Butterfly names are surprisingly awesome.

Whistler_as_a_butterflyReal names of actual butterflies found in North America (many of which would also make pretty good assassin aliases):

  1. Sara Orangetip
  2. Ruddy Daggerwing
  3. Two-barred Flasher
  4. White Checkered Skipper
  5. California Dogface
  6. Theona Checkerspot
  7. Zebra Longwing

From now on, please call me Theona Checkerspot. Thanks!

(P.S. That image above? It’s a portrait of the artist James McNeill Whistler as a butterfly. I love Whistler, partially because he seems like kind of a jerk, but an “impish” and hilarious one, kind of like Oscar Wilde, another big believer in art for art’s sake.)


Sweet science: deer beds.

Katherine_Wolkoff_DeerbedHere is something I learned today: Deer beds are beautiful.

Here’s another thing: Deer travel and live in herds. They’re social animals—to an extent. While the bucks are off… doing whatever it is bucks do, the lady-deers come together. The female deers and their little dappled fawns bed down together in large groups, while the bucks only hang out in groups of three to five (they are constantly fighting for dominance, which weakens the herd dynamic, kind of like when you go out with a few guys and they start playing darts and the night quickly dissolves into puffed chests and hurt feelings).

Hunters often track deer based on the imprints they leave when they lie down to rest. They create oval-shaped indents on the ground, crumpled swirls of grass. In the winter, their body heat melts the snow beneath, so if you see a few round melty spots, that’s probably a deer bed. Katherine_Wolkoff_deerbed_2

Photographer Katherine Wolkoff has created a series called “Deer Beds,” and I’m absolutely in love. To capture these images, she followed deer around Block Island, stopping where they did and training her camera on their nocturnal nests. The photographs (above) are strangely intimate and human. Touching and wild. Sweet and subtle. Imagine stumbling on a one of these deer beds in the wild grass. Lie down, it’s still warm from their gentle heat. Smell the plants, prickly and pungent, green and growing. Go to sleep. Dream of the herd, prancing away without you. Oh, deer.

A funny little squirrel.

squirrel_tommyThis silly little guy is Tommy Tucker. In the 1940’s, he became mildly famous when LIFE magazine photographer Nina Leen decided to turn her lens on Tommy. His owner made him some sharp new outfits (all dresses, because, I have to assume, squirrels hate pants as much as I do) and a rodent star was born.

Hyperallergic has the full, creepy-cute story.

Social media mysticism & let’s say a big welcome to spring, dirty though she may be.

Black tailed jack rabbitFour days late: Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Did you know that the tradition of saying “rabbit rabbit” on the first of the month (or in the UK, “white rabbit” or even “bunny, bunny”) is a relatively new bit of folkloric superstition? This odd habit first appeared in the early 1900’s (FDR was a rabbit-rabbit devotee and reportedly uttered the silly phrase on the first of the month without fail). No one really knows where it came from or why the magic words vary from place to place. Most people think it has something to do with the tradition of carrying a dead rabbit’s foot on a keychain—another thing FDR was known to do. I suspect that the tradition is becoming even more widespread in the age of Facebook and Twitter, where everyone can digitally rabbit rabbit for good luck. Or just to show that you’re well versed in social media mysticism. (This is either the best kind of hoodoo or the very worst. I don’t really know.)

In America, rabbit-ing is a New England thing, and I rather like that. New Englanders always seem like such skeptical, cold folk. It’s nice to know that we’re also pulled toward the rabbit hole of nonsense (because if there is anything truly magical, that’s where it hides: in plain sight under piles of nonsense).

But I suppose I am thankful that it’s finally spring. The ground has turned to mud. Everything is coated in grime. Portland is a city of dirt and muck. Even the whitest of rabbits would turn hare-brown here. Wild, like a Dürer.

Two Nice Things: Yumi Okita makes textile moths, reminds me of the Limberlost.

Moths! They’re the redheaded stepchild of the butterfly family (no, that’s not science, but it feels true anyway). They’re ugly and furry and yet, in Yumi Okita’s hands, they’re kind of… cute? Cuddly? Fuzzy and warm? Yumi okita
Not since I read A Girl of the Limberlost (a novel by naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter published in 1909) have I been so taken with moths. The book tells the story of a young Indiana girl named Elnora who sends herself to school with the money she makes selling insect specimens. She goes into the Limberlost swamp—what a wonderful, fantastical name for a real place!—where she finds all manner of strange flora and fauna. yumi
I think Elnora (again, that name!) would love Yumi Okita’s textile moths. She makes these beautiful patterned winged things from yarn and string and fiber. You can’t tell from these pictures, but the moths are actually huge—each wing is about as big as a hand. yumi2

I particularly like these three, but Okita creates insects (and flowers) in all different shapes and sizes. They mimic real life, but they’re infinitely more beautiful than the average brown moth you see dive-bombing a lightbulb. Just look at the patterns! And I’m really loving this particular color scheme right now. Rose and dust and dusty rose and soft browns and warm ivory. See more of her work here.

Kiyoshi Mino makes furry friends from felt.

fox7I’ve probably mentioned my undying love for foxes on this blog before, but for good measure, I’ll say it again: If I had to choose a favorite animal, it would always (and forever) be the clever, wily fox. Once, when I was in college, I had a girl I worked with tell me that I reminded her of a fox because “you can be very cunning, and I bet you’re good at manipulating people.” I was kind of offended, but I have to admit, it was a little flattering, in a weird way. I like to think I’m nicer than that, but who knows? Maybe being a fox is a good thing.

As usual, I’m rambling about myself in order to introduce a very talented artist. Kiyoshi Mino is currently attending The Farm School down in Massachusetts (a place I had never heard of, but after googling it I immediately wanted to drop everything and enroll). It was there that he found his artistic medium: needle felt. He now creates detailed sculptures of animals out of wool. But as much as I want to snuggle them, they’re not stuffed toys. He sells his pieces for around $500 a pop. His menagerie includes a variety of fauna, both wild and domesticated. His portfolio includes owls, cranes, sheep, cats, donkeys, and other beasts.

Screen shot 2013-03-31 at 5.49.08 PMI admit, I don’t know much about needle felt, but it seems like a great technique. I really admire anyone who works with fiber arts, especially since it seems at once so traditional, and yet so modern.

Check out Mino’s website here, and be sure to read the “about” section. He’s lived a very interesting life.

I want to hang out with Amy Ross.

1AMY75You know how people are always saying stuff about celebrities like, “I could totally see myself being best friends with Person X and going out for Taco Tuesday in our yoga pants!” or whatever? (Jennifer Lawrence, you seem to be everyone’s girlcrush of the moment. I hope you savor it, because the internet tide is mean and will turn.) Well, sometimes I feel that way about artist. I know, I just mocked the idea. But sometimes I see a picture and think I would probably like the way their brain works. And that happened today with Amy Ross.

AMY ROSSRoss makes these wonderfully detailed pictures of impossible creatures. Birds with mushroom caps for heads, trees with cloven hooves, people shape-shifting into wolves and foxes and other wild things—you get the idea. It reminds me of illustrations from old children’s books, or something out of an 19th Century field guide. They’re lovely and strange at once. Sometimes, I don’t even see the out-of-context species-mixing until after I look a bit closer, particularly with the magnolia series. amy_rossDon’t you think, based on these pictures, that Ross would want to drink tea with me while explaining Downton Abbey? Why does everyone like that show so much? I don’t get it.

See her whole portfolio (it’s HUGE) on her website: AmyRoss.com.