Dusty Miller was a rescued turkey who resided at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary and recently passed away peacefully due to a weak heart. He was one of the most well-known residents at the sanctuary because of his bold presence. Siobhan, the main operator of Cedar Row, was the only human who had closely bonded with him.
I remember enjoying several musical conversations with Dusty in turkey language, his soft voice cooing in diverse notes within the span of seconds. One experience I shared with Dusty affected me on an inexpressibly deep level. It happened during a work visit in July 2018, while cleaning the chicken coop with another volunteer. I was crouching to scrub a feed bucket as Dusty approached. We were about an arm’s length away ̶ maybe even closer to a wing’s length.
The intensity of unfamiliar closeness with a powerful form of sentience struck me all at once. His riveting presence managed to capture every single drop of my attention. The stillness of those moments moved me to such heightened awareness that I couldn’t comprehend anything more than our two souls connecting. Dusty had healed me through this pure, genuine union.
My courage floundered once he hobbled closer with one more step. I wish that I had the strength to accept his innocent curiosity, but in that moment my fear won over. The stillness was broken, and I made a rise to standing. To a sensitive soul like Dusty, I think that my choice to become defensive amplified his edginess.
A friend once told me that “vulnerability is the greatest armour”, at York Lane Art Collective while I was working on the above portrait of Dusty (for the Summer of Peace open house in June 2018). These wise words had proven to be true with Gabe the goose, who ceased biting once I met him at eye level; and Dusty Miller, for the short minute in which I allowed myself to be 100% vulnerable. These kinds of transformative connections with sentient life are what I hope to honour through my artivism. Dusty leaves us inspired to face the challenges of life with surety and confidence.
Painting photographed by David Leasa (@dkleasa)
Canvas frame built by Joe Guzvinec (@deepinfiniteye)