Our Curious Roadside Mascot

Folks driving northbound through Oroville may notice the large photograph in the corner window at 14th Street & Main.  49º North Artists installed that 6-ft x 4-ft portrait of a Pine Grosbeak—a pale yellow and gray female—from Justin Haug Images to draw attention to the Art on The Line project.

Kind of an odd mascot, right?  We were thinking, “Stop Them in Their Tracks” billboard at the time.  Thinking like artists, in fact.  Seeing something unexpected, something fresh.  And Ms. Grosbeak is a pretty girl, the kind of beauty often seen on billboards meant to catch the eye.  Only wearing more feathers.

She is even more remarkable in this close-up view.  No, not the amazing color of some birds but an astonishing sight of something more basic:  Feathers.  Tiny, complex feathers of structure, form and function on her breast that the human eye rarely sees in birds because they are mostly looking at flight feathers and rarely close enough to perceive the over-all details.  In fact, in the case of Ms. G., her coloring deliberately conceals her from prying eyes—often unusual to see her at all.

We are in awe that this photograph even exists.  Justin Haug says he is able to capture this and other elusive wildlife portraits because, as a wildlife biologist, he has learned where to look.  Looking, as the artist he is.  All of us can do the same—a deliberate habit of looking at our surroundings closely without expectation of seeing anything of interest.  And there it is!  The discovery of beauty in the small, drab, and quiet as rewarding as the grandest scenery, the brightest colors.

Ms. Grosbeak’s intricate, delicate plumage just happens to be one of many small wonders to be revealed by just looking around us.  Maybe what we get in life is just what we are willing to find:  Small wonders where they grow.

By the way, for pure flamboyance, check out Mr. Grosbeak as “discovered” by Haug’s camera, on display down the block.