Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jasmine's Story

Jasmine is an african grey parrot. She lived with us for 18 months. We met her in the pet section of a garden center, where she had been for over 6 months. My husband was looking for pots for his cacti. We ended up going to the garden center several times over a time period of about a month. While Tony was looking for pots I wandered into the pet section and saw Jazzy. Every time we went to the center I went to say hello to her and we ended up friends. She loved having her head scratched and whistled after me if I walked away from her cage. It didn’t take long before I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and of course the inevitable happened: we invited her to live with us.

She was scared of almost everything when she first came to live with us. She scratched all the time behind her neck and her feathers were very sparse in that region. She didn’t want any hand contact and absolutely didn’t want to come out of her cage. Gradually over the next weeks, by giving her loads of attention and treating her with a lot of respect, she relaxed. She turned out to be a very brave, incredibly sweet and extremely adventurous, outgoing character with tremendous intelligence.

Living with Jasmine was a real privilege. She taught us much more the meaning of respect and the art of communication. But most of all she showed us how to live each moment for itself, enjoying life to the full (and banana) and how to give a great deal of love. You can read about her antics and adventures in the posts shown below.

Jazzy continued to scratch behind her neck, but she improved greatly during the first 6 months or so that she lived with us. She gained weight, her feathers turned glossy, she became well-muscled from flying around the house, the pink colors in her tummy feathers became brighter and the red in her tail became brilliant.

We lived in an apartment and circumstances around us changed over time. Laundry detergents and fabric softeners have become increasingly perfumed, more antibacterial products are being used everywhere and in higher concentrations. Our apartment shared airflow with at least 8-15 other apartments, and these cleaning products became mixed creating even further toxic substances. Birds are much more sensitive to perfumes, cleaning agents and pollution.

Jazzy was already very compromised when we got her from the garden center, where they admitted using very strong chemicals to clean the other animal’s living quarters. She was placed close to very strong insecticides that were displayed for sale and many of the visitors to the center wear strong perfumes.

When the air quality in our apartment noticeably became worse, Jasmine started to scratch much more frequently. We bought 5 large air filters and a smaller more portable one that could be lifted off the ground. Jasmine improved dramatically when we got these.

During the summer, the problem became even worse as fumes came out of other people’s apartment windows and directly into our apartment. The shared hallway stairs were cleaned three times a week with highly concentrated perfumed antibacterial detergent; the stairwell had no proper ventilation because the windows were kept closed. We wanted to move, but were financially committed to staying where we were at the time.

Jazzy and I spent the entire summer up in the Jura foothills. She had a backpack cage and we walked miles and miles last summer so that she would get fresh air as much as possible. As the summer progressed, Jazzy grew worse and worse with scratching, until finally she started to pull out feathers and then eventually create sores on her skin with scratching.

We did all sorts of things to try to help Jasmine. She was taking medication during the last part of summer to help with the irritation. She had a full check-up and blood work and the results showed her to be a very healthy, fit young girl. The vet was quite clear that she was allergic to perfumes and cleaning agents.

We finally managed to find a place that would provide a better environment and we moved in during the last few days of September 2008. By this time it was practically impossible to distract from her scratching and picking, and the only relief we could give her was in the shower. Her skin was raw and extremely sore. She was in a lot of pain and her misery during the last couple of days she was alive prevented her from enjoying life.

It’s a very long rehabilitation for a bird who has picked its feathers and skin to that extent. The standard practice is to give the bird medicine and put a neck collar on so that the bird can’t pick. This is like putting a human in a straight jacket. And if the skin still itches, the torment would remain, even if the bird couldn’t reach those places to scratch. This discomfort would be reasonable in order to get past the feather picking, but unless the source of the problem could also be removed the scratching and feather pulling would simply resume.

Our new residence is a huge improvement in air quality from where we were, but we still connect to other living spaces in a converted farmhouse. There is a laundry room in the basement with washing machines and a dryer. The dryer releases incredibly strong fumes of fabric softener and perfumes from the laundry detergent; unfortunately these come up through our shared vents and our front door opens into a set of outdoor stairs that lead down to the laundry room. As it turns out we couldn’t have provided Jazzy with a safe living space even here.

We considered giving her to someone else, but we don’t know anyone who doesn’t use perfumes and standard cleaning agents. We tried to arrange for her to go to the United States to a friend who we knew would take care of her, but she didn’t have the correct CITES papers, and the U.S. is not accepting birds from our area of France because of the implications of bird flu. Even if we could have arranged a room in isolation with a good environment for Jazzy with someone else - well, Jazzy was all about interaction, that was life to her. She loved people and she loved being with them. To isolate her would have been cruel.

Enjoying life was what Jazzy was all about, and we couldn’t bear to watch her suffer. When she deteriorated so much that it was clear she was suffering more than she was enjoying, we decided to let her go free. It hurt, and still hurts, more than anything else in life has ever hurt, but now she flies free.

She’s still a very important part of our lives; we talk about her every day, she’s part of our banter, we’re always including snippets of things the way she said them. She still makes us laugh and smile.

I tell her story here so that those who have parrots can perhaps be more aware of possible causes if their parrot displays scratching, feather picking or even loud irritable behavior. Birds are smaller, and therefore much more sensitive than we are to these things, but we too are affected by them, and it’s worth assessing what products are routinely used in the home and the effects they may have on ourselves and those we love.

Jasmine would have been three years old in November. She passed away on October 3rd, 2008. Her life was packed with fun and joy, though she should have lived to be somewhere between 60 to a 100 years old.

She spread a lot of joy to those she met, and she met loads of people during her short life. I hope that her story can be told as much as possible so that it may spread more goodness in a world that really needs it.

Jasmine was, and still is, mascot to DweezelJazz Art.

All the articles about Jazzy and her fun times are accessible by scrolling down this page. The article titles are also shown in the list below, so if you want to look at one of them in particular, click on the article name to go right to it.

  1. Experimentation
  2. DIY Bird
  3. Jasmine Hamming Around
  4. Jasmine Plays Football
  5. Jasmine On Her Play Station
  6. Jasmine Loves To Fly
  7. Jasmine and What She Does In Her Cage Part I
  8. Jasmine and What She Does In Her Cage Part II
  9. Jasmine’s Silver Bowl and Other Toys
  10. Jasmine Goes To The Market
  11. Jasmine’s Daily Grooming
  12. Jasmine Goes Backpacking
  13. Jasmine Goes Out For A Drink
  14. Do What You Like To Achieve Success
  15. Jasmine and What’s A Cage Door For?
  16. Jasmine Loves Attention
  17. Jasmine’s Model Pose
  18. Sugar Cube Cartoon
  19. Jasmine Silliness
  20. Jasmine’s Musical Chairs
  21. Jasmine Goes To Market In Her Winter Travel Cage
  22. Jasmine and Her Tousle With Poor Air Quality
  23. Jasmine’s Fancy Footwork
  24. Jasmine Sees Snow
  25. Jasmine Takes A Bath
  26. Sugar Cube Art
  27. Rain Rain Rain and More Rain in the Pays de Gex, France
  28. Jasmine Asks To Go For A Walk and To Take A Shower
  29. An Evening Walk At La Col de la Faucille, Jura, France
  30. Jasmine and Her Continuing Tousle With Air Quality
  31. Jasmine Chomping Veggies in the Kitchen
  32. Portrait of a Horse in Egg Tempera
  33. Our Sweet Jasmine
  34. Song For Jasmine
  35. Fly Free, Jazzy!

If you prefer to see all of the above posts on the same page, click the following link. The articles appear on the page in reverse time order, as is usual for blogs:

All of Jasmine's Adventures (ie. all of the above posts displayed on one page in reverse order)

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Snow and Deer in the Jura

A couple of evenings ago I noticed a few deer running down from the hills. This is a real event here because the deer are totally wild and wary of any human encounters - they are hunted here during the hunting season, unlike those around Shannon's town. You can see lots about deer in Shannon's blog "Chipper's Alley". I grabbed the camera and ran to the upstairs window.
There were three deer. Two of them were circling one another and playing in the snow, dashing here and there. The third hung back.

After jumping and generally horsing, or maybe I should say deering, around the two playful deer stopped and looked at one another. They moved closer.

Then, it seemed it was time to move on again, and all three made their way into the next set of trees and out of sight.

Yesterday afternoon the sun came out and we went for a quick walk up the hill.

We saw lots of tracks, some clearly made by dogs, other that seemed to be made by deer and then this set, which we see very often. We're guessing they're made by a fox (we have seen a fox a few times near our place). Do you know what kind of tracks they are? I didn't think to add something for reference of scale, but they're a fairly small size.

We were the first ones to take the path up the hill, and it was so satisfying to trundle through pristine untrodden snow.

I was wearing ski pants, leaving me at total liberty to lie down and roll in it! I always wanted to lay in a cloud... this is the next best thing. We had five inches of snow this morning and afterwards the sun came out even more gloriously than yesterday. The snow is so powdery and light that when we tried to make a snowman it wouldn't adhere and we ended up with a very crumbly stalactite (oops, I actually mean) stalagmite.

We're having loads of fun in the snow and the views are beautiful!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Unexpected Development

One thing led to another and I'm finding myself in completely new creative territory. It started when I realized I wanted more life, more spark, in my paintings.

I decided I needed to do loads of sketches, learn about perspec
tive in depth, and find a fluency with drawing rapidly, to capture those values that hide in the subconscious so I could successfully accentuate and emphasize what I find important in an image. I've learned that too much premeditation or too great an accuracy in portraying many details can dampen the spirit of a drawing, painting, or whatever form of creative expression it is.

I've been doing sketches with pencil on paper. A week or so ago, just before I created the sketches in the last blog post, "A Couple of Sketches In A New Vein", I decided to try drawing in Adobe Photoshop. I drew a simple doodle cartoon, and it was such a pleasant experie
nce I decided to try painting and sketching in Photoshop. The Jura mountains with snow on them, in the last post, was my first result. And I enjoyed doing it more than anything I'd done so far, and I have enjoyed my artwork before that too!

So I decided I'd do my sketching using Photoshop. What was most freeing about it was the fact that I wasn't using valuable paper or paint (which can be quite costly and I hate using valuable earth resources when there is an alternative). This allowed me to start whatever I wanted, not caring what would happen if it failed or wasn't useful as a result. This was extremely liberating. It seemed a great way to experiment and learn the fluency in drawing and styles of painting that I'm looking for.

My second sketch in Photoshop was the portrait of Virginia Woolfe. It's just like working with pencil and paper, except that the paper is replaced with a smooth Wacom tablet.
I'm enjoying it so very much that I've decided to continue working in Photoshop to do my painting. I have tonnes to learn of course.

I've learned that tracing an image and then painting it in makes the resulting painting lifeless; painting really does require emphasis of elements that the artist finds interesting an
d charming. So, even though the computer does provide a perfect medium for producing quick art through tracing and manipulating, I prefer to continue to learn and develop the fundamentals of producing art the 'traditional' way, but to apply these in digital painting using the computer as my medium.

This is my third exploration in digital painting. For reference I used a photo that we took on a walk with Jasmine, our beautiful african grey parrot, one evening up in the mountains. If you'd like to see photos of that walk: see previous post, "An Evening Walk At La Col De La Faucille, Jura, France".

Tony and I have called this painting "Jazzy Jura Sunset". You can click on it to see it larger.

The real advantage to using Photoshop is that I can explore all sorts of ways of painting. I have asthma and so I experience difficulties breathing if I use many of the art mediums traditionally available. But I love brilliant colo
rs and soft colors, and well, just colors. I chose egg tempera because it was brighter than watercolor and didn't cause any breathing difficulties when I used it. All of those considerations vanish with digital painting because it's so versatile.

I'm very much a beginner, but experimenting further with it this, here is the next one I painted.

The photo I used for reference was taken on one of our trips to the market on a Saturday (yes, of course, Jasmine was with us). This little jaunt is described in the post "Sugar Cube Cartoon".

This is one area of experimentation I'm involved in right now and there are a number of other areas I'm branching out in at the same time. I'll talk about those in other posts. My hope is to put them all together and make something of them. I have no idea if I'll succeed in that, and it sure is scary even discussing it here, in case I don't... but then, when life presents the possiblity of chasing a dream it's a very precious opportunity... so here goes.

Hopefully everyone gets a chance at some point to follow their magic. I hope you do too. I'd love to hear about the things that bring the beauty of life to you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Couple Of Sketches In A New Vein

'Thank you' are the words that keep coming from my mind and heart today: thank you to my dear friends who visit this blog and do me the honor of reading it, and thank you for your encouragement and love. You have made this a very special moment in my life.

I mentioned that I've been doing a lot of thinking and rethinking about how it's possible to look at things and how to illustrate feeling. I looked at the artwork I'd done so far, and it just didn't capture the movement, joy and magic that I find special in life. So... thanks mainly to a fantastic book, called "The Illusion of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, I have come to understand that the flow and movement in a piece of art can be effectively conveyed when the lines aren't too precise and detail is not the prime objective.

In fact, detail can in some cases even remove the magic that we're accustomed to putting in ourselves. Our eye-brain connection does a lot, that we may not be consciously aware of, which apparently gives us pleasure as we fill in details we don't necessarily see with our eyes. If that opportunity is taken away by providing excessive detail in a painting it can eliminate some of the charm we experience and make the scene appear more static.

Anyway, I'm not explaining it very well, but my previous awareness of what I thought was important in art has been turned upside down by that great book (which my loving Mum-in-law gave me for Christmas!). I've never been so excited with a prezzie since I was a kid.

Here are a couple of sketches I did in the last couple of days - totally different from anything I've ever done before and a whole great deal more fun too! The one above is a view of the Jura mountains. And below is a sketch based on a photo of Virgina Woolf I found in a biology book. I had heard of Virginia Woolf's excellent writing (though I haven't read any, having had a less than stellar introduction to early 20th century writers in high school), but I had no idea how pretty she was.

These are the latest in the beginning of a new adventure. I have some ideas what I might like to do with the art, but it seems best for now to take each day as it comes and see what evolves.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Beginnings

I haven't posted much lately. Sometimes it seems necessary to absorb and process events, and these last months have been like that for me. Our new home is surrounded by amazing beauty and tranquility, with nature abounding everywhere in full view of our windows.

This is the little mountain (the one in the foreground of the picture above), which we call 'Mt. Woofy', where Jazzy and I spent last summer together. Our loss of Jazzy, in spite of all our efforts, in spite that I promised her I'd protect her - well, it shows just how little we truly are. We can't promise anyone anything except our love and our very best effort, the rest is the whim of life. It's a hard, bitter lesson to know that ultimately we're constrained, either by our own shortcomings, our ignorance, or just simply by circumstances and sometimes silly, unnecessary things, that could in theory be changed so easily but are not.

No matter how hard we try, how perfect we might strive to become, there will always be the mystery and unknown of the future. This mystery can bring sorrow, but it can also bring surprise and depths of interest and intrigue we probably couldn't invent.

Taking advantage of the excitement of the unknown, I've been exploring new ways to create art. I've been experimenting with new ideas and ways of looking at things, delving into what it is I really want in an image; turning my old values upside down and inside out to discover new ways to express and to draw and paint. It's exciting, and daunting. I haven't found my way with the art yet, there's a lot to learn, but I'm moving closer.

I love stories, movement and above all a sweetness, that includes beauty, nobility, respect, and the innocence of goodness. These are the things that Jazzy brought into our lives. I'm experimenting with writing stories and I want my art to include elements of stories. I don't yet know how much. I think I also want them to include a character or personality of some kind to give expression to sheer joy, fun and mischief. In order to have more freedom of expression with my drawing and painting I need to learn a whole lot more, and that's what I'm working on now.

I want to communicate through my art the magic and wonder of sharing being alive, with love, vibrant and frivolous with the expectation of fun and joy. That's what was important to Jazzy (along with apple and banana!) and that's why everyone who came near her loved being around her.

No matter how much I deliberate on it, I come back to the conclusion that what I think is important in life is living with wonder, joy, and fun, even in the face of fear and the unknown. This is my best conclusion, but I'm always interested in new ideas, new ways of looking at things.
Do you have a different take on life and what's important to you? I'd love to hear your views.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Merry Christmas and A Good New Year

Wishing all of you a very happy Christmas and a New Year bringing many good things to you. Thank you for coming to DweezelJazz blog and for sharing your thoughts and cheer this past year.
We keep a large photo of Jazzy in front of the tv until, of course, we want to watch a movie. I put up our rather unique Christmas display without thinking about it very much and then when I took this photo I saw that Jazzy ended up right in the middle of the festive decorations. Yes, well that's definitely Jazzy's way - to be right in the center of all the action!

And one new thing that has happened recently is that Tony, aka 'Snoopers', has started a blog called "Song For Jasmine". He's making it available in both English and French - by clicking the corresponding flag on the page the whole blog turns into the appropriate language. Cool or what? There are a few posts there already. Tony described his blog as being inspired by Jazzy and the fact that she was harmed by the chemical products used in our society, resulting in her losing her life before she reached the age of three. He says he wants to share beautiful things he's seen in nature, science and life, and to explore ways in which we can, as individuals, help to preserve the world around us and the precious beings in it. To read more, click this link to "Song For Jasmine".

best wishes for the holiday season,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Song for Jasmine

On Friday October 3rd at 16:40 CEST, our little Jasmine left her suffering behind. Although her body has gone, she has not left our lives, so I will not speak of her in the past tense.

Jasmine is our African Grey, 'Psittacus Erithacus' to give her latin name. Jasmine doesn't speak latin, she speaks French and English. Her names, to her, are Jasmine, Jazzy-roo, and Jazzy-rooster-roo. Somehow her name just kept getting longer when we called to her, but she knows them all.

Shannon, of Chippers Alley, has already penned a beautiful
tribute to Jasmine. Thank you Shannon, we couldn't have put it better. Jasmine loves Shannon as much as she loves us, and always looked forward to her visits. Between visits, Jasmine enjoys talking to Shannon on the phone, and calls to her by name.

Jasmine calls 'Snuggles' (a.k.a. Dweezeljazz) by name too, often just for the fun of laughing when she gets her reply. The only other person she calls by name is me, but she thinks my name is 'hell-OOO-ooo!'. It can be difficult to get my attention when I'm engrossed in something, you often need to shout. Jasmine also knows that when Dweezeljazz calls for 'Snoopers!', the correct response is 'uh-huh?'. Oh well, that about sums me up.

Shannon and Nat both have a lot of experience at handling birds, so
Jasmine enjoys playing 'gotchas' and receiving headrubs from them. She also loves having her tummy tickled, as you can see.

I haven't got the hang of that, but I have learned to sing to her. I have lots of little songs for all occasions. They're all silly and stupid, and the words change from time to time because I forget them, but for all my off-key efforts, Jasmine loves them.

I have a little song for the morning, to let her know that it's time to wake up, so she won't be startled when I lift the covers from her night-cage.

I have a
song for when we play 'flicksies' in the shower, when I flick water over her while she leans down from the shower-curtain rail to catch the drops.

Then there's the 'hupsy-daisy'
song for the end of the shower, when she hops over the shower-curtain rings as I draw it back to step out. She has to hop over the rings before I finish the song, and she always wins.

Another special
song is 'birdie-birdie bed-time', when we tuck her in to sleep at night. She always gives us a good-night kiss after that one.

The liveliest of all, however, has to be 'it's the wEEkend!'. She often
dances to that one, and always gets very excited.

At other times, any excuse will do to make up a song. In her cage, on her playstation, on my knee, or in a cafe in town, she's a willing listener. Provided it isn't too long, vaguely rhymes, and has her names in it somewhere, she loves it. With that many names to choose from, it's not difficult to come up with something.

I'm still singing to her now, and I always will. She put those songs in
my heart and that's where they belong. Thank you, Jazzy-roo.

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