​I read poet's riddles and metaphors. I read Darwin. I had flying dreams. I read a book that positioned dinosaurs as the primogenitors of birds. I painted. Never Again Would Bird's Song Be the Same.

Of course, I read Frost's poem. I too certainly sensed something ancient and mysterious in the language, the music of birds. Humbled by those before me who have found artistic inspiration in birds, I painted the symphony I was seeing in their song. Sweeping sinuous waves graph melodious colors. Layers of hues harmoniously inter-weave. Feather-like patterns float as whispers on the breath of G-d. I painted. 

I tore strips of different works and fused then together knitting their seams with forceful horizontal delineation markings insinuating music manuscript paper. I painted sine waves similar to the sonograms of ornithologists; I painted math. I engaged in a vibrant gospel call and response. The birds sang. I painted. I will never be the same.

​There is something primal in birdsong, Frost got that right, like a universal mother's lullaby, fire's dance of flame and shadow, the tidal pull of waves, or star tracks across the sky. There is something I couldn't resist in the birds' songs that I was compelled to paint. While I could imagine it, I do not want to live in world without bird song.

This work is dedicated to Charles, a bird whisperer, and Jackie, who always claimed I was a composer. In the early hours of a 2011 summer evening surrounded by large rolls and stacks of paintings in my studio, Charles said "... well ... you have successfully proven you can do big. Why not let's see if you can do small." I hope you can find some larger conversation to enjoin within these small hymns to bird song.

When Rick and I moved in 2004 to Burkittsville and the lushly landscaped and enviably private little acre that is our home. We often feel as if we live in a tree house. The previous owners left behind several bird houses and feeders.

The birds seem ever present in our enchanted oasis, the jewel box that is our historic rural village. While generally dwindling world-wide, the bird population of our region of Western Maryland, the richly forested rocky crumbling ancient Appalachian foothills of South Mountain and the fertile heritage farmlands of the Middletown Valley, remains diverse and healthy, according to recent studies.

As with the human condition, bird environments are impacted by pollution, deforestation, over-farming, introduction of non-native species, human population growth and rapid suburbanization, competition for dwindling resources, and climate change. The diversity of a regional bird population is a measure of the health of its supporting ecosystem. We are intimates, birds and humans.

In our little "belle ville", we and the birds seem equally blessed. While noticeably ever-present, I have been stopped in my tracks at dawn or dusk by the bird orchestra and choir, they remained still mostly in the periphery of my consciousness. 

For Christmas 2010, my sister and brother-in-law gifted Rick and I with a veritable food court of a bird feeder. Brilliant! It was the "tipping point", filling our yard daily with dozens of visitors and an increase in the number of nests around the house and grounds. Our feline companions seem as magically transfixed as we by our avian visitors. Happily, we have seen no uptick in gifts from our huntresses.

if you believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, then i have some stories to share with you.

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88 Digital Prints, Copyright 2012 .

chuck rounds


I have come late to experience the wonders of birding. Friends over the years impressed me with their passion for watching or tending the creatures. I didn't get it. My most intimate experience with birds, a failed attempt by my parents to raise chickens when I was a young boy.

Sparing the details, I was left mostly with disgust for and suspicion of the animals that unfairly translated to birds in general. Looking back, it was not fair to the chickens either; my issues were more with my parents' inept animal husbandry skills and lack of empathy for the depth of sensitivity and compassion in their son.

My shamanic relation to birds is certainly less disdainful and more immediately insightful; plus, there is the whole migration cycle and the flying thing which is very cool, not to mention the singing, or their familial relationships. Today, birds enter my life mostly as mentors for some life lesson, or as psychopomps.

From the Greed, meaning "guide of souls", psychopomps, across primitive cultures, are creatures whose responsibility is to escort deceased souls to the afterlife. Shamans often serve as human psychopomps and I understand the Hermes (winged heels) or Horus (hawk's head) shamanic role of messenger of the god's or as sort of a maitre d' of death. Jung embraced aspects of the psychopomp as a mediator between the conscious  and the unconscious, helping us to navigate between the darkness and lightness within. I accept that image and as a shaman also view psychopomps generally as mediators between various realities and dimensions.

Even with all these associations, birds never really piqued my curiosity enough for deeper study. Until ... (when the student is ready, the master appears.)

​Like most "Holiday Miracles" that celebrate the cyclic return of light, the bird feeder ha been the gift that kept on giving, the lamp that burns beyond the span of its oil.

The birds now are ubiquitous. It would be difficult not to notice and pay attention to their presence. I spied their nests, like the precariously balanced doves on the lazily swooping pine branch under a draping umbrella of neighborly Rose of Sharon blossoms. No question I am a romantic. everywhere I see evidence of the divine.

I followed their flight patterns. I knew the coupled pairs. I began to discern distinctions between their calls and songs. I watched the way they hopped about pecking the earth and tree bark for bugs and seeds. Some kicked seeds from the feeder to the ground for others. I knew which nest the cowbirds hijacked and which sparrow was feeding a chick suspiciously larger than itself. With laughter and apology, I suffer their slings and arrows when I have the audacity to hope to enjoy the hot tub at dusk. But, mostly it was their music that held me.

Ever the conceptualist, I researched. I perused galleries of bird images and read regional field handbooks. I listened to songbird recordings. I painted. I dj'd a constantly looping i-Tunes play list of over 70 songs about birds. I canvassed the sonograms of bird songs in the Cornell University archives. I listened to the modernist classical works of Olivier Messiaen inspired by bird song. I painted. I admiringly viewed Jean-Jacques Audubon's prints. 

I read mythology and folklore surrounding birds, death, mystery, song, and flight. I painted. I read a book about feathers. I read scientific articles about bird, anatomy, physiology, and sociology. I painted.