a bird day P2970948

Please consider taking five minutes or ten or half an hour or half a day – and draw a bird!

The DAB Day website shares the story of a delightful 7-year old girl who uplifted her uncle’s spirits. Her blunt critique of his drawing triggered a lovely tradition of ‘drawing birds’ just for the joy of drawing a bird – but the story is best told on the website:  DABday

From the site: How do I celebrate Draw A Bird Day?
Quite simply, just draw a bird and share it with whomever you choose. The drawings are not meant to be “professionally” done by any means, though that certainly can be the case if you are so talented. The important thing is just to draw and bird and share it.
Can I send you my bird drawings?

YES you can!!! Simply click here to submit your own Draw A Bird Day submissions. We will do our best to get them online as soon as possible. Keep them 1000 x 1000 pixels or smaller, and in .jpg, .png, or .bmp file formats only please.

05 for post draw a bird day P2970951

A plastic pink flamingo, weathered and faded, remains a faithful companion. Brittle from exposure to heat and sun, glued and splinted from various contusions, a survivor from the earthquake, this frail bird holds dear memories, especially when it was ‘given’ to me.

In an attempt at anonymous humor in an historic neighborhood of strict ‘city planning’ rules, my lovely neighbor tucked the flamingo near the back entrance gardens  to my home. (1997?)  The flamingo gave my heart a huge smile!  I suspected that the giver received an-even greater smile when she pondered how long it would take me to figure out who left it at my door!   I was right, and even months later, when she apologetically stated, “You don’t have to keep that in your flower bed…” – I assured her that I treasured the flamingo.

Whenever I pause to ponder the faded bird, which has been painted to bring back the bright colors, I am instantly reconnected to my friend. Of all of the birds I could draw for this day to remember the young Dorie Cooper, I thought it was time to give the flamingo a moment in the spotlight!

06 for post P2970937 flamingo sketches

08 For post DAB DAY FLAMINGO08a FOR POST DAB DAY FLAMINGO W COLORS

Briefly transplanting it from a cluster of begonias, I placed it in the larger pot of a slow-growing Ceibo tree. (From 2011 until the earthquake, the Flamingo lived at the base of the ceibo.) I sat beneath the branches of the ceibo (yes, in the apartment!) and drew the bird. Just as I finished, the nearby church bells rang 2 o’clock, a reminder to all that the curfew had started – a reminder to me that yes, we are under strict rules, but time flies when immersed in drawing.

09b for post DAB DAY misc birds 01

With time to devote to the theme of ‘just drawing birds,’ I also drew some whimsical birds – from a few minutes to longer – all examples of the joy of drawing for fun.

After so many drawing exercises, I wasn’t surprised that the next drawing magically asserted the right to  be added to this post!  Last night I added color via computer to this one and to the flamingo.

10 FOR POST DAB DAY CORONA MASKED BIRD11 FOR POST DAB DAY CORONA MASKED BIRD W COLORS 2

This will be published on the 7th so that most of you will have time – if desired – to join others in honoring Dorie Cooper – and perhaps giving your drawing to an unexpected recipient.

09 for post ceibo y flamingoP2970958

This morning I moved the ceibo to photograph it near the painting of the ceibo…

09a for post P2970960 detail from THE GUARDIAN acrylic iguana y ceibo y oropendola nests

And for Lynda, here’s the closeup of the iguana in that painting!

It would be nice if the flamingo could find its way to the neighbor who gave it to me. She might be surprised to know that the bird remains a true treasure in my heart!

08b FOR POST DAB DAY FLAMINGO HEADER COLORS

(Drawn in Memory of Matthew)

“Got Papaya?”

P2970371 parque las vegas sora cove

Parque Las Vegas – Portoviejo Ecuador

Portoviejo, Ecuador – Artists often notice subtle details, sometimes after a few seconds or minutes or hours or even days later, but the observant mind sometimes hits the pause button and asserts its voice: ‘Something’s not quite right here.’
That happened long ago in Nicaragua, after seeing a particular ‘street bum’ each time I visited a certain town. Not allowing that ‘Something’s not quite right here’ moment to pass, I slightly altered my schedule and am so glad that I did. The experience humbled me.  That post is here:  “Why Not?”

P2830687 white plumeria flowers

Plumeria

Two weeks ago here in Portoviejo Ecuador, I hoped to get permission to check on the Soras in the nearby Parque Las Vegas. In the past – before ‘Coronavirus’ became the new vocabulary word for each day – the guards sometimes asked about the birds that captured my interest. They knew about the not-often-seen (in this Province) Soras on winter vacation at the Park.

With little traffic downtown, and only a few pedestrians in sight, I set out for Parque Las Vegas – perhaps five minutes if I walked fast, and ten if I took the scenic route by a smaller park. With camera and shopping bag, I took my typical route – to admire the always-blooming white Plumeria trees, then a few steps more to “Iguana Corner” where a dozen or so iguanas bask in sun and shadow, on the ground, high in the limbs and sometimes on the sidewalks. Soras were on my mind – and permission to look for them – so I hurried the short distance to the much-larger park.

P2970783 TWELVE IGUANAS

Fifty or so yards back and beneath the canopy of a closed ice-cream shop, the guards perused their phone screens.
“Hola?” I called “Hola?’
I think they forgot why they were there, or where they were, but they reconciled themselves to guard status and greeted me. I explained that those three little birds we’d been seeing since January should be preparing to return to the northern hemisphere. I asked if I could go to the nearby ‘segua’ and see if they were still there.
“Si,” they said, then returned to their screen-watching tasks.

P2970373 iguana in sun
Approaching the smallest area of the little marsh, I first noted one nice large iguana and took a few photos. Just beyond the iguana, however, was a Sora! For the next ten minutes I watched and photographed it, then moved to the second area and spotted one more Sora. Yay!

P2970375 mar 21 sora 11 45 am

P2970375 Sora mar 21P2970400 Sora mar 21 parque las vegas portoviejoP2970423 Sora mar 21

Not wanting to overstay, I walked back to the guards, gave them a thumbs up, then returned home. The photo session with the first bird turned out well, as I’m always hoping for ‘better’ reference images for my art. It wasn’t until later that I thought about the iguanas and worried, “They are hungry.”

P2970776 ANCIENT IGUANAP2970849 iguanas going up iguanas coming downP2970640 park iguana
A few days later I returned, and the guard at the smaller park confirmed. The local restaurants usually contributed fruit and vegetable scraps each morning, but now most all restaurants are closed. No one was feeding the iguanas, but the guard pointed out: ‘they have leaves on the trees.’ The Royal Poinciana/Flamboyant, at this time of year normally loaded with leaves and flowers, was all but stripped clean. I asked a few people to pass the word, and mentioned this in the last post – and hoped that more people would remember the iguanas.

P2970726 8 iguanasP2970706 six iguanas

That first ‘batch’ of broccoli, cauliflower and beets provided great photo ops after the guard spread the feast on the ground. Within a minute the first iguana appeared, then another and another. Every two or so minutes, more iguanas scooted down the tree trunks or approached from other tangents on the ground. Every so often there was a brief food fight, but basically they ate in harmony. I realized that they have trouble eating large chunks of food, so I made a ‘Note to Self” to cut their food into bite-sized pieces!

P2970903 iguana coming down tree

Four days later I returned with a second batch. With great relief I saw a great feast of lettuce, cabbage and cucumber scraps on the iguanas’ dining area. Several iguanas chomped on the leaves, but most were most likely full and in the upper canopy snoozing zone. With a huge smile, I gave the guard the bowl of scraps (cut into smaller chunks for the iguanas) and watched as he put it in a second area. Almost instantly one big iguana zipped down the mango tree and headed to the scraps. A second and third arrived; could they see the colors or did they smell the fruit? They especially loved the papaya!

P2970844 iguanas y papayaP2970832 got papaya ja iguanaP2970830 smiling happy iguanaP2970702 3 park iguanas headerP2970839 got papaya

Today I took a broccoil-beet-papaya assortment and was glad to see that another person had brought their small bag of scraps. The iguanas are not receiving a consistent supply of food, but the human neighbors are remembering them.

P2970873 got papaya

“Got Papaya?”

Got Papaya? If so, maybe you can share with a nearby park.

The curfew here starts at 2, and they are strict!  Time to scram!  Sorry, no time for proofing so all mistakes are mine!   Stay well everyone and be creative!   Lisa

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time in Mississippi:    

“Nettie Helen, I think we’re going to have to cut it off,” Dr. Green soberly stated to my mother.

I don’t remember how old (young) I was, but it was before Dr. Green moved his office to Scott, Mississippi, about 5 miles from my hometown of Benoit in Bolivar County. It was either after hours or on a weekend, as he had met us at his little clinic.

I don’t remember being driven there, and I don’t remember exactly how I reached my parent’s kitchen, the older version that was later upgraded. I well remember the moment before the accident, when I was riding my bicycle as fast as my bare feet could coax it – along a flat stretch of rural highway along the levee. The moments before the accident I was peddling faster than I’d ever raced, thanks to a new ‘trick’ my sister Pat brought back from California.

Pat, who had visited our Aunt Dot on the West Coast, returned with the novel concept of pinning a few playing cards to the bicycle spokes, which made a fun sound, especially when one peddled as fast possible. The moments before the accident, I was peddling on pure adreneline – probably faster than I’d ever gone in my entire young life – and then my foot slipped from the peddle. My big toe took the greatest amount of damage, and I went from blissful childhood joy to —-

I don’t remember if I cried, or if I screamed, or if Pat screamed. In my foggy memory I remember that Daddy ‘happened’ along in his car or jeep or whatever he was driving at that time. I do remember a fearful respite – if that is possible- sitting on the kitchen counter with my foot in the ceramic sink and adults tending to Baby Girl’s most-recent crisis. The next thing I remember was hearing Doctor Green’s sobering words about cutting it off.

I well remember the next scene; I bolted from the examining table in the middle of the room, and Mother and Doctor Green attempted to catch me as if I were a wild rabbit! True fear coursed through my veins, and there was no way I was going to allow them to cut off my toe!

Surely they later laughed. And laughed. And laughed more when sharing that story, although it was never discussed within the range of my hearing. No, it was not my toe, but my toe-nail, and they assured me that my toe would remain intact. I remember very little else, except for receiving one of those oversized and pale-yellow Vitamin C tablets before leaving – my reward for surviving the most-recent accident.

A few years later in the 5th grade, that young girl studied about Argentina in ‘Social Studies’ and dreamed about living in that country and raising horses on the Pampas. She probably would have smiled if she knew that one day she’d be living on the equator and learning not only about the birds, but also iguanas!
P2970640 park iguana

The iguanas in the nearby park are hungry. They are no longer receiving the morning fruits and vegetable scraps from nearby restaurants. I shared my own ‘scraps’ this morning and confirmed with the guard that the iguanas are hungry. They especially loved the cauliflower and broccoli!

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P2970793 meanwhile back at the apt ceibo y iguana paintings

Do you see the iguana in the ceibo painting? And oropendola nests in the far-back left side.. and cacique nest on the right side…

I think the internet options are about to end, but suffice to know that I am well and happy and full of creative options and self-isolation in the apartment. My usually-normal diet is even more ‘healthy’ — upping the nutrition and dodging the not-so-healthy options. I hope that everyone else is doing the same – now is a great time to be pro-active with health.

No one else works or lives in this 4-story building, but whenever I return, I wash my keys, my change/money, bags – anything that might have picked up an unwanted and microscopic hitch-hikerk!

Here’s a parting shot ‘selfie’ while trying to photograph the paintings in the not-yet-installed mirror!
P2970802 meanwhile back at the apt selfie

Ecuador update: Curfew at 2 pm..

Adjusting to Changes

P2880142 leanding old house portoviejo

Portoviejo – Manabi Province -Ecuador
The absence of traffic sounds awakened my senses on this first day of ‘restrictions’ thanks to the Covid19.  I really don’t like giving this virus its proper name, a bit like rewarding a bad child with attention.

President Lenin Moreno joined other countries in closing down borders and giving a deadline for international arrivals.   Last night/midnight was the final ‘hour’ for Ecuadorians to return home.   Starting today, only essential errands are permitted, which includes going to the market or pharmacy, but almost all stores and businesses are closed.   Restaurants are permitted to sell ‘take out’ or deliver to homes, so most have closed.

P2970079 frigate after cocois fish

Jama Ecuador – Magnificent Frigate attempts to steal fish from Cocoi Heron

A glance from the 4th floor apartment to ground level confirmed that the normal city life had changed; only one car was parked in the normally-crowded street. I wondered if the police would consider a walking trip to the nearby Post Office an essential task; I suspect they would be lenient — but perhaps I should not risk testing their tolerance on the first morning of restriction!  (I did, and the post office was open, but I was told I”d have to go to the larger post office across town.  The package can wait.)   Not only traffic restrictions, but also pedestrian – not even a walk in the park, though going to the market and pharmacy are accepted activities.

P2970182 cocoi y ibis with shrimp

Yum yum, a bird feast: all-you-can-eat shrimp during a shrimp harvest. (Jama Ecuador)

Several bloggers have addressed various facets of the virus’s impact; Valentina Cirasola’s candid post gives a personal glimpse into her home country of Italy and reflects her concern. Based in the USA, this multi-talented designer writes about her recent visit to Italy: ” The atmosphere is unreal and surreal, it seems as if something terrible has just happened and humans have left for another planet. I hear no noise, no music, no voices, no laughs, no one arguing. Kids proliferate in these alleyways but they are not there. Italian streets without rascals are lifeless. “ Surreal Moments

P2970305 peruvian meadowlark

Peruvian Meadowlark

Rachel Tilseth (Wolves of Douglas County Wisonsin.com) shared a summary written by Brunella Pernigotti in Turin, Italy. She too describes her country and opens with “It’s a strange Saturday afternoon. The streets in the center of Turin where I live, are empty and an unreal silence reigns everywhere. Normally at this hour…” go here to read Brunella’s story: Coronavirus hit Italy like an Avalance 

P2970061 1 pm harvest in process quadrado piscinas

A shrimp harvest last week near Jama Ecuador. Is the virus lurking there? We hope not!

Cindy Knoke, who brings us stunning images of our natural world – especially avian photos – offers grounded advice for coping through this new pandemic maze. She mentions the ‘Shrieking headlines’ (great description!) and states: “As a psychotherapist who has practiced for many decades, I have some ideas that can help. So if you are interested, read on. “

The creative mind snatches Cindy’s ideas and has fun, and I continued her line of thought and enjoyed imagining cartoon birds to go with the names of the real ones in the photos – a Fairy Wren? – I imagined a delicate bird with fairy wings, perhaps perched on the rim of a teacup?!

Go here:  Anxiety Management during Pandemic Days

The most heart-warming post – for me – was seeing Angeline/The Sunday Traveler’s post about reconnecting with her art. She states: ” I read more and more about just starting, even if it’s ugly and bad, and that’s the truth. Once I started, I was off and running. I’ve taken one art class that was in oils, and very structured, a replica of some other artist’s work; this nearly broke my soul. I just couldn’t do it that way. I quit. I stopped completely. “

Reading that put tears in my eyes; I hope that I never unknowingly discourage someone from the joy of creating art.  Please visit and read her narrative – now is the perfect time for anyone to reach down and try again – if you’ve been dodging attempts to create art. It’s truly amazing how powerful art can be – if one can relax and just ‘let it flow.’

Monday Musings- Starting Somewhere

 

P2970188 wood stork

Wood Stork – gobble gobble the shrimp monster (?) or is it searching for other type of food?

Since I read WP via email notifications, I thank all of you who include the entire post without the ‘more’ link. I am able to read at home and enjoy the variety of stories and information.    The images do not load, but the email text does – so I can refresh the inbox (dedicated strictly to Word Press!) and then read when there’s more time. It’s sometimes fun to read the message and then wait until next time on line to see the images. BlueBrightly/Lynn’s posts are especially effective, as she goes into such depth about the outing and/or each image.  I imagine what the images might look like then enjoy seeing if I was close – or way off!

Thanks to all of you who are writing about positive and uplifting subjects — we need as much positive input as possible!

P2970136 whimbrel

Whimbrel

I especially enjoy reading nostalgic posts – those ‘once upon a time’ stories that leave us a bit lighter in spirit. I plan to share a few with you soon and urge others to reach down and take turns as if we’re gathered around a campfire in collective attention.

(If this is posted today, March 17, it means that my friends’ tienda will be open — and I’ll be connecting with the world via their internet.)

P2970067 1 pm shrimp

I forgot to ask the destination for these shrimp. Many times it’s the USA.

(The photos were taken last week when I visited Jama and spent time on my friends’ shrimp farm as they harvested a pond. Ah, they must detest all shrimp-gobbling birds, but they are a joy for a bird-loving person like me!)

For those who are looking for information about Ecuador – especially current info, ZeroLatLiving remains my favorite site, published every Sunday with a review of things written about Ecuador in the past week – or of interest.

Lessons in Acute Attention

P1330421 map of mid ecuador

Ecuador – About a week ago I drove to Guayaquil for what turned out to be a five-minute meeting and then returned with an extra passenger – the lady who worked at the check-point/security desk at the meeting!

After hearing me state, “Yo soy Manaba!” to a couple who stated they were from the same area, she casually stated that she was going to Santa Ana for the weekend.

“Today? Hoy?” I asked.

“Yes,” she smiled.  It was a Friday afternoon, and I wondered if she commuted that long distance to work.

“Do you live in Santa Ana?”

“No, I live in Guayaquil, but I’ll be visiting family.”

“Are you going by bus?”

“Yes.”

P1350010 poza honda bus

Yes. Remember: First time visit – Go by bus!

A bus trip would surely represent six or more hours of travel for her, vs. three with me, especially if we took the route less traveled.

“Ride with me,” I suggested, as it was almost 4 in the afternoon.

She did not need to go home, was ready to travel, and shortly before 5 we joined the congested arteries of end of a work week in Guayaquil and headed north out of the city. Somewhere between my asking if we were on the right road – or if I should be in the right lane or left lane or center lane, she mentioned that Santa Ana was not actually her destination – but she was going to Ayacucho.

“Ayacucho!” I laughed, “I can drive that with my eyes closed! It’s no problem for me to drive you all the way to Ayacucho. I can drive that road with my eyes closed. I used the internet each week in Ayachucho! I shopped at the market next door to the cyber.”

Once we were out of the city, the almost due-north route and four-lane driving gave us opportunities for easy conversation. Her reasons for going to Ayacucho were somber ones; her beloved aunt had died the month before, and a misa/rosary service would be held in Ayacucho.

Judging the lingering sunlight, I predicted that we would be off the major highway before dark –  and the worst part of the drive would be behind us.  The pastoral east-west route wound through a rural section, one that had only two areas of bad highway. We would get through the first/worst section before dark. Good. I kept that information to myself, but realized that an ominous cloud at ‘ten o’clock’ might provide a glitch in our travels. Dark blackish-purple in color, it towered vertically and reminded me of storm-dodging days in the USA. Continue reading

Inspiring Reading Material for Bad-weather Days

(Manabi Province Ecuador)  Sometimes a “Mystery Bird” presents challenges for correct identification, especially when there are no ‘bird guides’ working in the area. My friend Jorge pulls out his reference books, and oftentimes we stumble upon the correct identification. Other times the photos remain with the title, “Mystery Bird” or “What is this bird?” It doesn’t seem ‘polite’ to lob photos to the birding specialists, who surely are bombarded weekly by people who want easy identification of what turns out to be a common bird!

YELLOWTHROAT BLACK LORED FEMALE P2640776 May 24 morning walk mystery bird olive

Hmmm. Another female mystery bird…

Although I miss the availability of the Public Library Systems, I treasure the options provided through internet searches. Sometimes a search leads me to unexpected and delightful reading material, especially when the sites provide free PDF downloads.

P2940648 MYSTERY BIRD

“Little bird, little bird, what is your name?”

A search for a mystery bird that resembles the Ecuadorian Tyrannulet or the Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant led me to a search of writings by Alexander Skutch. The identity of the bird remains a mystery, but oh my, did I ever find a source of unpublished material from Skutches journals. Anyone who loves the wildness of nature, or loves botanicals or observing the birds – start here with the same PDF : SKUTCHonePDF

P2940656 MYSTERY BIRDS NEST

In two weeks the nest will surely be more impressive!

P2940768 SCREENSHOT MYSTERY BIRD BENEATH NEST

Straight up to build the nest

P2940708 MYSTERY BIRD

Building casas is hard work!

Wildflowers and Landscapes of Ecuador – how we knew it.   This second PDF  – like Skutch’s writings – is the compilation of writings and botanical paintings of Mary Barnas Pomeroy.   Shared (by her daughter) with the Missouri Botanical Gardens after her death, Mary’s stories illustrate the joy of living in the present – soaking in the wonders of the tropical world, and basking under the doting acceptance of her father, who mentored/tutored and encouraged her studies. Anyone who knows Ecuador’s present landscape will appreciate her descriptions – much of what is now lost.

With a voice that seems more powerful as the years pass, Mary Barnas Pomeroy states in the foreward:

“...May this collection become a delight to nature lovers, flower enthusiasts, artists, travelers and explorers – people who care about the marvels of our gorgeous earth which certain types of humanity abuse, destroy or just alter, perhaps by sheer ignorance. We would like to help in halting such activities. May this book attract thouse very individuals who need to learn about the fragile hidden treasures along with the grandeur of Earth’s interwoven patterns of all living and seemingly lifeless forms!… I am confident that soon a deeper awareness of what we can do and how to do it – to preserve what is still vital for Earth’s and our survival – will emerge, be acted upon and become an accepted way of life. A great intelligence is secretly at work underneath all the chaos we witness, caused by selfishness, greed and stupidity. It simply must manifest, so that the generosity of life may flourish for all alike…”MBP

mystery bird P2440158 which bird

From other months, the little bird stops by to say, ‘Guess what my name is?”

The same is true for Skutch, who studied the flora and fauna through many Neo-Tropical countries.  Both feared what would happen to their beloved-but-vanishing landscape.From 1936, Skutch’s words remain sensitive and powerful:

“…The forest is the cathedral in which I worship; and like all the great cathedrals, it
was hundreds of years in the making. Possibly the Indians once cleared the land on
which it stands; but they must have abandoned cultivation here centuries ago.
The forest is my garden, with grander plants, and more varied plants, and an
infinitely greater variety of birds than ever adorned the artificial garden of monarch or nobleman or millionaire. I must have thousands of palm trees – chontas and palmitos and many lesser kinds – for any one of which, to have it growing in his park or conservatory, a rich man would pay hundreds of dollars.

Why should I not count myself opulent? And there are no weeds in my garden, for everything that grows in it was planted by the same careful gardener, and the ranker growths are kept in check by the dominant trees. Sometimes the farm frightens me, with the unceasing expense and care of keeping a bit of coffee or sugar-cane or pasture in proper order. But the forest never costs me a centavo of outlay, yet it is always, except where man has interfered, in good order, and a delight to behold. The very fallen trees and rotting trunks give it an aspect of venerable age which is part of its character, and the young saplings growing
up lustily in the gaps left by the fallen giants are proof of its exhaustless vitality.

Finally, the forest is my museum, filled not with dry bones and stuffed skins and
sapless foliage, but with a vast array of living, growing specimens. Were I to live here a hundred years, I could not exhaust its riches…
Since the first of the year (many of the volteados were actually begun in December) the men have been felling the forest for their plantings, and at intervals through the mornings, when chiefly they work, we have heard the crash of great trees falling on the distant slopes. Before cutting down the tall trees, the laborers cut away all the underbrush with their machetes, which makes the forest look most inviting and parklike, with longer vistas beneath the trees than one ordinarily enjoys in tropical forest, and attractive glades through which one can wander without fighting his way against brushes and vines.

But this idyllic state of the forest is of short duration; soon the big trees are attacked and overturned, and the noble woods are reduced to a scene of chaos and ruin. The tangle and confusion of prostrate trunks, splintered branches and intertwined vines is so great that it requires great effort and a certain amount of ingenuity to make one’s way across them. Only by walking along the horizontal trunks, clean and branchless, and jumping from one to another of them, is it possible to make much progress. If one leaves these slender causeways, he sinks from waist-to-head deep in such a litter of branches, twigs, vines and leaves that it is quite impossible to move either forwards or backwards.
”   Skutch/ Clearing the forest,” Journal, Vol. 20, February 4, 1936

 

Backyard Bird Weekend approaches, and on Thursday I will return to Poza Honda and look forward to more chances to study the Wood Rails, the Oropendolas and the Mystery Bird. Several people have expressed an interest in any future birding ‘Timeouts’ there at Poza Honda. Yes, there is hope!

mystery bird P2440145 which bird

“Please save my habitat!” and “I’ll be ready for roll call for the Backyard Bird Count!”

A Second Birding Apprentice – and A Village of Hope!

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“A man needs a little madness, or else… he never dares cut the rope and be free.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis

P1300100 la segua canoe

(Poza Honda Ecuador)  “…As I write while noting the sweet and varied sounds and calls of nature, a not-so-soothing instrument asserts its caustic voice. Incongruent with the morning’s rhythms, a chainsaw slices through the natural harmonies. Compared to the never-ending sounds of the city, the distant chainsaw seems minor and insignificant, yet it grates on my psyche much deeper than the urban distractions…” from: Many Birds at a Time – Sept 2019 – BrunettiP2930624 lovely view but no there is new deforestation in my backyard

Manabi Province, Ecuador – Approaching quietly on his motorcycle, the guard for the dam (reservoir Poza Honda) stopped and turned off the engine. I expected Antonio to politely ask me to park elsewhere, which I usually do – but had not on that late afternoon. On my way back to the city, I stopped to video the 40 or 50 Chestnut-collared Swallows careening in and out of nests beneath the spillway bridge. Turning off the camera, I stood and smiled. His words took me by surprise and touched me greatly.

P2950237 antonio the second birding apprentice

Antonio proudly posed yesterday at Poza Honda.

With sensitivity and respect, Antonio asked, “Why did you leave? Where did you move?” (I’d been basically absent for four months after living there for two years.)

With equal respect, I asked if he had time for a ten-minute answer, and if he was serious as to ‘why.

“Si,” the clear-eyed Antonio replied.

I said that two years ago the sound of the chain saws was rare, but for the past year it seemed to be almost daily – and most days the sound came from two or three different locations. He nodded and agreed. The rate of deforestation had increased. I mentioned the cutting and run-away fire way too close to my residence (2018) – and he distinctly remembered that fire.

P2030846 the fire july 10 night

Foto taken from the steps of the house.

P2030815 smoke fire viewd from represa

I said that some days the sound of the saws made me angry; other days it made me profoundly sad and sometimes it was like a blow to the stomach, and at those times I cried. “It’s a protected forest, yet no one speaks up – and the authorities don’t enforce the law. It’s as if the logging is invisible, including when the loaded trucks drive past the guards, though the gates and out of the protected forest.” I mentioned the times when logs were stacked near the road, yet it wasn’t until dark when the trucks arrived to transport the material out of the area. I asked if it was legal to cut near the water, and we discussed a clear-cut area that increases each year. Higher toward the southern ridge, a new visual wound brands an area near the dam.

P2950236 view from dam deforestationP2900514 why the bird circle is important

Three weeks later a new scar:

P2930623 grrrrrrrrr more deforestation

This past weekend delivered a new visual blow – a new chunk cleared on the neighbor’s forest.

Antonio, as with all of the locals, observes the ongoing clearing; it’s part of a lifestyle the farming and ranching community has always known.    Does having more knowledge of current events, of climate change, of pesticide dangers, of vanishing species, of the melting glaciers — does it make it more simple or more complicated when trying to live in harmony with these beautiful people?   Our conversation resumed at an easy pace, and we discussed the burning that often follows, leaving strips of parallel scars along the barren hillsides.

“Our planet is sick, and it needs more trees, more canopy – we have to respect the planet. The monkeys need tree bridges – when the area is cleared, the monkeys are forced to leave.” I said that I loved the area, and that I missed everyone – but I also did not want to end up like another Chico Mendes.

Changing the topic, I told him about the just-finished bird census, where ‘Don Jorge,’ Luis and I documented 87 species in one day, and our hopes to share our birding enthusiasm with others in the area.  I squinted toward the water’s edge and stated, “Limpkin?” He asked about the cluster of black and white birds near the Limpkin. “Those are stilts,” I said, “ but look -” and I turned on the camera, which pulled in the image of the brown Limpkin. He laughed and said he would never have seen that bird.

P2910477 stilts limpkin y lesser grebeP2910485 grebes stilts limpkin jan 4

We then checked the field guide index and flipped to the correct page. He quickly grasped the map index for each species, and he repeated the word, “Limpkin” with clear enunciation. We turned to the stilts, and he repeated, “Black-necked Stilt” several times. We discussed the Brown Wood Rail and located its range map in the book, and we discussed extinctions and the endangered Gray-backed Hawk photographed a short distance from the dam. He learned that the Osprey prefers fish over chickens and that Laughing Falcon devours snakes.

P2950239 antonio at dam

Antonio, our second Bird Specialist in training, quickly recalled the names of the birds he had just seen. He enjoyed pronouncing the new words, and I easily imagined a small group of locals – all repeating the names – or answering the question ‘Que Ave?” then seeing which person answered first – and giving little prizes to the person who remembered the most names.

P2210733 bingo

Instead of Bingo gatherings, would the locals embrace Birding gatherings? The creative mind finds many ideas for rewarding the participants: the person who asks the most questions, a new ‘star student’ who reports seeing the most birds – or interesting bird behavior — or acknowledge the person who told the most-encouraging story re: “I placed the papaya scraps on a feeder and the Orange-fronted Barbets were there almost instantly! Those birds have never been so close to our house!’

P2220559 ORANGE FRONTED BARBET MALE

It’s doubtful they would embrace my invented method of detecting hard-to-find birds:

“…Noting the continued absence of many species (birds, butterflies and the oh-so-important bees) I slowed my pace and wondered how to increase my awareness of what might be lurking nearby. Remembering posture lessons from long ago, I imagined – not a book balanced on my head – but a bowl of clear water. ‘Let the water’s surface mirror the sky and the treetops,’ I silently coached myself. Seeing my mischievous smirk, a voyeur might think that I was tripping on experimental drugs. No drugs are needed when one fine-tunes with nature…

…Every so often my mind wandered, but a quick mental glance to the imaginary bowl on my head steered me back on course. A duet of weak chirpings meandered from deep shadows of the nearby under-story. Rufous-headed Chachalacas chanted from the distance. Careful not to swish the water on top of my head, I fine-tuned my attention to the chirpings. Silhouetted against a sunlit spot on the far side of the thicket, one petite bird flitted from ground level to low branches to 8 or so feet high then back again. The camera focused on tangled vines in the foreground, on the sunlit patch in the background, but repeatedly failed to capture the small bird. The baby birds’ grumblings halted; the adult became equally still.
Perhaps they were practicing the same bowl-balancing exercise?
This species has mastered the art of adaptation. What happens, however, when man removes their home of ‘undesirable’ undergrowth?” – Lisa Brunetti – from “MANY Birds at a Time”

P2730939 LITTLE BIRD HIDING IN DENSE GROWTH
………………..(Warning – this is a long post!) Continue reading

SHHHH! Bird Specialists in Training!

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SHHHH! Bird Specialists in Training! (Part One)

(Poza Honda Reservoir – Manabi Province, Ecuador)    Just past ten in the morning, our birding party of three peered beyond the rustic bamboo corral in hopes of identifying the raucous oropendolas that had been playing hide and seek with us for the past two hours.  Luis Saltos – bird guide from Chone and Mindo – and I were guests of “Don Jorge” Arnet, owner of a lovingly-tended tract of land at Poza Honda.  (Jorge also owns the house that I rented for the past two years before I moved to Portoviejo.)  The three of us were conducting an all-day census of bird species in the area with hopes of the area being approved for Audubon’s 2020 Christmas Count.  We had been birding since 6 A.M. in intermittent drizzle.

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A few hours earlier that morning, two birds buzzed us, and we exclaimed, “What was THAT?” as I snapped two out-of-focus images of the rapidly-vanishing birds. “Oropendola?” I looked at Luis for confirmation. “That whooshing sound?”

P2880513 yes dos oropendulas

P2880528 7 19 jorge y luis checking oropendula info

Left: “Jorge” Arnet, owner of Casa Poza Honda and coffee/cacao farm; Right: Luis Saltos, bird guide from Mindo and Chone.

We consulted several books and hoped to see those birds again.   The (McMullan/Navarrete) Fieldbook for the Birds of Ecuador places all species of oropendolas in other areas of the country. This particular elusive group of birds must have taken a holiday vacation to Poza Honda, and we were trying to decide, “Russet-backed or Chestnut-headed.”  Two years ago my friend Xiomara and I saw and photographed one Chestnut headed Oropendola, so my bets were on that species. Photos are oh so important in documenting out-of-range species, even if the photo is a bad one.

P2880653 oropendula

P2880634 oropendula

P2880659 jorge y luis

I waited at the next curve and watched Oropendolas fly towards my friends. “Did you see them?” I exclaimed later, “Yes!” they replied, “Lots!”

There were fleeting glimpses of ‘a lot’ half an hour later – then another viewing half an hour later near the bamboo corral. The Oropendolas were out of sight, but my drizzle-baptized camera managed to document one Rufous-headed Chachalaca in the distance, one Tropical Gnatcatcher way up high, and a Long-billed Hermit inspecting flowers along the living fence.

P2880842 chachalaca out of focus dec 30P2880841 TROPICAL GNATCATCHER Dec 30 just before 10 de AgostoP2880845 barons hermit at bamboo corral

P2880843 Golden Olive Woodpecker

‘Don’t forget about me,’ says the Golden-olive Woodpecker!

P2880866 a year ago there was one long human searching for birds. now there are four

States the mule: “A year ago there was one lone human staring at the birds. Now there are four!”

SHHH BIRD SPECIALISTS IN TRAINING HEADER IMAGE.jpg

The last thing I expected to see was another human on the seldom-traveled road and staring at the three of us. A tall, lean and well-scrubbed young man, he wore an expression of curiosity as if observing Santa Clause placing last-minute gifts beneath a tree – or gnomes and fairies in another realm. Continue reading

Live Each Day to the Fullest

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“Each day brings new opportunities, allowing you to constantly live with love—be there for others—bring a little light into someone’s day. Be grateful and live each day to the fullest.”― Roy T. Bennett

“Lee-SAH,” my lovely friend Dady exclaimed, “How did you know about this?!”

Perched along the top row of seats of the amphitheater, I was watching the crowd funnel into the performance area at the Las Vegas Park in Portoviejo. I usually sit alone so that I can be as unobtrusive as possible when taking photos at events. The park is not far from my apartment – maybe five minutes – as is the Museo Portoviejo, and I arrived early to watch the day wean to night and then witness the event.

Dady knew that I usually dodge evening events; I like to be home by dark, especially in a city. The night air often prompts my old cough to return, so she was not expecting to see me – especially since she learned of the event only a few hours before it was to begin!
We were there to see Quito’s National Ballet perform the Nutcracker, and the show soon began – and captivated the crowd! Continue reading

“…the worst thing for creative people…”

(All mistakes are mine, thanks to the new WP Block Editor!)

“Real artists are CONTENDING with the unknown, and they’re possessed by it – they have a personality trait – openess – that makes them do that and they can’t even help it – and I’ve had lots of creative people in my clinical practice and I can tell you the worst thing for creative people is to not be creative, cause they just die.. because it’s – it’s – it’s like maybe you’re a tree with a few major branches, you know, that’s your personality …. open people have to be creative…” Jordan Peterson

The quote comes from Jordan Peterson’s very insightful talk, “Why You Need Art in Your Life” where he also states to his audience, “Buy a damned piece of art!”

Reconciling to the not-too-pure air of the city, I’ve taken some time off in respect to my pulmonary system. I’ve also been busy, but have enjoyed a marathon of reading (real books in hand!) and watching videos like the one below. There’s been a trip to Quito (fast but rewarding) and several events in Portoviejo (next post) and of course working on art when my energy levels have been strongest. When you have time, enjoy this presentation – ‘Why art?’ Peterson made me laugh many times, and any artist or anyone close to an artist will laugh as well. It might help one better understand an artist!


“…If you’re a creative person you’re like a fruit tree that’s bearing fruit, you can suppress it but it’s very bad for you – the creative people I’ve worked with – if they are not creative they’re miserable – they have to do it.. there’s real joy and pleasure in it and psychological utility…” Jordan Peterson


Artists need more Jordan Petersons speaking up for them!

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
― William Faulkner

And with few qualms, I did — kill a few darlings of art!

Tannins in lumber can play sadistic jokes on an artist; even when those boards have been prepped – and prepped again before painting, the art might darken and discolor over time. Back in July a carpenter and his assistant helped with the beginning stages of the kitchen. Using remnants of remnants from Casa Loca, the maestro surely wished to be working with new materials, but with patience he grasped the proposed ‘stage one’ and began piecing together the kitchen.

After he and his assistant left for the day, I worked through the night to prep then paint the counters and back splash, then applied one coat of finish to protect the art from ‘construction damage.’ Workers can be quite brutal with artwork, and we managed to finish the second day of work with only a few ‘golpes’ to the counters. After two days of work, the project was weaned into my hands. For the next few week I fine-tuned the art, merging the horizontal surface design with the wall area, then applied more coats of protective finish.

About a month later those mean ‘ole tannins began to seep toward the surface – even though most of those boards were 20 or so years old! Working on a bathroom makeover, I had stumbled upon a new material option which responded well to artistic details.

Perhaps we should peer around the corner to what was perhaps the most-forlorn bathroom I’d ever encountered! This slide show speaks for itself, but if anyone has questions I’ll be glad to give a tutorial. (I hope to find the slide-show option!)

Now back to the kitchen!

Mixing a water-based acrylic sealer with grout for ceramic tiles, I began a cosmetic makeover to those art-staining boards. Hoping that the grout and sealer would prevent another tannin attack, I filled the gaps between the boards and plugged random holes, raised lower depressions, smoothed the transition from sink to the boards while attempting to save the main design of the fish.

Sorry, the colors are not true!

Ha. At some point, those darlings were sacrificed!

New darlings replaced the old ones!

During the counter makeover, another project advanced. A bit like patting one’s head while rubbing the stomach, I rotated between projects.

Hmmm, looks like a sea of fish swimming against the current!

Retrieved from a state of limbo, the shrimp painting (below) also found a place in the kitchen. It’s waiting for a final session of attention but seems happy to be out of solitary confinement!

With continued hurdles of this new WordPress format, I’ll finish with a slideshow and hope that it works. Thanks dear Linda for your help, and next time on line I’ll try to outsmart this new Block editor that was forced on unsuspecting users like me!

Remember that ‘other’ piece of art? Did anyone guess that it was originally fingerprint-sensitive platinum in color?

A ‘happy’ refrigerator in a happy kitchen! It’s a joy to work in this space!

For those of you in Ecuador, this is the product used on the bathroom floor and mixed ‘in’ the paints as well as the final clear (non yellowing\) finish in both areas.

(Bought in the ‘cement products’ area of Kywi.)

Closing with a splash of Christmas red from the equator:

Chocolate is as lovely in its natural state as it is when in culinary form!

(And now the ‘Publish’ prompt turns opaque and just sits there! Bah-humbug to Block Editor!) I’ll schedule this to publish in five minutes and hope that it works! Z

Grrrrrrrrrr Merry Christmas

“Start writing or select a block” ?????

Seriously? WordPress, all I can say while trying to remain positive is that you’re helping keep my brain cells healthy!

Where’s the normal compose window/the add-image prompt, etc etc.

Now that there’s text here, |I don’t see the ‘add image’ option anywhere…

Many of you have probably already mastered these new hurdles, like now while searching for ‘add image’ I suppose the answer is here:

“Content Blocks
Welcome to the wonderful world of blocks! Blocks are the basis of all content within the editor.

There are blocks available for all kinds of content: insert text, headings, images, lists, videos, tables, and lots more.

Browse through the library to learn more about what each block does.”


Don’t we get a choice to use this new format or continue using the old one?

Next post will follow this one if the laptop battery lasts long enough!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Feliz Navidad!

And I Cried

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P2840788 ivo book boceto

boceto – Poesia/Ivo Uquillas – ©2017

Portoviejo/Manabi Province/Ecuador

My friend Alexandra Cevallos Castro recently sent an email, “Lisa… Ivo will be reading his poetry and I’d like to invite you to attend…” – – – and I certainly attended!

P2280650 alexandra y plumeria

Alexandra Cevallos Castro

Alexandra and Ivo Uquillos have known each other/have been friends forever;  we met in 2012 when they graciously supported the opening/inauguration of The Mola Series. Ivo and Alexandra also presided over the opening of “Lisa Brunetti – A Journey” which opened last November in the same Museo Portoviejo.

Between those two events, all three of us have dealt with personal challenges, including the 7.8 earthquake’s collective imprint on our psyches. (April 2016)   I experienced the earthquake from a barely-safe distance in Mindo’s cloudforest, while Alexandra and Ivo witnessed their beloved city of Portoviejo fragmented into crumbles. The people – numbed and trapped in raw emotions of angst, fear, worry and sorrow – often struggle to reclaim a sense of peace, and the trauma is often branded deep into their souls.

Just this past week while I was walking to the market, two ladies stopped me and asked, ‘Where are you from?” and then asked, “Where were you when the earthquake hit?”

When they learned that I was from Jama, their faces sobered. I quickly changed the topic to a slightly-lighter one, that of the dengue/chikungunya epidemic, as many people in this province now identify with chikungunya’s lingering side effects. We swapped stories of cramped hands and crippling gaits, which are often amusing to replicate when one is no longer suffering.   Epidemics and natural disasters often unite people – even years later.

Another friend recently shared greater depth into his own personal hell of the night of the earthquake.  Numbness provides a buffer, and it might take years to process trapped emotions and view them with neutral vision. Sometimes there are no words, no artful ways to deal with emotional trauma, and with time or with a patient listener, we open those windows that we slammed so tightly shut, and we release the pain. Slowly the inner burdens, observations – and sometimes guilt – are acknowledged and eventually released.

P1720633 jamie y dog pescador walking home

Near Rio Jama/Ecuador – The locals and the birds in the canals and ponds kept me entertained!

Almost each week in the six or so years before the earthquake, I walked from Casa Loca (at the last bend of Rio Jama) into town along the same predictable route. I often paused to say Hello to friends at the edge of Jama, and the second stop was to greet friends Chana and Arturo at their small tienda near the center of town. If I bypassed their corner, Arturo might spot me when he rode his bicycle through town. No scolding was needed – Ecuadorians have a talent for speaking without words! My final stop before leaving town would almost always be my friends’ tienda, and I often pulled up a stool and sat for ten minutes or half an hour – depending on the demands of that day. I departed either on foot or via mototaxi, also depending on how many purchases I carried home.

When friends wrote to say that my own beloved town of Jama had been devastated by the earthquake, I made several ‘remote’ imaginary walks through that town. When I ventured near the corner of the tienda, I sensed a great loss. “Chana? — Arturo?” Flitting between the two options, I felt a stronger loss regarding Chana. Each time I did that exercise, I sensed that someone had died there, most likely Chana. Moving on to the center of town, I also paused when I pondered ‘Rosa’ the matriarch who presided over the area facing the park. Several other areas prompted me to pause and ponder, but concerns about Chana and Rosa were the strongest.

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I was not surprised when friends wrote to say they were sorry to pass along news of both women’s deaths. My premonitions prepped me and helped to soften the news. Months later I spent several hours at the cemetery and paused at many new graves, including my friends.’ After I left Rosa’s site – lovingly planted with new roses, two Burrowing Owls escorted me out of the cemetery. Coincidence? Naming them Chana and Rosa, I smiled at the thought of my friends watching over those who loved them.

p1180008-owls-jama-cemetery-small-file

Chanita and Rosita, the guardians of the cemetery.

During October’s (2019) recent protests, I walked the almost-empty streets of Portoviejo. It seemed quite eerie that most businesses were closed, that people were home and unsure about venturing out, that the corner tiendas offered not even a banana for sale – while the absence of traffic sounds and absence of people imprinted on the gringita’s psyche. It was like walking through a ghost city, yet the policemen held silent vigils at strategic points.

P2830253 downtown portoviejo 1 15 oct 9
Perhaps that is why I cried when Ivo’s words captured my own emotions, of another who walks the streets and ponders the silent trauma of the masses. His poem captures universal grief and concern, especially following a disaster.

P2630593 ivo at work para poem post

Ivo Uquillas

With Ivo’s permission, I share one of the poems from page 15 of his book ‘boceto’ – translated by Alexandra Cevallos Castro. He wrote this after the earthquake, when – unable to sleep – he walked the streets of Portoviejo each night. (Ivo’s original Spanish version follows the English one.)

EMPTY SPACE
Empty space, no one in the streets,
Face of abandoned cemetery.
City covered by loneliness
No one goes in, no one goes out,
No one goes up, no one goes down.
No one sits outdoors
To see no one pass by,
No one gives out hugs,
No one lives
No one is in the spaces,
No one thinks, no one talks,
No one buys, no one sells
No one gives credit, no one steals,
No one is silent, no one sings,
No one shouts, no one walks,
No one chases, no one runs away,
No one dies,
No one passes by, no one goes away,
No one plays anything
No one cries,
No one moves anything,
No one opens doors, no one laughs,
No one writes love letters,
No one leaves traces in the void.
No one is there,
No one says goodbye,
No one.

ESPACIO VACIO
Espacio vacio, calles sin nadie,
rostro de cementerio abandonado
ciudad cubierta de soledades
nadie entra, nadie sale,
nadie sube, nadie baja,
nadie se sienta afuera,
a ver pasr a nadie,
nadie reparte abrazos,
nadie habita en los espacios,
nadie piensa, nadie habla,
nadie compra, nadie vende,
nadie fia, nadie roba,
nadie hace silencia, nadie canta,
nadie grita, nadie camina,
nadie persigue, nadie huye,
nadie muere,
nadie va, nadie se va,
nadie juega a nada,
nadie llora,
nadie mueve nada,
nadie abre puertas, nadie rie,
nadie escribe cartas de amor,
nadie deja huellas en el vacio,

Nadie esta ahi,
nadie dice adios,
nadie.
………

P2840790 ivo book boceto poem espacio vacio empty space

…and yes, I cried.

What is Missing in these Pictures?

Portoviejo Ecuador
Over three years after the 7.8 earthquake, the city of Portoviejo continues to recover. Empty lots replace where historic buildings once stood. Lingering remnants of colonial houses reveal gaping holes through the roofs. Doves perch in convenient areas in the park while iguanas bask in the shade or nibble leaves and flowers.
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Over the past two days I have ambled the streets near the museum, photographed the birds, iguanas and the sunlit streets. Something is missing, however.

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Where are the cars?
P2830254 oct 9 portoviejo 1 15 empty streets

My friend Alexandra sent words of warning, a bit too late, as I was already on the streets. “Lisa! Tomorrow might be bad! Don’t go out, seriously – don’t go out…”” I did not receive her warnings until I had walked the area in search of a cyber option. Military and Policemen stood guard, but all was calm as you can see in the slide show below.

One man pointed me several blocks ‘arriba’ for a cyber, but most stores were closed. I walked left and discovered a three-story gallery – wow, that’s another story!
P2830172 la galeria portoviejo surprise

After half an hour with the owner, I returned to the streets and greeted the owner of a small tienda where I often buy bananas and eggs. Excited, he pointed me half a block over and ‘arriba’ to see the march. “March?” Yes, a march – a peaceful one.
Continue reading

…The Best of Times, The Worst of Times…

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“A seed that lands upside down in the ground will wheel –root and stem–in a great U-turn until it rights itself.  But a human child can know it’s pointed wrong and still consider the direction well worth a try.”  Richard Powers – The Overstory

Manabi Province, Ecuador –  I prefer to be immersed in whatever captures my interest – drawing, painting, cooking, gardening or trying to find a way home when the country’s transport system is on strike!   Some people have stated that I am fearless, and some are probably worried that I might be tipping a little too close to the present conflict.    Common sense and a survival instinct often keep me clear out of danger’s path, so don’t worry –  I’m watching these days unfold from a safe distance. Every so often I don’t know why I sense ‘trouble’ – but I do, and almost always, I listen.

P2820971 police helicopter

Lifetime experience prepped me to restock the kitchen on Sunday.    Annual flooding in Costa Rica, flooding and earthquakes in Ecuador – don’t be caught without food and good reading materials!

Although the streets near my apartment were extremely quiet, the central marketplace buzzed with activity. I realized that I had never shopped there on a Sunday, and most likely the people of the campo were also finishing their weekend tasks.

P2820981 8 oclock pedestrian stocking up
Like a set for a movie, Sunday’s street blockade near the museum provided another clue, a hint of possible problems when the work week resumed on Monday. Monday morning was quiet, and I resumed an ongoing task of sanding away dried cement from the grout lines in the bathroom. A thankless job, but it also provided a peaceful zen-like state, one ceramic block at a time.P2820994 cement on tile floor

A police helicopter circled the city, but that happens almost daily. This one made lazy round-and-round circles in a specific area, most likely they were circling the main bus terminal area.Traffic near the apartment remained light; many stores remained closed. I smiled when one policeman meandered along on a bicycle.

P2820972 8 am police helicopterP2830011 policeman on bicycle

Every so often a taxi joined the queue of traffic, but most taxis were absent; last night’s trash remained on the corners where municipal trucks usually retrieve it during the night. A basically-unmarked and stark-white police bus rolled by. An ambulance raced to the corner, turned and careened out of view. True emergency or preparing for a grander one? A shiny-red ‘bomberos’ truck from a neighboring town joined the parade.

P2830016 military transportP2830010 bomberos montecristiP2830008 ptoviejo corner y ambulanceP2830016 military transport

I sensed an undercurrent of percolating tension, especially when one policeman on a motorcycle paused at the intersection and was joined by another – and another – and another. They reminded me of cowboys trying to anticipate where the renegade cows might bolt from the herd. Continue reading

Almost Overnight, A Country’s Mood Changes

P2110231 MUSEO PORTOVIEJO AUGUST 2018

Museo Portoviejo – Ecuador

Portoviejo Ecuador

‘There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like—“

Thank you everyone for your concern, and for your support.  For those who missed the last few posts, I’ve been in a holding pattern in Guayaquil.   I stayed one extra day after friends left Ecuador, and in that day I received that glorious ‘cedula’ which will help get internet in the apartment, an Ecuadorian driver’s license, and other benefits.  Yay!

I checked out of the hotel and went to the nearby bus terminal – only to find it basically abandoned. It was a ghost of the normal bustling Terminal Terrestre with the straightest tangents to all destinations in the country.

As many of you already know, the thought of renting a burro to reach home was an option I considered.   A burro could endure the journey far better than a horse, and I smiled at the thought of strapping my Andean bag to the burro’s saddle and aiming for Portoviejo!   Perhaps, when this present smoke clears, I will research the possibilities of taking that trail ride.   Does anyone want to join me?!

P1540487 portoviejo burro

Margo, thank you so much for adding your comment via your Vilcabamba experience.  Glad to know that you received some rain, and I noted a headline from a few days ago to expect more-than-usual rain for the rest of this year.   It’s dry here in Manabi, and most likely all of the farmers would be grateful for the rain.

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Although people in Guayaquil assured me that travel on Saturday (yesterday) would be fine, the owners of Manta Express said that they could reach Manta but not Portoviejo.    Usually the shuttle stops at the community of La Pila and connects with their Portoviejo shuttle.    A couple reached my hotel after traveling from Puerto Lopez, and I asked, “How did you get here?” Continue reading

“Staying Put”

Guayaquil Ecuador – Sometimes the wisest plan is to “stay put” until the smoke clears.    The news last night showed protests in many major cities of Ecuador, and a peek now at Portoviejo news confirms that even if I find transport back to Manabi, the route might be blocked.

https://manabinoticias.com/atencion-transportistas-bloquearon-algunas-vias-en-la-provincia-de-manabi/

(After scanning headlines now at the cyber, I fear that some of my loved ones might be worried with the “State of Emergency” news…  Unable to reach the emails, I am updating here….)

https://www.npr.org/2019/10/04/767164081/ecuador-in-state-of-emergency-end-of-fuel-subsidies-sparks-mass-protest

http://www.eldiario.ec/centro/noticias-santodomingo-ecuador/511129-paro-nacional-deja-cerca-de-200-detenidos-durante-jornada-de-protestas/

Aside from buying a burro – and I am tempted because the adventure would be a great one –  I will enjoy this holding pattern near the airport and bus terminal until the conflict is over.

In addition to the laptop charger, I also left my paints in Portoviejo.  Me thinks I should buy a few tubes and brushes and start painting the area in happy colors!

P1780208 burro

Please please! I would love to take Lisa back to Manabi!

(All is calm and very quiet near the airport.)

Until next cyber visit, probably tomorrow,                                                                                      Z

Holding Patterns

Every so often a friend places a book in my hands and states something like, “This book is so you…” or  “You will love this book” – or even “You MUST read this book.”     I usually refrain from reading the first paragraph out of fear that I will tumble directly into the story and not emerge until the final sentence.

P1690303 gye malecon 1907 mercardo building

1907 Crystal Palace – Guayaquil Malecon   – photo from archives

With a very happy heart, I write from Ecuador{s city of Guayaquil where I said “Goodbye” yesterday to four beautiful travelling companions.   Our itineraries twisted and turned during this two-week “See how Lisa travels” tour.  We embraced surprise wrong-turn experiences and adapted to tweaks in daily plans.   They were surprised by the varied-but-delicious culinary options, from simple options like corviche to high-end presentations like quinoa-crusted corvina (amazing!)   At each stop, each restaurant, each hostal, our days were enriched by impromptu interactions with the locals throughout the country.

By chance – and lots of late-night research – we found an Andean Equinox celebration near the town of Cañar, and in time I will retrieve those images and share those stories and many others.  For now, this link shows the ancient archaeological site we visited, where the locals embraced us into their annual Killa Raymi ritual.   

The more-popular site of Ingapirca is a short distance from the baños site near Cañar and the Killa Raymi event.

Presently the laptop battery is totally depleted, and I am using a cyber computer at the bus station.   The laptop recharge-cable is hours and hours away, thanks to a quick transfer of items at the most-hurried stop: my apartment.  My friends were surprised by the apartment – and the CasaLoca relic bathtub-boat which now cradles many herbs and plants.   We dashed to the bus station and booked tickets on the final bus  option to Guayaquil!

P1330463 chiva bus xio

The Reina bus was a bit more modern than this one!

Yesterday friends left the hostal for the airport at 3 am, 10 am, and last night I said “Goodbye” to the other two  (another story!)…. Today after visiting with two “tourists” at the hostal who asked at breakfast, “Are you Lisa?”  I gathered my bags and left for the bus station. (Yes, we met years ago –  It was fun catching up and swapping stories.)   Today I remain in a holding pattern  – because the entire transport systems are on strike throughout the country!

Ecuador – Strike Paralyzes Country.

Discovering there were no buses bound for Portoviejo – or any other destination in Ecuador – I am delighted to settle into a quiet area and open that book and resume reading.   If the strike ends soon, I might continue to sit in this neutral spot while appreciating the mastery of the written word and marveling at this unique story.

Unable (and unwise) to log into my email account, I send this smoke signal via cyber cafe and WP account to let concerned parties know that I am fine and totally happy to spend the day immersed in The Overstory.

Perdon for the rambling.  The keyboard and its punctuation options are also quite strange!

Logging out for the day — and I will return to the hotel tonight if the bus drivers remain on strike!

 

Moving Forward

Between errands I’m dumping images to speak in my behalf, as my online options have presented challenges this past month.  My computer’s anti-virus does not trust many public wifi sites, so often this is what greets me when trying to check in with the world:  Check out these screen shots, best as a slideshow:

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The Brown Wood Rails have given outstanding performances this past month, and they are probably eating bananas right now as I type – an hour away from the bosque.  This week I’ve been refreshing my floor-painting/repairing skills:

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The Wood Rails provided days and days and more days’ worth of viewing pleasure.   Not only the rails, but also many other species allowed amazing moments.

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For an illustrated narrative (using images from my bird paintings) enjoy this PDF:

one bird at a time NOT – Many Birds at a Time

I keep forgetting to share that I now have a new visa!   The old one was no longer an option (for working in the arts) and they assured me that this one would be better.   After a two-month wait, the visa was granted.  Are you ready for what it’s called?   They called it an ‘Electronic Visa’ – so there is no new stamp in my passport – it was sent electronically, and I have the option to print it if needed, or ‘open your i-pad and show it if someone asks.’

Ha, I don’t have an i-pad, and I was a little disappointed that the old system seems to be obsolete.   No more stamps that show the history!   There are more hurdles to clear, but this was a nice one, and next week will be a new set of hurdles, but the biggest one has been cleared!

P2400835 look up jets y missels

How’s this for an ‘antique’ flyover from earlier in the year? No problem, I have my visa, sir!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ElusiveBrown Wood Rail

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“An artist’s eyes ever rest.” Lisa Brunetti

P2710838 scarlet rumped caciques at feeder y nest

The Scarlet-rumped Caciques’ nest dangles almost-eye level from the corner windows where I sit.

Poza Honda – Manabi Province – Ecuador —-

After ten days in Portoviejo, I returned to discover a new addition to the natural sountrack – Chirpings of ravenous hatchlings! The parent birds seemed to glare at me with disgust, that ‘Just when we needed you, you vanished, as did the banana buffet. Could there be a connection?”
“Rangewriter Linda” commented on last-week’s post: “Ah Lisa, it is clear. Your purpose for being present in this Garden of Eden is to document the beauty you see around you. Your brilliant illustrations are so much better than Master Audubon’s because no creatures are harmed in your captures.
Those Caciques have captivated me. They are simply stunning with that bright blue eye set against the dramatic black background. Do tell about the scarlet bottom, though…I see only black. 😉 ”   

P2720309 scarlet rumped cacique y nest

For Linda!

      
I retrieved almost-ripe platanos from the refrigerator, warmed them slightly in a pan of water, then presented the anemic fruits with token apologies. For the next 24 hours, the pair provided easy entertainment for my daylight hours. Working in synchronized harmony, the pair darted in an out of the nest as they foraged for caterpillars between trips to the banana feeder. They also flashed their scarlet feathers – not easy to capture with the camera without blurred results!  Enjoy the slideshow!

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The Scarlet-rumped Cacique ranges from to Honduras in Central America to southern Ecuador.  Within the Scarlet-rumped Cacique there is a clear division between populations in the Andes and those in Central America and the Pacific Lowlands of South America. “ (Neotropical Birds Online)

There is also a Yellow Rumped Cacique which is more bashful/elusive than its red-rumped cousin.

P1610527 YELLOW RUMPED CACIQUE dec 17 9 30 am

How about ‘Christmas Yellow’ for those with red/green color deficiency?!!!

scene P1540873 SCARLET RUMPED CACIQUE

“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the prettiest of us all?”

 

As lovely and entertaining as they are, these chatty and handsome birds were not the top act for the day. A quieter show awaited at ground level. This artist’s eyes are forever scanning the visual fields, and at times a new glitch taps at my subconscious. “Pay attention —“

000 brown wood rail setting P2720715 brown wood rail country.jpg

000a brown wood rail P2720829 9 am brown wood rail view

Look near the dragonfruit trellis!

000aa brown wood rail P2720828 9 am brown wood rail

The rails stay close to cover

00 a brown wood rail P2710644 BROWN WOOD RAIL

Here’s one hiding place

00 ab brown wood rail P2720767 BROWN WOOD RAIL

At the edge of the yard, they can often be spotted – but one must be quick to see them!

00 abc brown wood rail P2720746 BROWN WOOD RAIL

From Neotropical Birds Online“The Brown Wood-Rail is a very poorly known species, which is reportedly rare over much of its range, with just one record from Peru, and at least in Ecuador it has apparently declined significantly in response to extensive habitat modification throughout the western lowlands in recent decades. “

Ah! It’s a joy to see the Brown Wood Rails‘ return to the comfort of the back yard. I would like to say that they are comfortable with my presence, but no, their reasons for loitering at ground level are obvious.  Their addiction – ripe bananas – lures them in the same way that their presence glues me to the viewing stage. I too am addicted to observing the Brown Wood Rails and all other inhabitants of the natural world!

Before the bananas ripened, a lone bird circled the perimeters of the back yard. Clinging near draping heliconias and other dense areas, the birds move between predictable hiding places.   An attentive observer will soon learn to predict the birds’ most-used routes, and with camera ready, I glean more images!

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The attentive observer might also be rewarded with other sightings, like another not-easy-to see Little Tinamou!  Sneaking under the Porterweed and Brugmansia, the Tinamou passed just beneath the windows, and I dashed to the kitchen window and waited for a second viewing.   Yay!   It emerged beyond a 5-foot tall boulder then ambled to the dense growth beyond the yard.

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When the bananas approach maturity, the Brown Wood Rails check the supply more often. Pumping its tail, one will strut across the close-cropped areas, pass near the bananas, then dart back to safer areas. Once the bananas ripen, the birds provide an all-day performance. I marvel at my luck, at my good fortune and realize how blessed I am to witness and document the behavior and quirks of this elusive species.

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These banana-feeding photos were taken on July 29 and 30. I will return on August 2 and look forward to the next ‘fix’ of immersion in nature!
If you’re interested in photographing these birds, this next week all but guarantees an opportunity to observe this bird in its natural habitat – with extra-easy photo sessions. There is one requirement, however, one has to be ultra quiet, as the birds dart away at the slightest movement or sound! (But you probably knew that already!) Contact the owner, Jorge via jurgarnet@icloud.com, as I will be off line and watching the birds, starting on Friday through Wednesday of next week.

The museo is about to close, and the laptop battery is almost dead.  Tomorrow I will be on line again and look forward to your feedback on both posts.   Thank you all for your support!   Love, Lisa

Several More Lives to Live

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Yesterday (July 30, 2019) a lone howler monkey loitered for barely a minute – but long enough to confirm it was there!

“…Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one…” Thoreau, from Walden

When I posted the above quote two weeks ago, Thoreau’s words nailed how I felt. “Several more lives to live,” was especially true. Unsure exactly what was in the future, I felt there was no extra time for dragging my feet – even though I loved that GPS spot at Poza Honda.

Because I treasured the flora and fauna – and neighbors, I felt it was time to move forward. Staying there, I would witness and document the deforestation, the decline of not only birds but also bees, yet I needed to be where I could visit with authorities and interact with activists and like-minded people who share my concerns for the health of our planet. If art played any role in my future, I needed better studio settings as well as options for showcasing my work. Poza Honda was the carrot on the stick, my ‘Johnny’s Garden,” where I hope to sink deeper roots in the future.


Starting with a blank kitchen, the first priority was ‘Stage One’ for the kitchen. A maestro and his assistant helped for two days, and I worked day and night to prepare the artwork before sealing it beneath a few layers of protective varnish.

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Kitchen ‘Before’  “She recycles things,” Melissa told the carpenter the week before.  (The painted boards on the floor were first a window at Casa Loca, then a drawing table.  Now they are part of the counter!)

Two slideshows best show the two-days’ worth of work:

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A small area, most likely designed as a wash room, (areas for incoming and outgoing water and also with drain in the floor) would better suit me as a work area for art and a reading/conversation corner. After the kitchen, this area would be the next project. I did what I could, as well as hung paintings. Ah, it’s good to get them out of protective wrappings!

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“Next project” – Kitchen is to the right….

Life had a grander plan, and less than a week after the kitchen was barely ‘in service,’ and with other areas awaiting attention, Melissa’s baby arrived on July 22nd! Almost a month early, Edward Johir Sanchez spent the next week in the ‘Neo-nato’ section of the nearby hospital, and Melissa ‘camped’ with me at the apartment. She was allowed three visits per day, each lasting almost three hours. The last visit for each day stretched from 8:30 pm until 11.

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Melissa and Joselo – viewing high water at the dam – March 2019

When her husband Joselo was at the Poza Honda finca, I accompanied her to the hospital. With one or two books tucked into my bag, I treasured the quiet time for uninterrupted reading sessions! When Joselo visited, he helped with projects in the apartment between visits to the hospital and taking care of paperwork for the baby and hospital. Most interesting, however, was trying to blend my own style of cooking with their traditional ways. Melissa had never eaten cooked oatmeal! I cooked an oatmeal/quinoa mix, simmered with diced ripe plantains and cinnamon. The traditional way to prepare oats is by blending into a sweetened drink! She seemed happy to experience another option!

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Photo from several years ago:  “ManaSissippi” – a skillet experiment that is now a preferred way to cook eggs for company. Green plantains provided a crispy bottom later, scrambled eggs with cheese was the middle layer, and a tomato salsa provided color and more flavor.

Green plantains are used almost daily in Manabi Province cuisine, and at times I asked Melissa for instructions. The results were often comical, yet we have enjoyed new culinary inventions! I also learned their secrets for cooking extra-flavorful lentils. Their list of ingredients contains two extra that I did not use: not only oregano but also green and ripened plantains! They sampled my evolving blend of options, including Mana-ssippi. Each meal was announced with a warning, ‘Comida loca/Crazy food.’

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“Madura’ and ‘Verde’ Plantains

This past Monday morning I drove Melissa to the hospital then returned to the apartment. A ‘maestro’ would be fine-tuning the water lines (another story!) and Melissa would take a taxi back to the apartment at noon. “Lunch will be ready when you return,” I had told her, so I was busy in the kitchen when she walked through the door. Turning to greet her – and to ask about her morning, I almost collapsed when I saw the bundle in her arms! The baby! What a heart-swelling moment!

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Joselo arrived about an hour later, and as soon as we finished lunch, a proud ‘gringita chofer’ drove them back to Poza Honda. We reflected on my dream (see: Put a Woman in Charge) and agreed it was fitting that I first saw them with a little child in my dreams, and now as a witness to that child and its homecoming, which included an extended family at Poza Honda.

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Like precious puppies awaiting the master’s return, lovely Valentina and Daniela were sitting outside of their home. They dashed to the road, oohed and awed at the sight of the newcomer, and we then drove the short distance to home base.

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From February – Neighbors Alex (far left) Valentina (middle) and Daniela (right)

After watching them enter their home with their precious newborn, I then walked to my house with expectations of seeing the Scarlet-rumped Caciques and the nest they have been tending. Indeed, the Caciques also celebrated new hatchlings! Ah, but that’s another story, which will follow this one as soon as I can pull it together!

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Can Birds have Addictions?

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Last month – on our way for Melissa’s checkup…

Forward to post:  One hour’s drive separates Poza Honda and Portoviejo,  the latter also known locally as ‘Rock City.’   I am now dividing my time between the two locations.   My neighbor Melissa lacks one more month before her baby’s delivery date – but the baby is impatient, and Melissa was admitted to the hospital on Saturday night.  (Perhaps ‘Bebe’ wanted to be born under the water sign of Cancer and not the fiery Leo?)  Melissa is doing well, and we all hope that the baby will be patient!

The above statement was written yesterday morning, and in the afternoon ‘little bebe’ was again impatient to be under the zodiac sign of Cancer!  Welcome, Little One, who might need to spend the next two weeks under the hospital’s care.  I will update when possible!

Now for the ‘Addiction’ story, which was written this past weekend  at Poza Honda – when I should have been packing.  There have been many detours and interruptions, so all mistakes are definitely mine!    Enjoy!

 

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Poza Honda – July 20/2019

Barely breathing, I watched as the sleek brown bird hurried from one side of the yard to the other. Elusive, this chicken-like visitor has mastered the art of stealth foraging, and I admired its ability to blend with its surroundings.  Without a watchful eye, one could totally miss a rare and fleeting glimpse of the Brown Wood Rail.

Perhaps eons ago its ancestors imprinted the importance of dodging predators. Perhaps its skittish nature is a recent adaptation, triggered by the humans’ intrusion into its habitat. Whatever the reason for their skittish behavior, the birds manage to elude many avian photographers; some of those photographers have stated that my photos are some of the best ever taken. I remain humbled that these sly birds have allowed hundreds of photo ops, and I am equally humbled to have watched their behavior over the past two years.

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Brown Wood Rail

There are special times when the neighborhood Brown Wood Rails are easier to observe than other times. These birds have a weakness, and their fondness for ripe bananas clouds their instincts. When the ‘Geneau Platanos’ (a shorter variety of bananas) ripen in the back yard, those Brown Wood Rails seem to lose most of their survival instincts; with addictive nearsighted vision, they see only the bananas and make repeated raids throughout the day.

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As I type, one Brown Wood Rail circles the back-yard area. Every half hour or so it leaves the unkempt wilder area under the citrus trees and crosses the recently-manicured (almost bare*) area near the house. Other times it emerges from dense natural areas that border the yard – and sometimes it emerges beneath ‘my nose’ from the plantings near the house!

 

A Scarlet-rumped Casique lands at the banana feeder, positioned only a meter or so from the 2nd-floor window, and beyond the feeder its recently-constructed nest dangles from an arching branch of bamboo.  I admire the squawking blue-eyed cacique as it complains about the not-so-ripe plantain I presented for its breakfast.

I whisper, “Well Good Morning to you, lovely Cacique!” – and instantly it darts to the far side of the macadamia tree which cradles the feeder.

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Scanning the area below, I note the Brown Wood Rail making an equally-quick departure from the not-quite ripe bananas growing at ground level. An exceptionally-happy Superciliated Wren chirps with top-of-its-lungs volume while another answers from a faraway distance.

One Bird at a Time - I am Blessed

I ponder what a small-but-significant role every single living organism plays in this delicate fragile planet we call ‘Earth.’ As if to confirm, the blue-eyed beauty named ‘Scarlet-rumped Cacique’ flies from its nest and lands six feet from my own perch. Exchanging intense eye-to-eye contact, we acknowledge one another before it inspects the just-replaced plantain. Between samples, it peers at me then peers left and then right before it pecks at the not-much-better replacement. I admire its crisp blue eyes and the slight fluff in its crown of feathers.

Poza Honda - Manabi Province- Ecuador

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A year earlier while struggling with grief over the felling of trees – some of them favorites of mine, I concluded that God gave us stewardship of the planet, and our species has done a poor job.  Perhaps we did not deserve this responsibility. We weren’t ready to grasp the importance – and instead of being guardians, we became the most-destructive predator to walk this planet. Perhaps its time we acknowledge that being in charge does not always mean that we have all rights to domineer.

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Living in harmony with nature

Presently, I remain all but frozen as I witness the movements of today’s cast of inhabitants. Almost cocooned in this magnificent slice of the Garden of Eden, I too am a part – but what exactly is my reason – my honor – my duty for being here? Perhaps by sharing these experiences, I am a biographer for this GPS point of the planet?

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A Southern House Wren chirps from a far corner of the house. In the distance the repeated call of the Gray Hawk overpowers the chattering big-footed water-loving Jacanas as well as the reverberations of the Great Antshrike. Serene doves coo at ground level and illustrate that they appreciate the easy-to-forage areas of a cropped yard.  Even a small plot can become a refuge for nature’s residents, and those spaces also give us peace.

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In another week three clumps of bananas will be ripe enough to lure the Brown Wood Rails within easy viewing.  I will return, with camera in hand to document this year’s census of Wood Rails – presently only two, in contrast to seven a year ago. Perhaps the others remain secluded? If so, their cravings for ripe bananas will bring them into easy view. I will be there to witness and be their official biographer and photographer. 

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Orange-crowned Barbet

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An extremely-handsome member of the feathered population lands in the Nispero tree and vanishes into the dark depths of its branches. The Orange-crowned Barbets recently presented their most-grand performances. Six or seven have foraged, frolicked, hissed and darted from Carambola trees to the Nispero to tall Tamarind, exchanging fruits for caterpillars as they probed and communicated. Seeing them after a too-long absence (four or more months?) I delight in witnessing their return.

Poza Honda - Manabi Province- Ecuador

Scarlet-rumped Cacique inspecting heliconias for caterpillars. Poza Honda – Manabi Province- Ecuador

As if to retort, ‘What about us?’ the cacique returns, chirps several times then darts away. The handsome pair works in harmony while taking numerous banana breaks. (It will be fun to witness the incubation and feeding of the next generation!)

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April 2019 – Limpkin forages in water hyacinths below house.

Not wanting to be overlooked in today’s census, a Limpkin barks from the cove of water below the house. After half a year of quite-high levels, the reservoir now lowers rapidly. I ponder the volume of water and wonder what source drains it so rapidly?  Human’s need for electricity? The need for irrigation of crops of citrus and papaya –  or routing water to cities that also tap this source for human survival?  How many months of an extended drought would lower this reservoir to critical levels?  How often do the masses of men consider the source of their water when turning on the faucets?  Is the original source of water being tainted by trickle-down effects of man’s presence?  How pure is our air? The fragile balance affects us all, one day at a time.

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Whooping Motmot on water hydrant

It is no longer ‘enough’ to strictly witness and admire this slice of heaven on earth. Today the area remains quiet – void of sounds of human’s encroachment, yet I know that all too soon the sounds of chain saws will return.  Aroma of fires will announce another area successfully cleared, wiped clean of original vegetation so that man can again state, “This is mine – with tiny respect to what once thrived here.’

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Late May 2019 – 2 weeks of felling Balsas near the house. Do you see the one tree that had just fallen?

It is time to find ways to better protect these rightful heirs to this environment – to be stewards and guardians – making sure there are enough bananas not only for man, but also the birds.  Our future depends on acknowledging that the old ways are not always the best, and it’s time to find new ways – if we intend to be worthy guardians of this planet.

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Like the Brown Wood Rails, I also have an addiction; my weakness is for nature, and I hope to find ways to help save what’s left of the Brown Wood Rail’s habitat.  A new file folder on my computer is named, ‘I have a Dream‘ – and it contains images of the neighboring pasture and forest that continues to be altered by chain saws and pesticides.

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In my mind’s eye, it has been replanted and designed with life-giving plantings – short term ICU options intermingled with long-term slower-growing selections.  It would be filled with poetic trails, places to sit, reflect and observe nature.   Of course the low-growing bananas would be planted in many areas so that the Brown Wood Rails were never denied their favorite food!

This slice of Eden deserves to be preserved so that the rails and the barbets and the chachalacas thrive in a protected forest that nurtures them.  Perhaps other land owners around the reservoir would notice that one can live in harmony with nature.  The dream is pending, and I can continue visiting and checking the status of this slice of Eden.

If anyone wants to observe and photograph the Brown Wood Rail, the odds are in favor of success in the next two weeks.  You’ll arrive with expectations of seeing the Brown Wood Rail, but will most likely leave with warm memories of many other bird sightings!   Contact Jurg Arnet for overnight accommodations: Casa Swiss – Poza Honda Ecuador  jurgarnet@icloud.com

https://casa-poza-honda-honorato-vasquez.hotelmix.fr

* The owner ‘Jorge’ respects the citizens of the natural world; however, there are times when one must make an attempt to reclaim what has returned to its natural state, which in this area, occurs once or twice during the rainy season.

“Why I Left” – Reflections on Two Years

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From final chapter of Thoreau’s Walden: “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it is five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct.”

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Poza Honda Ecuador – Yes; I am moving. Like Thoreau, I retreated to a pristine and serene location which served as an incubation chamber for inward and outward reflections.   Hundreds of bird species seemed to conspire to provide daily opportunities to ‘Name that Bird’ and learn more about each one.   Also like Thoreau, I chose to wean away after two years, most likely for similar reasons.   Soon there will be time to expand on the details of this new move, but presently most of my time is spent — moving!   It was time, however, to send a smoke signal!  I will publish this then get on the road until my next trip/load on Sunday.  See you then!

Your support continues to humble me, and I know that no matter what my choices are, you’re there in the cheering section and wishing the best for me.   Enjoy the post!

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Poza Honda dam – Even the authorities seem to ignore the side-effects of (cough cough gasp) smoke!)

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Merging with the Earth’s Rhythms

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“You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.” H.D. Thoreau

With fondness, I recall exploring the wilder areas along the levee, woods, lakes and fields of the Mississippi Delta during my early years.  When most children would still be sleeping,  I would tip-toe into the kitchen and leave a note to my parents – then strike out in search of my horse.  On horseback and other times on foot, I often made my own trail – depending on the whims of each day.

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Fields on one side of the levee, woodlands (and the river) on the other…

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On a hot summer day I might ride my horse into the deep woods and sit beneath a grand old tree. I don’t remember having profound thoughts – I just visually soaked in the surroundings and merged with the peace and beauty of wherever I stopped. Sometimes I rode ‘back in the fields’ where the persimmon trees grew – or along the lower bogs that drained the higher areas. Discovering an explosion of yellow wildflowers intermingled with cat-tails, I wove those small aquatic flowers into my horse’s bridle then resumed my journey. Even when young I rejoiced in seeing new species.

After describing one particularly-exotic flower to our neighbor, I learned its name: “Maypop,” and he – a mentor to me – always took time to satisfy my curiosity. “When I was young,” he smiled, “we liked to stomp on the ripe fruit – and they popped!”

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I never saw the ripe fruits, but now I live where that delicate flower has a monster cousin: passion fruit, called maracuya in Ecuador. With a rich unique aroma and quite-tart flavor, maracuya is popular (and affordable) for juices and desserts. (Do you think that those Mississippi Maypops produce an edible fruit as well?) I have veered far from my original GPS location, but that childlike curiosity remains intact! Continue reading

When the Big Creek Rises…

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September 2018 – The Swollen Mississippi River at Memphis Tennessee

“On the morning of Good Friday, April 15, 1927, Seguine Allen, the chief engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board in Greenville, Mississippi, woke up to the sound of running water. Rain was lashing the tall windows of his home near the great river with such intensity that the gutters were overflowing and a small waterfall poured past his bedroom. It worried him. He was hosting a party that day, but his concern was not that the weather might keep guests away. Indeed, he knew that the heavy rain, far from decreasing attendance, would bring out all of the community’s men of consequence, all as anxious as he for the latest word on the river.”
Prologue/Rising Tide – The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 & How It Changed America – by John M. Barry
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2018 View of Mississippi River oxbow lake from my friends’ home near Clarksdale Mississippi…

In January of this year, a friend wrote from Clarksdale, Mississippi and said that they had temporarily moved out of their home ‘behind the levee’ because the Mississippi River was over the road. I immediately thought of John Barry’s book, The Rising Tide, and the weather history that led to that great flood. Last September the river was exceptionally high for ‘the end of summer,’ and news of high water in January made me instantly concerned.

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Rising Tide and Lanterns on the Levee – Both books give a glimpse into the history – not only of the river but also of the culture – and we are still struggling to reconcile the differences and live in harmony.

It was time to read  Rising Tide for a third time and refresh my memory. After finishing the 426-page book, I then switched to William Alexander Percy’s Lanterns on the Levee, his personal memoir that includes recollections of that Great Flood of 1927. His book opens with this often-quoted paragraph:

” My country is the Mississippi Delta, the river country. It lies flat, like a badly drawn half oval, with Memphis at its northern and Vicksburg at its southern tip. Its western boundary is the Mississippi River, which coils and returns on itself in great loops and crescents, though from the map you would think it ran in a straight line north and south. Every few years it rises like a monster from its bed and pushes over its banks to vex and sweeten the land it has made. For our soil, very dark brown, creamy and sweet-smelling, without substrata of rock or shale, was built up slowly, century after century, but the sediment gathered by the river in its solemn task of cleansing the continent and deposited in annual layers of silt on what must once have been the vast depression between itself and the hills. This ancient depression, now filled in and level, is what we call the Delta. Some say it was the floor of the sea itself. Now it seems to still be a floor, being smooth from one end to the other, without rise or dip or hill, unless the mysterious scattered monuments of the mound-builders may be called hills. The land does not drain into the river as most riparian lands do, but tilts back from it towards the hills of the south and east. Across this wide flat alluvial stretch – north and south it measures one hundred and ninety-six miles, east and west at the widest point ffty miles- run slowly and circuitously other rivers and creeks, also high-banked with names pleasant to remember – Rattlesnake Bayou, Quiver River, the Bogue Phalia, the Tallahatchie, the Sunflower – pouring their tawny waters finally into the Yazoo, which in turn loses itself just above Vicksburg in the river. With us when you speak of ‘the river,’ though there are many, you mean always the same one, the great river, the shifting unappeasable god of the country, feared and loved, the Mississippi.” Lanterns on the Levee –‘The Delta’- William Alexander Percy

Now several days before June 2019, my Clarksdale friends have not returned – except by boat – to their home, still untouched by floodwaters, gracias a-Dios.  For the river to have been above flood stage for over four months in many areas – that is sobering and spooky news. After all, I am a self-confessed ‘River Rat’ and proud that I grew up a child of nature along the Mississippi River.

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Mississippi River at Memphis 2018

Anyone who has lived along the Mississippi river has witnessed its many moods. How well I recall a summer of drought when stranded towboats and their barges anchored in various bends and deeper waters and waited for rains – and for the river to rise. I also remember the “Flood of 1973” when I witnessed the impressive power of the river well above flood stage. Continue reading