Three Short Stories with Bird Drawings

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk by Paula Kuitenbrouwer (Copyright)

There she was, a sparrow hawk, majestically sitting in a high tree top in the late evening sun. It eyed me wearily. I apologized for being in her woodlands and for disturbing her. I told her she had nothing to fear from me; I was no hunter. In fact, I apologized for being human, being a perpetual intruder.

Sparrowhawk told me that humans were suffering from their noise filled brains.

‘You,’ she said, ‘…go through great lengths to be like me. You work to go on holiday. You go on holiday in order to relax and you need this relaxation to feel happy. You even travel half the world to do spiritual retreats to feel like me, free.’

‘Can you take me with you?’ I asked Sparrowhawk.

I sat down in the long grass in the middle of the clearing and relaxing took me a good 25 minutes. When the sun was about to disappear behind the trees Sparrowhawk opened her wings and swooped over me, lifting my soul from my body. I could imagine sitting on her back, but I was equally beside her, under her, in front of her, and behind her. I soared with her over treetops. I noticed creeks under us and two hikers on a footpath. They did not seem to notice me so I flew right through one of them. Flying through a human body caused a nice, subtle electric shockwave. I climbed the skies again only to notice that it was time to return to my human body. I felt extreme fear to land in my body, and I never understood why this is so because I enjoyed being out of it.

’Sparrowhawk, do you ever experience anxiety when landing on a tree top?’ I asked Sparrowhawk to stay with me for a bit longer. Sparrowhawk looked at me and although she had no facial expression she held my attention for a while.  I could see compassion in her eyes. When I felt grounded again, she flew away.

Common Teal Couple

I have no recollection of how much time passed before I became aware of a teal couple crossing the duck pond that lay in front of me.

‘Good day,’ I spoke to them. The couple seemed to be absorbed with each other but they changed their course and paddled in to my direction.

Soon they sat down near me and looked at me. I became aware they were communicating with me.

‘Do you know we are your fraternal ancestors from long ago?’ Teal Drake asked me.

I felt embarrassed not knowing this.

‘I know my grandparents and I also know the names of their grandparents but despite knowing all the ancestral names back to Medieval times, I have no idea who you are!’ I said apologetically. ‘Who are you then?’ I eagerly asked.

‘We do not have human minds any more; we reincarnated from a more cerebral to a more intuitive level’, Teal Duck said, and I understood that; their minds didn’t remember names and dates recorded through time.

‘Be us and you will know’ the Teal couple invited me.

I watched how they foraged for food. The sun caused a lovely reflection on the water behind them. I could see how wise and harmonious they were. I identified them as European teals, but as I observed them in relation to the lake, to the calm way they accepted the elements, without further judgements, I sensed how they were in acceptance with their surroundings. This stood in contrast to how I was feeling; ambitious to relax or favouring one element (the sun) over another (the cold wind).  I also couldn’t let go trying to capture the moment in order to paint it later inside my studio. Was there ever not a plan, not an ambition, no clinging to something?

The teals were about to leave me.

‘Is there something you like to say or ask us maybe?’ they asked kindly.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I want to be like you.’

Ducks lack facial expression, at least I couldn’t detect a smile, but in their eyes, I noticed compassion. They plunged in the water and swam away from me. I said farewell to them as respectfully as I would do to my ancestors.

Collared Doves

I told the Collared Dove couple whilst feeding them, that they symbolize love to humans and they should behave accordingly instead of pecking each other. That stopped them for a moment.

‘Love?’ they asked me. ‘What do you know about bird love? You have been taught at school that we experience seasonal love, hormonally induced for reproductive reasons. Humans think very low of animal love.’

‘Sit down,’ I said, after which I gave a long lecture on the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit, Peace, and Love. I told them how I loved Picasso’s Paloma but no matter how much art history and theological knowledge I poured into my arguments, I could not accept the dove couple accepting doves symbolising love.

‘We do not symbolize love, we show love,’ said she-dove. ‘Love is there when we are together but also when we are alone. I will show you.’

She flew up and shortly after she approached my balcony. He-Dove instructed me right before her landing; ‘Watch carefully now!’

She-Dove landed and, in that moment, I saw it. I saw the Holy Spirit, I saw Peace, I saw Love in the space surrounding the wings of she-dove. I had visited many churches and I had seen so many doves represent Spiritus Sanctus with outstretched wings right above altars. But it showed in the landing; the landing was the magical moment. Maybe because at that moment the sky touches earth? Divine touches our world?

‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘Thank you very much.’

‘You saw it’, She-Dove concluded while she proudly walked up to my outstretched hand to pick sun seeds.

I thought how powerful the observation of a landing dove was and how it -in history- became a symbol of love and peace, of goodness manifesting on earth. As if divinity touches our worldly dimension.

The doves calmly ate their seeds and then said goodbye and flew off.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Dutch artist living in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Portfolio and shop at Etsy.

Portfolio at Instagram

Practical Art and its Benefits

There are many forms of art. Perhaps the one you know best is Fine Arts (paintings, sculptures, and drawings). There is political art too, think of Guernica, a moving anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. There is artwork related to a specific culture, timeline, or region. There is ancient art and modern art. Art that shocks us; art that soothes us.

Guernica, a moving anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso

Practical Art

I like to say a few words on practical arts such as needle work, woodwork, and pottery. Where fine arts are created primarily for aesthetic purposes, practical arts have an applied function. Think of Celtic Art that was, according to archaeologists, practical art. Decorated shields and swords were often made as diplomatic or status related gifts.

Celtic Desborough Mirror painting by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Inside our homes we like to surround ourselves with practical art too. We buy the nicest dinner plates and tasteful designed furniture. Fengshui, Chinese traditional practices used to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment, also uses practical art. Specific animal artworks are put up in different areas of a home; they are believed to have different functions. These animals can be shown as statutes, ceramics, paintings, etc.

Five Elements of Fengshui by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

More Qualifications

When it comes to practical art, often an object that serves a practical function, holds many more qualities that fall outside the somewhat modest qualification being practical art. For instance, a beautiful religious painting inside a church is more than practical art; it might be painted by a famous Renaissance painter which makes the church a museum or a tourist attraction as well. Likewise, a dinner plate can be antique porcelain made by a famous German porcelain painter and thus a collector item. A violin can be a Stradivarius.

Peruzzi Altarpiece, about 1309–15, Giotto di Bondone

Practical Art is Important

The practical part of art fascinates me because it tells so much about the society in which it was bought, commissioned, used and -for instance and in case of The Night Watch by Rembrandt- dismissed for a long time. Aiming for art to have a practical function next to an aesthetic purpose is, to me, a justifiable ambition.
Mandarin note card at Etsy by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
For all those artists working on a practical piece of artwork, art that will wear and tear, art that will be on display or stored, I would like to say; ‘Keep going’. Because when art resonates with our feelings or thoughts, we look inside and see something of us projected outside of us. This helps us to bond with the environment outside of us and by bonding we subtly work on improving our lives.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram