Monday, May 28, 2012

A Box of Bones and other gifts

Recently I opened my post office box and there, wedged inside that open-ended cave, was a box. I was not expecting anything so this was a pleasant surprise. Checking the return address I knew it would be something wonderful, sent with love and much thought. When I got home, I carefully unwrapped the package to find a gorgeous cigar box, and cradled inside was a bubble wrapped collection of bones. What more could a girl ask for?

Through the years I have "trained" my family and friends, letting them know if they want to win my heart, save me any expired beetles, teeth, nests, bones or anything else you come across that once lived a wild and free life. I am happiest surrounded by these leftovers. A bear skull shares space atop my mantle with an assortment of bird nests, wasp nests, and bleached turtle shells. Hunks of quartz from my former New England home and other rocks perch on tables beside deer jaw bones and vases of found feathers. I even brought a little owl home that I saw wedged in the grill work of a tourist vehicle at the grocery store parking lot. I can only imagine how that happened. He resided in my freezer for few days to allow me some sketching time before I gave him a decent burial in the back yard.

Now I've scared all of you haven't I? I witness a wide range of emotions when someone new visits The Crooked Little House. Their eyes will wander around, trying to be polite by not letting me catch them staring, while a smile is frozen on their face. But I also usually notice a hint of wonderment and longing, wanting to get a closer look at my treasures. Maybe it's a primal thing rearing up, a suppressed urge to get close to nature again as our ancestors were. And then occasionally someone will show outright joy and eagerly inspect my natural adornments. By taking the time to observe and draw these finds, I learn about how these animals lived their lives, and I feel it's my way of showing respect for them and their sometimes "untimely" demise.

For me, drawing bones is always a fun challenge; getting the highlights and shadows just right, working in some texture where it exists such as in the marrow inside a deer bone, and if adding color, really seeing the soft hues lurking amidst the obvious whites and tans. These bones once made up a living, breathing, spirit that probably had a family, felt pain and surely experienced joy. This animal shared our world asking nothing from us yet giving us so much pleasure. So now these animals will forever live on in my sketchbooks and in my life.

Dostoevsky said:  Love animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble their joy, do not harass them, do not deprive them of their happiness; do not work against God's intent. Man, do not pride yourself on your superiority to animals; they are without sin.


  1. Love the Dostoyevsky quote. I'd rather associate with people who see the beauty in the mortality of animals than those 'offended' by it. Death is part of the natural cycle. It's a shame when people seal themselves off from the beauty of the physical remains of once thriving creatures.

  2. Wow. Dostoevsky and art. Can I live here forever?

  3. Beautiful quote! I just got your winged thank you (well, I just opened it, that is), and I am now subscribed to Backyard Wild. I already feel very inspired to fill up my new sketchbook. Thanks for letting me know!