I’m just home from a fabulous week of sketching and painting at Acadia National Park, mostly on the Schoodic Peninsula. Schoodic is beautiful no matter what the weather is doing, which is good, since the weather changes quickly and rarely seems to do as predicted. I love the softened atmosphere of foggy and rainy days just as much, as the brilliant colors and contrasts of sunny days.
There were three wonderful instructors who each gave us an hour and a half of instruction and tips the first three days, and the rest of the time was unscheduled time for painting– a wonderful way to structure the week. Meal times were great for sharing adventures and thoughts about art and nature, and a couple of times we had sessions where we shared and discussed the art we had been doing there. I loved seeing what everyone was doing, all very diverse styles and mediums, and I learned a lot from observing and from hearing how the other artists thought about their work.
During the week I got the wonderful news that our new granddaughter, Elizabeth, had just been born, which made me walk around the rest of the week with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I’ll be heading to San Francisco to meet Elizabeth in two days, and have much to do in the meantime, so this post will mostly be photos of my work. I did very few actual paintings, focusing instead on filling two sketchbooks with landscapes and with field sketches of wildlife.
New York Plein Air Painters (NYPAP) had a paint out at Olana, the 19th century home, studio and designed
landscape of Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church, in memory
of NYPAP founder, Ted Beardsley, so there were artists painting
everywhere on the grounds. I saw several artists I already knew and met several more whose names were familiar to me, but whom I had never met, and then others who were entirely new to me. Such an enjoyable and inspiring day!
This was my first, but definitely not my last, visit to Olana. There are paintable vistas in every direction. I decided to do a series of sketches, rather than a finished painting, since it was all new to me and I wanted to experience a variety of vistas. There were interesting birds at each spot where I sketched, so I kept my binoculars on and my eyes open.
Here is my day is pictures (click on images to see larger image and read what birds I saw at each location):
Periodical Cicada– the first I’ve seen this year; I know there will soon be many more
A big thank you to all those who organized this day’s paint out. It was a wonderful day!
Wrapped in the warmth of a wonderfully soft, fleece blanket, steaming mug of green tea in hand, I settled on the deck and watched. Watched Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches at the feeder just feet from me. Watched two loons swimming a ways across the lake. Watched the morning light transform the distant mountains from misty outlines to purple splendor to the full glory of fall colors.
So began my days last week while on retreat in a cabin on Wilson Lake in central Maine. This wasn’t my typical solitary retreat, as I went with a close friend, but it also included time for private reflection, personal evaluation, and contemplation. How could one not become quiet and thoughtful before such a magnificent display of God’s creation?
My friend Sarah and I took a week away as a writers’ retreat, and write we did (and cook, and eat, and hike, and sit on the dock star-gazing, and canoe on the lake, etc). Every day we did one or more ten minute writing exercises, which we then shared and discussed. Those conversations led to discussions of our writing styles, subjects, and goals, and to mutual encouragement as we enjoyed each others’ strengths in writing. Sarah made some long term plans and got a good start on her next writing project. I worked on various writings, including some memoir-type selections and a short article about how crating can be a stress-reducing haven for a dog, with my old dog Bilbo as an example. That article is posted on the My Smart Puppy blog.
As I always do on retreat, I spent much of my time in silence, sometimes reading, sometimes journaling– either in my private journal or my artist’s sketchbook/journal, and sometimes just quietly observing nature and musing. As I started this retreat, a friend, Cindy Steffen of the Prairie Pond Woods blog that I follow, emailed me some questions that she had recently used when she led a retreat, and I pondered and wrote on these questions throughout the week (the questions, with some modifications, come from the book The Questions of Jesus, by John Dear):
What are you thinking in your heart? (a clearing of the mind exercise)
What are you looking for? (passions? desires?)
What do you want me (Jesus) to do for you?
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? (dealing with integrity)
Will you lay down your life for me (Jesus)? (what does that mean, etc?)
What is your name? (playing with God’s proclivity to rename and Jesus’ to nickname)
As all retreats come to an close, this one did too, but, as usual, I have come home with an inner peace and quiet that has me listening more than speaking and that holds me calm and steady in the midst of the storm raging outside.
Lake Wilson Sunset (plein air watercolor)
Artist’s journal pages (click to see larger image)
Today was one of those crystal clear days when I can’t get enough of the fresh air, the sunshine, and the scenery. From the moment I woke up and looked out the window of my bedroom (the window is right over the bed, so I can look out without even sitting up), I was entranced with the colors. At first the sky was just brightening up and there was a long line of orange over the hills opposite our cabin. Soon the sky was a soft pinkish, with violet clouds across the lake and dusky rose-colored clouds over the mountains at the north end of the lake. All day long the lighting and colors shifted. I did several sketches as I sat and pondered the thoughts and questions that came to mind throughout the day.
Yesterday when Sarah and I were walking in some nearby fields, we saw our first Bohemian Waxwings– a flock of about six were flitting from tree to tree! I have seen Cedar Waxwings many times, and when I saw these I thought at first that was what they were, but then I noticed the different color of the undertail coverts and the white on the wing edges. Their voice is also a bit different. While we were watching these pretty birds, a Bald Eagle soared far overhead and disappeared into the colors of the hills.
I still smile every time I think of the Trumpeter Swans I saw in Ohio last month. They were an unexpected treat, since I had no idea there were Trumpeters anywhere in the East. When I first saw them, I thought they must be Tundra Swans, which look very similar, because my bird book (Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds East of the Rockies, fourth edition) doesn’t even include Trumpeter Swans.
As I wandered the boardwalks in the area, I wondered what the loud, honking noise was that I heard echoing frequently over the marshes– Trumpeter Swans! These birds float gracefully and serenely in the marshes, dipping their long necks under to eat plant material and staining their heads and necks red with the ferrous minerals in the sediment.
Trumpeter Swans used to be native to that area, but were extirpated by over-hunting and loss of habitat in the 1800’s. In 1996 they were reintroduced to Ohio and now there is a breeding population of these majestic birds.
Trumpeter Swans are the largest North American waterfowl (20-30 pounds) with a wingspan of 6-8 feet and they can fly between 40 and 80 miles per hour. They mate for life and usually live about 15-20 years in the wild. They mate for life and build large nests, up to 6 feet in diameter, in marshes, and tend to reuse the same nest year after year.
I don’t know if this is a Trumpeter Swan nest, but it was very large with large eggs, so I think it might be