Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eagle Cams in Late March 2014

When I was a kid, in the era of bad chemicals, on a plain that used to be prairie, there were birds that were rare and others that were only seen in books and on television nature shows.  The bald eagle was one such bird.  We had a few hawks, not many, but  no eagles at all.  It was many years later that my dad would tell of them migrating through, eatting the dead fish after flood waters returned to the banks of the river, and still later, of a few that stayed around to fish and hunt across the county.  And most recently, a brother-in-law there in the former prairie land had a nest in a tall cottonwood tree maybe a mile from his farm home.  I guess they were common on the prairie, preferring to fish the lakes and rivers but also taking an occasional small mammal or even a bird from the air, and certainly, helping clean up some of the carrion left by natural death, the predation of others, and probably, that left by native people.  Yet, an impoverished childhood, bird of prey-wise, means I never fail to get excited and joyously happy by a sighting of an eagle or an eagle family out there over the Wisconsin hills.  And I dearly love to visit these live webcams of nesting eagles.  I put their links here as a way to find them when I need a little bit of eagle love.  And I share them with you!

Some cams are closer to the nest, some are farther away, some are better maintained, some have annoying ads, some have young already, some have eggs, some are still awaiting eggs, some have dead fish and other parts of dead prey animals, some have car traffic in the background, some sway noticeably in the wind and actually make me a little motion sick!  Enjoy!

Decorah, Iowa Eagle cam

Central Minnesota Eagle cam

Tennessee Eagle Cam

Davenport, Iowa Eagle cam

Florida Eagle cam

Twin Cities Eagle Cam

Maryland Eagle cam

Wisconsin Eagle cam

Duke Farms New Jersey Eagle Cam

Pennsylvania Eagle cam

Georgia Eagle cam

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"To be human is to yearn . . . "

"To be human is to yearn . . . " The Crane Wife, Patrick Ness.
There are more theories out there than I can remember, of what made us human, what small change lead us down the evolutionary path toward being so very different from other animals. No, we are not entitely different, but in so many ways, we are different by degrees, huge degrees.  Animals seem to use tools, but only one or two at a time, not whole arsenals and kits and versions and variations like we do, from trivia like dental floss to massive machines that we set loose underground to dig a tunnel for us and process and eject the debris.  
Animals play but their play seems more like practicing for life, such as pretend stalking and pretend fighting, and seems not to have the imaginative pretending that includes building fantasy worlds to the extent that we humans play.  Animals seem to mourn but never so long as we and never to the extend of creating and visiting memorial sites.  Animals seem to not look much to the future, beyond storing food for an immediate next season.  They certainly do not seem to plan ahead to stock pile building materials for future use or build and store tools they won't need until later.  Animals communicate about territory and mating and immediate needs, but certainly don't seem to possess any story telling capacity.  A few animals seem to ornament their environment, but these are en extension of mating attraction or nest building, and never come close to the human making of art as story telling and expression of concepts.  The human brain is more complex and therefore permits and accomplishes far more complex behaviors than any other creature on our planet.
There was a theory long dismissed that we evolved to stand up in water, and once our hands were free, we could make tools.  But other primates have hands free and have not embraced the tool making to the point we have.  There was one about us evolving in grassland and standing to see above the grass.  There was one about how once we began to cook food, we could get more nutrition from it and did not need to eat and hunt and gather as much.  Other theories say that it was language, moving from simple grunts and gestures to more complex sounds that become increasingly complex symbols for objects and actions and emotions.  Did language and food cooking and tool use and standing upright cause us to become human, or were they merely products of some other change that made us human first then lead to us evolving those traits?  
Maybe it was as simple as wanting more.  Maybe instead of being content with enough food, enough shelter, we began to yearn.  To want to try different foods.  To want to see what was just beyond that hill, that forest, that plain.  To make a tool and make another, and then more after that, every improving.  To not be content with basic words but to want to add detail and intricacy.  To want the shelter to be stronger, higher, more portable, more lasting. To see just one day or one season or one cycle of the sun beyond and want that one to be better and more than this one. To see colors and shapes in nature and want to decorate our things with them to have the colors and shapes with us even out of the season of the flowers and the birds and the insects. To not be content with now, but to wonder about before and wonder about after.  To  not be content to let happen but to plan and cause to happen.  To not just be but to cause and make.  
What if it was as simple as just not being happy with what was and wanting more?
Is that what sets us apart? We feed the dog and he lies down for a nap, content.  We ponder how the meal could be a little better next time, what to have for dinner.  We give the dog a nice cushion and he scrunches it up a bit and turns and lies down, content to be comfortable.  We get a new home and paint and fix and tile and sit down to rest and ponder if maybe different window blinds are needed or maybe a bookshelf over there, never done, never happy to let things be.  The dog is content with the same walk every evening, while we tinker with it, one more block, east instead of north, a loop down past the park, what about over there?  We have myriad forms of transportation to take us farther and faster.  
We get a job and we complain it isn't challenging enough, it isn't interesting enough.  We get a car and we add new floor mats and special wiper blades.  We tinker and tweak and adjust and change and add and grow and accumulate
and still, we aren't happy.  We travel on vacation and are pondering while there what we should do next time, instead of being in the moment now, we are far out ahead making plans, setting goals, leaning forward, yearning.  We analyze the past and constantly ponder the future.  It is our curse to do these things to the exclusion of experiencing the details and nuances of the present moment, We yearn.  Is that what got us here?  And where will it take us?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Remembering Linda

It's been a while, but it still hurts.  I still need her sometimes.  I met her pretty late in life, when we were both well past 40.  I had plenty of wonderful friends and I really wasn't looking for any more.  But we had this thing.  We were both screwed up in sort of the same way.  It's an ADD thing, to be overwhelmed with ideas and not ever have enough time, to feel guilty for not getting enough done, all those unfinished projects, never really successful at anything big, feeling like we are supposed to be tho.  I didn't even know I was ADD when I met her, and maybe she hadn't labeled herself yet either.  I can't remember.  I just know we sort of clicked and vowed to have lunch more often, but that became one of the things we didn't get done and felt bad about.  Somehow, though, we decided to set aside an afternoon a week to do pottery and so we got together and did that.  Once.  I still have the stuff unfired on a shelf.  Seriously.  I do.  But she called with this fabulous idea.  There was this little place right on a main through street for rent.   We could start an art gallery.  The one our town had for many years had recently closed when the lovely folks that ran it retired and surely they would help us figure it out.  She had this co-op idea in mind, where we'd find other artists and each of us would work a day and pay a fifth of the expenses and bring in other artists and wouldn't it be cool?  By this time in our friendship, I knew that the only way to get her off a 'brilliant' idea was to go down the path a little with her and convince her of what was wrong with the idea, otherwise she wouldn't let go of it.  So I went with her to look.  It didn't seem THAT crazy.  I made some calls, sent some emails.  I found 3 other artists, all doing very different things.  One needed to work weekends, the other said she'd be in as long as she didn't have to work weekends.  So it fell into place and that lead to other things that fell into place and pretty soon, she was leaving to start new things, things that are still going on long after she really left us for good. And even when she was sick, we never really believed she could really leave us. But she did. I miss her.  I am proud of the things she did and who she was.  I am proud she called me a friend.  I'm still screwed up in a million ways, but I beat myself up less for them.  I don't get as angry about things and I don't give up as often.  Well, I do, but I get my own self back at them later.  I pause more and take in the little things and I forgive people more for not being perfect and I forgive myself more for wanting them to be.  I miss her.  I am better for having shared some part of this journey of life with her.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Myth of The Screwed Up Artist and How It Hurts Us All

There is so much hype about artists and the artist personality.  Artists are allowed to be, maybe even expected to be, screw ups. There is an idea out there that somehow one needs to be a little screwed up in order to be creative.  But this is simply not true.  Artists are people who have chosen to produce a product for others, sometimes a useful product in the case of pottery or furniture or clothing, sometimes utterly use-less product, in the case of wall art or jewelry or sculpture or other purely decorative items.  We do what we do to enhance the aesthetics of our surroundings and sometimes, to provoke thinking about an issue or to teach something to our audience.  That requires sanity and thoughtfulness and organization skills and disciplined habits and a healthy lifestyle.
A successful artist is a person who is normal and conventional in most respects.  An artist lives in a home and responsibly pays the rent or mortgage about at the same rate as other people. An artist eats meals to stay healthy and sleeps to renew.  An artist doesn't drink excessively or take drugs because one cannot produce product while drunk or high, at least not quality product.  Those that flirt with the myth that drugs or alcohol enhance creativity soon find that it hampers rather than helps and they don't bother with such wasting of their time. 
Most artists, like most other people, pay their bills on time, keep their appointments, meet their deadlines, keep their promises, treat others kindly, do not lie, cheat or steal from others, say please and thank you, struggle with insecurities but keep on going, keep on the right side of the law, maintain good interpersonal relationships with family and friends, practice good personal grooming, eat healthy food, drive responsibly, follow the news and keep informed of current events, vote, maybe keep a dog or a cat, and don't call their mothers often enough. 
Successful artists are NOT screwed up and certainly do not need to be to make good art.  Artists find ideas and inspiration in beautiful nature and healthy relationships and current events and in the other arts such as literature or music.  There are ample sources of ideas and inspiration and artists do not need angst or personal tragedy to find them.  Artists are regular responsible sane kind people, just like most of the rest of the population. 
Some artists are immature and use the myth of the irresponsible screwed up artist to continue to be irresponsible and screwed up.  Just like some young people use the excuse of youth to do irresponsible immature things.  But it need not be so, they can mature up and live a normal regular responsible life.   Such irresponsibility does not enhance their art and probably is an obstacle to their success as an artist, like it would be in any job or career. 
Some artists struggle with mental illness, just like some truck drivers and some retail managers and some farmers and some dentists, but it hampers their success, just like in all other jobs or careers.  It does not help them be more creative, nor more productive.  It is an obstacle they must overcome to be an artist, just like it would be to keeping any job or maintaining any successful relationship.   It doesn’t make their art any better and sometimes just makes it creepy. 
Let's stop glorifying the screwed up artists of history.  In many of those cases, the magnitude of their problems is exaggerated, for they may have had periods of mental illness or instability but also periods of normalcy.  At any rate, the number of artists who have been making a living or part of a living as artists while leading regular normal lives is vastly greater than the number of the few who were mentally ill or unstable. The few artists that were screwed up were the exception, certainly not the rule. They represent a tiny part of the entire larger pool art healthy well balanced artists.  Another aspect to consider is that in their day, they did not have access to psychiatry. They had no choice but to suffer and struggle with their mental illness.  The same is NOT true today:  Medical help is available.  An artist or nurse or plumber today who has issues with depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia has access to meds and medical care that were not available then, and so has a responsibility to others in his or her life to utilize those benefits to minimize their personal trauma.  To fail to do so is irresponsible.  To use art to justify the neglect of a mental illness is just part of the mental illness and no more essential to being an artist than it is to being a landscaper or bricklayer.  Medical help is there for artists and everyone else and all have a responsibility to manage their mental illness. 
Artists are just people, no more messed up than the rest, and they certainly don't NEED any messed-up-ness to BE good artists.  And anyone who claims otherwise is looking for excuses for bad behavior, immaturity, or irresponsibility.  Artists are responsible, hard working, regular people who choose to make things of aesthetic quality, and they deserve respect for managing regular lives while making beautiful things, rather than the disrespect of a stereotype.