March 14, 2020

geese, color at NS
Pair of Canadian geese at the Norton Simon Museum, March 6, 2020 (graphite, ink and Inktense pencil on Mix Media paper)

It is my usual to go the Norton Simon the first Friday evening of the month. I go there to hang out with other sketchers, and of course because it’s free from 5 to 8. But I actually go there for more than just artistic companionship and free admission, I absolutely love sketching in the back garden every imaginable time of the year. Imagine it’s after 5pm in the evening and the sun has turned the almost dusk sky a beautiful shade of crystal blue. I quickly wander about for a few moments, as I know the sunlight is waning. I watch the changing colors on the sculptures, pond and plants. I check to see what has come into bloom, what is coming along and what has faded with the season. And since this is SoCal, there really aren’t many evenings you can’t stroll out there. Then I quickly find a spot to sketch, roll out out my bubble wrap, sit down and go to work before it gets too dark to see. For me it’s fun to mark monthly time in this intimate garden as the CA light changes, year in and year out. The sound of tire whine at that time of day pulses around me. If you look at a map of the museum you will see that the entire facility is almost a complete triangle set adrift with Colorado Blvd at the base, the 134 at an angle up from the base and the 210 almost completes the next side of the triangle. I imagine the pulsing sounds of going home from work traffic on these busy roads to be the sound of ocean waves. You may laugh all you like, but settling into this LA evening freeway commute frame of mind always works for me. Just another day for one SoCal girl. And based on today’s art you have probably noticed that when I was there last Friday (March 6) I spotted a couple Canadian geese on the grass beside the pond. This is pretty amazing as I think that I have now seen this same pair in this same spot almost every spring since 2017. Now, I cannot be absolutely sure they are the very same ones, but after I have told you my goose story, you may be inclined to follow my logical conclusion that they are one and the same. 

In my July 22, 2017 I wrote of a pair of Canadian geese that I had seen earlier in the back garden of the NS. My first encounter with them occurred the evening of Friday, March 3, 2017. Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t at least try to sketch them, but they were sitting on the roof of the building and pretty elusive to prying eyes. I remember that you could only occasionally see a neck reaching up or a fluffy goose bottom move around up there. But if you stayed out there long enough you could hear them. Fast forward to the next first Friday and we are now at April 7, 2017. They had made a nest at the edge of the pond and someone at the Norton Simon had put up a temporary fence to physically keep people away from the nest and the birds. I remember thinking that I should have sketched this scene, but didn’t think much of the temporary orange plastic fence surrounding the birds. My “goose nesting” timeline has a spring (2018) that I forgot to look for them. But I assume they were there because the following spring I saw them again. This time I did try to sketch them. (See April 20, 2019 post) The art wasn’t much to see as they were pretty hidden up there on the roof, but you could hear them all over the garden.

Last first Friday I spotted them again and this time they were in full view just next to the water. But this time they weren’t sequestered behind a tacky orange plastic fence. Instead, they were surrounded by a tacky “keep off the grass” fence around the whole pond. And of course the always officious NS guards were patrolling the pathways back there, verbally reminding people to keep off the grass. I noticed the fence a couple months ago and I asked one of the guards why it was there. He said that he had been told that someone had gotten too close to the water and fallen in. So, now the lawn area is off limits to humans, but these geese can waddle freely all around, and they’re pretty oblivious to all of us staring at them. There must be something great about this spot as this is at least their 4 year anniversary together at the Norton Simon pond. And just to add to my story I asked SIRI if Canadian geese mated for life and she said: “According to animaldiversity.org, Often remaining paired for life, Canada geese are monogamous.” Are you convinced yet that these two are the same ones I have seen a number of times back there? I’m convinced. 

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy watching birds. I like to see flotillas of mallards in the NS pond, in any of the ponds at the Descanso Gardens and even in the various ponds at Golden Gate Park—I have even seen swans swimming there. I like watching small groups of Morro Rock pelicans fly in formation so close to the surface of the ocean that they look like they might just fall in. Of course they are doing that because they are looking for fish to eat and will later come back to a given spot and dive head first into the water with a great splash. I also like watching pairs of eagles circle high in the sky about this time of year all over CA. And of course who wouldn’t enjoy bands of loudly squawking wild parrots as they awkwardly fly from tree to tree most SoCal summer evenings? I try to attract birds to my yard with seed and nectar feeders just outside my kitchen window. I enjoy watching them come and go, feeding their babies as they feed. (Thursday, March 12: It’s 5:30pm and I am looking out my window at the rain and finches eating at the seed feeder. I just saw an adult finch feeding his or her baby finch.)

I just finished reading a pretty remarkable novel (“Bird Summons,” by Leila Aboulela) where a hoopoe features prominently. What is a hoopoe you say? Look it up online. It almost looks like an imaginary bird, with its long curved beak, fantastically patterned plumage and bright colors, but it’s real and can be found in Africa (including Madagascar) and Eurasia. In “Bird Summons,” the hoopoe visits 3 women hiking in the hills of Scotland. You may already be getting the idea that this book is a bit of fantasy, right? And you’d be right. I just looked up online again and it seems that the hoopoe features prominently in the mythologies of Greek, Arabic, Persian and Egyptian cultures. So, it does make sense for this story. Check it out.

I don’t have any grand and nonsensical connections to be made with my interest in birds and the fact that I just finished reading “Bird Summons.” But my mind took me to a place where I wondered if the COVID-19 had maybe come from birds. So, I looked that up online as well. As it turns out scientists believe that it originated with bats. Ok, that ends my “so called” bird connections. 

My final thoughts this week are kind of consumed with COVID-19. Maybe that’s true for you as well. No matter how I try to pretend it’s California business as usual, it’s not. LAUSD has closed all schools, so I will be home for the next two weeks. My final thoughts are with all of us. And for now I’m not feeling like just One CA Girl, but maybe just One Girl of the World. Stay safe. 

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