Art Crows

Dear Liza,

We have a lot of birds in Portland, but our most visible and noisy feathered friends are the crows. They are comfortable around people and don’t mind sharing our snacks or their opinions.

Waiting for the Queen….

There is a healthy flock (called a ‘murder’, in crow jargon) in our Lone Fir Cemetery, and a lady who comes to feed them every afternoon. She says she doesn’t know if she is their queen or their slave.

Quickened Towards all Celestial Things, by Julianna Paradisi

All this avian beauty is inspiring! I have photographed dozens of crows, and other artists have honored them, as well. Julianna Paradisi, a Portland artist, created the wonderful “Quickened Towards all Celestial Things” in 2018. That same year, I photographed it at the Artbar downtown.

Browsing old photos for inspiration yesterday, I found it again and hoped to reimagine it as a collage. I must admit, in my “I’m not an artist” days, I had assumed that artists just picked up a brush or pair of scissors and ‘whoosh!’ Art happened. But during my ‘quarantine art education’, I have learned there is a lot of making mistakes, starting over, and just keeping at something until it looks right.


This crow took many sketches and lots of staring and trimming before I was happy with it. Cut out of black card stock, it joined magazine clippings, the remainder of a few envelopes, and just enough paint to make it interesting.

Crow and its prototype
My own Paradisi Crow

Thanks, Julianna Paradisi! Thanks, crows!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Birthday Walk

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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David and storm clouds over  Santa Cruz

Even though my birthday isn’t until Monday, we did the celebration on Saturday. Uncle David and I went to Asilomar and had a long walk in the wind and sun, which was just what I needed! It was bright and cold and absolutely perfect. The clouds over the bay gave us a pretty good picture of what was happening elsewhere… rain over there, clear over there.

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Arriving at Asilomar

The clouds kept changing! It was wonderful. We saw some rock stacks, and I managed to add two rocks to one, getting a picture before it fell down.

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Rock Stack

One thing I love about the ocean is that it puts things in perspective. “How long have you been working on that?” It asks. Then it chuckles. “Don’t worry…I’ve been eroding this cliff for a thousand years, and it’s still not done.” It lets me breathe to know there is so much tangible power that isn’t my responsibility.

The birds kept us company. A flock of sandpipers scurried over the rocks and sand, seeming to disappear when I pulled out my camera. Seagulls soared and crows bickered.

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Find the Crows

David and I climbed over some rocks and up a small cliff face, and found the boardwalk that lead back to the road, then walked up the hill to The Fishwife. It is a bright, friendly restaurant that is fancy enough to have good food and wine and be pretty, but comfortable enough to chat with the waiters and come in with a little sand on your shoes.

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The Fishwife

David and I only waited a few minutes until Auntie Olga and Liza joined us, and we ordered lunch! Calamari appetizers, Pasta Primavera, barramundi, and grilled salmon were our choices, with Liza having the chicken tenders. We drank a light Angeline Pinot Noir which went well with all the delicious food.

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Auntie Olga

We ate and drank, then Olga and Liza went to Dennis the Menace Park and I, being lazy, had Uncle David take me home. The wind and sun and good company had worn me out.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bird Wars

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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After school rainbow

It is spring, and all the birds are getting ready. Here at Uncle David’s house, there are two different groups of birds, and it gets interesting.

Over the back patio and the front porch are small areas of roof that are totally sheltered from the wind and rain. Each isn’t much bigger than a loaf of bread, but every spring they become home to several nests of birds….bluejays in the front, robins in the back. Uncle David calls it the Bird Wars.

The wars start in late February, when the birds start collecting twigs and grass for their nests. The blue jays will be in a bush collecting bits, and a robin will fly in. Whoosh! All the jays fly out in a blue cloud. When the robins are done, a jay flies in and the robins create a reddish-brown flurry as they fly away. The birds never seem to fight each other, but there is a lot of bird-language yelling going on. I have no idea what they are saying to each other.

Once the nests get built, the baby birds come, peeping all day long, front and back. I look forward to the noise! Baby birds sound like spring, hope, and life.

In addition to the jays and robins, there is a flock of sparrows that flies around. They fly to a bush and then hop around on the ground underneath, eating bugs and tiny seeds. The blue jays and robins ignore them, as though the sparrows were too small to be part of the bird wars.

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Busy Crow

There is also a crow who is making a nest in the tall eucalyptus tree behind an apartment building. The other day I saw her (or him, I can’t tell with crows) snipping little bits of branches from a curly willow and letting them fall to the sidewalk. There was quite a patch by the time I noticed. I am guessing the crow will come back later and collect the twigs to make her nest.

This is a good neighborhood for birds. The lawns all have lovely worms, the schoolyard has leftover sandwiches and chips, and the eucalyptus and palm trees are like bird condominiums. In the morning and evening, the trees seem to be shouting at each other.

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Crow’s collection of twigs

Love,

Grandma Judy