Resident Chipmunk

"Resident Chipmunk" (oil on birch panel 6 x 6 in.)
On 14 March 2020 our resident Chipmunk was out - sitting pertly on the mossy hump of carpet that marks our dry well just outside the kitchen window. He didn't stay long, but scampered up past the Red Currant bushes and popped into a small round hole just below our Asparagus patch. This was probably its home burrow for the winter, and had me wondering whether Chipmunks eat the roots of Asparagus!

19 March finds me painting the scene, sitting against the house wall, all wrapped up and settled on cushions, my first plein air of the year.

As soon as I have the underpainting done, a rough sketch scratched into it with the tail end of my brush, and the mossy green hump of carpet laid in with its halo of red sporophytes, I refer to the photo of the Chipmunk on my phone, and paint in the Chipmunk.

A flock of 40 Canada Geese just flew over the village, clamouring - their V much longer on the west side than the east. As I  finished counting them, a loud scuffle of claws on shingle burst out on my left, and a Red Squirrel exploded into a squeaky, hiccoughing tirade, berating me for camping too close to its entrance. It moved to the Grand Fir to continue scolding, but stayed hidden. 

The snow patches have disappeared except for the one where snow and ice have slid off the roof, just to my left. Ice is showing, a grey border all around its edges and the snow's dimpled surface is dotted with black specks and sprinkled with fir seeds shaped like tiny soaring Red-tailed Hawks. 

The Starlings are practicing the calls of other birds in the Manitoba Maples. They haven’t begun nesting yet, just talking about it. Mourning Doves call, repeating their gentle notes, three the same. 

6:30 Suddenly I hear a rustling in the grass and leaves at the base of one of the Currant bushes, and then appear two small gray beasties in some kind of altercation. They are about the size of large Meadow Mice - but slate gray, not brown. At first I thought they might be moles - they are so large, but not black enough. I didn’t hear any squeaking. One of them scampers toward the drain pipe from the eaves troughs, which is right beside me, and disappears. The world is full of drama, little and big!

Daylight is waning, turning that subtle shade of cloudy day lilac, and Robins call peevishly, not the familiar vesper song, but an irritable, scolding stataco. The ground is beginning to soften - I wonder if they’ve been able to find any worms yet. 

As I lose the daylight, I paint faster, trying to get as much of the underpainting covered as possible before having to stop and pack up. 



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