Clay myths and ceramic stories, pt. 2

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

  ~lyrics from Blackbird by John Lennon and Paul McCarthy

In the late spring and early summer I love to look for the red-winged blackbirds.  Such ordinary, every day birds flitting between the rushes of the salt marshes and grasses of the bay hills.  Even out in the central valley near Sacramento, where rice grows neatly in vast wet fields, one can spy them.  The males with their red and yellow epaulets are spotted easily hanging fiercely onto reeds and grass blades, ever gathering and searching...once...not long ago.
Cairn, bone dry and Within getting a critique

Noticing I hadn't seen any recently I began to wonder what happened to them?  Have I got it wrong and missed seeing them while looking for more exotic birds?  Maybe the drought changed their migratory route or seasonal timing?  Have they lost their faith in us and gone on to greener fields elsewhere?
little blackbird made of basalt clay

I thought about them as I built Cairn.  Wondering about faith and worship.  About ordinary things becoming so extraordinary present when they are gone.  Cairn sat unfinished until the cusp of summer.  My thought was to leave this piece mainly unglazed, but as the other pieces began to take form, shape and color, Cairn seemed to say, "Take care of me, now."
It was decided to keep most of the birds looking up and unglazed, but one needed to be black with red and yellow epaulets---a little warrior bird, defiantly turned and looking straight out.
Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve (Coastal)
As Cairn cooled in the kiln, I decided to have a cup of coffee and watch the local news.  A naturalist came on and started talking about the disappearance of red-winged blackbirds in the Central Valley.  I sat dumbfounded listening...a great decline in population he said.  Perhaps pesticides killing off food source, harming the chicks.  A nearby organic farming area still had a population of blackbirds in the hundreds, but not the thousands once seen in the fields surrounding Sacramento. Not only there but all around the scruffy hills of the bay and grassy bluffs of the coast.  The only blackbird I had seen recently was one of memory and of making.  Not the wild, unfettered, now a mythical and extraordinary thing---this little warrior bird who is quietly vanishing from our ordinary, everyday life.

24" x 14" x 8"
Coiled Built ceramic with porcelain parts
terra sigillata, underglazes, oxide stains, glazes


  1. Love Cairn - but hate hearing about the red-winged blackbirds. Hate that we are killing off our wildlife. Ultimately hurting nature is just hurting ourselves. Makes me sad.

  2. Sad indeed---but there is hope---those organic farms have proved that they are able to co-exist and partner with the wildlife around them. Even provide a sort of sanctuary.

    1. Good to hear. I know I have lots of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds in my organic garden. I've filled it with native pollinators as well as veggies. I have my share of PESTS too though. Still getting lots of food thankfully.

    2. Next year will be better as the beneficial Bs will pass the word! You have such a lovely garden, Judy!

  3. Charlene, the myths that unfold from your own heart and soul speak of days long ago, where the lines between the worlds were blurred, and fantasy was reality.
    I awaited part 2 eagerly before I commented. To see what further delights you had to share.

    And, you never, ever disappoint.

    'Blackbird' is my all time favourite Lennon and McCartney song. I sing it to myself often.

    The blackbird's song is so very sweet. But, I also have noticed their visits are fewer each spring and summer.

    There is so much deep sadness in the natural world today, as man continues a brutal onslaught in every realm of the animal kingdom.

  4. "Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune without the words,
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
    And on the strangest sea;
    Yet, never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me."
    ~Emily Dickerson

    there remains such beauty in the world and truly caring people---I can't help but feel that "joy cometh in the morning" if we struggle through the blindness of the night.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts