17 August 2010

The Blackbird Sat

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
~ from the poem 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird' by Wallace Stevens

It was snowing softly and biting cold that ever-darkening February afternoon.

She bundled up in her snow boots. She pulled on her mittens attached to the inside of her coat with a string and a safety pin. A knit cap with a yarn ball of green and gold was pulled down over her ears. She was prepared for the weather, but that did nothing to relieve the dread gnawing at her stomach.

At eight she was trusted to walk the ten blocks from school alone. But she wished she weren't alone today of all days. Perhaps she had a premonition that something ominous was about to occur. And with no friend along for the walk, would there be anyone to hear her scream?

As she walked, she always kept her eyes cast down upon her feet. She had a long to think about what might happen next. Seven. Eight. Nine blocks. But as she neared the corner to turn toward home she slowed considerably and looked up to the sky.

She dreaded this corner.

Simon was always watching and ever protective of the house that sheltered him, fed him, treated this wild one as you would a pet. No matter the day, no matter the weather, Simon would cast his discerning glance to any passers-by as coolly as a dictator from atop his throne. The instant you crossed that imaginary boundary, Simon would swoop down to assert his power over this bit of asphalt, claiming this territory as his alone. Simon defied all comers no matter that they were merely passing through. This was his patch of sky, his giant tree.

She knew that Simon would be in the towering oak across the street even if she couldn't make out his form in the tangled bare branches. His beady black eye was clearly trained on her approach. He let out one loud 'caw' breaking the muffled stillness of the air.

She gathered her courage to cast a wary eye skyward. But Simon was gone. And in that instant she knew that he was coming for her. Her legs no longer knew how to move.

Simon swooped and dove repeatedly, inching ever closer to her small form standing frozen in the middle of the road. She cowered and whimpered but that only served to make Simon even more brazen.

And then suddenly he landed. On top of her tiny shoulders this great ebony dive bomber sat. He pecked at the green and gold yarn atop her tiny head. The weight of his body made her buckle and she started screaming. The tears were blinding. Peck. Peck. Peck.

So close to the safety of home, yet she wondered if she would ever reach it.

One block away at 6609 43rd Avenue North her mother awaited her return. A mother knows the screams of her own child. And when these shrieks pierced the air she ran to save her daughter with the green and gold cap. The girl found refuge in her mother's arms. But though she could dry her eyes and calm her fears, the nightmare was all too real.

To this day the girl with the green and gold cap dreads the sound of the 'caw' and the flapping of the pitch black wings or the spectre in the tree as if Simon's offspring were keeping watch for another opportunity.

She never walks alone and always casts a wary eye toward the dark limbs of the oaks.

* * * * *

This is a true story.

The people around the corner from my house took in this crow when he was a baby and nursed him back to health. They named him Simon. From that moment on he became the rather macabre sentinel of the neighborhood. I did indeed, get pecked on the head by Simon the crow. And although my recollection may be spotty, the feelings are real in this grown up version of the events.

I lived in Minnesota at the time and I laughingly say that Simon must have been a Vikings fan and saw my Packer green and gold homemade knit cap as a threat. My parents involved the DNR authorities after this incident, who because he was a protected species, released Simon into the wild 100 miles away. But Simon knew his way to this home. They tried again and again, until it was obvious that they needed to deal with this another way. I am not aware what happened after that, but Simon was indeed gone.

To this day, I have a difficulty walking down the street and seeing a crow in a tall tree. I do have this irrational fear that Simon is still out to get me, even though that occurred more than 34 years ago. {And no, I have never watched the movie 'The Birds.'}

When I saw the January Art Bead Scene challenge was Monet's stark painting 'La Pie' I initially shuddered at the thought of trying to use this as my inspiration. While most people might see a calm and snowy landscape, my eye immediately went to the tiny speck of the blackbird and I recalled this rather haunting memory from my childhood.

I decided that this would challenge me to funnel that latent fear into something beautiful.

I like to blend my inspirations and recalled the Wallace Stevens' poem 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.' I found stanza XIII to be the perfect accompaniment to this painting. This entire poem is reminiscent of Japanese haiku and deals with the fact that death comes to all lives. The austere nature of these lines reflect the stark scene that Monet depicts so well.

I set about to focus on deconstructing the blackbird of my nightmares into something that dreams are made of.

The wing focal is from Lynn Davis, ExpeditionD. The oily iridescence of the blackbird's wings is really quite striking. And 'Le Pie' or the magpie is typically attracted to shiny or bright things, as Simon was undoubtedly attracted to my yarn ball cap. A vintage button along with a snowy vintage mother-of-pearl feather speak to that habit of the blackbird to be intrigued.

The leather cord and the Vintaj brass chain and toggle are reminiscent of the gate and the stark tree branches against the winter sky.

The painting shows the deepening afternoon sky and the stark white snow drifts. I used smoky quartz in addition to the creamy white stick pearls to illustrate this soft muted color palette made of shadows and light.

My piece 'The Blackbird Sat', featured in the Fall issue of Stringing, is my attempt to turn fear into beauty blending the inspiration of the true story, art and poetry. And this exercise in inspiration has allowed me the courage to move on and rise above.

* * * * *
Please join me in visiting the 23 other members of the Stringing Fall Blogger Carnival by reading the inspiration behind their lovely works of wearable art. Plus, if you leave a comment on my blog post and any of the other 23 posts below, you will be entered to win one of three great prizes: a copy of the fall issue of Stringing, a handmade porcelain pendant and coordinating beads by Gaea, and a small goodie pack of filigree, gemstones & other findings from Rings & Things. Basically, leave one comment on one or more {heck, why not visit them all!} and you will be entered into the random drawing. Each comment on a different designer's page is another chance to win. {Note: multiple comments on a single designer's page counts only as one chance to win.} Giveaway closes on the 23rd and winners will be announced on August 24th.

Go and get inspired!

Enjoy the day!


Jen Judd said...

I have to admit, I was surprised by Simon's vicious attack...and even more surprised to know that you, poor sweetie, have been so traumatized! I actually saw a huge crow sitting up on a storefront as I was walking in yesterday and I swear he was talking to me...I never even considered that he might try to hurt me. What a new perspective!
Lovely work channeling your fear...you're a total inspiration. :)

Jeannie said...

Love the crow story. A large bird pooped on my older sister's head when we were kids. We were sitting at the picnic table eating lunch. Ewehhhhh!
I live in Minnesota.

The links are fabulous designers. This should be very inspiring.

CraftyHope said...

Oooh, what a spooky, spooky story! I'm glad you could turn something so frightening into something so beautiful.

Pearl and Pebble said...

Man can you tell a story Erin!!! I was on the edge of my seat hoping that Simon was going to escort you to school as a protector...:) Well you certainly succeeded in making something wonderfully beautiful out of the memory. Your necklace is so pretty. It has soft and gentle quality to it. You must have forgiven Simon and have tried to understand him a little:)

Unknown said...

You my sweet lady never cease to amaze me! It is so strange how these things linger in our thoughts and fears but you truly turned the table on Simon! This piece is so beautiful! Kudos and hugs for your triumph!

Lorelei Eurto said...

So Dark, mysterious, and beautiful!

Stacey said...

Wow what a story - so creepy. :) I love that inspiration can even when a bad memory is involved. Beautiful work as always Erin.

peacockfairy said...

What a neat story! I love this necklace - so dark and elegant.

Melissa J. Lee said...

It's interesting how much certain events from our childhood can really haunt us throughout our adult lives, isn't it? Your store is very Poe-like! Beautiful necklace - love the focal elements!

Anonymous said...

i love what you did, beautiful design. and loved the story too!

Sharon said...

What a creepy good story. Your necklace certainly brings life to the darkness and mystery of the attacking crow!

Thanks for your comment on my blog, Erin. You are an incredible thing as well!

Kristy's Kreations Jewelry said...

I am in awe of your interpretation of the story...just lovely!

Gaea said...

Beautiful design! I can really feel your story! How scary and intense! No wonder is stuck with you!

rubybayan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erin S said...

I love this piece, Erin. Awesome focal, and I love the unexpected button and the way you tied it on with leather instead of wire or a jump ring. Really cool.
Erin S

Silver Parrot said...

Such a gorgeous design - it's one of my favorites in the magazine!

Cindy Gimbrone said...

I loved this necklace when you submitted it to the ABS monthly challenge and I love it even more now! Congratulations on being featured in Stringing!

steufel said...

Spooky story, Erin. But the necklace is stunning!

Stephanie LaRosa said...

This design is so pretty, I love the different focal pieces.

Ruby Bayan said...

Fear into beauty alright! And absolutely sensational!

Cynthia said...

A haunting story. And a hauntingly beautiful necklace.

Alexandra said...

This post made me realize how all encompassing your talents are.

Anonymous said...


Also from MN - It was 51 degrees this morning! I LOVE your necklace! I absolutely love how it ties into the story and love the dark look of it! Congratulations on getting published! Way to go!

swopemelmel said...

Hauntingly beautiful. Edgar Allen would approve. swopemelmel@aol.com

Alice said...

Reading through your story I never suspected you were that little girl that got pecked by the nasty crow! I'm amazed that you could even make yourself create such a beautiful piece despite the memories of this naughty bird.

Regina said...

It's amazing, I read your story about Simon and I do see it in your necklace, the fear and the beauty. You truly have a gift. Congratulations.

EmandaJ said...

Hi Erin,

When I was little, our next door neighbor raised several crows, I remember dripping water from a tiny bottle down the throat of one baby bird, when I accidently dropped the bottle in the birdy's mouth! I think it passed okay 8^)

Love the necklace!

Jenners said...

Your story was amazing! You can create beauty with words and beads. I love how you faced your fears to make a beautiful necklace like this!

Michelle Mach said...

Wow, what a story--so well-told and suspenseful. I love how you turned that experience into something positive--an act of courage.

I was amused to see you lived in Minnesota. Lots of beaders seem to live there at one time or another. I expect you can tell us why in a future post. :)

Thanks for joining the Stringing blog carnival!

Off the Beadin' Path said...

Erin, Some day you should do some serious writing, in addition to your blog! Your story-telling abilities are captivating! I love that you wanted to turn the nightmare memories into pleasant dreams, and you truly succeeded by everything that is depicted in this necklace. Congratulations on the publication and your Gallery gala! Is this YOUR month or what!!

Unknown said...

Oh Erin what a story! I was feeling in a way what it had to of been like as a child and knowing that Simon would attack when you wrote this. Your parents did the right thing. What a story and so Beautifully written! I believe you could of written a book from this. Your Necklace is a real beauty as is all of what you make. Ravishing!

Cindy said...

What a beautiful necklace...I admired it right away when I saw it in Stringing. Congrats on the publication! And I'm waiting to hear more about your big exhibit over the weekend! :-)

Mellisa said...

So well written Erin, I can imagine the terror for a small child being confronted by such a huge bird...I think their intelligence makes them a bit more intimidating as well...we have a gang of them around here...they seem to revel in teasing my pupper when we walk her by them!
With your necklace you have taken the power from Simon...it's beautiful :)

Maneki said...

Beautiful necklace, I really like the balance between the dark and the white.

(BTW, I'm very fond of magpies eventhough they're stealing food from our cats. They are really like a winged version of the trolls in the old legends [not the giants in 19th C folkart and modern fantasy literture, but the ones in our local myths and stories]. Thieving and mischievous, but very pretty. Though not living underground and probably not hoarding lots of gold. And I doubt they can get invisible.)

Betty said...

Love this necklace and was intrigued when I read the title in Stringing mag, and am amazed that the inspiration was so traumatizing. You really turned it around.

Craftymoose Crafts said...

Scary Story for sure! I love how you translated it into such beauty!

Pretty Things said...

That necklace is sublime!

Here Bead Dragons said...

i saw this in 'Stringing' and was very impressed that the color and size contrasts worked so well. it is the definition of asymmetry, a very stunning piece.

Kym Hunter Designs said...

Gorgeous! Very dramatic and romantic.

Ellen said...

nice combination of fear and beauty

Patti said...

A great necklace, Erin!

Unknown said...

Love your Crow Sat piece. Black and white is hard to pull off without being reminiscent of a zebra or a penguin. You gave it just the right touch and maybe in the creating, you tweaked old Simon's tail feathers, just a little?

Shai Williams said...

What a wonderful way to turn a traumatizing event into a beautiful work of art.


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