Riga Farm

Yesterday some members of the Lower Hudson Valley Plein Air Painters joined my mother and me at my parents’ farm to spend a gorgeous day painting outdoors. The weather was wonderful, not getting too hot until mid-afternoon (and then still okay in the shade), with beautiful views in every direction. The hardest part was figuring out which of the many inspiring options to paint. One thing I like about painting with other artists is the opportunity to see through their eyes, sometimes discovering beauty in places I had overlooked it.

We painted all morning then gathered by the pool, surrounded by a stunning array of snapdragons, to have lunch and iced tea, while talking art and getting to know each other. Then we dispersed for an afternoon of painting, before picking peaches in the orchard and heading home. What a great day!

In the morning my mother and I painted a dead tree up by the tennis court. I find dead trees fascinating. They look dead, and indeed, the tree itself is no longer alive, but there is an abundance of insect life and subsequent bird life in the old wood. I also love the weathered grain that reflects light in so many shades.

After lunch, one of the other artists was painting the view between the barn and the tool shed, not a spot I would have thought of, but it was a nicely framed scene. A bonus was that the farmer was mowing the field we were painting, and we were entainted by the cows galloping after, and even in front of, his tractor.

Last month when I spent the night at Riga Farm, I did some painting and some writing while enjoying a quiet day alone.

Here are some bedtime musings from my time there:

I close my journal, lay down my pen and turn off the light. Bedtime after a full day. But… I cannot resist the call of the night, so I unlock the door, open it a bit, and look out cautiously from side to side. No black and white of skunk in sight, so I step out, quietly shut the door, and slip into another world.

The half moon shines bright over the heavy silhouettes of the maples flanking the orchard. The Evening Star—Venus—is still hanging above the western hills, brighter than any of the stars that shine through from unimaginable distances. I scan the sky until I come to the Big Dipper, a familiar friend I’ve known since childhood. Tracing a line through the two end stars of the dipper and beyond, I meet the North Star, and from there find the Little Dipper. Some of its stars are almost too faint to see; I can only discern them because I know by heart where they have to be.

I search the sky again and think that perhaps I’ve found Cygnus, the Swan, but I’m not sure. It’s odd how I barely remember the constellations I learned in more recent years but know well the ones Papa taught me so long ago. Thank you, Papa, for this, among many other things you taught me of the world of nature.

The nearby rushing of the creek draws my attention, and I listen—to the water running endlessly over smooth rocks between mossy banks (where I sat this afternoon on a pebbly spit reading, with my bare feet in the cool stream), to the crickets singing in the night, to the lack of traffic noise. This last pauses my mental meandering, and I savor the absence of noise and the clarity of the sounds of nature—the music of creation with my ears tuned to its subtle melody.

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