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Saturday, February 2, 2013


ai weiwei sunflower seeds


Talking on the phone with my friend Carole a little bit ago, my eyes were gazing out the window at a downy woodpecker picking at a place on the bark of a birch tree where it stops by every day for whatever woodpecker food that place supplies. It is the female of the pair that visits the birdfeeders. I saw a snowbird standing close to the woodpecker on the bark watching. I wondered if that was the same snowbird I see peck at that area of the bark sometimes. Snowbird watched the woodpecker from just an inch or two. The woodpecker wasn't hammering. It looked like it was picking up bugs with its tweezer bill. Woodpecker flew off. Snowbird started pecking at the bark in the same place. Evidently this snowbird has been watching the woodpecker and learned to extend her range of foraging to bugs in tree bark, if that's what it is.

I have a culturally diverse feeding station. Nuthatch, cardinal, titmouse, snowbird, wren, woodpecker, chickadee, bluejay, sparrow, red squirrel, gray squirrel. No cats around. Caterpillar is past wasting any effort to catch one. She just gazes at them through the window, a cat movie. The birds are really hungry this bitter cold morning. I throw a lot of sunflower seeds to them on a day like this. They need all the energy they can get to keep themselves warm through the night. They're my miniature chickens. It appears to be a balanced place where the big birds don't bully the little birds. There is plenty of grub and space for everybody, so nobody has to rule the roost. When a squirrel wants to sit in the feeder and stuff its jaws, it doesn't deprive any birds. There is plenty on the ground for them. These are the birds of my neighborhood, my neighbors, the ones that live in the trees around the house and across the road. When I go out the door they don't all fly away. A few chickadees fly to a tree branch nearby where they can watch to see if I'm bringing anything for them. A few snowbirds hang around too, watching from rhododendron branches.  

I feed the crows on a patch of gravel beside the mailbox the other side of the road. Yesterday it had snowed a half inch in the night. I was going to wait until I took the netflix dvd to the mailbox to take the crows their day's ration. I saw a crow up here at the house standing at the edge of the road watching the birds pecking from the ground. The crow was wanting to get in among them for a morsel, but hesitated to step in among the trees. Too vulnerable a place for a crow. It alerted me that the crows are hungry. Snow on the ground. I took them some seeds. This intense cold has about doubled the population of bluejays feeding here. They're big birds; they need a lot more than a chickadee. Chickadees are the ones that speak to me when I step out the door. On the way to the car I'll pass under a chickadee or two or three and they'll call to me. It's fun to be known by the birds of my hood.

Every day when I scoop a cup of the big sunflower seeds, I cannot help but think of Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei, from the documentary about him called NEVER SORRY. An art project he exhibited at the Tate in London was called Sunflower Seeds. I think it was a hundred million sunflower seeds made of porcelain and individually hand painted, made in a town traditionally known for their porcelain. He hired hundreds of people to carry out the work. The exhibition amounted to a space that looked about the size of a basketball court. But camera's distort size and I can't really tell. I'll say it's half a basketball court. Anyway, it's covered with the porcelain seeds four inches deep. A perfectly flat surface that can be walked on. He encouraged people to walk on it. Floor sculpture is not new anymore. I think Carl Andre in New York might have been the first to use the floor. He put a collection of flat tiles on the floor, like linoleum tiles, but made of some sorts of steel. He also arranges bricks and blocks of wood on the floor. He too invites the viewer to walk on his tiles. At YouTube is a 14 minute video, AI WEIWEI: SUNFLOWER SEEDS, that shows the people working on the project.

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