Sunday, November 23, 2014

character studies

So far as my own work is concerned, you can see I've been doing more sketching than finishing these past few weeks as I try to image(ine) the characters for a story written a number of years ago by the now grown daughter of a friend. It's a challenge, but kind of fun for all that.

In the meantime it keeps getting colder here as we count down to the shortest daylight hours of the year. There's been rain aplenty and cloudy skies too, but happily we've had no snow to spoil our walks in the park. A long stretch of that walk is by a channel in the bay where the woodland rises to a height on the left and the sea is at the bottom of a steep drop to the right. One recent day we'd fed some crows at one of the spots where we drop peanuts for them on our way to the point of land that faces right out to sea. The crows were following when we noticed a flock of chickadees flitting around in the brush to our left. Usually what happens when we see them is I scatter some nuts and wait to let them eat while we keep the greedy crows at bay. This time I still had the food in my hand when a hungry chickadee landed on one of my fingers and took a nut. Before I had time to react the little birds came one after another to take their share of peanuts from my hand. It was the sweetest feeling ever to be that trusted. Now that we know they'll often come if we wait a bit, feeding them has become one of those little events to treasure.

I know this is a small thing, perhaps even an ordinary occurrence. If so, I hope a connection with the wild world is something routine in your life. For me, it's an example (one I can hold in my hand) of real magic in the world. It's funny to think that until the final triumph of the scientific revolution at the start of the eighteenth century, magic and a great many things connected with it were treated as everyday matters in Western cultures. The sense of life, mind, and meaning in the cosmos is something that we as individuals put into the mix in the process of constructing our worlds.

Experiencing the world as a community of existent thinking beings leads us to understand that every living thing has an equal part to play in the great web of life. The opposite is to experience the world as a dead and mindless mass of raw material that has only whatever meaning and value certain human beings choose to give it. Which of those behaviors is more useful in the present predicament of industrial society is another point worth considering.

For something extra (and finished in this case) I did find a great short video you might enjoy watching as much as I did:


marja-leena said...

Your characters are lovely and will surely find a home in the book, Susan. And how very blessed to have the chickadees eat from your hand so trustingly. I only remember a whiskey jack stealing something from my hand once when having bite to eat when out cross-country skiing. Oh, and a very scary raven almost did the same another time.

Lots of laughs over the video, as well as a feeling of ruefulness for the ungrateful citizens of that castle!

Sean Jeating said...

Seven smiles!* If that's not a good omen on the morning of my current quest's final.

* Three caused by the sketches, one by imagining your magic encounter with the chickadees, one by the video (with mixed feelings), one by your words and an admiring one when trying to sum up your various talents.

Tom said...

I am constantly amazed at your ability to say so much in a sketch, about the people you are portraying. Your art is such a joy. I can really say very little about that part of your post that really affected me with its loving wonder, the feeding and genuine communication with the living world around you. All I can say is that I am so happy for you, that you were able to enjoy that experience. Such magic can not be described effectively, but only experienced.

susan said...

Thanks, Marja-Leena. I'm still not sure of who will make and who won't, but I'm making a little progress.

While it's wonderful having the chickadees come, I understand your reluctance to have a raven try to perch on your hand. They are far too big and scary. I didn't mention it in the post, but I have had a bluejay do the same thing. I'm careful with the other creatures since the day a very excited squirrel jumped onto my hand and gave me a nasty scratch.

The video was funny, true, and a pretty sad statement, yes?

susan said...

I'm glad to hear your trials are nearly over, Sean.

I'm also delighted to know the reasons for your seven smiles :)))))))

susan said...

Hi Tom. If truth were told I'm pretty careful about gestures - enough to plan them. What surprises me, though, is the expressions that appear on the faces of my characters. That's something I can only plan so far and no more.

It's true indeed that magic of that nature is indescribable. We have to be open to its appearance.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Your splendid drawings will no doubt add charm and interest to the stories. I can’t think of anything more rewarding and enjoyable stroll as you describe with the interaction of feeding the birds along the way. I’m sure they enjoy the peanuts. I can only feed a few of the juveniles from the garden variety magpies down under who line up outside our door in anticipation of a few walnuts from time to time. When Gary and Anna from Canada were over they enjoyed feeding them by hand of an evening.
I’m not sure about the distinction posed of existent thinking beings, since I think all ideas, memories and impressions wax and wane over time, and I doubt many would see the world as a dead and mindless mass of raw materials -although I would agree there is marked alignment to materialism in modernity. Rather I’m inclined to be a bit more positive as I think, on balance, we are much more aware of these things and along with myths and fantasy can gain some respite from reality without engaging as readily in the bloodshed as is evident in past reprisals.
Best wishes

Should Fish More said...

Three of your characters seem a bit miffed, particularly the girl who, I daresay, seems to be plotting, perhaps revenge. But that may just be me.
Fine work, as always.

Ol'Buzzard said...

Nov. 26: a snow storm is coming to western Maine; when it is through with us it will drop by to visit you. There is no greater tribute than to be acknowledged by natures creatures. Those fortunate enough become just another natural creature themselves - no threat - no motive - accepted by - received willingly into the natural world. It is humbling.
the Ol'Buzzard

susan said...

Hi Lindsay, I'm happy to hear you like the drawings. Yes, it's very nice to feed the birds and a few squirrels when we walk, even though we never have enough to satisfy their needs. For us it's a blessing to have them occasionally come close for a moment.
I do see materialism as a curse of our species. I hope you're correct that we're in the process of outgrowing it.
Best wishes :)

susan said...

Although a certain amount of 'miffedness' is part of the story, I see I shall have to rethink expressions of the others. The girl has been presented with a problem that must be solved and she's trying to determine how to do that in the short time allowed.
Thanks about the work. I appreciate it.

susan said...

From what I've read of the forecast it seems the worst of it may pass this coastal region by. I'm hoping so as it still feels too soon. I hope all goes well for you there - I know you have the wood stacked.
You're so right that it's a great feeling to see and be seen by the creatures of the natural world.

L'Adelaide said...

i came by the other night and wrote a comment but it disappeared... again. i must learn to write first in text editor i guess. i'm still suffering with same limitations of late but wanted to say how sweet is the chickadee who came to you for some treats. that's lovely and deeply touched me as i pondered it. such a gift.

your drawings are wonderful. i especially love your children. i am wondering about your story, your fantasy, you are working on and look forward to reading it and seeing your finished work within. i hope you had a lovely holiday if you decided to celebrate it. i'm exhausted by it all, wanting it to go away. a long story, as always...

much love, dear friendxxxx

L'Adelaide said...

fabulous video, btw. :D

ghetufool said...

this is a great video :)
even more awesome are your sketches. i wish i had published a children's book where you could draw sketches for the characters. of course, i am not doing any such thing, but you are an awesome artist.

susan said...

It's always another treat to have you come visit :) and, yes, was sweet indeed when the chickadees decided to trust me enough to take their treats from my hand. It really is amazing to have them come so close and then perch long enough to find the exact one they want.

I like the way the children have been coming along too. There's a purity there that gets lost in adults - unless, of course, we're talking about those few who become wise.

We don't really do Thanksgiving (US or Canadian) other than to make sure we have food in. When you don't really have family there's not much reason to make a fuss. I know - the big one comes next and I'm not looking forward to that one either.

Take good care, my sweet :)

susan said...

Good one, eh?

susan said...

Glad you enjoyed it! and so true as well :)

Thanks so much for the fine compliments. Some people like to draw and I'm one of them. You are an excellent writer.