Night Calls


Black Bird at NightYou know that part of day, when the sun starts relinquishing itself to the inevitability of dark? Dusk we call it. I like that word. Dusk. It sounds just like it is. Not bright, not dark, just dusty dusk. It’s in between. A teeter-totter creep from day to night. It was during that time that I happened to stroll out to a far and isolated corner of our property for what I no longer remember. I call that area the Secret Corner. A few years ago I carved it out by whacking away a multitude of tree-sized weeds and created a whole new outdoor room. And one more area to mow. But I like it. It’s perimeter is defined by the pine trees on one side, corn fields on two other sides, and grape vines on the final side. Within its confines exist asparagus and strawberry patches, manic rhubarb plants and a prolific row of Asiatic Lilies. Within this newly found space, I also planted two red Adirondack chairs with a matching table so that I may dash off  to hide and/or read. Or contemplate the cornstalks growing. (Or soybeans in years of crop rotation.)

So there I was, in that dusky world walking beneath overgrown vines and under the sweep of darkening pine trees. Stillness. No breeze. Just the quiet approach of dark. I could see the billowy shapes of the asparagus plants that had now gone to seed. Within that cloud of asparagus, I could just make out a shape. Thinking it a random clump of leaves that the wind had previously placed there, I made to go forth and pluck it out. But wait…what I thought to be leaves took shape and revealed itself to be a Black Bird. But how? Could the wispy branches of asparagus hold a bird? It seemed improbable so I quietly stepped closer. Yes. Black Bird sitting in the middle of the asparagus cloud. It didn’t move nor flutter. It looked north and up. Still not quite believing this, I circled once and then twice. Black Bird. It did not flinch nor move though I was only a couple of feet away. Could it be dead? Then wouldn’t it drop to the ground? I circled a third time.

Black Bird sketchIt was still as a stone. Always looking north and up. And dusk was pressing in. And it was feeling a little unnerving. On my third pass I decided that as much as I enjoy a little creepiness to my dusk, this was just too weird. So I decided to leave and head back home, light the lamp and stir the coals. I’ll return in the morning to see if there is a bird on the ground. But that image of the Black Bird sitting stone still in watchful wait as dusk descended remained burned in my mind.

I’ve been trying to sketch out that image because it won’t leave me alone. I’m not at all there yet with the initial sketch. And there are plenty of Black Bird drawings out there so why bother? But I want to bother, because it was such a strange thing to see in such a strange time of day, and somehow I want to draw it and define it for myself. It may fall short of what is burned in my head, but at least it’s a reason to get charcoal all over my hands once again.

The next morning, in the clear light of day I went back out there to the asparagus patch. There was no bird.

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