Starting in 2018 I began sending out linocut prints to 100 people and places that are part of the complex systems I find myself in and who have supported me in some way or another. It could be a cafe where I felt at home, coworkers who helped me navigate challenging times, or it could be a close family member or friend who brought me joy. In 2019 I started sending out linocut starlings. I like to believe that the people and places in my life are forming a complex murmuration of our own with each of us influencing each other and many others, towards creating a more just and harmonious world. We are all agents, participants, collaborators, and leaders in any of the systems we find ourselves in and each of us can affect change. Sometimes in ways we don't even know.
I hope to continue this practice, year after year, so I can honour and acknowledge the scrappy, beautiful, and complex people and places that have impacted my life.
Starlings create complex patterns in the sky called murmurations. Starlings in flight focus on their seven closest neighbours, each being able to create new constellations of birds or influencing the entire flock to move and shift in beautiful and amazing patterns in the sky. I am in love with starlings. My love of the scrappy little creatures started many years ago on a chance encounter while walking to my mother's house in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
While walking along Main Street in Dartmouth I passed the large concrete mural wall along the off ramp from Main Street towards Waverley Rd. As I passed the wall I saw two tiny feet sticking out of a drainage pipe on the wall. I plucked the feet and what turned out to be a plump starling out of the wall. The little bird seemed pretty dead, without a trace of visible life left. I wasn't really sure what I should do so I just continued walking while the bird was in my hands.
As I walked along I held the starling out in front of me. As I got closer to home the bird started to slowly come back to life. It stirred and moved its mouth, taking tiny little breaths and wiggling its feet. I stopped walking and stared at was happening. I was pretty sure the bird was dead, so dead that I had made childish plans to find a small cardboard box to fashion it a final resting place. While pondering and taking a few moments more the bird gathered enough energy to move. It got back on its feet and started squeaking and whirring.
I wasn't really sure what to do. I stared at the bird, the bird stared at me, and this is how we stayed for minutes while I stood along the highway interchange. As I considered my options, the bird gave a final squeak, looked me in the eyes, and took off and I stood there for a few minutes staring at my empty hands before finishing my walk home. After this I did as much reading as I could on the bird that came back to life in my hands.
Since that time I have been fascinated with starlings. They are not native to North America, but they do quite well here. The first starlings were said to be introduced to North America by a fan of William Shakespeare, who released 60 starlings in Central Park, NYC, in 1890. Starlings have since taken roost throughout the continent to my pleasure, and to the dissatisfaction of many.
Starlings are considered an invasive pest, but I love them. They are scrappy, they have beautiful iridescent feathers, and they will steal a french fried from your hands down on the Halifax Waterfront if you are not careful. While flying in a flock they can form patterns with thousands and millions of other starlings in murmurations.