The Pigeon and the Peregrine

Phoenix has peregrine falcons. They have adapted, using our high-rises as aeries and our pigeons as food. There is no shortage of pigeons in Phoenix.

Peregrine falcon, audubon website free download.

Peregrines are compact and fast. A stooping (diving for attack) peregrine can reach speeds of 200 mph. Females are considerably larger than males.

Yesterday, I was driving from one place to another, stopped at a traffic light, waiting for the light rail to pass. There was a blur above me and I saw a pigeon working hard and above it, a stooping peregrine. The pigeon didn’t stand a chance, I thought.

But the pigeon was not ready to be dinner. He flew directly in front of the light rail. I flinched, certain he was crushed. Then my eyes jerked up to watch the peregrine. He had vanished. Had he hit the light rail? Nope. The pigeon was safe in a nearby palo verde tree. The peregrine pulled up in a move that must have filled his imaginary Pilates teacher with core pride, and flew along the light rail, and then up toward a tall building. Both birds were safe. Both had survived another day in the city without being killed by the Machine in the Garden.

The car behind me honked. The light was green. I moved on, part of the machine in the city garden.

Quinn McDonald is an urban naturalist, a writer and creativity coach who helps people heal from trauma through writing.

 

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Letters and Visuals

Combining words and images is the idea I’ve been chasing for about two years. I didn’t want to be middling-good with calligraphy. Hand-lettering is a better idea for me. Quotes from others are wonderful, but many other artists have done that, and done it better.

While scrolling through the images on my phone, I came across the photos I take of graffiti and marks put on the street by utility workers. Those interesting hieroglyphics make me think of alien alphabets. Alphabets that can be written, but not read. Suddenly, it came together. How we struggle to say what we mean and be understood. How we long to be heard and understood.

Here are the first three works in progress.

The abstract landscape is easy enough to understand, but what do the three lines at the top mean? It’s not a code; it is deliberately not explained. Just like much of what we say and write.

This night landscape can be calm or eerie, depending on what you interpret the letters to be. Meaning-making, the purpose of creativity, is always up to the viewer.

Is this an explanation for the abstract? Is that a waterfall? Is the sun rising over the left part of the landscape, or is it burning? All up to the viewer. All left to your imagination. Because I believe we all are imaginative beings.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also a creativity coach.

Neocolor II Backgrounds

Simple book. Monsoon Paper cover, neocolor II surface decoration on the inside pages. © Quinn McDonald 2017.

For years, I made books in acceptable ways. Cut the paper, fold it, carefully stitch it into the cover. There you are–a nice blank book. But I didn’t like blank books. And I wasn’t into slathering paint or color onto a page and then coming back and writing on it. But it was the “right” way to create a book.

So I stopped making books. In fact, I stopped doing any kind of art. It stopped being fun.

Recently, I’ve decided to just experiment. Play. I want to make a book that has poems in it that I like. Something to take with me on a trip to read if I wake up at 3 a.m. (You can read more about my dreaming the lives of others here.) Something that isn’t for anyone else, something that is easy to tuck in a carry on.  The cover paper (above) was a piece of Monsoon Paper. (A surface decoration technique I created about 10 years ago.)

What if I completed all the pages first, then chose the ones I liked best and bound those into a  book? No pages I didn’t like, none that didn’t work out. Much more freedom.

My first step was to create a background in the book, something with color. I decided to use neocolor II crayons, because acrylic paint, which is plastic, is hard to write on without special tools. I wanted something that didn’t stiffen the paper.

First, I scribbled some Neocolor II onto a vinyl file folder. It has a slight texture and is waterproof.

Next, I sprayed the surface of the folder with distilled water. (The water in Arizona contains a lot of minerals, and I didn’t want them to discolor the paper.)

Using Arches Text Wove (also called Arches Velin), a 100-percent cotton paper, I pressed it onto the wet surface. Without moving the paper, I rubbed the facing-up side with my hands. Then I slowly peeled the paper off the folder. The wetter areas blended, the dryer ones were more textural.

I printed another page with a slightly less spray, so it was dryer than the first. You can see the texture in parts of this page. I also dipped a brush in the yellow section and dragged it across the page.

Putting aside the wet sheets, I went for one more really dry print. The colors are all pale enough to write over, particularly if I choose to write in the places with less color. The first result was a bit granular, so I sprayed the paper directly with a bit more water.

The experimental pages are fun, don’t come with a big burden of perfection, and are pure self-expression, rather than bound by rules. If the book turns out, I’ll show you the completed project!

Quinn McDonald is an everyday creative who writes, creates collage, and is a certified creativity coach.

 

 

Days Getting Shorter

As August turns to September, we’ll still have another month of heat, but the long days are over. We have just less than 13 hours of sun now. Oh, we’ll still get over-105º days, but not as many, and not every day. The pool will cool slowly, and I’ll be able to take morning walks again.

© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

For those of us who live in the desert, winter is the time we treasure. Summer is too hot, too harsh. And it’s losing its grip. Time to celebrate.

Quinn McDonald is a poetic medicine practitioner.

Stow-Away Poetry (Aug.4, 2016)

Stow-away poetry is a way to share what you write and remain anonymous. But that’s just a tiny part of it. It’s simple: you write a poem, put it in an envelope, and leave it in a public place for someone to find. Anything else is up to you. You can join the stow-away poetry group on Facebook, you can make your own poems to leave.

I have no idea what the copyright law is about copying someone’s poetry and leaving it in public, even with attribution. There, I’ve said that. I must admit, I take the risk. My inner artist also likes me to dress up the poem to make it easy to see. There are a lot of different ways to do it: a decorative envelope, pretty paper, calligraphy. Here’s one I did filling in letters with colors. The complete poem appears on the back. It’s by William Stafford.

Colorful Stow-Away poem, using several lines from a Wiliam Safford poem. © Quinn McDonald, 2016.

Stow-away poetry became something I began when I went back to school to become a poetry therapist. Our class began by writing poetry to do some personal healing.  Healing is a powerful benefit of writing poetry. (If you want to know more about poetry as therapy, contact me through my other website contact page.)

Even better is writing your own poetry. Never written a poem? Anyone can. They don’t have to rhyme, they don’t have to have a certain rhythm or beat. Poetry can be short, meaningful and to the point. Here is an example from my classmate Barbara London.

Listening to the Morning News
Animals kill each other

Humans kill each other
and talk about it.

Short poems take effort. You have to take out all the extra words and be careful about choosing the right ones to use. Few words make each word do a lot of work and require picking and choosing. But the result is powerful.

I’m thinking of holding a poetry-writing online workshop. I want more poetry in the world; it’s so satisfying to write and participate. If you are interested (no, it’s not a promise to take the class), leave a comment. Let me know if you would take an online poetry class. If you want, tell me how you like to use online classes–once a week, everything at once, with an in-person part–whatever makes you feel involved and creative.

Quinn McDonald is studying to become a poetry therapist. She is a writer who teaches writing.

Poems and Collage

© Forgotten Memories, Quinn McDonald. 2016, All rights reserved.

© Forgotten Memories, Quinn McDonald. 2016, All rights reserved. Monsoon paper, walnut ink, alcohol inks on Yupo.

Art doesn’t have to be just one thing. I like to combine writing and collage. But I don’t like tearing words out of a magazine and using that. It’s great for vision boards, but I like collage to be more coordinated.

In this collage, I used writing as a background. I also stylized the writing so it is not readable. I didn’t want the viewer to be distracted or to feel that reading was part of experiencing the art.

The collage was part of creating an assignment for my grad school program in poetic medicine. We were to create the collage first, then the poem. I tried to do that, but it’s not how I work. At least not successfully. So I wrote the poem below, then created the collage.

Forgotten Memories
The brick building had been extended
(twice already),
a poured foundation ready for this,
the third expansion.

Three different weathered shades of brick,
a muddled patchwork marking time.

“Memory Center”—clearly, a lie.
The memories have long faded
from this center’s rooms,
bleached into shadows
like the rising wings of birds
migrating
against the moon
during a break in the clouds.

–Quinn McDonald is studying poetic medicine. She is also a trainer in business writing.