Great Backyard Bird Count 2022

 

A forest of Ceibos – (Ceiba_trichistandra)

(Header image, Black & White Becard, male) 

La Tomatera Cyclists Trails – Portoviejo/Ecuador –  Today is the final day for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, and this past weekend I’ve been in (almost) total immersion in a magical realm – as if stepping back in time and viewing the dry forest through the eyes of the original explorers.   The best part is that this is a cyclists’ paradise, so there are trails for an intrepid birder to navigate while always being on guard for a cyclist to be careening around a curve at any moment.  

Respecting this ultra-quiet area, I try to step way off the trail when the bikers approach.  Usually there is a low ‘roaring’ sound as they race downhill or along the flat stretches, but sometimes there’s a near miss — but their reactions surprise me.  Look at this candid response:

He zoomed past, I exclaimed, “Per-DON!’ and he braked to a stop at the next ‘Y.’

Instead of snarling and grumbling about an unexpected birder in his path, he offered a refreshing respite for both of us and posed before departing.

Jorge (Jurg) Arnet from Poza Honda has accompanied me in the past week, as has Luis Saltos from Chone.   They both brought good luck, as we’ve seen two new species of Cuckoos (for us and for the area) as well as appreciating the beauty and serenity of the area.

Here’s a pictorial of a tiny slice of this refuge: Continue reading

World Wetlands Day – 02/02/2022

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Parque las Vegas/Portoviejo/Manabi Province/Ecuador

Feb. 2, 2022   02/02/2022 – a lovely number!

New Moon.  New Month.  New Chinese Year of the Tiger.

Bravery.  Wisdom.  Strength.

All of these traits are important to moving forward, being stronger, having the courage to believe in yourself – and your own unique destiny.  Trying to stay neutral and centered – being on the offensive so that you’re not in the defensive.

This drab little bird appeared in mid December. Migratory? Juvenile – ? – small yellowish bird. Where are its travel mates? More on this lone bird later…

The year of the Tiger; here’s a small tigress in search of birds

Sometimes we can be brave, wise and strong –  and still be caught off guard. Like a tiger pouncing from a concealed location, our planet continues to express distress.  Maybe it’s not premeditated – our earth’s wrath, but an involuntary reaction to its own pain.   The headlines from Quito illustrate that point:

The month started with disasters that stretched around the world.

With so much misery, and two years with a virus that seems to stay one step ahead of mankind, it’s sometimes hard to share sunny stories – yet without hope for positive, we would all wither.

The Vermillion Flycatcher has returned! Yay! What must it be like to be blessed with colors like this?!

Parque las Vegas celebrates its four year anniversary.  A token phoenix that emerged from 2016’s 7.8 earthquake, the park now offers a solace for healing and reflection.

Today it also gives us an extra bonus for observing World Wetlands Day.  The area along Rio Portoviejo and the little pond give the visitors an easy glimpse into natural wetland habitats – and the birds are thriving!

Male Green Kingfisher

There’s that little bird again! It almost always shows up after 5 and loves what must seem like a jungle of cattails.  It is slowly evolving-changing colors – note the subtle streaks on its chest below:

Thanks to Daniel Arias (eBird/Urban Ornis) for pointing out those streaks!

One or two Striated Herons lurk in the shadows most every day.

Many birders ask me to please let them know if this rare Green Heron ever returns to the park. (Photo from Jan 10/2021)  I continue to watch, but there are plenty of ‘common’ species providing nice eye candy.

A large Saman tree anchors the ‘far’ side of the footbridge. Someone is building a new nest… Can you guess who/what it is?

Two loud raucous Yellow-rumped Caciques will be raising a family – in easy view from the bridge!

They have their own watcher or three:

Yes, we should take a moment to appreciate our wetlands, even little postage-stamped sized ponds can provide easy refuge to many species.

Recently another symbol of hope stepped into the scene while I admired the species from the bridge.  Arturo, a student of ambiente at the nearby university sidled up to me and asked, “Is it bad to feed rice to the birds?

His question led to a rewarding conversation, and he told me that he’d seen me from the family’s upstairs window, which overlooked the park.  Then he described a bird that visits, which we concluded was that stunning yellow and black cacique pictured above.   I think that they plan to put a banana feeder outside their window – a great upgrade from giving rice to the finches and gallinules!   They might even ‘draw’ the nearby Whooping Motmot that lives in the neighborhood, but is not often seen.  This image from Poza Honda inspired him:

What would we do without a connection with nature?  We’d probably destroy the entire planet!  Emotions can be passed along a current of invisible energy that flows from person to person through subtle and sometimes obvious ways.

A greeting like this will always enhance the quality of one’s day.

In honor of World Wetlands Day – and in honor of PortoParque’s compassion for the wildlife that shares this park, I share some photos from my many visits to the park – a salvation for this child of nature.

What stunning eyes you have, Neotropic Cormorant!

Previous lumped under ‘Tropical Gnatcatcher,’ this adorable species now claims its own name, “White-browed Gnatcatcher.”

(The male White-browed Gnatcatcher has a darker crown.) They love th fruits of the ‘Frutilla’ tree.

There’s that yellow bird again!

The Eastern Kingbirds are back – and this one was swooping with the look-alike Blue and White Swallows!


To the joy of many, we watched the wetland areas recover from last year’s makeover, and there is abundant habitat for many species.   The petite Yellow Warbler, a new species for the park, appears each day around 5 in the afternoon and flits between the grass, lower limbs and the cattails.  How did this one lone bird find the park?  Did it get lost from its group?  Are others nearby, just not an extrovert like this one which stays in perpetual motion?

Six weeks after it first appeared, it’s yellow colors are emerging, and the streaks in its breast are more easily seen. Keb’s ‘City Boy’ continues to resonate while my base remains here in the city and close to the museum.  Parque las Vegas provides an easy access to nature and almost total removal from the caustic sounds of the city.  Without the park and its wetlands, this would be a more challenging chapter of my life.

I’ll leave you with a peek along the river, where one lone Sora appeared in January.  With so much cover, it’s hard to locate that VIP visitor from the northern hemisphere.

Across from this shady setting is a little grassy island where the Masked Water Tyrants have raised the newest generation

Oh, but beware of the predators that swim strong currents to reach the occupants of that nest.

Beware! Beware!

Pacific Parrotlets add sweet music and lovely colors – they are happy to have seeds at ground level – and near easy cover – what a photo op for anyone with a camera!

The trees are reclaiming their natural shape – and the birds are loving the new nesting options! Thank you PortoParques!

Groove-billed Anis – another easy photo op.

Pale-legged (Pacific) Hornero – always prowling for worms and insects.

Rains and high water destroyed their nest, but the Masked Water Tyrants relocated to a thick area of protection near the water.

One lone ‘Frijol de Palo’ provides food for many species. Yay – another easy photo op!

The Golden Grosbeak also loves those frijoles!

Wetlands add variety to our landscape – and at times we find poses that make us smile!

Sending you all my love – of course there is a lot to share – hopefully more soon!  I’d best get over to the park and show my appreciation for World Wetlands Day!

¡ Feliz AVE Nuevo!

(Detail/Burrowing Owl/watercolor/gouache by L. Brunetti) The Burrowing Owl design graces a Defensor de la Naturaleza tshirt shared with friends this past week. Several days after I began work on the design, the ABA named the Burrowing Owl as the 2022 Bird of the Year.  The bird continues to pop up as if to say, ‘Yeah, I know I’m special!’

Dec. 27/2021/’San Antonio’ Ecuador – Peter Manzaba and Luis Andrade – ready to compile CBC (Christmas Bird Count) data for the Humedal La Segua, (Chone, Manabi, Ecuador) Circle ID: 60074

Burrowing Owl – Parque las Vegas – Dec 2021

Manabi Province/Ecuador –   December 2021 was filled with birding moments.  From visitors to the exposition to art classes to the first Christmas Bird Count (Dec 25, 26, 27) for the Chone/Segua area, to random bird moments in various locations, there’s a lot to share.  You’ll understand why I’ve been so quiet…

Sr. Ludovico, may we have some quiet music to start this new year?

Parque las Vegas hosts the feathered residents as well as migratory species.

Tropical Kingbird, Saffron Finches, Blue-gray Tanagers

The rare migrant to this side of the country returned – one of about a dozen Eastern Kingbirds. Welcome back, Rey!

Continue reading

Balance – Good News & Trivia from Ecuador

Because the last post was heavy in emotional content, this one provides a balance.

Really good news arrived this week from Ecuador where a Nature’s Rights case in Los Cedros Reserve was won in favor of NATURE!   Hoorah for this huge step – and yay for the integrity of the court system!

Also reported on Dec 1: Ecuador’s Constitutional Court enforced Rights of Nature to Safeguard Los Cedros Protected Forest via GARN.org

Regarding the last post, Balsa is like a Weed, I continue processing this odd dilemma.  I’ve been thinking about all of those pastures that many landowners own, and if they planted balsas on pastures and left intact forest alone, it would be a win-win option, as long as they continued planting to allow for future harvests.  This could turn into a jackpot of a prize if landowners practiced poetic plantings and incorporated other long-lived species that are important for a healthy habitat.

So how could one artist find a way to ‘infect’ landowners with this concept?  I chuckle – probably show up with a truckload of trees and a shovel, ask permission to plant and start working!    Hmmm. Continue reading

“…But Balsa is like a weed…”

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Healthy young balsa soaring to the skies.

Balsa’s fluffy ‘kapok’

Male becard with Balsa fluff for nest.

Female becard with Balsa fluff for nest.

Pale-legged Hornero (Pacific) nest in balsa tree.

How valuable is the balsa tree to nature?  Should I allow the continued felling of these trees (for the wind-turbine industry) to bother me?  Many people shrug and say, “Balsa is like a weed, it grows back fast.”

Yes, but —

Today I will smile and delegate the defense of balsas to National Geographic:

I will always treasure the first time I saw a kinkajou raiding a balsa of its nectar – a memory that will last ‘a lifetime.’

This kinkajou was raiding a Jackfruit tree at Poza Honda during October Big Weekend 2021.

What is the threshold?  How much is too much before the flora and fauna struggle to survive?

National Geographic’s story about the Balsa research in Panama can be found here:  Open all Night.

Sometimes photos become a much-needed spokesperson for the balsas.

Squirrel Cuckoo in Balsa

Golden Olive Woodpecker in Balsa

Buff-throated Saltator in Balsa

Squirrel Cuckoo in Balsa

Gray-lined Hawk in Balsa

Black Vultures, Cissus Vine and Balsa

Bananaquit in Balsa

“Lisa’s Friend the Balsa”  -I always wondered, “What made that hole?

“Lisa’s Friendship Tree, the Balsa” with Cissus (Grape family) vine.

“Lisa’s Friendship Tree, the Balsa,” felled then discarded.

“Lisa’s Friendship Tree, the Balsa”

The tree became the poster child for the show in 2019, and the present exposition (Step into my World) at Museo Portoviejo.

“The Muir Tree” and the balsa fragments.

“The Friendship Tree of Life” (Acrylic)

The Groove-billed Anis (below) inspected the felled balsas in the not-so-protected protected forest of Poza Honda.

Poza Honda Ecuador

Comrades of the Friendship Tree of Life.

Do trees bleed?  This one did.

How healthy is ‘Green Energy’ if it desecrates a vanishing ecosystem?

How healthy is all of that smoke?

Piece by piece, more fragmentation, like whittling away patches of skin.

My friend the balsa.

Poza Honda Ecuador

Internet search:  “How many balsa trees are used to make one wind turbine?”

I did not expect to get instant answers.

A few minutes before that search began, an article mentioned Green Energy, which raised my hackles when I read, “…Earth’s electricity needs could be met 11 times over if we filled our oceans with wind turbines…”

“Fill our oceans with wind turbines?”                                                                  At the cost of deforesting Ecuador and other areas of the Neotropics?

(Lisa’s eyes have never been so wide!)

Between Tosagua and Bahia de Caraquez/Ecuador

My search for data about wind turbine construction sailed me straight to recently published articles about this ‘green energy’ affecting Ecuador.

A new site to me – ‘Open Democracy’ – asked in a story published today, “What has the destruction of balsa trees in the Amazon rainforest got to do with the wind power industry in Europe?

Sadly, more than you think.

That story is here:  A green paradox: Deforesting the Amazon for wind energy in the Global North

I sometimes refer to an expanding group of concerned people as the ‘Davids’ who are building strength against the Goliaths of the planet.

Giovanni Ruiz doesn’t wait for an event, he picks up trash when he sees it.

Another recent story in Spanish from el Pais:

https://elpais.com/planeta-futuro/2021-11-24/los-molinos-de-viento-deforestan-el-amazonas.html?ssm=TW_CC

And one more story of interest from January 2021 breaks down the details.  Wind-watch.org shares the story from the Economist.  A worrying windfall – The wind-power boom set off a scramble for balsa wood in Ecuador 

The open Democracy video, is well worth the time to learn more about the dilemma:

As the midnight hour approaches, I hold you all in my heart.  Thank you for caring and for your empathy.  The earth thanks you.  The balsas thank you. The kinkajous thank you as well.

Lets all be quiet now so that the Kinkajous can dine in peace!

Goodnight, Kinkajou!  Goodnight, World.

Counting Blessings

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Portoviejo Ecuador

Domenica & Amelia – Traitor

(Olivia Rodrigo Cover)

3,000+ views in 20 hours! Not bad for a cold start from the middle of the world!

Meet my friend Shadia’s beautiful and multi-talented niece (Amelia) and her friend Domenica.   Pass the link and help their YouTube view counter soar to the stars! (It’s already soaring without anyone’s help – just their God-given talents and beautiful energies!)

Domenica & Amelia
Voz: Ameilia Mendoza Safady
Guitarra: Domenica Zapata Duenas
Disenadora de Vestuario: Rima Safady Darwiche

Her mother (Rima, who is also a culinary artist and describes herslf as an ovarian cancer warrior) has designed some amazing evening wear, so her name on the video credits as dress designer was no surprise to me.  Peek at her instagram posts: rimasafadyatelier  https://www.instagram.com/rimasafadyatelier/

The gown on the far right is Rima’s design.

Ok – Back to the present!   Immersion in nature is a good choice for these extended Covid times.   There seems to be an acceleration of ‘back to normal’ lifestyles – which concerns me.   We, as a species, are weary of being proactive against the invisible enemy.  We yearn to attend events, sing in collective harmony, bask in traditions that are comforting and familiar.   Most of us ponder the events of the past year and hope to emerge from this virus-tainted chapter of life. Do we resume our previous patterns and behavior after this extended pause?  Have we grown wiser, more sensitive?

While many celebrate Thanksgiving, others reflect on the loss of loved ones.  Some are battling their own health challenges.   A good friend and his family are presently ‘sweating out’ Covid infections even though they were vaccinated.  They feel that the vaccinations will buffer them from what could be a worst-case scenario, but I will be relieved when they are all well again.  The virus continues to play the role of a Trojan Horse, and we should all remember to remain cautious.

…………………

“Step into My World” – Museo Portoviejo –  Ecuador

October 2021 – April 2022

Some visitors tested the app on the banner that anchors the first flight of stairs at the museo.

The unexpected egret tracks make people smile.

Sometimes our attempts fail for spacing the visitors.

After activating the Artivive app, these visitors were asked to aim their phones at Carlos Wellington’s shirt … and augmented reality leaped into their world.

“Como John James Audubon *, estoy retratando mi amado mundo natural, uno que espero capturar y compartir con otros antes de que los humanos hayan destruido este frágil ecosistema.

Like John James Audubon*, I am painting my beloved natural world, one that I hope to capture and share with others before humans have destroyed this fragile ecosystem.”  – Lisa Brunetti

Between visitors at the museum, I add watercolor to the prints of some of the drawings. (Common Tody Flycatcher)

The whimsical iguana remains a favorite. The people stare in wonder as the image changes to an iguana holding that same pose, then bobbing its head in classic iguana style.

The balsa tree trunk on the left anchors the final painting before the show weans to Giovanni’s section.  The portrait captures the tree’s essence when it seemed to exist solely for my personal viewing pleasure. Many people requests poses here.

Every so often a few people from the museum duck into the gallery for a quiet meeting. Sights like this warm my heart and also make me thankful.

A group of displaced people from Venezuela hope to one day return to their homeland. Their histories remind me to be grateful during this Thanksgiving holiday.

The study of a monkey mask (from Panama) changes into a video of Howler Monkeys in their natural setting. This one is also popular.

It is especially touching when someone reads my words out loud:

“… Ya no es ‘suficiente’ admirar esta porción de cielo en la tierra. Hoy el área permanece desprovista de los sonidos de la invasión humana. Los sonidos de las motosierras regresarán; el aroma de los incendios anunciará otra área despejada con éxito, “Desmalezado” de la vegetación original, el paisaje ilustra el silencioso mensaje por parte del hombre: “Esto es mío”, con poco respeto hacia lo que una vez floreció aquí.
Nuestro futuro depende de reconocer que las viejas formas no siempre son las mejores, y que es hora de encontrar nuevos modos de ser dignos guardianes de este planeta “.

“…It is no longer ‘enough’ to admire this slice of heaven on earth. Today the area remains void of the sounds of human encroachment. The sounds of chain saws will return; the aroma of fires will announce another area successfully cleared. Wiped clean of the original vegetation, the landscape illustrates man’s silent message: “This is mine ” – with little respect to what once thrived here.

Our future depends on acknowledging that the old ways are not always the best, and it’s time to find new ways to be worthy guardians of this planet.”  Lisa Brunetti

Nov 20, 2021

A new series incubates: Vanishing Manabi

Here in my daily museum routine, most everyone observes the importance of masks.  There is often a lapse in good judgment, however,  for the sake of a group photo.  I struggle with this, as it seems to be for vanity’s sake, but I also note that most of my friends who have lost loved ones to Covid are the ones who keep their masks in the proper place.

Another recent event about violence against women.

An event in the nearby Parque las Vegas for Womens and Children’s rights.

As we finish this year and prepare for a new one, please continue to be smart and proactive.  This virus wants to survive and is playing hardball.  We wouldn’t run a marathon and then stop when the finish line is in sight;  we can’t afford to have made it this far, only to let down our guard.   As a good friend and fishing guide once said to me when we were tarpon fishing, “Lisa; you rest, and the fish rests.”

My niece Karen – Jumping Tarpon – Rio Colorado Lodge Costa Rica  (Her brother Don and his wife Dana are in the other boat.)  Great memories!

Stay proactive everyone, and may you all stay well.

Love, Lisa

Yellow-tailed Oriole – hand-colored print by Lisa Brunetti.

Did You Know?

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Portoviejo /Manabi/Ecuador –

Another artist spending time near The Friendship Tree of Life. (Acrylic)

The show, Step into My World, is going well.  We discussed having a basket for people to discard their problems before they stepped into the world of art, photography and Augmented Reality.  I never dreamed that visitors would take it so seriously.   Some paused and touched their heads, closed their eyes and then placed their invisible burdens into the basket.   Others paused at the guest book and scribbled -sometimes for five or more minutes – on sheets of paper, folded those sheets and placed them in the basket.   What trust!  Each day I take the folded papers home and – as promised – dispose those private worries.

My staple gun ran out of staples, and I took the empty package to the store to be sure I bought the right replacement.

What a surprise to find that the new ones did not fit the staple gun!  The old package is to the right; the new one on the left.   Do you know the reason?

I had no idea that ‘Heavy Duty’ staples were different from Light-duty ones.   Alas, so far here in Portoviejo I have not been able to find light duty ones.  It’s almost easier to buy a new staple gun!

I think that every single person in an hour’s radius of Portoviejo knows the man in the photo. Antonio Pico, who lives near Ayacucho, stopped in to view the show.

Sometimes one person arrives, other times a cluster of  three or four.   An archaeologist here – an artist there – a friend to stop in and ask, ‘How’s it going?’

Since I would be at the museo most every day, I volunteered to be their first volunteer, after a thought-provoking visit with Alexandra Cevallos and her friends who drove over from Cruzita.   “Is there a ‘Friends of the Museum’ group here?” they asked.

Hmmm.  With budget cuts, the museum could use all the friends it can get!    The directors seemed relieved that I would be upstairs to receive any visitors, which allows them to stay focused on their daily tasks.  They set up a corner desk at the entrance to the show, and when no one is visiting, I work on art.  Today, however I’m working on this post!

Time for a brief ‘serious’ note.  This interactive map should show a timelapse view of tree loss for the past ten years.   It’s set for Ecuador, but it can easily expand to cover the entire world – or maybe it already does that when someone opens the link.  It’s sobering:   GlobalForestWatch.

Gathering nesting material (Andean Coot/Slate-colored Coot)

In July and August I made many half-hour drives to observe a pair of Slate-colored (Andean) Coots raising a family near Portoviejo.  Their presence is abnormal, and with three half-grown young ones, they nested again in a small cattail lined pond.

July 9, 2021

Since little is known about their behavior on the western side of the country (they normally live in the Andes) I visited the site often and parked – with the owner’s permission’- on a small empty lot that overlooked the nesting site.

The adults were extremely brava while sharing the nest building tasks, and were equally brava while sharing incubation sessions.   Their behavior amused me, and I soon learned by their behavior when they were about to chase  any potential threat to their young ones!

This slideshow captures a lot of that behavior: Continue reading

Inauguración Exposición: Entra a mi mundo

 

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Big feet seem to be everywhere!

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“What we’re doing hasn’t worked; we have to find new ways to move forward.  Nature is worth the effort.”  Lisa Brunetti

…Step into My World…   28/October/2021 – April 2022

Portoviejo-Manabi Province – Ecuador Inauguración Exposición:

Entra a mi mundo – Museo Portoviejo y Archivo Histórico

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The tree trunk goes HERE:

This tree was my friend; it offered shade and visual gifts to me. It offered refuge to many species. It was felled to join other comrades to be sent across the Pacific – destroying Ecuador’s rapidly vanishing forests – to be used in the wind turbine industry. This was a sobering realization for me.

Bamboo seems to be one of few choices that has a lighter impact, but some landowners whack back every cane in order to harvest the mature ones.   Can our species remember to spare the habitat for those neighbors that thrive in the wild?

Enter the museo and follow the yellow-brick yellow-track trail….

In the gallery space adjacent to the auditorium, Daniel Arias displayed a collection of bird photographs.  Visitors were able to view the images and visit with Daniel before and after the inauguration. 

Photo by Museo Portoviejo/ shared by Carlos Wellington

The inauguration began with a classical ballet performance by Daniel’s brother, Elías Arias- true grace and beauty and strength – poetry for the eyes.

(Starting around minute 19.)

“Danza de un Cisne Herido en sus últimos momentos de agonía”  – 
Coreografía: Elías Arias sobre la original de Ricardo Cue
Música: El Lago de los Cisnes        Autor: Camille Saint Saëns

The Dance of the Dying Swan – performed by Elias several weeks ago at Casa de la Cultura.  (Images from the 28th were not too clear.)

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At 1 hour 33 in the video: Martha Terán

“El ave que se atreve a caer, es el ave que aprender a volar”

Alzando el vuelo, intervención performatica de Martha Terán. Música : Antara, instrumentos autóctonos. Edición : Diego Camacho. 

Vestuario : Layne Uquillas.

Chal: Pintado por Lisa Brunetti.

 

And then in groups of twenty and following the trail of yellow tracks,  the visitors moved one floor higher.

After reaching that floor, I took very few photos.   The museo will be closed from now until Thursday for holiday, and when it reopens, I will photograph the entrance where these big feet preside:

I cannot close without sharing a few test samples!  I invite you to step into my world:    1.  Using either Google Play or Apple, download the Artivive app.  

  2.  After the app downloads, aim your phone at this iguana, which wishes it lived the high limbs of a real forest:

“I wish I were a horse… or maybe a bird.. but I would be happy to live in a big tree in the forest…”  (All credit goes to Giovanni Ruiz, who showed me this technology and helped implement it into my work.)

Or maybe the little masked cartoon bird wishes to be a bird in the wild:

What do  you think this mask critter would like to be?

Monkey Mask – acrylic

Thanks for visiting, and I hope that you enjoyed the peek behind the scenes!  Happy Halloween! Lisa

Photo by Museo Portoviejo, shared by Carlos Wellington.  (Can you spot two creatives who worked through the night?!)

A special thanks goes to Andres, Dady y Gigi for their tireless help and cheerful spirits.  

and a finale of a sobering and thought-provoking video, shared today by Peter Sinclair/ClimateCrocks

Can you hear me Major Tom?

(Portoviejo Ecuador)

My dear WordPress Family,

You must feel that I am as far above the world  as Major Tom.

(His Vincent cover is fantastic)

While the computer and wifi are catching the signal between Jupiter and Mars, I lassoed my scattered thoughts, stories and photographs to bounce off the back side of Mercury – and hopefully their trajectory will reach Earth.  Earth looks pretty scary from up here, and I am told that many species are asking what have the humans done to their paradise.

A surprise Friday protest near the museum about three weeks ago. (Portoviejo Ecuador)

I told my friend Giovanni that these young activists (in the above image) need mentors.  Anger reaches no one in positive ways. He replied and said, ‘I know a lot of those people.’

It makes people react in defensive mode.

This group might be equally willing to pick up trash along the rio while waving those same posters.   A grounded and sensitive leader can help them find an effective voice.

There is hope; a growing number of amazing people are crossing paths, moving forward in quiet ways in behalf of the planet.

There seems to be an uptick of positive young leaders – quietly making a difference.   I witnessed many people – young and old – who burn with the desire to learn and do more.

There have been World Environment and Global Big Day events. The municipality has showered these quiet activists with good publicity and opportunities for events.

One museum show ends.. and a brief one-day show the next week.

Giovanni Ruiz gave scholarships to 200 participants for a weekly climate class. He had just arrived from his ‘Ambiente’ job in Mindo (5-plus hours away) and set up just in time to start the class. Whew!

Giovanni peering skyward at a ceibo tree at ‘Jaboncillo’ archaeological site near Portoviejo.

‘The Tree of Life’ Arbol de la Vida/Esperanza – Various people in the park and municipality departments were shocked that my bird list for Parque las Vegas was around 90 species, and that I had photographed over 40 species of birds in this one forlorn Frutilla tree.

July 5, 2021 – 21 birds dropped in while I worked on the drawing.

Members of the municipality were rapt with interest about the birds. Daniel Arias, a bird guide/eBird moderator, specializes in Urban Birding.

Another meeting later that week. Alexandra Cevallos Castro (far right with mike)  deserves much credit for her networking – calling attention and arranging meetings between interested parties.  The wetland area of the park has reclaimed a healthier setting for the local and migratory birds.  I hope that the Soras return, and two weeks ago the Eastern Kingbirds were spotted near the pond.

Continue reading

Remembering Mary

” Arból de la esperanza, mantente firme “ – “Tree of hope, stand firm” -Frida Kahlo

Ecuador – Less than a month ago a friend lost his best friend to Covid, and I said to him, “There’s one more star in the heavens smiling down on us.” 

He found comfort in that concept.   This past week he presented those same words back to me, as I adjusted to the news of the death of my friend Mary McDonald.

Dogpaddling through a lovely collage of memories, I thought that our connection with art was the strongest link, and the images below show the unconditional love that flowed between us.

It takes courage to share works of art, especially when they are in progress, and Mary always invited me into her realm, which was one that I cherished.

Like a duckling in water, Ms. Mary made those pigments sing!

I once introduced Mary to the curator at the inauguration of a museum show. “Mary is an artist,” I stated. She later wrote me to say that my comment had startled her, and well, yes – yes indeed she was an artist! Until that moment, my multi-talented friend had not considered herself a real artist.   She stated, “Your positive comments to Alexandra has re-lit the flame in my spirit to pick up a brush again. For that especially, I thank you. ( my eyes are leaking)”

And my eyes are leaking now as I type.  Dear Mary  is surely smiling and watching over my shoulder.

The last painting I had seen of hers was one that burned in my memory – she wrestled the trauma of the 7.8 earthquake into an powerful work of art. I almost cried when she timidly showed it to me.

Terremoto -Renacimiento by Mary McDonald – Acrylic on wood, 58 cm x 58 cm

After the museum visit, she later told me that she thought, ‘Artist? Me?’ and then exclaimed to herself, ‘Yes! I AM an artist.’

“The strongest people find the courage and caring to help others, even if they are going through their own storm.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Even after trauma from the earthquake, John and Mary were forever doting on others. This photo was taken when they hosted a ‘thank you’ event at their home – and fed a crowd large enough to fill a small stadium!

 

On Tuesday evening, May 25, Mary realized that she was about to die and called for her husband John. He said that she did not panic but stated that she was dying and could not breathe. They had both agreed that a hospital was not where either wanted to take their final breath, and John held her while singing their favorite hymns until she weaned from one set of loving hands into the next.

When I told my friend, who had lost his dear friend the week before, he artfully presented my words of comfort back to me:  “…our friends are turning into stars in the sky…”

On beautiful Van Gogh nights, we can look up and find a new star smiling down at her loved ones.