Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

How I Came to New Mexico and learned about Art and Life



WORD PAINTINGS #139 (How I Came to New Mexico and Learned about Art and Life) A MAGPIE FUNERAL ON SANTISTEVAN LANE

29 October 2023 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) – 3AM Friday – Moonshadows on the wall in my bedroom – the Hunter’s Moon.  Lifted the shade and the brilliant orb, low on the horizon over Tres Orejas,  shone directly in my line of vision! I said a little thanks and watched it disappear behind the mountains. Big smile all the way back to bed! Lovely!!


“Hunter’s Moon (llano Quemado, N.M.

My all-time favorite TV series was, is and always will be Northern Exposure – adventures and misadventures of a tightly connected group of eccentrics in Cicely, Alaska.  The entire 6 seasons are now available on Amazon – with the original music! Am just finishing Season Four, cherishing each episode.  Darren Burrows plays Native American Ed Chigliak.  Earlier this month I was looking for a new movie and found an older and grayer Darren Burrows playing the lead in “A Magpie Funeral”. Part of the story is that his father was a birdwatcher, but had never seen a Magpie funeral because it was very rare that humans could witness these beautiful birds crying in grief over one of their own.

Thirty years ago I rented a house on Santistevan Lane in Taos.  My art studio was in a the front of the house in a well-insulated converted garage. Through the warm months I would open the door to the sunny days and especially to hear the birds singing in my neighbor’s apple tree. The workers at the end of our road had the bad habit of coming and  going at great speed. One of them hit and killed a magpie and it lay sad and alone  in the gutter near Mr. Romero’s red fence.  There was a small bush next to the fence.  Went out and picked up the lifeless bird and laid him to rest under the chamisa. Soon witnessed a gathering of about ten magpies wailing and keening in the street as they hopped around their dead friend. Their grief was palpable. The sad ritual lasted for a few days until one day there was silence – their period of mourning was over.

Needless to say part of me changed forever after feeling the grief from this flock of mourners. Serious thoughts about life and death – my own mortality – when and how.  Most of all this crossing over from my human version of grief to witnessing the deep sorrow of birds!  If this was a rare experience, it was beyond magical. DC