“Like to do your work as much as a dog likes to gnaw a bone and go at it with equal interest and exclusion of everything else.” – Robert Henri, The Artist’s Spirit
(Poza Honda/Manabi Province/Ecuador) Reaching a stopping point, I washed the pigment from the brush in hand and decided to stop for the night. Emerging from a session of painting is a lot like awakening from a deep sleep. I am foggy, though this particular night I remembered the sound of rain – at times intense – but my attention to the painting process had been greater.
“I wonder what time it is?” I pondered as I eyed my painting and then critiqued the one I’d worked on earlier in the night. “— 10:00 PM? — Midnight?” The night before I stopped painting at one minute before midnight. ” — Could it be as late as 1:00 or even 2:00?-“
Usually my guesses are pretty close, but this night I had lost all concepts of time. I stepped toward the kitchen and squinted at the clock.
I chuckled and pondered staying awake for another hour until the roosters announced the start of the day; don’t worry – the need for sleep trumped the soon-awakening day.
(I slept until almost noon!)
As I write, the cicadas join the end-of-day rhythms, which include the melancholy sobs of the Common Potoo. The Becards, now ferrying a supply of insects to the nearby nest, share their joys via their own happy melodies. With a strong and clear catlike ‘Wee-ew,’ an Ecuadorian Thrush punctuates the serenade. A far-away truck throttles down one of the many switchbacks on the gravel road that somewhat circles the reservoir. The precious Peruvian Pygmy Own adds its own sweetness to the live-stream audio; even when not in sight, its message states, “Don’t forget about us!” In another hour, the evening will be almost silent, and that silence will most likely seduce me back to the drawing table, where I will begin a new painting.
Today I finished a small-but-complicated ‘Tres Toucanes’ amidst the conflicting and distracting sounds of a normal day, Usually the benign sounds don’t bother me unless I’m trying to nail the clarity of an eye or add meticulous detail in an important area. Some days the calls of the Ecuadorian and/or Gartered Trogons taunt me as if to say, ‘We’re sitting right outside your window! Look up! See if you can find us!’ – and if I do look up, and if I DO see them, then yes, I grab my camera and dart to the window – or outside, and abandon my work!
Many birds practice yoga stances, but the trogons also perform ultra-slow motion calisthenics. Sometimes a Lineated Woodpecker jack-hammers a strong-enough beat to remind me that I’m missing an opportunity to get better photos of its feet. (A stalled painting awaits that reference material!)
Therefore, working into the wee hours of the night has always worked best for me.
February’s intense rains, normal for this time of the year, nudged the somewhat-dormant landscape into explosive growth. Between rains I’ve trekked to check on the Becard nests and meandered up (down?) the road to say “Hi” to the Gray Hawk. Several times I’ve been rewarded with baptisms of out-of-nowhere rain, which sent me scampering home and drenched – yet in this climate, never chilled! The rains of March have not been as intense, though we continue to receive a balance of sunshine and life-giving rain.
No longer can one easily spot the feathered citizens of the area, and I’m grateful when my neighbors accompany me on nest-inspection treks. Melissa and Daniela dropped by this week and happily agreed to walk with me. They spotted an elusive black and blue bird, which allowed only brief ops to capture its image. So far it remains a mystery bird. On the walk back to the house, we paused in a shaded area where dense vegetation shrouds both sides of the road. I mentioned that it’s no longer easy to spot the White-necked Puffbird, which can almost always be spotted in that section of the road.
Finding only a mass of various shades of green, I projected my voice and addressed that patch of dense vegetation: “Well, Goodbye! We know you’re out there somewhere, but we can’t see you – but you definitely see us! See you next time?” I laughed, knowing that Melissa and Daniela would not understand, but would grasp the gist of what I said. I explained that the Puffbirds sit motionless and slowly turn their heads while watching for insects. They fly, catch an insect, then land at the same spot and resume their watch.
Turning to continue the last leg of our walk, I looked up to see the puffbird’s silhouette on a new perch, one just as easy to spot as the previous sites!
After a few minutes of admiring and photographing the bird, then inspecting its unique beauty via the review option, we paused for a few fun photos, then returned home. We said, “Goodbye” to Daniela, who walked the final stretch to her home. Sweet Melissa paused at the roadside and watched until Daniela approached that final curve, then turned and waved. Half a minute more, and she would be home sweet home.
Balance plays an important role in the rhythms of a day; the casual outings in nature and interaction with sweet neighbors balances well with the intense focus of painting. Stopping for food and drink offers rewards (!) as do good books.
Balancing a just-important quota of sleep plays a vital role, and I am able to sleep until noon if needed, and do that guilt free! My newest works patiently await my awakening eyes, and usually they confirm that the late-night sessions were worth the effort.
What do you think?
(This was written offline, and now through the magic of hamsters at work running the cyber electricity, it reaches your world! Thanks, everyone, for your continued support!)