More Adventures in Spatial Relations With Ursula

So we were headed to my signing yesterday, and we passed the place with the giant metal chicken. Their LAST metal chicken.

Oh god! What if I went to the book signing and returned and they were giant chickenless? What if some clever bastard got to the chicken before me?

"Look!" I said. "We’re running early. I NEED THAT CHICKEN."

Kevin looked at the chicken and put his head in his hands. "How do you propose to transport your chicken?" he asked.

"We’ll put the seats down. It’ll fit in the back."

"It’s as tall as I am!"

"We’ll stuff the legs between the seats."

Kevin signed heavily and said "Let’s see if Jacques and Wendy are in…" (Naturally he knows the store owners. Kevin knows pretty much everybody.) 

We went in. I got a discount because Kevin used to be the scout leader for the the offspring of one of the sellers. We tromped out and looked at the chicken.


"It’s not gonna fit."

"We could get your convertible…"

"NO. It’ll puncture the leather seats!" (Indeed, the Giant Metal Chicken has Giant Metal Spurs.)

"Then we’ll come back in two hours with bungee cords and tie it to the roof!"

Kevin gazed at the car, then the chicken, and perhaps had the brief mental image of me behind the wheel of the Vibe, laughing maniacally, cruising through town with a Giant Metal Chicken tied to the roof. He looked at his watch, calculated time to signing, calculated time required to talk me down from the heights of metal chickenhood, ran a hand over his face, said "God, I love you," in a conversational manner, and then he and the salesman started manhandling the chicken into the back.

Turns out I was right. It DID fit, as long as you didn’t mind niceties like closing the hatch or legroom in the front seat.

We had to go home again–we couldn’t take the chicken with us to the signing in an open car. Someone might steal it! Giant Metal Chickens are a hot commodity! You hotwire one of those babies…well, anyway. We took it home. Kevin sat with his knees up to his chest, since the chicken’s legs were wedging the seat forward at maximum, and laughed helplessly all the way home.

And when I go to resell the Vibe, if anybody ever asks what the scrape marks are on the plastic interior are from, I have a REALLY good explanation.

So much of birding is luck…I glanced out the window and saw, from the exact right angle, a bird shape on the edge of the garden. It was exactly the same color as the ground, a gray brown shade, and it could just as easily have been an optical illusion, like the one hummock that insists on looking so utterly like a rabbit.

I picked up the binoculars, and to my mild delight, it was a hermit thrush! I’ve seen a fair number–they weren’t uncommon in the suburbs–but they seem to be rarer out here in the rural areas, and this is only the third or fourth I’ve seen in the yard.

Meanwhile, I have to go fix the birdfeeder…the deer are so hungry they’re eating birdseed, which means that they’ve yanked the perch ring off the bottom of the feeder and I need to go screw it back on.

Had insomnia last night. Stayed up looking at garden porn. ‘Tis the season, apparently.

This weekend, weather permitting, Kevin has agreed to kill two small invasive trees that have been a thorn in my side for the last year. One is smack in the middle of my island bed. I plan to replace it with a giant metal chicken from the African import place in town, because the garden, while heavy on plants, lacks the critical Giant Metal Chicken Feng Shui element so crucial to a successful garden.* And that spot needs something tall, and they are Very Cool Chickens.

*I am generally skeptical of "garden art" and never need to see another plaster cherub, small child urinating, or Flat Animal On A Stick. (Although I cannot completely dismiss the Animal On A Stick genre, as I have seen some really wonderful creations in the genre…) Or gazing balls. I have never understood gazing balls, and I am secretly convinced they must DO something and I just don’t know about it. Regardless, I will not be keeping a dragon orb in the garden unless they send along Cyan Bloodbane to do the raking.**

**If you got that reference, you are a sad, sad geek, although probably not as sad of one as I am for making it.

The snow melted away to nothing. I found myself prowling the garden section of Lowes Tuesday, fighting the mad urge to throw twenty bags of dirt in the back of the Vibe and taking them home to set up the bed that I plan to put in this spring. (Last year was the central island bed–this year I’m gonna put a bed around the edge of the lawn, to make an edge between the wild area and the grass.)

Maybe next week.

I also find myself staring at the clumps of daffodils that have come up religiously and thinking "Why didn’t I plant grape hyacinth under the shrubbery last fall? Why?" (I love grape hyacinth. It is a guilty love, because the stuff is a non-native, and does become invasive, but as such things go, they’re pretty mild-mannered–they flower in early spring and then vanish for the year, they don’t eat trees or strangle other plants, they don’t form vast monocultural stands, and they work great under shrubs. *sigh*  I have not yet succumbed to my worse nature and planted them. Perhaps this year.)

And now I am staring out the window with my binoculars going "I could get out there and pull up that grass…and cut back that dead bit…and…"

Spring better hit soon.

Meanwhile! Signing this weekend–Saturday at 1 pm at Chapel Hill Comics!  They’ll have Digger, Dragonbreath 1 & 2, and Nurk! Come on out! (please god, come out!)

In what can only be described as a meteorological Dick Move, yesterday’s sixty degree weather has been followed with a forecast of snow.

Meanwhile, I’ve been obsessed with rabbits in plague-doctor masks for a couple days now. Weird how these things go…something about them seems familiar, but I don’t know if somebody else is doing rabbits in masks, or if I’ve just been drawing rabbits and plague doctors for so long that they go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Rabbit in Mask

Sketches of more rabbits in masks

Spring Dreams

I am so very, very ready for spring.

Generally I’m fine with winter. Ten years in Minnesota has inured me to it–that spring could arrive in February is so laughably soon that it usually surprises me.

This year, however, I am feeling a serious jones for spring. There’s a whole flock of chipping sparrows on the feeder, but…I want plants. I actually had a DREAM last night about wanting plants–I was horribly depressed and my ex-husband had hit upon a plan to make money by storing people in vegetative states in the apartment, and I was wandering around the neighborhood thinking "I need to get away, I need to leave, why am I here…" and this woman started telling me about her flowers. She had Virginia creeper, already turning red (my brain has little sense of seasons…) and lavender and liatris and a rhodedendron that was white with yellow centers.

I wandered back to the apartment, thinking "I need plants, I am never entirely happy without plants," and discovered that the Grandfather of Rabbits was sitting outside the back door. (A female relative of mine was cooking for him, and I do not know now who it was, although I knew her very well in my dream.) The Grandfather of Rabbits was an elderly Hispanic man, and his various sons and grandsons were wandering around the backyard, generally being very attractive young dark-skinned men, although it wasn’t particularly a temptation, since even I know better than to get involved with a rabbit.

I said as much to the Grandfather of Rabbits, who told me that if he was fifty years younger… Then he took my hand and stared into the palm. "You need to be somewhere with grass and sky and stone," he said. Then "Ha! Listen to me, I sound like Hugin."

Hugin being one of Odin’s ravens, I said, rather tentatively, "You mean…someplace Norse?"

"Sure, what do I know?"

Then it started to rain, and I woke up.

My buddy Otter told me that it sounded like I was being given a mythic quest, but rabbits are just too ADHD to make good quest-givers. Which is just as well, since I’m probably too ADHD to pull off a mythic quest anyway…

But damn, I’m ready for spring.

There was a crazy mixed media moment somewhere behind this…

Gorman’s Rabbit II

Also! SongCoyote! If you are reading this, please send me an e-mail! I have your sketchbook, but there is no e-mail address in it, and I want to make sure I draw the right thing in it!

Still fooling around with gel medium. And rabbits.

Verdigris Rabbit

I thought this one was a companion piece to the Wolf-Ate-Them rabbit–I started them at the same time–but it’s incredible how much the difference between the shiny transparent surface and the opaque matte one changed my perception of the piece. So I guess it’s related. I’d say they’re in the same series, but if I call it a series it will immediately cease to exist and I will be compelled to build peacocks out of chewing gum or something, so let’s not go there.

Gorman’s Rabbit

The pastel pencils I used on this one were a Ziploc bag full sent to me by my mother, when I was in college. I was probably eighteen and taking an art class with pastels, and I was really liking them, so Mom sent me a bunch that she didn’t use. Fourteen years later, despite eight moves, a divorce, and a whole lot of reckless purging of possessions, I still have them, and they turned out to be what I needed for this piece.

And I just saw a mourning cloak butterfly. Winter may not be ready to leave, but I hold out hope that it is looking for its coat and making its farewells.

KEVIN: So the piece you declared was an abject failure and you hated it…people are asking if you’re auctioning it and writing stories about it?
KEVIN: Here I am, sweating and bitching and going nuts trying to write this thing for church, and your abject failures are wildly successful?
URSULA: Apparently so.
KEVIN: Gynnnaaaaah!
URSULA: But for perspective, I totally thought the Unsaint was the best thing I painted all last year.
KEVIN:  ….
URSULA:  So, yeah.

One of the things I always say when people are misguided enough to put me in a room with a microphone and tell me to talk about what I do is that you never have any idea what people will like. And this is true, and it’s probably a good thing, because we’re really no judges of our own work, and also it keeps us humble, because if the pieces we thought were brilliant were hailed as brilliant, no one could live with usafter awhile, and I really thought y’all were gonna be polite about the colors on this one and no one would ever speak of it again.

So, since a bunch of people have asked…starting this one low…

The Wolf Ate Them Auction

And let me say, I’m actually rather moved by the response to this one…I was gettin’ all sulky and grumpy because I felt like I hadn’t managed to convey what I was going for, and the fact that it’s resonating with a number of people makes me think maybe more got in there than I’d feared.

Grah. This one only barely works in reality–it doesn’t work at all in the scan, since the super-shiny glassy-metallic bits that break up the composition got lost completely. Bugger.

The Wolf Ate Them

Oh well, at least I managed to get the bird beak out of the rabbit’s butt…

The first of my experiments with psuedo-encaustic…this one turned out too glossy and too obviously acrylic for my taste, but the results are still kinda interesting…

Curious Quail

And some little ACEO-sized sketches of rabbits I was fooling around with last night…

Rabbit 1
Rabbit 2
Rabbit 3

I used to draw a lot of rabbits as a kid. (I loved loved Watership Down.*) It was one of my things, along with horses. (Come to think of it, the heads on the horses and the rabbits were pretty similar…) They were innocent of skill or anatomical knowledge–I was eight–and my mother was encouraging, which meant that she got handed dozens of drawings of rabbits, always sitting up, facing right, clutching carrots. She put one on her studio door. Mom was good about that sort of thing. I’ve found myself doodling rabbits for the last couple of days, which are also largely innocent of anatomy, but at least in somewhat more novel ways.

Meanwhile, we have a hawk. A red-tailed hawk, I b’lieve, who has an astonishingly fluffy crotch (he looks like he’s wearing a feather boa around his hips–I’d think he was a juvenile still, but it’s not exactly baby bird season. Might just be cold, or maybe he’s a first year who hung onto his baby fluff for awhile. ) I saw him for the first time Wednesday, when he landed under the birdfeeder, missing a strike, and then lurked in one of the little trees until everybody forgot he was there (it was incredible, you could actually see the juncos getting bolder and bolder…) whereupon he launched himself at something small and grey in the leaf litter. Since he opened his mouth and swallowed it down whole, I couldn’t tell you if it was a mouse or a vole or an unfortunate Carolina chickadee, just that it went down very quickly.

Yesterday I saw him briefly through the trees. Today he’s hanging out on one of the old deadfalls in the woods, watching for unwary birds. Apparently this has become his buffet of choice for the moment.

I am dreadfully pleased by this–I love the little birds that come to the feeder, but there are a lot of them, and he’s so magnificently sullen, the way birds of prey are.

I am less pleased by the glossy liver-colored doe that now comes and eats out of my bird feeder every morning. She wanders off when I open the window and yell, but only grudgingly.

*My first fanfiction was a Watership Down/Star Trek crossover. I was in fourth grade and showed it to no one.

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