Yesterday we hung art.

It’s a sad state of affairs that we have too much art to hang in one day, but them’s the breaks. At least we got most of the big paintings and masks off the ground, and that’s the important bit. Feels more like we live here now.

My inability to post reliably to forums and respond to e-mail–let alone LOOK at anything on the ‘net!–is starting to take its toll on even my inherently sunny disposition. (It’s amazing I didn’t burst into flames for the magnitude of that falsehood, but y’know.) Hopefully next week. (And Terzy–if you’re reading this–I LOVED the draco-griff-womba-frox on Yerf! That little face! Awww!)

The new plastic-coated-wire birdfeeder has stumped the squirrels for now. I await their next assault with great interest.

The unidentified yellow-olive bird, it turns out, is not a goldfinch at all (although I think I’ve seen a few of those around, too) but a pine warbler. No new species identified–there’s something with big yellow spots on the sides and barred wings that I can’t ID yet.

And that’s the state of the union…

“And there it goes…”

Three days after the birdseed went up–in this case a cheap birdseed bar that I’d fastened to an old plant-hook on a tree off the deck–our local squirrels made off with the motherlode. I’d been watching the squirrels dangle upside down to yank handfuls off the bar and been amused by it, but as I was in the bathroom, this morning, brushing my teeth, I heard James say solemnly “And there it goes…”

I rushed out, dripping foam like a rabid wombat (4/4 with counters, if memory serves) to catch the tail end of the squirrel, holding a birdseed bar larger than his entire body, go awkwardly down the tree. He couldn’t climb UP with it, but he was able to brake its fall to the ground. He got lower than the porch and I lost sight of him.

“Where’d he go?” I demanded of James (as if James was some kind of expert on the psychology of our local squirrelthief.)
“Under the porch to start a new life, I imagine,” said James dryly.

A few minutes later, with the birdseed bar crosswise in his mouth like a small dog fetching a railroad tie, the squirrel waddled into view. I considered going after him to reclaim my seedbar, but figured meh–it was three bucks and he’d gnawed through wire for it. If he could get it home, he’d earned it, and I’m hardly gonna begrudge a hardworking fellow mammal a meal at my expense.

Now I gotta get one of those thick wire holders and another bird bar…

P.S. DSL should be back next week–in theory–and I will hopefully be replying to e-mail then. If you’ve e-mailed me recently and haven’t gotten a reply, it’s not that I don’t love you/find you amusing/need work/want to transfer money from your Nigerian bank account, it’s that webmail is pretty bad about actually sending responses. But hopefully next week.

Neophyte Birdwatching I

Oh. My. God.

A woodpecker just landed outside my window, an enormous monster with herringbone feathers and a head the striking red neon of a cheap highlighter. My bird book, acquired yesterday, informs me that it is a male red-bellied woodpecker.

I had just sat down to write an entry about the extraordinary variety of birds that I keep spotting through the sliding glass door onto the deck, and as my fingers poised over the keys, the red-bellied woodpecker arrived and left me staring with jaw hanging open.

Arizona had a lot of fascinating birds I’d never seen before–woodpeckers on palm trees, Inca doves, teeny little verdin and miniscule gnatcatchers, but we were still inherently in an urban area, so our visitors were urban birds, or hummingbirds, who assume that they are the meanest things on the street and therefore can go anywhere.

Living flush with a greenway, however, means that the bird feeder I put up yesterday had seen a parade of visitors, all of which are new to me. I should be working, but instead I’m sitting here with a bird book trying to put names to some of my visitors. Athena, also not working, is crouched by the glass door watching our guests with jaw-chattering intensity. (This is why Athena will always be an indoor cat.)

Our first visitor yesterday was a shockingly monochromatic woodpecker, as vividly black and white as a mime, which appears to have been a Downy Woodpecker. After that, I’ve spotted Carolina chickadees, tufted titmouses (titmice?), white-breasted and brown capped nuthatches, a slate-sided junco, and several small, vividly yellow-to-olive things, some streaky, some not, that I cannot even begin to identify–they’re sparrows or warblers or something. (You’d think birds with that much bright yellow would be easy to label, but damned if I know. Hopefully I will get a clearer view in coming days.)

There is also a squirrel. I realize that squirrels are the bane of bird feeders and I should be cursing him unto the tenth generation, but I confess, I don’t much mind. He’s a big, sleek, top-of-the-rodent-game sort of squirrel with pale ears. He is hanging off the tree by flexible ankles, stretched out into space, catching the bird bar in his little paws and pulling off tidbits, which he then hangs upside down to eat. (Athena ceases her jaw-chatter watching this, possibly realizing that the squirrel is just about her size.) While I may someday soon despise all squirrel kind, and get into the accellerating arms race to keep him from destroying feeders, at the moment, I can’t help but marvel at the sheer efficiency of evolution in squirrel-kind–here is a clever, flexible, well designed tree-rat. With flexible ankles. Forget raccoons, when civilization fails, my money’s going on the squirrel.

And now, I should really get to work on something other than birds. But I’ll chalk this up as research for future paintings or something, and not feel too guilty.

The Wombat Has Landed

Well, we made it.

Okay, we made it a few days ago, but this is the first time I’ve gotten around to updating, since I am writing on a–god help us all–dial-up connection. It is a measure of my geekhood that my brain keeps replaying that scene from Star Trek, where Spock complains that working with this archaic technology is like working with stone knives and bearskins. I feel his pain. (My buddy Kathy, being a dear friend, has offered the benefit of her connection to update, and if the DSL doesn’t snap on in a few days, I may take her up on it.)

But anyway, we made it. The trip was uneventful–good for me, not so good for people reading about it, since I have no fascinating accounts of how the truck hit a low-flying chicken on the freeway and overturned, scattering art across eight lanes before coming to rest upside down in an ornamental fountain of General Lee. That would make for good reading–a coupla states worth of “We drove all day, and then stopped for the night,” does not. About the only bad thing was that the majority of my houseplants died in Oklahoma due to a hard freeze overnight, reducing the collection down to a coupla hardy Peruvian cactus. Dunno where I’ll find a Karoo Rose again–I picked it up on a whim at the botanical gardens in AZ, and I don’t know how common they are–but it’s my own fault for leaving an Arabian plant out in a car with snow on the ground. Oh well, easy come, easy go.

House is nice. There’s some really reprehensible 70’s linoleum, an elderly lime-green dishwasher, and the less said about the faux-marble bathroom countertop, the better, but those are pretty minor considerations–the other appliances are brand new, the carpet is an equally new cream, and my studio’s half again the size of the old one. The deck is enormous–you could keep elephants out there–and the back of the property opens onto a sort of greenway, so pretty much it’s just trees, trees, and more trees. After Tempe, it’s like living in the woods. Our landlady is a pleasant woman with two dogs and a bird feeder hung from every available surface, which is fine by me–I’ll be putting up feeders myself here shortly.

And really, that’s about all for now. Having gotten my computer set up, I can get back to painting and catching up on my Digger backlog, which I’m glad off–those few weeks of packing-but-not-working made me feel sort’ve…unemployed. And I hate that. So–wombat signing off for now, shall hopefully return with a real connection in the next few days.