We met up with most of Stephen’s family for Thanksgiving last week in Buchanan, Virginia, a quiet, artsy, rural town in western Virginia. The James River flows by one side of the town, and the town is flanked by both the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains– a beautiful place. It was a wonderful time of family fun, hiking, game playing, laughter, and catching up with each other- a perfect Thanksgiving.
The last day we were there, Jonathan and I went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, pulled off at the first scenic overlook, and sat on the sidewalk absorbing the view and talking about his life in seminary, while I sketched the view.
After we went back to the James River Inn where we were staying, I did another painting loosely based on my plein air sketch.
The evening before we left, I took our three dogs out for a walk along the river and was treated to a gorgeous sunset with pink and purples and golds coloring sky and river and leaving a glow on everything else. I had neither my camera nor my sketchbook with me, so I did my best to commit the scene to memory, and then I painted it when we got back to the inn. I want to do more painting from memory, both as an art exercise and a memory exercise.
I visited a friend earlier in the week in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains, and had a wonderfully refreshing break from my busy schedule. Her house overlooks a wooded valley bordered by soft mountain views. The fall colors are mostly past, but the reddish brown of oaks remains, dotted with the blue green of pines and spruces.
I spent a leisurely morning painting the landscape from the dining room, as it was drizzly and chilly outside. Clear sunny days may be spectacularly beautiful, but I especially love the soft, quiet beauty of a misty, wet day in the mountains, and that’s what we had.
After a morning of painting, my friend and I hiked through neighboring fields, which were carpeted with thyme– such a delightful fragrance! In the afternoon, when the rain had stopped, we relaxed in the hot tub on the deck, enjoying the fresh air, the beautiful scenery, and the hoots of owls calling to one another in the nearby trees. A perfect day away!
Opening my eyes, I gazed at the dawn-streaked, still-dark sky, bare
trees standing in tall silhouette, with neighbors’ lights twinkling
through the woods. I headed straight for my studio, but kept the lights
off and stood at a window, studying each tree’s shape, lingering on the
many small branches and twigs revealing its unique “fingerprint” in the
I cherish these minutes before sunrise, when the woods and trees and
birds all seem to be holding their breath in anticipation of what is to
come. Quiet moments when the day’s work has yet to begin, and the
night’s softness blankets the world outside my door. Lights still off, I
took up my brushes in the quiet studio and started transferring
darkness and light to paper– a reminder of magical moments filled with
hope. The beginning of a new day.
I’ve been quiet for a while for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I miss Bituminous, and although he isn’t on my mind all the time anymore, every time I have come to my blog to post something, I would see my post about him and have to go do something else. It’s amazing how such a small creature can have such a large presence, and that presence is still very much missed.
I’ve also been quite occupied with dogs to train, and that has been good, but does make it hard for me to find the chunks of time I need in order to get into a writing frame of mind. This past week, though, I took a complete break from facebook, and that has made a huge difference. Even though I wasn’t spending a great deal of time on facebook, the time I was reading there was having a somewhat scattering effect on my thoughts. Staying away from it freed my mind up in ways I hadn’t expected. I found myself much calmer and more settled inside, and I was able to work much more efficiently and enjoyably, whether at writing, housework, or correspondence. Although I will be visiting facebook, I am planning to carefully monitor and limit my time there.
I have been painting as I have had time and opportunity, especially outside when weather has permitted (which hasn’t been all that often, between summer heat that extended into fall, then nonstop rain, then a heavy October snowstorm!). Unlike facebook, painting has a calming effect on me, and I almost always feel better for having taken time to paint, no matter how my paintings turn out.
Here is a sampling of my paintings and sketches from the past three months:
|Riga Falls– Plein Air Sketch
|Stump — Sepia Graphite
|Rocky Mountain National Park- Charcoal Study