Requiem: A Sketch

Requiem: A Sketch – watercolor and ink – 8 x 10 inches.
Winter loosened its grip here in the foothills a few weeks ago and now Spring is quickly passing into Summer. These days radiate greens and blues like a kaleidoscope. Choirs of robins, finches, sparrows and blue jays, grosbeaks, towhees and mourning doves sing everywhere. Often they all sing at the same time, and Life seems to burst out everywhere.
As we all know, wherever Life is present, her twin sister is close at hand. I don’t know what the song of this little creature — scarcely bigger than my thumb — sounded like when it was alive and I wasn’t skillful enough to capture its beauty when it flew and sang. Still . . . .

“Sunt lacrimae rerum,” says Virgil, “et mentem mortalia tangunt.”

“There are tears in things and what is fated to die touches the heart.”

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One thought to “Requiem: A Sketch”

  1. Nature Morte, the French call such paintings, Naturaleza Muerta, for the Spanish, Still Life for English speakers. Not so still life for Jorge Guillen in his “Naturaleza viva,” wonderfully translated as “Unstill Life.” Your epigraph from Mary Oliver is very apropos. “prettiest world if you don’t mind a little bit of dying.” You’ve captured it well: birds, so beautiful in flight, in life, still beautiful in their ultimate repose.

    The Dutch masters rendered wonderful still life paintings with their emphasis it would seem on the vibrancy of the opulent fruits, birds, game, but always with the hint of death: maybe a fly landing on a fig, maybe a bruise on an otherwise perfect peach, maybe the lolling neck of an obviously dead but beautiful duck or goose.

    Your requiem is a fine and appropriate repose of the spirits of those birds: no pretense of beauty in death, except the beauty that was and remains in form, feather and form.

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