On my morning walk earlier this week I came across a dead Magpie. I took a photo and just before work I made a charcoal sketch. The first stage drawing and source photo is shown below.
The image shown below is the drawing as it was in its first stages. I realised that this version probably made a more telling statement of the starkness of death, and also posed a stronger abstract image. But I could not resist rounding it off a bit more.
I did not work on this drawing for very long, but as the image took shape I felt myself feeling a deep kinship, sadness and melancholy for this bird, apparently insignificant – surely no different from myself – that had been on earth and now is no more.
I have a “Painting Playlist” with about 7 hours of music on it. Often I am intensely aware of the music as I paint, but at times I get completely absorbed while I work. As I was putting the finishing touches on this drawing I came back to myself and realised I was listening to Bruce Springsteen’s song “Atlantic City”. And, this may seem like a dramatic fabrication – but I know it is not – the words that I heard were:
Well now everything dies baby that's a fact But maybe everything that dies someday comes back Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.
Tomas Transtromer wrote a few good poems on the theme of death. Here is one:
After a Death Once there was a shock that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail. It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy. It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires. One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun through brush where a few leaves hang on. They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories. Names swallowed by the cold. It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat but often the shadow seems more real than the body. The samurai looks insignificant beside his armor of black dragon scales.
from The Winged Energy of Delight: Selected Translations by Robert Bly; this version copied from Poets.org.
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