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Our Divided Country

Inauguration Day, January 2021, brings our divided country into sharp focus. This is my response to the almost 50/50 divide in our political arena. The hope is that the apples can at least acknowledge that the pears have a world view that they think is sensible and vice versa. Compromise is a necessity!

The seasons roll by and the decades roll by and celestial events occur. Our small affairs seem insignificant in the unfolding of geological time.

Here is one moment in time caught in a painting of the boy Elias, Poppa Doyle, and the dog, Trouble. Each Spring we see the alpine Lupine bloom. Then the summer meadows turn green, followed by the golden Aspens shedding their leaves as the first Winter snows arrive. Here I celebrate the seasons and the ongoing generations of my family.

Gingko and Buckwheat by Mary P Williams

The Ginkgo trees are doing their Autumn dance and are flaming yellow. The Buckwheat plants on the eastern side of the Sierra are producing tiny seeds to feed the birds and mice. It is a splendid season and reflective time for a look back at this year of upsets.  There was a pandemic, roaring fires, hurricanes and tornadoes and sorrow for 215,000 deaths in the U.S. … but the planet rolls on thru space. This painting celebrates the ongoing seasons. Soon it will be a New Year and the Ginkgo will grow new leaves and the Buckeye will scatter new seeds to be eaten. 

Into The Void

Greetings dear friends … if you wondered about my recent silence … here is the reason for my silence. … I have been hard at work on this oil painting. Feeling unable to express, in words, my sorrow about the wretched physical and political state of my country, America … I have resorted to attempting to convey those feelings in a painting.

Into The Void

Into The Void. COVID-19. 150,00 souls go to the stars by 7/29/20 Mary P Williams 4′ x 5′ oil on canvas

Since we are all composed of stardust I will modify the Longfellow poem to say :
“Stardust thou art to stardust returneth…”

The Covid-19 pandemic rages on here in the U.S. and around the world … may you all stay safe and help your family and neighbors endure whatever occurs.
As ever, Mary & D.L.

The old-fashioned Hollyhock came from Asia and Europe. When I was a child, 75 years ago, they were plentiful. I imagine that the pioneer women brought a few precious seeds with them to remind them of their countries of birth. They are extra hardy and love hot weather requiring little care: water them and they will thrive. In a little town by the Salton Sea, in California, I drove by a breathtaking display of hollyhocks in full bloom.

Hollyhocks Against the Fence

Hollyhocks Against the Fence

Stopping, I was thrilled to meet the person watering them. Her name was Lucy and we chatted after she told me to take all the pictures I desired. She handed me a cut stalk of brilliant red and said, ‘Would you like to see my paintings of the flowers?” In we went to her living room, where she had these two paintings.

 

“I only paint roses and hollyhocks. They are my favorites.” Lucy said. I said that the flowers she gave me were inspiring me to paint hollyhocks during this shelter-in-place isolation. She nodded and said that she still had to go to work regardless since she had to support herself.

As we parted Lucy invited me to come back anytime if I needed fresh hollyhocks for my watercolor painting.

So I painted those flowers and returned to give the painting to Lucy.

Lucy and My Painting

Lucy and My Painting

Here are the flowers, Lucy, and the painting.

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks

Still trying to get it right! These colors are hard to match.

Creative TV

Bored? Tired of the TV with all the Corona virus news?

Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach TV Time

Just pick up a few old TV’s and paint your own news … This was seen at Bombay Beach on the shore of the Salton Sea (which is 227 feet below sea level).
This is the creative solution to having to shelter-in-place here in California.

Mangrove Warbler

The rumors spread throughout our community of birding enthusiasts: “There is a new sub-species of Warbler and he can be seen near South Padre Island if you have a boat to take you out to the remote area where he lives. He has a chestnut colored head and some call him the Mangrove Warbler.”

Scarlet and Pat Boating

Scarlet and Pat Boating

Pat’s friend, Scarlett, has a boat and is willing to take us to the willow bushes lining this arm of Laguna Madre Bay. Early morning is called for, and we drive to the boat dock and motor out in the crisp morning. Idling along we search and search … no luck … the tide changes … harder to get close to the banks of willow … and after a few hours we accept that the search is in vain.

Willows and Heron

Willows and Heron

Pat and Scarlett agree that not many people have seen him. Is he even still here?  Home we go slightly disappointed … it was a long shot … and the dolphins frolicking in the water entertained us. Back at the dock, we are offered fish by a young boy who makes his living fishing from the docks.

Boy on the Dock

Boy on the Dock

Here is a cheery little cookie who tells us, “As soon as school is out I run down here and catch fish. I have to have them at the market by 5:00 in order to sell them.” He is as cute as can be and we wish him good luck.

A couple weeks later Pat and Scarlett go out to the willow bank and take this photo

Mangrove Warbler

Mangrove Warbler

… he was there … just not when we were … C’est la vie!.

Michael Emenaker

Michael Emenaker

Here is the merry face of Michael Emenaker … one of the volunteer caretakers of the birding site in Salineno. This site is on the bank of the Rio Grande river with Mexico on the other side. It is an ideal place to see the “specialty” birds of this humid, tropical region.  Michael comes down from Colorado to fill bird feeders, monitor people, and insure the health and good will of humans and birds, alike.

Michael Filling Feeders

Michael Filling Feeders

Let us all be thankful that he has assumed the mantle of previous caretakers so that we can enjoy the Green Jay, all the Orioles, the Kiskadee and Roadrunner etc, etc. Every day he spreads peanut-butter/corn meal glop on the tree trunks and awaits the influx of many hungry birds.

One of the most spectacular birds is the Golden-fronted Woodpecker who is seen only in Texas. Another bird seen only in southernmost Texas is the Olive Sparrow with his dull greenish tint on his back. He is shy and hard to see as he prefers dense underbrush as his home. Sharing his neighborhood is the tiny Black-crested Titmouse who darts in, grabs a sunflower seed and dashes away giving almost no time to take a photo …many blurry shots of him I have taken before I managed to get this one of him. Hopping slowly next to the Olive Sparrow is the Black-throated Sparrow in his crisp white and black tuxedo. They all delight the people grouped around Michael who patiently names them for the beginning birders. Thanks Michael!

The Cactus Wren ! A desert bird who is comfortably at home building his nest right in a towering cactus. No one will bother his nest tucked into the protective spines of a cactus. He is a medley of stripes and dots. What a visually spectacular bird!

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Finally, the Pyrrhuloxia … took me a while to get his name right … he is gray with a vermillion face, a pointed topknot, and red scattered down his chest. Sitting on a blue feeder tray he is delightful.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Come on down to the Rio Grande Valley to see all these resident birds.

Here is a new wrinkle in the ongoing technology path of taking a picture. It is called “digi-scoping” or maybe “phonescoping”… it is using a digital camera phone with a telescope.  In Panama our guide to finding amazing butterflies was looking thru his spotting scope at a dime-sized tiny butterfly sitting on a tree trunk 25 feet away from us. “Here is a Dirce butterfly” he said. I looked thru my binoculars and there was a patterned beauty, Tino gestured and said “Give me your Iphone”.  I handed it over, he positioned it in front of the spotting scope, carefully moved it in minute increments to the perfect place, CLICK, and look at this wonderful photo.

Dirce Butterfly

Dirce Butterfly

The Dirce butterfly captured on my Ipnone. Marvellous!

Walking further down the deserted dirt road, Tino points to another tree 30 feet away and says “There is a Two Eye Eighty Eight butterfly on that trunk.”  I squint, look thru my binoculars and see an itty-bitty blob. He again takes my Iphone and works his magic … an image of a butterfly with two black spots shows on my Iphone. “Can I try? ” I ask. He gives me the Ipnone and I move the lens close … closer … too close … back a bit. No luck … no image emerges … AND … the little guy flies away. This is much harder than it looks when watching Tino. A delicate touch, and lots of practice is required!

Two Eye Eighty Eight

Two Eye Eighty Eight

Arriving at our lodge we are handed an empty plastic bottle and a man says “ Please fill this with your urine tonight to add to our ‘fermented brew’ which is sprayed on leaves along the trail. It attracts a lot of butterflies.” We are hot, tired, and fresh off our flight from the U.S., and it seems a strange request … but we comply and the next day, when we go out on the trail in the Panama jungle, we are rewarded with the Inca Metalmark butterfly sitting on the leaf sprayed with the brew. Phew! Who knew?

Inca Metalmark

Inca Metalmark

Here is the Canopy Tower

Canopy Tower

Canopy Tower

It used to be a radar tower built by the U.S. and abandoned years ago. Then it was converted into a hotel where birders and butterfliers stay as they look down on the tops of the tropical trees where many creatures spend their days. The deck four floors up provides a place to view toucans, monkeys, and butterflies. Many happy hours are spent seeing a whole different world.

Tree With a Secret

Tree With a Secret

This ordinary tree hosts a butterfly who uses its mottled bark to camouflage its wings … it is so successful it takes me many minutes to spot the Variable Cracker butterfly. If you walk by this tree you hardly notice the dark gray spot blending in with the other spots.

Variable Cracker Butterfly

Variable Cracker Butterfly

The Cracker is cleverly hidden. I guess the butterfly who blends in the best is the one who survives to pass on his camouflage genes.

Variable Cracker Butterfly

Variable Cracker Butterfly

The pattern on his wings is so elegant…looks like watered silk.

Can You See It?

Can You See It?

There is a bird here! Can you find him ? Look for his open eye … that might help … a master at disappearing. He is the Pauraque, a nocturnal bird of the brushlands from southern Texas to northern Argentina.