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Archive for the ‘Swans’ Category

I couldn’t resist.  After tucking into our Saturday morning pancakes, my little red SONY® and I plowed through drifts and wandered in our park.  I was besotted with the abject beauty, which SONY faithfully recorded for me.

From this snowy scramble, I clipped three small shoots of red osier dogwood which are now set into flower frogs in a Victorian transferware pitcher.  Soon the shoots will sprout tiny buds and leaves, and we’ll be on our way to the very next thing:  SPRING.

Much as we anticipate Spring, we can never deny or ignore the charms of the season at hand—although yesterday was a good day to celebrate the season at home rather than on the roads.  I may tire of winter, but I never grow weary of living in Wisconsin.

Early this morning I updated my WordPress Profile—so that whenever my Gravatar is clicked, my five blog sites will appear for readers’ easy access.  While on the Profile page I wondered if I should change the Northern Reflections’ explanatory blurb, which presently reads:  “gleanings from Wisconsin’s wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods”. 

When I began blogging in Autumn, 2008, we were firmly entrenched in our far Northern lifestyle of living on 14 plus acres surrounded by a plethora of wildness including black bears, wolves, fishers, more Virginia whitetails than people, and all kinds of winged life.  Eagles soared over constantly year around—and our marsh, lake, and river abounded in waterfowl and songbirds in spring and summer. 

Now we live in Southern Wisconsin, in a semi-rural area with easy access to Milwaukee.  Yet we are still surrounded by wildlife. Only the bears, wolves, fishers, and eagles are missing here—although eagles have been sighted in our county and somehow a very hapless black bear wandered into the Milwaukee suburban area a few years back.  There has been cougar evidence just a few miles north of us in Hartford—and coyotes roam the bountiful Milwaukee Parkway System, terrorizing small dogs and their owners.

Yes, we have wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods all over our state—even in our Southern county.  In fact, we live in the middle of the Lake Country with water all around us.  Our home faces a park near Lake Nagawicka, with a wildlife sanctuary along the entire side leading to the lake.  Waterfowl and other large birds fly overhead constantly in spring, summer, and autumn:  great blue heron, ducks unlimited, and of course the Canada geese.  I’ve seen cattle egrets in farm pastures around here—and we have an abundance of hawks and owls. 

Any day now, we’ll hear that “Hallooo-hallooo-hallooo” of the sandhill cranes—like reedy bamboo pipes, rolling their notes with a French “R” while preparing to land in a swamp for some raucous partying before heading to the cornfields. (We actually did see cranes in a nearby cornfield yesterday, so they must be “Hallooo-ing” up there already.) 

When they land, the sandhills may possibly only be “out-raucoused” (if there is such a word) by the tundra swans who sound like Canada geese with asthmatic bronchitis.  But oh, that winsome flight song of the cranes, soothing as our bamboo windchimes rustling in the breeze.

Yes, I’m still gleaning Wisconsin’s wild places.  No matter where I live, I’m wildness, bred and born.  My mother knew the name of most every wildflower and bird, and my dad was a hunter who loved the out-of-doors.  Although a city, Wauwatosa, was my home for most of my growing years, I had an eight year interim in a small upstate community—and there I grew to love the quintessential Wisconsin small town. Precious childhood memories include hunting and fishing with my dad.  Although I hope I never have to shoot anything, I totally respect our local culture of hunters—responsible hunters, that is.  As a kid, I traipsed along behind my father when he went pheasant hunting along the fieldstone hedgerows of hilly Kettle Moraine North near Sheboygan Falls.  I still recall the woodsy, hilly beauty which grabbed ahold of me and never let go.

Summers were spent on water, which I was “in” as much as “out of”.  In our state, learning to swim is a huge GIVEN. It’s a matter of survival, as we are surrounded by rivers and lakes.  Wisconsin kids learn to swim along with learning to read, and often before.  Ever desiring to have a companion, and lacking a son, my dad taught me to fish at an early age as well. 

Yes, I believe I can continue to blog my “gleanings from Wisconsin’s wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods” even though I no longer live in the wild north.  Wisconsin’s wildness is an integral part of my soul.  And there is plenty of wildness within easy walking distance of our home!

“Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.  We need the tonic of wildness—to wade sometimes in the marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe . . . At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed, and unfathomed by us because (it is) unfathomable.”  Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note:  Below you will see my original copy of Thoreau, which I purchased in 1967.  A few years back I bought a new, hardcover edition of the book you see pictured here.  Same everything, but lacking in the ambience of my special dog eared book—with pages falling out, pages ripped, pages annotated by me, and pages flapping.  Time and again I try to read from the new hardcover, and then return to the old worn out copy I love best.

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“Just in front of him he saw three beautiful white swans advancing towards him from a thicket . . . . ‘I will fly to them, the royal birds, and they will hack me to pieces . . . .  But it won’t matter.  Better to be killed by them than be snapped at by the ducks, pecked by the hens . . . .’ 

“So he flew into the water and swam towards the stately swans.  They saw him and darted towards him with ruffled feathers . . . .  But what did he see reflected in the transparent water ?  . . . his own image, but he was no longer a clumsy dark grey bird, ugly and ungainly.  He was himself a swan . . . . The big swans swam round and round him and stroked him with their bills.”

From THE UGLY DUCKLING, by Hans Christian Andersen

Ever since I can remember, Andersen’s UGLY DUCKLING has moved me to tears—and it does to this day.  I’m mopping my eyes after typing the above quotes! 

In 2005 I began my art adventure, and I’ve often thought of the UGLY DUCKLING.  Having always loved art and desired to participate in that world, I was totally unprepared for the reception I’d receive as an embryo painter from the REAL artists—those who have worked professionally at their calling the way I’ve worked at my profession of writing, from childhood on. 

I’ve been literally “bowled over” and stunned by the joyous attitude of acceptance on the part of artists!  When I began painting in 2005, I wasn’t completely surprised that family members and a couple of very gracious friends responded with enthusiasm.  The children never dreamed that Mother “could do that”, and since they love me they probably missed the fact that I really wasn’t doing very much at all at that point—just blopping some paint around on paper.  My choice of in-your-face colors seemed to resonate with viewers of those early renderings.

But I metaphorically hid in the woods, when it came to sharing with the real artists I know.  That would be going too far, I thought—just too presumptuous of me, to stick one of my paintings in the face of someone who knows what he or she is doing artwise!

Then somewhere, something SNAPPED!  I knew I’d discovered a fantastic pastime.  Since sloshing paint and glueing stuff on paper were so personally rewarding, so indescribably delicious, it suddenly occurred to me that the pleasure of doing art outweighed all other considerations and concerns! 

Finally, I began showing my work to friends who are real artists.  Rather than hack me to pieces like the UGLY DUCKLING thought the swans would do to him, these compassionate souls responded with approbation because I was doing something I loved!  They made constructive comments.  They welcomed me as if I were actually “one of them”, causing me to understand that there are many levels of art—and there is room for every one of us, no matter whom we are or what we can do!

Although there are volumes of rules concerning art making, we in the 21st century know that art can also be a world without rules.  That’s a huge part of the art charm and allure for people like me!  All of my writing life, I have been conscious of rules.  Not so, with art.  Every one of us is different—and artists know that.  Some are excellent, and some are “world class”.  I’m happily just “me”—ever learning but never driven, as I sometimes felt when I wrote for publications and competed for awards. 

For me, painting and collaging are arts without angst.  I never wonder, “Is this clear and understandable?”  I love that element of mystery in art.  There is always the remote possibility that someone will view a piece of work and say “AHA”!   If not, I am still more complete for having created the rendering. 

I realize that my art is a subjective discipline.  When we go off half skewed in writing—or even more so in music composition—we are apt to lose anyone who is not as crazy as we are.  But in art, there is room for everyone. 

Part of the art acceptance which has totally warmed and won my heart may be based on the fact of COLOR.  In general, artists are colorful people.  We love to wear color on our bodies, we like to dress like one of our paintings, and we reflect color in our work.  No matter how skilled or inexperienced, we are bonded by a mutual passion for color. 

Artists are visual beings and that makes for an exciting lifestyle—a lifestyle where all are welcome.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

NOTE:  My first edition of this entry was posted early today.  Later, I returned to “check it out”, and I discovered many errors.  In the process of correcting typos, I began hewing and hacking away at the content of the piece—and eliminating chunks which had nothing to do with the main focus.  This is the life of a writer!  Although I do make additions and corrections to my art renderings, I hope I’ll never edit them as ferociously as I edit my essays!

If you, dear reader, were caught in the midst of editorial changes to this essay, please refresh your browser and try reading it again so it makes more sense!  Thank you for your patience!  🙂 MLB

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