watercolor of rodent skull by emily weil

daily painting | african skull

In South Africa we stayed in one humble, funky and slightly shabby lodge that, as with all the places we visited, had breathtakingly beautiful birds. I called it the Zombie Moth Palace because there were dozens, maybe hundreds, of moths flittering about the outside lights at night, and there were no screens on the windows (only saw windowscreens in one place we stayed). They dive-bombed you while you were in the shower and drowned in the small lake that formed outside the half-broken shower stall (some places we stayed were nicer than others; this one was memorable in many ways). 

But. Just outside our window, in a tree only 20 feet away, there was a nest of an African hoopoe bird. Spectacular! I watched both parents flying to and from the hole in the tree, feeding hidden little ones. They were cinnamon-colored with dramatic crests and black and white chevron-like stripes on their backs. Took my breath away.

So I was standing at the window, admiring the doting parents, and I looked down and just outside our window were big owl pellets. Likely an owl roosted in the eaves just under the roof, ate its meals, and coughed up the hard little pellets (kind of equivalent to furballs of a cat). In the midst of that collection of chucked-up owl stuff was this little rodent skull which I wrapped up carefully and brought home. I painted it a few weeks ago (of course now I can’t find it). 

Oh what a trip that was! Kind of seems like a fever dream now. So many adventures — some amazing, some wretched. Glad I went. Unforgettable.

10″ x 10″ ink, water-soluble graphite on paper