One o’clock in the morning, A freight train rolls into the station behind my apartment building. Diesel shakes my window panes. The building is quiet enough for me to believe I’m the only one awake. Sketching prairie plants with a pencil while a movie plays in the corner of the room. Earlier this evening I was hunched over a sheet of plywood scribing it with ten thousand or more, very short lines. When its late at night like this I don’t like the music too loud in the headphones. Just enough to meld with the diesel running in the backyard. It’s leaving town in just a few minutes, then I’ll turn the volume back.
A mockingbird and a Barn Owl. Two of my favorite occupants of this California Republic.
I remember well when I met my first mocking bird. A sunny California morning some five years ago. It was 7am and I was sleeping on a broken cot inside a closet of an office I rented in a house in this central coast town. The bird landed on a branch that scrapped against my window whenever the wind blew. it sat there for 40 minutes and sang, not repeating himself once. I awoke in amazement. Who is that bird and how do I become friends with it?! my first thought that day, and every encounter since.
I first became aware of the mockingbird from reading Harper Lee’s “To kill a mockingbird”. It was during my freshmen year in high school back in Illinois, English class.
While the bird itself is of smaller significance in the plot of the book. No book I’d read at that age before had woke me to the country I lived in. And the following year I read “Of Mice and Men”.
The two stories melded together in my mind to form a drive to travel around this American land. Mockingbird wrote me out a moral code, and Of Mice and Men put the wheels on my wagon and got me headed west.
There are a lot of fence posts and telephone wires down all the roads I’ve been down to get to this part of the coast. On those many posts and wires were plenty of different birds. Here and in my books you’ll find them on a page. And come to find out recently my favorite Grateful Dead song, “Jack Straw” was inspired by “Of Mice and Men” as well.
“We used to play for silver, now we play for life”.
I finished these two birds this evening while enjoying some music. The flying raptors have been a very rewarding challenge. It has helped me be more observant and disciplined. The Mocking Bird has been a long time favorite bird of mine from when I first moved to California. There was one always parked in the bushes outside my window and would go off in song at any hour. I can see why that would drive a lot of people nuts, but I was so amused by his ability to sing for 5 minutes and never repeat himself. I’ve been sketching them for a few years and finally got one down on cold-press board that I feel is up to the task.