Looked out over the Delware River to the perch tree about 8:30 this morning and saw this golden glow on a Red-Shouldered Hawk that was surveying the Big Eddy landscape. Never cease to be amazed and inspired by my surroundings… by nature! – Debra
This gorgeous bird of prey was glowing in the morning sun on the popular eagle perch high above the Delaware River. Apparently surveying the Big Eddy for breakfast options. I am so blessed to have this daily view. Took the photos still in my cozy zebra robe and before first cup of coffee because I know too well that a photo opp like this can be gone in seconds.
For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of watching a very determined Snapping Turtle climb the rugged, tangled bank of the Big Eddy along the Delaware River in Narrowsburg, New York as she makes her annual birthing journey. This is a tedious and lengthy step-by-step process to lay her eggs in a familiar and not so safe location. She begins her climb at the first light of dawn and once she reaches her nesting ground, she begins clearing away the grass and digging a hollow nest in the dirt. Then, for what can be hours, she slowly lays her eggs by alternately rocking and stretching and turning and gently pushing them into the prepared ground. When the last egg is released, she carefully spreads and tamps down the dirt over the nest and slowly makes her way back down to the river.
She never returns to check on her offspring. They are on their own, left to the forces of nature to decide their fate.
I have my calendar marked for her arrival during the first or second week of June and again in early September or even into October for the hatchlings to emerge. Sadly, they rarely make it out of their nest alive. The first year I was completely naive and thought I would protect them from getting crushed during the lawn mowing. I put a small circle of sticks and netting around the perimeter of the nest area as a marker for the mower to avoid. It was more like a come hither beacon for a band of night-stalker skunks that made a raucous feast of the fresh little eggs. I was in tears the following morning when I saw the shrivelled shells and smelled the nauseating stench of skunks.
I had read a lot about predators of turtle eggs and this time, I spent a few hours constructing a reinforced and very grounded chicken wire cage much larger than the nest perimeter. I waited patiently throughout the summer and once it was close to the earliest hatching time, I checked the nest morning and night every day. Another month passed and still no baby turtles. I read some more and learned that they could take up to 120 days if the weather conditions were not as favorable. By the end of October, I removed the cage and gently scraped the nest area. Nothing was there, not even a chip of an eggshell. This time, a different breed of stalking, nest robbing villans must have attacked from underground.
I’ve learned that perhaps the best I can do is to patiently watch, imagine and hope for the survival of the baby snappers. I’ll continue to watch the calendar and check the nest – which does again have a simple fence marker for the lawn mower to go around, but like the Mother Turtle, I have to be patient and allow the laws of nature to determine when and if these turtles make it to the river alive.
Mrs. Turtle returns on June 5th, 2016 to the same spot on the riverbank to lay her eggs and leave them to the whims of nature for the third year that I’ve been observing this. I dearly hope these little turtles have a chance of survival. The skunks and apparently tunneling creatures are very fond of fresh turtle eggs 🙁
Turtle Painting for 26th Annual Riverfest Poster Art Auction
When I received the Call for Riverfest Poster Art, I knew I wanted to honor Mrs. Turtle but first, I wanted a different kind of information, the kind that resonated with Her and the River and all of the elements of nature that intrigue me every day when I look out over the Big Eddy. Turtle is an ancient creature with some serious history and mythology. I wanted to paint the meaning, the feelings I have about Turtle. What resonated with her energy and felt true for me as well? I sketched for several days until a few designs felt promising. I read more about snapping turtles and I looked through old photos and notes. I’d forgotten about “Turtle’s Bad Day” a startling, too-close-for-comfort, food chain experience during my last visit to Shark Valley in the Florida Everglades and, I realized that Turtle has been one of my nature guides for many years. So I reached for ‘Animal Speak’ by Ted Andrews knowing I would find mythical and relevant information that would help me align the painting and my feelings with the energetic patterns and symbolism of TURTLE…
“The Turtle – is one of the oldest reptiles and thus has one of the most ancient mythologies surrounding it. Turtle is a symbol for Mother Earth, for longevity and for awakening to heightened sensibilities.” – Animal Speak, author Ted Andrews
In the mythology of the Far East, Turtle’s outer shell represents the heavens and the shape and patterns on the shell underside are a symbol of earth.
Turtle represents wisdom, longevity. She is slow and steady, predictable, reliable, persistent.
A symbol of Mother Earth – divine feminine energy
Turtle is a shore creature – living in the water and on the land. Shores are associated with doorways/passages to other dimensions and Turtle is sometimes called ‘the keeper of the doors’.
The markings/sections on many turtle shells number 13 which is associated with lunar calendars and the alternating annual cycles of 13 full or new moons which correspond to female cycles of fertility.
Turtle is a reminder to listen carefully and ask: What am I not hearing or seeing?
Andrews also writes: ” turtles are opportunistic. When Turtle shows up in your life it is usually a reminder to pay attention or you will miss opportunities.”
Manatee Waters Revisited mixed media gicleé on canvas with acrylics – 30″ x 18″ – by Debra Cortese
“Manatee Waters Revisited” is a new derivative image of an earlier Manatee series that was created in 2008. The following is a brief description of the story behind the Manatee art. To read the original 2008 post and see the earlier work, click here.
During an early January afternoon visit to the Deering Estate at Old Cutler, we encountered a group of about six manatees*. We watched and photographed them for almost two hours as they played, snorted, splashed and rested on this perfect winter day. It seemed as though they were performing just for our entertainment! Due to the angles of light and the constant ripples of the water, I was not able to get a recognizable photo of a single manatee. However, all of the “Manatee Waters” images share the delight and joy of their magical Manatee energy!
For more information or to order any of the Manatee art, contact Debra here
Over the past 4 years we’ve been host to a hive of honeybees 4 times! Twice in the past two months with the most recent on June 29th! The first time was in 2007 when they made a new home in the east wall of my bedroom. Next was in 2009 in the west wall of the same room. Third time was just two months ago under the eave of the kitchen on the south facing side and now they’ve moved into a precarious location on the north edge of our property. At least this time the walls are not buzzing 🙂
Just past noon on Wednesday, as I was preparing lunch, I glanced out my kitchen window and saw a spinning swirl of tiny golden blurs. An all too familiar bee swarm. Just to be sure, I went outside and the loud hum of a few hundred bees confirmed that I was witnessing the 4th hive moving in to our obviously, very bee-friendly property. I mentioned this to several friends who almost unanimously said, “the bees are trying to tell you something”.
My friends know me well and of course the first thing I did was find my copy of “Animal Speak”. I’ve been rereading the Bees chapter of Ted Andrews’ book, Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small which opens with a statement about bees being longtime symbols for accomplishing the impossible. I can certainly appreciate that!
Andrews’ book includes exercises to interpret most any animal encounter and I’ve begun to realize a huge presence of bees (not always pleasant) in my lifetime. Here are some of the messages I’m finally getting from these often misunderstood little buzzing miracles of nature:
1. Community and working together is vital to sustain a society (a business, relationships).
Because of the number and location of bee colonies that have moved in with us here in Miami, I’ve become acutely aware of the plight of one of our most industrious and vital creatures. In terms of crop pollination and food supplies bees are a vital component and because of the greed factor and mass, monoculture farming methods that depend on heavy pesticide use, the bee population is rapidly dying off. These pesticides are not only killing the bees, but are also poisoning our foods, water supplies and the very earth/dirt that formerly provided the essential vitamins and nutrients in our foods. For more information on this topic, I recommend “FRESH” the movie and suggest regular visits to your local, organic farmer’s market.
3. The geometric, six-sided construction of the honeycomb (home, nursery and food storage areas for bees) is a hexagon, a sacred geometry symbol that represents the sun and all energies associated with it. (hmmnn… I’ve been slowly working on a series of new designs incorporating sacred geometry and astrological symbols with my signature nature’s energy images).
detail of "Woodstork" nature's energy image by Debra Cortese
In total creative mode. Creating new design collections for art licensing and…
re-creating images like this “Woodstork” in my Nature’s Energy style.
Contact me at: debra at debracortese.com for more info on this full image
(available as an 18 x 12 inch archival print or custom size for your wall)
and to discuss custom designs for your business, organization or special event.
archival print by Debra Cortese is now on display at GroveHouse Artists.
I mentioned in previous post (see below) that the Peacock Casual Tote and matching Clutch Purse would be ready for the launch party this Saturday. I really lucked out because this is my designated week for the window easel and of course just had to frame a Peacock Reflection design 😉
Here’s the rundown on the Peacock Launch Party: (I ran into Heather Bettner just as I finished placing the art and bags in the gallery and she was delivering the cards for the event. Perfect timing!)
The Coconut Grove Peacock Tour 2010
Saturday, May 29th 5pm to 11 pm
Shoppes at Mayfair Promenade (along Grand Ave, just before Mary Street)
Coconut Grove, Florida 33133
All of the wonderful, painted, 7 foot tall Peacocks by artists Fred Hunt, Andra Ruggeri, Pablo Cano, Ed King, Erika King, Lebo, Eileen Seitz, Romero Britto, Dan Bondroff, Nancy Martini, Meme Ferre, St. Stephen’s, Sauma, Sylvia Modica, Gina Hubler and George Rodez will be on display before they go out on the streets for the summer.
Check Coconut Grove Grapevine , Martini Eco Artist and One Ear Society blogs for peacock painting photos and videos. The Peacock Tour website is: www.coconutgrovepeacocktour.com
and you can call: 305.775.0113 for more info about this (and future) creative community projects.
Shark Valley April 2010 Blue Heron detail -photo: Debra Cortese
Finally got around to taking a few hours away from my cave (home office/studio) and went biking with friends in Shark Valley in Florida’s Everglades. Shark Valley has a wide, paved 15 mile loop through some of the most spectacular river of grass that you can find in the Everglades. It is home and mating and nesting grounds to all kinds of birds, reptiles, plants, flowers, trees, butterfiles, bees, turtles, and I’m sure more that I’ve yet to see.
My friends were focused on getting endorphins revved up and I knew I was there to breathe in as much of nature’s energy as I could take and get as many photos as possible. Consequently, in the time they rode the 15 mile loop and circled back to find me (I baked cupcakes and they were in my car, reassurance that my friends would not abandon me, considering their fondness for cupcakes;-) I had only progressed to mile marker 4. But, I had over a hundred shots. Absolutely entrancing to me to feel the sun on my face, hear the bird calls, what sounded like 20 pound bull frogs and see so many beautiful creatures in their natural habitat (although I always think how tame they are and it must be because they are accustomed to seeing humans on a daily basis).
Shark Valley Everglades "turtle about to be dinner" - photo: Debra Cortese
I got to see, and photograph, woodstorks up much closer than I’d ever seen them before. Wasn’t really sure what they were at first. Looked like ancient creatures, big, bearded birds. And lots of herons or that’s what I’m calling them until I do a bit more research. I’m including a detail of one blue heron and will be posting full, edited images within a few weeks. But, the end of the day was definitely the ultimate photo op…. I stopped for one last picture (or 7 or more) of some birds starting to nest in a tree very near to the parking lots. There was a very large alligator below the birds and near the edge of the path so I started to shoot a picture of the gator and after the first click, I heard a LOUD CRUNCH SLAP sound and while my mouth was dropping open kept shooting as the gator chomped down on a very large turtle. This all happened in just a few seconds. Think I’m still a bit shaky from being so close and witnessing what I usually only see on nature tv shows. I was shooting with a new to me, but very old camera, so the quality is not what I’d hoped for but these certainly show the action.
Shark Valley Everglades "Turtle Bite 1" - photo: Debra Cortese
Shark Valley Everglades "Turtle Bite 2" - photo: Debra Cortese
Shark Valley Everglades "Turtle Dinner" - photo: Debra Cortese
Do visit our incredible nature areas, national parks, and preserves, but please remember, even though the alligators appear to be tame or friendly looking, they are wild, free creatures and are very capable of snapping a big turtle into pieces with one swift chomp!
Shark Valley Everglades "Thistle, Bees and Nature's Energy" -photo: Debra Cortese
UPDATE: You can now share this story and photos on your wall!
“Turtle’s Bad Day” is available in an open edition, signed, archival print.
Matted size is 18 x 24″. Price: $90.00