Ice White, Wing White

Another day of patiently embroidering, in watercolor, what seems like a vast Arkansas bayou. Though the painting's only 10" x 13", there's a whole lot of forest and many leaves. The trick in painting it is to avoid getting caught up in the detail, and to keep the leaves contained in masses. I've no interest in making this look "just like a photograph." I want it to look like a watercolor. I need to evoke depth and atmosphere, humidity and slanting sunlight. The bird (an ivory-billed woodpecker) is now a blank spot in a sea of green and yellow. I'm saving it for dessert. This is my third day of painting. and there's another to go before I can get to the bird. Beach scenes go much faster.

Along about 1:30 in the afternoon, Chet Baker decides it's time for a walk. He sits patiently, occasionally pawing at my leg or letting loose a soft moan. I know what he wants. By 3 p.m. he's not taking "no" for an answer. I need him to raise me from my concentration, and remind me that exercise is vital. Dogs know so many things that people just choose to ignore. We'd all be better off if we listened to our dogs.

The Loop that we walk is beautiful today, every leaf and twig sheathed in ice, with a dusting of grainy snow atop it. The highlight for me is spotting the male pileated woodpecker I've come to expect at a place I call Gallagher's Fork. I'm thrilled to watch him foraging, taking short flights from tree to tree, kukking all the while, letting me know he sees me, too. Every time he flies, I study the white in his wings. There's such a contrast between the white lining of the underwing, and the small slash of white in the upperwing. Most of the upperwing white is concentrated in the primaries, the "hand" portion of the wing. The effect when he flies is that the white seems to flash on and off as the white underwing is
exposed, then hidden. I register the white in the upperwing, but it's not a quarter of the white I see in the underwing. I've been scrutinizing every pileated I see since April, and I see pileateds almost every time I go out on our land. I look at the Luneau video a few more times. What's five more times when you've looked at it 500 times? With all due respect to those who dissent, there is no way that video shows a normal pileated woodpecker. Here's a recent plate I painted for my Bird Watcher's Digest article, Very Large Woodpeckers. The video shows a bird with white in a big rectangle all the way across the trailing edges of both upperwings--white that is visible on both the upstroke and the downstroke--long wings--powerful flight--like nothing I've ever seen. Oh, how I hope to see that someday.