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Monday, September 13, 2010

Fear of Flying?

This post comes to you from Pretoria where my West Coast exhibition takes place this week. The last week before leaving I painted enough gannets, photographed them and put them on disc. How easy it is to put your work in your purse nowadays!! The same cannot be said of all the paintings we hauled up here!

The time watching the gannets from the bird hide on Bird Island at Lambert's Bay was one of the most exciting times of my life. One can never get enough of that lovely mass of soft yellow heads, interspersed with the black "Pacman"-like, feature-less baby gannets! Soon, however, I started focussing on the spectacle of their flying.

The soil where they trample around is very hard, and they have a strip that they use for taking off, with many bodies actually walking through it. So to find a clear few yards to run before rising from the ground is difficult. Again and again they try, lose courage or halt to avoid a wanderer in their way and go back to try again. Flap-flap goes the feet designed for swimming over the hard crusty earth. I promise you that an onlooker can become utterly nervous! The eventual take-off is not very smooth but quite faltering!

On the edges, where the rocks are, others peek over the precipice before throwing themselves into the air. There are akward moments when they almost hang in the air, trying to find the proper movements. As if my readers are not upset enough by this time, I also have to tell you that the landings on those enormous feet looks like a great plopping down! I was saddened but not surprised to read in Nelson's book on seabirds that some gannets can injure or kill themselves in flying accidents! Here, close to the earth they have their worst close shaves with danger.

But of course, what takes place in the first moments of alighting is absolutely forgotten the moment they stretch out in the air, and form a single line from beak to tail, while the wings unfold to an enormous, finely tipped wingspan. Suddenly they are the most gracious and effective of flyers who are able to divebomb the sea at such a speed that it carries them down a full ten meters to a supply of fish who never saw it coming! Yeah, for the gannets, can you feel the relief and freedom of those flyers as they do the auronautical tricks they were born for.


  1. What an amazingly well written post bringing all the feeling of your joy (and fear) at watching these birds enact their daily routine. Brought it all to life - and look forward to seeing those images.

  2. Hi Marie,
    What a fascinating story. Nature can be so beautiful and cruel. These brave birds, just like us humans. When the thrill is greater than the fear, we all take flight. All the best to you. As usual your paintings and postings are very enjoyable.

  3. I don't think I even knew what a gannet was until reading/seeing these posts. So interesting!

  4. Awe.... thank you for sharing that story. Their lead up to the take off made me a little nervous reading your words.

  5. Poor brave gannets! Wonderful writing Marie, and love your gannet paintings... I was really hoping to get to Pretoria today for your exhibition and to say hello, but life is a bit hectic and it doesn't look like it. Hope it is a lovely day for all.

  6. A beautiful post Marie, my heart pumped faster as I kept reading! Really looking forward to seeing the pics (and paintings) of these lovely birds! Hugs

  7. Looking forward to seeing what you can upload!

  8. I still cannot post the painting and photos! But what I leanrt today made me very happy and that is that my friends READ my blog posts. Warm glow surrounnds me, can you feel it!!

    Joan, joy and fear, how lovely you put it!

    Joan S, WHAT A DEEP PHILOSOPHY! We are beings of Nature too, with all its ups and downs!

    Thank you Pam! There are 5 stories of the gannets. I am awyay from home and my lovely fast Internet, but the story will continue!

    Manon, is is strange that it should be so...looking at a bird in flight us humans can only sense freedom. But these birds must fly for a living!

    Thanks for the thought, dear Cathy! I hope you can see the photos of the exhibition on Facebook. I wonder should I blog about the exhibition? And thank you for the lovely comment about my writing!

    Maree, I will continue, but it may be some time yet. The next post is THE GANNET COLONY and the last one: MAN and the GANNETS.

    Thank you Marian. I hope to work out how to do it!

  9. Just amazing how you engage the listener. Wonderful information. Thank you so much for your insights and beautiful paintings!

  10. Linda, a very special thank you for saying that I succeed in engaging the listener! Yippie, I am sure going to quote you one day. Regards,M

  11. These are gorgeous gannets, Marie!


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