Jay Walking

I miss Eastern Blue Jays. The crisp black and white face, the brilliant blue feathers, the jaunty tuft, the devil-may-care attitude. Especially this time of year, when the flash of blue makes a welcome relief from the gray-black-white of a winter landscape.

Outside my window, we have Scrub Jays. They're kinda blue, but with a gray back, softer edges and color gradations, and no jaunty tuft. They still have attitude, though, and gleefully tell off cats, squirrels, and birds several times their size, like crows and hawks. They're also tool users: I saw one once with an acorn in its beak, returning to a particular branch where a crack in the bark made a perfect vise. He'd pop in the nut, tap it in tight, then thwack at it with his beak until the shell cracked. Which proves what I've known all along: It's all in finding your proper niche. I've been painting scrub jays for a few years now, on cookie jars, pie and baking dishes.

If you walk up into the South Hills of Eugene, somewhere around the 500 foot elevation, you start seeing Stellar's Jays. They're the Arthur Fonzarelli of jays (remember him?), bigger than Scrubs, with black head and shoulders, dark blue bodies, black bars on wing and tail feathers, and best of all, a gorgeous crest. They are way cool and they know it, and I've just started to paint them on pastas, pitchers, and baking dishes.

...Aaay, I like jays, 'kay?