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45. – “The painter should be solitary, and take note of what he sees and
reason with himself, making a choice of the more excellent details of
the character of any object he sees; he should be like unto the mirror,
which takes the colours of the objects it reflects. And this proceeding will seem to him to be a second nature.” – Leonardi da Vinci  Thoughts on Art and Life – Translator/Maurice Baring via Gutenberg.org

Manabi Province- Ecuador – The past few weeks have been physically demanding as I’ve worked on renewing my passport and getting it ‘in hand’ (10 more years – yes!) and also finished the move from Casa Loca.   Since the Dengue/chikungunya illness, my body needs more attentive time for recovering from these trips – as well as unpacking and resuming projects.  Of course it could also be that I am not as young as I once was, and it’s part of the cycle of growing older!

My new home offers an amazing immersion in nature – with wrap-around windows with tree-top views like this:

Yellow-rumped Cacique

Scarlet-rumped Cacique

Look who raids the feeder!

First to feed at dawn and the last to feed at dusk… Whooping Motmot

The Slaty Becards are listed as Endangered, but they are the little starlets at Casa Poza Honda. (female)

Male Slaty Becard – “Howdy!”

Great Antshrike

Staining frames, painting ‘mats’ – there are always tasks to fill each day.

There are always tasks at hand, so every day or so I take a timeout and walk the very-short distance to a little roadside pond.  Sitting there, I quickly merge with nature and leave all thoughts behind… I do not think of the past or of tasks in the future.  The surroundings bestow me with an acute attention to what’s in front of me – and behind me – and overhead!

Rufous-headed Chachalaca

The Chachalacas often lure me away from the house with their raucous calls that sometimes last for hours!   There at the pond I often illustrate Leonardo’s approach (see above quote) for observing nature.  I sit on one of two rocks and observe the subtle changes from day to day.    Not only is my body recharging its batteries, but I am also engaging in a task that Leonardo describes as essential to the seriousness of an artist’s work.  It’s also essential to the health of my soul!

What WAS that flash of red – and blue – and yellow?

The lovely Ecuadorian Trogon, attired in bold colors as well as a fashionable circle of red eyeliner!

Do you see two birds?

The Ecuadorian Trogon and the Whooping Motmot provide eye-candy rewards for my quiet disconnect at the pond.  They are two of a revolving cast of unique birds that visit this pond.

Detail of Motmot’s tail feathers – Photo taken from a more-convenient ‘perch’ from the house….

One can work from photos and capture a strong likeness to the birds, but when one studies the birds in their natural surroundings, it’s easier to capture the true essence.  This is true for any slice of nature… only through hours of observation will one grasp the nuances of each subject.

There are nuggets of discovery everywhere, even underfoot.

Recently, through the gift of the online Gutenberg.org site, I downloaded and enjoyed reading Leonardo da Vinci’s “Thoughts on Art and Life” — it was as if I had been channeling his advice during my visits to the nearby pond!   Here are more of Leonardo’s words paired with images from the little ‘healing pond’ at Casa Poza Honda.

46. -“… In order that the favourable disposition of the mind may not be injured by that of the body, the painter or the draughtsman should be solitary, and especially when he is occupied with those speculations and thoughts which continually rise up before the eye, and afford materials to be treasured by the memory”.

Amazilia Hummingbird with its red beak totally immersed in this wild heliconia…

What bird is that?! New for me!

Closer inspection shows it’s a ‘Buff-rumped Warbler.”

There are times when friends share my immersions in nature, but the experience is altered.   We share our joy of seeing new birds, or discuss identification references, and it’s more of a social outing.  Social outings are important; one needs a balance, and Leonardo addresses that as well!

Find the Laughing falcon

Melissa and I watched a Boat-billed Flycatcher attempt to scare away the Laughing Falcon. Its attempts failed!

Only when alone as I able to merge totally with nature and then allow those sensory experiences to burn into what seems a cellular memory.

Sounds like a party’s going on in that Cecropria Tree!

Squint and look closer… better yet, use the camera…

Orange-fronted Barbets directly overhead!

“If thou art alone, thou wilt belong to thyself only: if thou hast but one companion, thou wilt only half belong to thyself, and ever less in proportion to the indiscretion of his conduct; and if thou hast many companions, thou wilt encounter {102} the same disadvantage. And if thou shouldst say: “I will follow my own inclination, I will withdraw into seclusion in order the better to study the forms of natural objects”–I say thou wilt with difficulty be able to do this, because thou wilt not be able to refrain from constantly listening to their chatter; and, not being able to serve two masters, thou wilt play the part of a companion ill, and still worse will be the evil effect on thy studies in art. And if thou sayest: “I will withdraw myself, so that their words cannot reach and disturb me”–I, with regard to this, say thou wilt be regarded as a madman; but seest thou not that by so doing thou wilt be alone also?”

The above musings by Leonardo made me laugh, as they reminded me of Hugh’s post – which prompted me to write Are Artists and Poets Crazy?  

I especially appreciated when Leonadro mentioned ‘not being able to serve two masters.’  It is a dilemma that artistic people encounter, but often one that the general ‘society’ does not understand.  It is sometimes hard to grasp that an artist in serious ‘study’ does not juggle the interactions with society very well.

47. -“… The mind of the painter must be like unto a mirror, which ever takes the colour of the object it reflects, and contains as many images as there are objects before it. Therefore realize, O painter, that thou canst not succeed unless thou art the universal master of imitating by thy art every variety of nature’s forms, and this thou canst not do save by perceiving them and retaining them in thy mind; wherefore when thou walkest in the country let thy mind play on various objects, observe now this thing and now that thing, making a store of various objects selected and chosen from those of lesser value. And thou shalt not do as some painters, who, when weary of plying {103} their fancy, dismiss their work from their mind and take exercise in walking for relaxation, but retain fatigue in the mind, which, though they see various objects, does not apprehend them, but often when they meet friends and relations and are saluted by them, they are no more conscious of them than if they had met empty air.”

Ah, the empty-air personality!  Anyone who has emerged from an intense ‘right-brain session’ will chuckle at Leonardo’s final statement above…. Let’s close with a walk along the road, but shhhhhh, no talking please!

White-necked Puffbird —  ‘Pardon me, but I seem to have misplaced a feather…’