“A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” -Maya Angelou
Yesterday, I saw a cardinal. It was the first bird I've seen in some time because we gave up on our home bird feeding station when the days got really short and the weather got nasty. Winter wimps, I'm afraid. But not really because I did live in the Arctic for many years and the winters never got me down. What got me down was fall - especially late fall leading up to the Winter Solstice on December 21st, the shortest day of the year.
The Solstice seems like a distant memory now. The change in the weather is profound; the days are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger, and yesterday, that flash of red against the white snow before it disappeared into the trees. Cardinals have always been good omens for me, and today, I heard the first bird song signalling the coming of spring. While taking Joey (retired gallery dog/now home office constant companion) out for her morning ritual, I heard the familiar two-note call of the Black-Capped Chickadee. Two notes, the major third, followed by the exact same response from the other side of the woods. Everyone who lives in Southern Ontario knows that call.
This month's blog is about birds because, as David Attenborough says, everybody likes birds. Inuit have carved birds from bone, ivory and wood for thousands of years, and contemporary Inuit artists have transformed them from familiar fellow creatures of the earth to fantastic and fabled works of art. Kenojuak Ashevak was known as the bird artist from Kinngait and her owls and ravens are some of the most glorious images of birds ever drawn. Kananginak Pootoogook was the realist - he liked to show his knowledge of the land and animals as the observant hunter, getting the movement of a bird in flight or the markings of the red-necked loon just right. Younger artists, like Malaija Pootoogook's "Song Birds" illustrated here, bring a playful cleverness to the subject. Malaija captures, I believe, the simple reason everybody likes birds: "I enjoy drawing the different kinds of birds," she says. "I like to watch them fly; they look so peaceful and free."
I was very sorry to learn that Malaija passed away recently, so this month's blog post is dedicated to her and her love of birds.
I'm looking forward to the coming days when we can be outside and watch the birds fly. I'm looking forward to feeling peaceful and free again. In the meantime, I've looked through the vast archive and treasure trove of prints still available through the Kinngait Studios and gathered them here on my website. The collection is called "Peaceful and Free."
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