Bear Mountain State Park

Today is Stephen’s birthday, and he wanted to go to Bear Mountain State Park. We’ve never been there, other than to drive through once, so we wanted to see what it’s like. It is beautiful, with the kind of rock outcroppings and exposed granite slopes that I love, along with fabulous views of the Hudson River. We climbed up in the Perkins Memorial Tower at the summit of Bear Mountain, where there are 360 degree views. In the very distance we could see the New York City skyline, rising above mist like a fantasy city.

We found a few quiet, shady places to sit and paint (me) and muse (Stephen), where we wouldn’t bake in the sun. Orange granite sloping below us, fragrance of pines rising around us, vultures soaring through the view… It could have been a perfect place to spend the day, BUT we realized that if we want a peaceful, pristine experience of nature, we need to go north toward the Catskills, rather than south toward the city, at least on a beautiful Saturday. It seemed as though the city had emptied itself into the park, and with the mass of people came the blaring of car horns, radios, and motorcycles; along with people everywhere and scattered trash. Oh well… we made the best of it, seeking out some less populated spots, then headed north to Cold Spring to have lunch.

Despite the crowds, we had a great time together, just hanging out, enjoying each other’s company. I am so thankful for my wonderful husband!

Happy Birthday, Stephen!

The Thinker…

Bear Mountain State Park Queensboro Lake
Queensboro Lake from Bear Mountain
Iona Island from Bear Mountain

Berkshire Mountain Visit

This week I visited a good friend at her wonderfully quiet country home in the Berkshire Mountains. Her home overlooks a heavily wooded valley surrounded by mountains, with almost no noise other than the music of birds and the rustling of wind through pines. Spring hasn’t made much of an appearance there yet, and the ground was covered with snow (they got 8″ on Monday!). Cheryl, like me, loves the outdoors and also loves quiet time hanging out with tea and dogs, either talking about life or just quietly enjoying the beauty of the mountain scenery outside her windows.

We hiked through the snowy woods with Cheryl’s three dogs, watching birds and looking at tracks in the snow (we saw some that we think are fisher tracks) and counting melted spots in the snow where deer had slept the night before. I kept walking with my neck craned to see if I could spot an owl in the pine trees, but alas, they stayed well-hidden. Afterwards I sat at her dining room table to sketch and paint the rainy view and draw some of the many birch trees. Although warm temperatures are ideal for being outside, and sunshine makes for brilliant colors and striking shadows, I also love the muted colors of misty days.

Berkshire Mountain View
New Lebanon View
Birch Trees


Cheryl and I both love food, so we cooked and ate a delicious dinner together (and I got some great  new recipes to cook for Stephen). Being relaxed and full of good food after a busy few weeks, I was ready to go to bed early, and I slept to the music of the most beautiful-sounding wind chimes I’ve ever heard. The wind rose and fell during the night, with the lullaby of the chimes as a soothing background to my dreams.

In the morning we relaxed, read, and played with the dogs. Between rain showers, I stood on the deck to paint quickly in brief sessions, before the wind blew my palette away and froze my fingers. We’re just on the cusp of plein air painting season, and the weather seemed to vacillate between winter and spring every few minutes all morning.

Berkshire Mountains
New Lebanon

When it was too windy, wet, and chilly to stand outside painting, I curled up on the couch wrapped in a soft blanket with a mug of tea in the cozy den overlooking the valley. One of the dogs, Tessa, a German Shepherd Dog, is getting a bit old and the stairs are a challenge, so she stayed downstairs with me when Cheryl went up to do some morning chores. Tessa watched and waited for Cheryl, her ears constantly tuned to every movement and sound from upstairs, a perfect example of the devotion of a good German Shepherd, and a perfect subject for sketching.

German Shepherd Dog sketches
Tessa watching and waiting

I’m home now, rested and refreshed by the enveloping peace of the mountains, by relaxing time with a good friend, and by the opportunity to sketch in a leisurely manner.

The Retreat of Winter

I stood on my deck in the marginally warm sunshine this afternoon and, looking south, painted the stream, which is finally free of ice, and whose banks are slowly appearing from beneath Winter’s heavy blanket.

Like winter in Narnia retreating before Aslan’s advance, the snow is gradually yielding to Spring’s sunshine. The west facing bank of the stream is now snow-free, but the east facing side is still covered. The mornings are cold enough that early in the day the sun can’t muster the warmth to melt the snow, but the afternoons are warmer now, so the south and west facing areas are clearing.