The pandemic isolation was the perfect incubator for my new body of work. Believing the only true way to see is to take the time to thoughtfully, quietly and meditatively observe, I began identifying various species in my backyard—creatures that formerly fell under the umbrella of Bird. Casual observation led to study, then to tracking migrations, close-up examination of individuals through the camera lens, and eventually to paintings.
Through frequent and extended observation, I came to recognize and appreciate their individuality—their differences from and similarities to humans.
Time spent studying their habits—their determined travel across oceans and continents, the merciless predation of one species on another, and the cooperative behaviors—the V-shaped flight patterns of geese and the fish herding of pelicans—reinforced my affinity for birds and my desire to depict them.
I came to see birds as companions and neighbors in the enforced solitude. The cedar waxwings that festooned the Russian olive trees, the chittering kingfisher that greeted me as I crossed my backyard, the dozens of species of waterfowl that paddled politely out of easy camera range as I walked the shoreline at the WMA, the excitement of sighting my first pair of sandhill cranes striding across a field - these moments of immersion in the bird world were a gift, not a cost of the pandemic.
Emily Dickinson wrote that “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” This year has been those “things with feathers” that have filled me with hope.