Animal guides – spirit and otherwise

Me and my dog Jasmine
Me and my dog Jasmine. This was taken last summer at Seney Wildlife Refuge up in Michigan's U.P.

In my life, animals figure most often as spirit guides.  They come to me in dreams, as premonitions, and of course through my art.  They help me decipher the mystery of my own psyche and guide me through the swamps and deserts of life’s journey.

But it’s pretty hard to relate this way to spirit animals without inviting flesh-and-blood ones into one’s life.  Right now the Michelsen roof shelters two goldfish, a couple of hooded rats and two rescued dogs, 15-year-old Pavlov and a goofy Lab-Boxer mix named Jasmine (a.k.a. The Lummox.)

This morning Jasmine proved to me that spirit animals aren’t the only ones who can guide us to what we need.

I realized the other day that it’s coming up on three years since we moved into our house and I still don’t have a full-length mirror.  Which doesn’t bother my husband but darn it, it’s just not right for me! (Or my daughter Clara, who at age 11 is intent on developing her own personal  style. )

(As a side note, I wonder if the mirror thing has any significance: I read somewhere that men tend to look at themselves from the face up, while women favor the full-length view.  How does it affect people spiritually to consistently  see only fractured images of themselves?)

Anyway, darn it, I need a long mirror!

Well, this morning my dogs and I were returning from our morning walk when rather than accompany me on a loose lead round the last corner home, Jasmine suddenly pulled to the right.  I don’t usually let the dogs drive, but this time I thought, “what the heck” and went her way to make an extra swing around the block the long way.

Well, we’d only gone a few paces when I looked down and saw it- a perfectly good full-length mirror someone had left out with the trash.

Good dog!

The mirror had a broken frame but was otherwise in perfect condition.  And I think I know a gal who can figure out how to install a frame…

Landscape painting from Seney Wildlife Refuge
No critters in this little plein aire of the Seney Refuge - but Jazz Dog helped me paint it!

Did you enjoy this post? Anne

Watercolor Portrait: Clara and Pavlov

watercolor child and pet portrait of girl and dog
"Clara and Pavlov," portrait on watercolor canvas, 12 x 12"

Finally finished the portrait of my daughter Clara and our dog Pavlov.  This is the first and last time I’ll ever attempt to paint watercolor on canvas.  Unfortunately I forget what brand watercolor canvas it was – I think Fredrix.  I had a very hard time achieving the depth of tone I wanted, and the paint often seemed to wash off with subsequent layering.  I like the watercolor boards a lot better!

But I am glad to have caught my daughter’s affection for Pavlov! 🙂

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Work in Progress: Horse Painting

horse watercolor painting in pregress
Painting in progress

I have two diametrically opposite ways of approaching a painting.  One is to make preliminary sketches and plan it out.  The other is to splash a bunch of paint down and then see what comes of it.  This piece belongs to the latter category.

It was a piece of paper that’s been sitting around for years.  I think I’d done something crazy like puddle on a bunch of paint and let it dry covered with plastic wrap.  Although I liked the results, it always seemed too, well…dynamic to make a good background.  So it always ended up getting shoved back into a folder.

This time when I pulled it out, though, the horses appeared.  So I started painting them in…

Not sure how it will turn out but it’s fun to work on.

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Spring Beauty

Sheep's skull with Spring Beauty flowers
Spring Beauty, watercolor, 11 x 14"

After yesterday’s vulture post, this seems appropriate, as it’s also about death, resurrection and the cycle of life.

I did this painting about this time of year five years ago or so.  I guess you could call it a plein-aire still life.  Although I’m afraid landscape escapes me, I do love to paint outside, and back then I was doing a lot of it.  One day I was tramping around in the woods, despairing of ever finding a composition I could handle, when I came across this little jewel lying on the forest floor.

I’m really not sure what animal donated its skull for the occasion.  It didn’t seem quite like a deer skull – perhaps a sheep?  Anyway, I loved the way Life was just reaffirming its hold on the old bones in the form of delicate Spring Beauty blossoms lovingly embracing them.

I like to think of my find as Nature’s brilliant reply to the old concept of Vanitas.  Instead of a meditation on the transience of life and futility of pleasure, it’s a vibrant affirmation of  resiliency and the triumph of life even in the aftermath of inevitable death and decay.

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The Vulture: Symbol of Resurrection

"Ascension," watercolor, 15x11"

You might think it strange to claim the vulture as a favorite bird.  But I’ve always loved to watch them in flight, gracefully riding the updrafts.  Contrary to popular myth, they don’t hang around waiting for their prey to die, but feast only on ready-made carrion.

While this may seem morbid (not to mention unappetizing), think about it for a moment.  The vulture provides a critical service by effectively disposing of remains that would otherwise pose a health risk to the population of the living.

For a bird of prey, the vulture is amazingly gentle.  It has no need to be violent or predatory.  In fact, you might say it lives a perfect, Zen-like existence.  Not many things want to eat a vulture, yet its food is freely offered by every creature that walks the crust of the Earth.

buy zoloft cheap Spiritual meaning of vultures

Many years ago I was privileged to spend three months working and living in Costa Rica.  Of course I visited the museums in the capital, San Jose.  While there I noticed many images of vultures.  I learned that the native Central Americans believed that the vulture was responsible for carrying the souls of the departed up to heaven.

This painting was influenced by that belief, and to honor the natural cycle of life and death – each of which is truly just the other side of the other.

Did you enjoy this post? Anne