Bruce Katlin Creates And The Running Artist

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Two Birds Taught Me About Determination and Passion

"Say it Phoebe." Printer's Ink on Paper.

Ornithologists have been telling us for decades what we can learn from paying close attention to birds. It’s a no-brainer that modern aviation was designed around bird anatomy and their aeronautical expertise. Bird lovers and researchers alike propound for example, that we can learn from birds on how to lead, survive, overcome obstacles and create lasting relationships. One species in particular, the Say’s Phoebe has provided classes in life lessons during this year’s spring migration season impressing me with their fortitude, building expertise, determination and ceaseless protection for each other and their families. What follows are examples of what I have witnessed this spring with the return of two-feathered friends.
Fortitude. Before flying 2,000 miles from South America to our home in northern New Mexico, these small but courageous winged creatures make a love connection mid-flight giving speed dating a new meaning. Upon their arrival the male takes his new love on a house hunting adventure showing her the best locales suitable for their home building project. They aren't much affected by humans and will build their nests on or near houses and business structures but the female has the final say of where the first piece of straw or grass will be placed. The couple who chose our house as their nesting place this spring have returned three years running. (Some pairs have been known to return to the same nesting place for five consecutive years.)
Building Expertise/Project Management. The construction of this year’s nest began with a flurry atop a sloping air vent. Flying back and forth, mama Phoebe brought beaks full of straw, grass, and feathers, which became the nest’s foundation. After a few days, we laid out various colors of thread and fabric for the lovebirds that were quickly incorporated into their now cupped shaped home. At week’s end the solid looking nest was ready for use. The proud and ambitious parents set out to consume as much protein as they could in preparation for the hatch.
Determination. It’s been said, and recent research has shown, that grit and determination is a better indicator of success than intelligence. This is surely the case when it comes to the Say’s Phoebe however, they have displayed some pretty incredible behaviors that some would consider very smart. Take for example the mother’s defensive actions. Upon opening a door nearby the nest she would take the focus away from the nest by flying about twenty-five out where she keeps a careful eye on her eggs and me. If, I approach the nest at to close a range, she’ll attack. Very clever. What’s more impressive is, when I do manage to shoo her further away from the nest when needed, she’ll fly around to another side of the house where she can’t see me. When she hears the nearby door close, she returns to her young. That’s learned behavior!

Shortly after the nest was completed the weather turned foul and a powerful windstorm swept through the Rio Grande Gorge Valley. Tumbleweeds pressed up against our front door, pine trees scraped the outer walls of our house and worse; the nest was blown to the ground where it lay torn horizontally in half. Two dime-sized eggs lay splattered on the paving stones. We were heartbroken not so much for ourselves but for the hardworking expectant parents. Our sadness we imagined, was nothing compared to what the Say’s Phoebes must have felt as they flew nearby searching and calling for their unborn offspring. Days went by with the nest on the ground, now wedged between a wall and rose bush - the aggrieved parents continuing their cries of abandonment.

Rebuilding. After considering for several days whether or not to interfere with Mother Nature, I decided to put the bottom half of the destroyed nest back into its original place and then waited to see if the parents would rebuild. Twenty-four hours later our determined friends were back applying their constructions skills and this time around, tightening the nest’s weave and raising its height to meet our home’s eaves. Again, to me, this is learned behavior that has consequences on build materials and design which, affects survival.
Their determination reminded me of my heroine Pi in the novel, Birds Like Us, The Pi Phillecroix Story who demonstrates immense courage and determination when she walks from Paris to the shores of the UK trying to save her father’s life. (I wrote the novel prior to having any knowledge of, or experience with Say’s Phoebes.)

I haven’t wanted to cause stress to the birds anymore than they have already experienced so, I have not disturbed the nest to see how many eggs have been laid. Based on the parent’s behavior I suspect that we will be hearing the chirps of newborn chicks any day now. Imagine what we could accomplish if we employed the lessons learned from our determined, passionate and effective engineering avian friends.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Life Is Precious

Abolish the Death Penalty. Visit Arkansas.

I debated long and hard before creating and posting the above and following images. The reason being, I feel strongly about injustices being perpetrated by States' Legislators and governments as a whole but do not want to create more negativity. At the same time, like so many of us, I'm frustrated and want to create awareness using art and humor; humor based on the hypocrisy, stupidity and fear that many legislators and governments worldwide are basing their decisions and subsequent actions upon. 

End Discrimination. Visit Texas.

Fear is driving many decisions; fear of losing something we have or, something we want and won't get. In order to protect ourselves from the perceived fear we then need to place blame, blame on "others". ""They" are taking our jobs. ""They" are causing wars and committing crimes." ""They are what scares me most because "they" are so different from me."

End Discrimination. Visit North Carolina.

There's absolutely to wisdom involved when making important decisions based on fear. Of course, first you'd have to be aware that you're making fearful decisions and that takes a willingness to look deep inside. It's called self-actualization. How many lawmakers do you know that make decisions based on wisdom and not on fear, arrogance and stupidity. (I use the word "stupidity" not to suggest that lawmakers are stupid, but rather that they are not operating from a place of wisdom when making decisions that in general, do not support and help the needs of the citizen they represent.)

Instead of operating out of fear creating division, what would happen if we started from a point of understanding ourselves first, what we're truly afraid of and then question our thoughts, actions and behaviors? What would happen if lawmakers and governments around the world sincerely valued each and every life? What would happen if their decisions were based on courage, empathy and abundance? I know what would happen; we'd stopping harming and killing each other at such an alarming rate. We'd produce more life affirming goods and services based on understanding each other's needs, We'd use wisdom to make decisions that affect living beings instead of fear, self-centeredness and selfishness, and lastly, we could have real happiness.

There are very good, upright, caring, considerate, kind, and helpful people throughout this Country and around the world who just want to live in peace and be happy. We need to let our elected officials know that they need not be afraid, there's 'enough' for everyone; and that more money, power, and policies and laws based on discrimination will not create lasting happiness. 

Oh, what a world it would be. For now, make a difference. Start by taking a look at yourself, questions your motives and what they're based on. Fear begets fear which drives hatred and violence which, is good for no one. Tell your policy makers to take a breath and choose wisdom instead of fear. Considering supporting the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the United Nations Human Rights Fund, and the Southern Poverty Law Center because life is precious.