Acadia National Park: More Wonders all the Time

I can’t believe I’ve already been here a week and a half, more than half my time. I could stay here for months and not see and experience all I’d like to, but I am making the most of every day I have in this rich place. 
Today the wind is blowing hard and it is raining. The rain started when I was in the middle of a plein air painting, sitting out on the rocks of Schoodic Point, painting the tremendous surf. I’m not sure yet how I’ll finish that painting, but it’s likely to have some interesting effects from getting rained on.
Earlier this morning I saw the otter family again. They cavorted their way around the edge of their pond, then saw me and waited a while, swimming back and forth and sticking their heads up to look at me, making occasional squeaky sounds. Finally they came up the bank and loped across the roads– so funny looking! 
Shortly after I saw the otters, I saw a huge number of gulls along the shore, some on the water, some on the stony shore, and some in the air (all in the air when an eagle flew by). While I was looking at them, I saw a bird in the water that stood out as something different. Heavy, thick bill, very clear black and white pattern with a small whitish area in the black of the side of the head. About the size of a small duck, but with straighter neck and bill held out fairly straight in front. When it dived I saw a sharp black tail. Razorbill! Another new bird for my life list!
Below are some of my sketches and paintings from the past week. If you click on the image, you’ll see a larger version.
Great Black-backed Gull field sketch (he posed for a long time)
Herring Gull field sketch (also posed patiently)

Raven’s Nest- beautiful but scary place to paint
Rocks and Surf (artistic license with colors)
Rocks on Little Moose Island
Sunset from Cadillac Mountain
Rock and autumn blueberry bushes

Overload of Wonder

I am on overload of wonder. Whenever I open the windows or walk outside I hear the constant roar of surf and the frequent crash of waves against granite shore. Everywhere I look there is splendor and beauty and awesome power, from numerous songbirds and brilliant lichens to Cadillac Mountain in autumn glory gilded with evening light. The stars at night are overwhelming in their number and clarity. Venus and Jupiter have shown themselves each morning, joined today by Mars and Mercury in the cloudless predawn sky. Sunrises and sunsets are brilliant and always different.

Rather than write out all that I am seeing in detail, I am going to simply post some of my sketches and photos for now. I will say, though, that this morning I was especially wonder struck, as I had the opportunity to observe, photograph, and sketch a porcupine at close range for over half an hour. I had startled him a bit earlier while he was eating rose hips when I was walking along the road, and he had gone into the woods. I had a feeling he might come back, so I found a comfortable rock to sit on and I waited. Sure enough, he returned and resumed his feasting, quite near to where I was sitting!

The words of this hymn by Isaac Watts keep coming to mind:

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

I sing the
mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread
the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the
wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon
shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.
I sing the
goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed
the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how
Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey
the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.
There’s not
a plant or flow’r below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds
arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all
that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
everywhere that we can be, Thou, God, art present there.

(If you click on the sketches, you’ll see a large enough image to read my notes.)

Sunrise October 16
Porcupine sketches Acadia National Park
Porcupine sketches Schoodic Peninsula
lichen on Schoodic Point granite
Schoodic Point surf
Schoodic Point sunset
Porcupine on Schoodic Loop Road

My Acadia Adventure Begins…

My art supplies (probably half my studio) are packed and loaded in the car. The small amount of remaining space is stuffed with warm clothes, hiking boots, and field guides. The time has finally come; tomorrow I leave for the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park to start my time there as artist-in-residence. I rarely feel that the clock moves too slowly, but it seems like much more than 18 hours till tomorrow morning, when I will start my drive into the fall foliage of New England and into an extended time of focusing on nature and art.

From time to time when I need a quiet day without interruptions, I go to a nearby monastery. Once I stayed there overnight, and experienced the “Great Silence,” during which everyone refrains from conversation, except in case of emergency, from 8:30pm to 8:30am. I loved it. Time to think, to be silent long enough for my mind to stop churning, time for the quiet whisper of creativity to be strengthened to a clear call. I’m told there’s almost no cell phone signal at Acadia National Park, so I can count on being pretty much uninterrupted– a Great Silence, this time surrounded by mountains, coast, forests, and surf.

During my time at Acadia I plan to immerse myself in the unique wonders and beauty of that piece of creation, sketching and painting what I see and experience in order to more deeply ground myself in the present moment and place and also to be able to share it with others. I’ll be working with a group of middle school students (an age group I love working with) one evening, doing night sketching, something I love to do. I hope to help them develop a sense of wonder at the awesomeness of the heavens and the quiet beauty of the night. I’ll also be sharing some of my sketches and paintings one morning with a group of artists who will be there on an art retreat. That should be a great time of sharing and learning together, as I always appreciate the opportunity to see what other artists are doing. Other than those times and perhaps one or two other presentations, I’ll be exploring, sketching, and painting, hopefully from before dawn to after sunset every day.

Stephen will join me for part of the time, and we’ll plan on venturing out on some of the more rugged hikes during that time. He likes to read or just enjoy the view and ponder the deep questions of life while I sketch, so we have good teamwork for outdoor adventures. The rest of the time I’m there will be a time of Great Silence for focusing on the gifts of the natural world and on how to share them through my artwork.

(Photos from Acadia National Park by my son and daughter-in-law, Jonathan and Minet Fischer.)

Predawn Planets

This week the sky has been magnificent every morning before dawn! I’ve been walking on my deck and watching the sky from early enough for a deep, dark star-besprent sky until the sun is well up and the day is bright. The planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter have been putting on a brilliant show, and I’ve been watching to see the exact time they each fade from view as the bright light of the sun spreads across the sky. I’ve written about those times in the notes that follow, but today I did not note the time that Venus faded from view as the sun rose. That’s because Venus was so bright today that she was even visible at 10:00 this morning, with the sun high and bright! I had not realized before that Venus is bright enough to be seen even in strong daylight under the right conditions.

(If you click on the images, you’ll be able to see them large enough to read my notes.)

Moon, Venus, Jupiter sketch


Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter sketch


The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
                                            Psalm 19:1-2

Granddaddy’s Library

I wrote this last March, but am posting it now, since yesterday, October 2, would have been my grandfather, Goodwin Batterson Beach’s, 130th birthday. He was one of the people who gave a solid foundation of love in my childhood and who inspired in me a love of learning, particularly a love of language and languages. Granddaddy often spoke to me in Latin, and his ordinary English was sprinkled with many now-archaic words and expressions that were archaic even then and have given me a love of beautiful and seldom-used words. Here is one of my many wonderful memories of Granddaddy:
It’s March 31st, but it’s snowing pretty hard and feels raw outside. Inside, though, Steve has just kindled a fire, so I get my book and head for the living room. As I enter the room, I hear the crackling of the fire and I smell smoke. Not the kind of smoke that burns your eyes or makes you cough. This is a warm, homey smelling smoke that takes me back through time, back almost five decades and east about 75 miles to West Hartford, Connecticut.

I step into Granddaddy’s library and am in another world. A world of books, of warmth, of quiet, a world of love, though I don’t think to call it by that name. It’s just Granddaddy’s library, and it’s one of my favorite places. A fire roars and crackles on the hearth, bright embers occasionally popping against the screen– a metal mesh that slides across the front of the small fireplace. When the fire dies down, one of us grandchildren gets to use the wooden and leather bellows to blow air at the base of the logs to revive the flames, filling the library with a smokey smell peculiar to this room. The smell of this room is the fragrance of peace to me.

Everything in this room speaks peace– the wallpaper with its subtle pattern, the wood paneled cabinets below the bookshelves, the oriental rug that muffles my steps, the table with brass letter opener neatly in its place, and the books. Books that line the walls, neatly arranged on built-in shelves up to the ceiling, bindings drawing me close to look, tempting me to run my finger over the soft, worn leather; titles promising knowledge and adventure, if only I could read Latin, Greek, and other ancient languages.

The best part of the room is Granddaddy, sitting in his armchair with the coarse, tan tweed upholstery in the corner with bookshelves on both sides and a small end table beside his chair. He can’t see me very well, but when I nestle into his lap and lean my head against his chest, my cheek against the scratchy tweed jacket, he wraps his long arms around me. I hold still and listen to his heart beating slow and steady, feel his arms strong and gentle around me, smell the comforting smell of tobacco, and know I am safe and loved.