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Urban Nature: Swimming Rats, Smiling Cats


Sunday Morning Nature Sketch, ink & watercolor
Sunday Morning Nature Sketch, ink & watercolor


It was a rainy Sunday morning and at first glance out my window the world looked gray and bleak. Then a flock of seagulls swirled by in the clouds and I looked a little closer. A dove sat nestled on a wire, a few ants straggled along my windowsill, a bee sniffed around a flower–a rose–beautifully blooming in November! The more I looked the more I saw and sketched. My cat Fiona joined me in looking out the window so I sketched her too.


Swimming Rats and Ducks, Pitt Brush Pens
Swimming Rats and Ducks, Pitt Brush Pens


A couple of days later I drove my car to the Toyota dealer in Albany for an oil change (and free car wash). They offered a ride home but though chilly, it wasn’t raining, so I decided to walk the 3 miles instead. I stopped along the way to watch the egrets and ducks in the creek next door to the Pacific East Mall.

I was stunned to see a big rat swimming across the creek. Then another rat swam by and disappeared under the concrete bridge. I sketched (above) while I waited for another rat sighting to take a photo. And then…

SCREEEEEECH…. KABOOM! I heard tires screeching and looked up as a driver on Pierce Street tried mightily (but unsuccessfully) to swerve and avoid crashing into the car of an old Chinese man who had suddenly turned left in front of him to enter the Asian mall parking lot.


Swimming Rat and Duck, photo
Swimming Rat and Duck, annotated photo

Then an old Chinese woman stopped to talk to the ducks. She told me that she brings them bread every morning. I asked her about the rats and she said, “Oh yes, they live under the bridge” we were standing on; she didn’t mind them eating her bread too.


By Jana Bouc

I am an artist who loves (and lives) to sketch and paint in watercolor, gouache, oils and digitally.

9 replies on “Urban Nature: Swimming Rats, Smiling Cats”

Love these sketches, and the story of your rainy morning, and your walk home from the oil change place. But ugh! Rats!! I remember sitting on the sea wall in Galveston, listening to the birds, then realizing the squeaks I heard were from dozens of rats in the rocks underneath me, where I guess they waited for the fishermen to clean their fish and throw their scraps. I found another vantage point from the beach to enjoy watching the Gulf waves…..


Ewww. That sounds really icky. One or two swimming wasn’t so bad. They actually looked kinda cute with those big ears and little feet. And I was above the creek on a walking bridge so not in any danger of a close encounter! Jana


Another wonderful walk with you that becomes a Happening, as usual. Thanks for sharing these moments. They really brighten my days.


Amazing how much you found to sketch by just looking out your window! That turned into a very interesting page. I used to see the rats in the Boise River when I lived there. Always thought they were muskrats or something. They lived under the walking bridge.


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