Common Redpoll

Yesterday I saw a Common Redpoll at our feeders, a bird I’ve been watching for for several weeks now. We haven’t seen them often, but a bit over two years ago we had several here over a period of a few days. People in the Waterman Bird Club have been watching for them, and yesterday several of us all had them visiting our feeders for the first time this year. It must be their week to arrive in Dutchess County.

Redpolls live in the arctic and only migrate south irregularly. They are well adapted for cold weather and even tunnel into the snow to stay warm! The bird yesterday was only here briefly, but when we had our Redpoll visitors two years ago, they stuck around long enough for me to sketch them.

You can click on the images to see them large enough to read the notes.



Shenandoah National Park

Trees and mountains garbed in autumn splendor, thick mist softening the world, deer and bear watching from beside the road, craggy rocks to climb, soul-nourishing views to the east and the west…On our way home from Florida in September, Stephen and I took an evening and a day to drive through Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive. I’ve been wanting to explore and sketch there for years, so we meandered our way slowly along the 105 miles of the Skyline Drive. We stayed the night at the Lewis Mountain cabins, partway through the park, staying in a delightful, clean cabin, where I awoke the next morning to the sound of a Screech Owl right outside the window and the fragrance of fall rising from the damp earth and leaves.

We stopped to enjoy most of the overlooks, savoring the variety of views, and I sketched as many as I had time for. We also took a couple of short hikes (though one was longer than planned, due to missing a turnoff on the trail), stretching our legs and breathing deeply of the refreshing, clean air. I could easily spend days in this place, but I thoroughly enjoyed our short visit.

Here are my sketches that tell the story of our time in that magical place. You can click on the images to see them large enough to read my notes about each location and my thoughts about the park in general. 

McCormick Gap Overlook
Sawmill Run Overlook
Crescent Rock View
Jewel Hollow Overlook
Hazel Mountain Overlook
Pass Mountain Overlook
Hogback Overlook
Shenandoah Valley Overlook


Minnewaska Hike

High flying flocks of geese heading south, honking their connection to one another; red, yellow, and orange trees overhanging tall rock slopes; Catskills clothed in shades of lavender, standing majestically to the north; the fragrance of fall making the air sweet to breathe.

Yesterday Stephen and I headed for Sam’s Point Preserve right after church to spend a perfect fall Sunday afternoon hiking, but when we got there, we found that everyone else had had the same idea and the parking was full and they weren’t allowing anyone else in. Figuring that nearby Minnewaska would also be overcrowded, Steve pulled out his geological survey map collection and did some searching. He found a small back way into Minnewaska through tiny Berme Road Park in Ellenville. We found our way to the park and headed up the Smiley Carriage Road– not one of the well-maintained carriage roads we’re accustomed to in Minnewaska, but not full of the Columbus Day weekend crowds either. 

We hiked up and up, along a very stony, sometimes rutted carriage road, slippery with leaves in some places, surrounded by beauty everywhere.

At one point we met a couple coming down, who told us there was a three-foot rattlesnake coiled in the path a few minutes farther along the trail. I grabbed my sketchbook from my backpack, thanked the couple, and headed up the trail, watching closely for the snake. Sadly, he had left by the time we got to wherever he had been, so my rattlesnake sketching will have to wait for another hike.

We made our way to Naparoch Point, a rocky overlook complete with the deep crevasses one expects in Minnewaska, opening to a view of the blue and lavender Catskills in the distance, the gold-tinged Shawangunks nearby, huge rocks with twisted pines and oaks in the foreground, and blueberry bushes in fall shades of red carpeting the ground.

Autumn along the Rail Trail

Colors are close to peak, and here and there are spots of brilliance, with the fragrance of fall in every breath. This afternoon I meandered along the Rail Trail, pausing to listen and look for birds, to savor the reds, yellows and oranges of the trees, and to breathe deeply of the refreshing autumn air. When the air is like this, cool and filled with leaf fragrance, I feel as though I could bypass eating; the air itself is satisfying and nourishing to soul and body. 

I stopped by Lake Walton to sketch, surrounded by ducks in the water, migrating warblers in the trees, chipmunks foraging in fallen leaves, and color all around… times like this, I forget all else and am simply present in the moment.

Total Lunar Eclipse October 2014

I woke up early, 3:15am, and was instantly wide awake. There was going to be a total lunar eclipse, and I wanted to be sure to see it. I knew the eclipse wasn’t starting until 5:15, and I knew I should go back to sleep until then, but I was too full of anticipation to return to sleep. I was also worried about the weather, not that worry accomplishes anything, and not that I have any control over the weather, worried or not. It had been pouring a few hours earlier (we got an inch of rain in the earlier part of the
night), but, to my relief, the clouds were starting to clear away by the time I padded
onto the damp deck in my bare feet. The moon was hanging round and bright in the sky just above the trees to the west of our house, with silvery clouds scudding to the east. No sign of earth’s dark shadow crossing the moon yet, so I went back inside to make some tea and start a pot of oatmeal cooking.

After frequent checks to be sure the clouds were indeed departing (perhaps by wishing I could make them leave faster?), at 5:10 I settled into my camp chair on the deck, sketchbook in hand, with nickel-sized circles drawn down the page. There were still a few clouds, but they mostly stayed out of the way. As I watched, a small bite disappeared from the upper left of the moon. Over the minutes the small bite became a steadily growing, curved shadow. (Later I read that that curve, which is cast by the curved surface of the earth, was some of the earliest evidence that the earth is round, not flat).

I watched in silence and marveled at the silence. Not that the night was silent– crickets chirped, leaves rustled in the breeze, the muffled sounds of distant traffic filtered through the woods– but the tremendous event in the sky transpired in silence. Of course that is always the case, but watching the earth’s shadow overtake the moon and knowing the immensity of these celestial bodies, it struck me anew how mighty they are. And yet, they move and interact in silence, so easy to miss if one isn’t watching.

I watched and sketched from my deck
until the moon was too low behind the trees, then I drove to a nearby
hill and watched until just before sunrise, when I could no longer see
the moon (which was about to set by then). I ran out of space on my page
toward the end, so just took notes of the final stages before the sun rose– next time I will use a larger sketchbook.

I’ve seen total eclipses of the moon before, and every time I am filled with wonder and delight. It was well worth having a short night; I hope I never sleep through such an amazing sight and never lose my sense of awe at witnessing these celestial events.

Steam rises from my bowl of oatmeal, visible in the cool morning air. Finches sing and wrens scold, filling the air with life. A young Goldfinch flutters wings and lowers head, begging his father for food. A loud humming heralds the arrival of a hummingbird, who is suddenly hovering a couple of yards in front of me as she studies me. Two sleek yearling does and two young bucks sporting velvet-covered spike antlers waft silently through the yard, pausing to nibble fresh grasses on their way from woods behind to woods in front, as Rowan lies beside me watching calmly.

My morning dog training client cancelled at the last moment this morning, so I’ve been enjoying the unexpected gift of a slow morning. Breakfast on the deck in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt– such a treat in August, some leisurely sketching, laundry hung on the line (always so satisfying), and time for a bit of relaxed reading. I have a full afternoon and evening schedule ahead of me, so am thankful for a quieter than planned morning to just be.

Musings on Busyness and Slowing through Sketching

For the past few months I’ve been pondering my schedule and working on slowing down internally, which has meant slowing down externally quite a bit. I tend to get too busy, then step back, then gradually (or not so gradually) get too busy again after a refreshing time of less on my schedule.

I’ve been doing some looking inward to try and figure out why, when I love solitude and peace so much, I keep getting myself over committed. I have some answers and probably have more to discover, but for now, I am enjoying the freedom of a less scheduled calendar and more time with Stephen, and for art, for walking with my dogs, and for cleaning my house and cooking (which I really enjoy when I’m not squeezing it in between too many demands).

One encouraging result of setting priorities was that within a day I began to think creatively and with enthusiasm about several things I had seemed to lose all inspiration for. Ideas have began popping into my head, sometimes when I least expect them, and I am eager to move forward with them. But, I’m taking my time and giving careful thought to my schedule and what I can fit in without cramming the essentials into the corners of an impossibly full week.

I’m hoping to post sketches, paintings, and writing a bit more often, so today I’m getting started with a sketch of a favorite jug of mine. I’ve been taking a sketching class called “Seeing” through Sketchbook Skool, and this is the final week of class. I didn’t sign up until two weeks into the six week course, because I didn’t have time, but when I realized how much I was stunting myself emotionally and spiritually by not allowing time for art, I signed up and worked on catching up. It was a great decision and has given me a much-needed jump start for sketching in a way that gets me to slow down, look more carefully, and see beyond the superficial glance. The instructor this week is Liz Steel, and one assignment is to sketch a teacup or other object, so I did this jug. I have greatly enjoyed all the instructors for this course, and I’m hoping to post some of my earlier sketches, but this is all for today.

I’ve been making tea in this jug for years, but today, for some reason,
it got many little cracks in the glaze (and maybe deeper) when I poured
boiling water into it. Unless, perhaps, it was already cracked and I
hadn’t noticed, but that seems unlikely, since I’ve used it nearly every day. Anyway, I decided to sketch it,
since I really like it and wonder if it will soon fall apart. I hope it doesn’t. It didn’t come from anyone special; I think I may have found it at Goodwill, but I love the rich brown, the beige trim, the simple shape, and its usefulness. It just fits me and our home, and often holds our wonderful well water or some delicious variety of tea.

Nesting Birds and Morels

I had a delightful and peaceful afternoon today meandering in our woods and sitting on a bridge dangling my feet in our stream, all the time watching bird families. A pair of Hairy Woodpeckers were feeding their young in a nest cavity in a tree, up about 35 feet from the ground. The youngsters would squawk loudly when a parent arrived and for a little while after the parent departed, then quiet down until a parent appeared again. I think one of the young may have left the nest while another stayed behind, because I saw what appeared to be a juvenile male squawking on a branch nearby after leaving the nest cavity, while another was still being fed in the nest.

While I was watching the Hairy Woodpeckers, a raucous family of House Wrens were perching and fluttering nearby– at least four young and one parents were clustered in a shrub and adjoining stump, while the other parents called and occasionally scolded a few yards away. The young wrens were tiny– they looked about the size of golf balls, with two clinging to one stump and two others fluttering in a bush right next to the stump.

I turned around from watching the Hairy Woodpeckers to see a male Bluebird perched in a tree looking toward a stump with a hole in it. I stood still watching, and after a while I saw a female bluebird go into the hole, which is about eight feet above the ground. I saw the female leaving the stump and sitting on a branch nearby a couple of times, but I never saw the male enter the nest.

While I was watching the Bluebirds, a family a Carolina Wrens flew, perched, flew, perched, and flew again– at least two young and two parents. They gradually worked their way across my field of view and over the stream, then out of sight behind shrubs. They seemed to be making more progress, or at least were covering more ground, than the House Wrens. It seems that today was Leave-the-Nest-Day for wrens on our land.

I also found two morels on our land today. Both were growing beside fairly small (4″-6″ diameter dead trees) in grassy, leafy patches. They made a delicious addition to our dinner!


Bronx Zoo Sketches

Stephen and I ventured to the Bronx Zoo on a beautiful February Saturday morning, expecting to find it crowded on such a nice weekend, but there weren’t too many people, and many of the animals were more lively than I usually see them. Stephen took photos, while I sketched. We had a wonderful day, and I really enjoyed taking my time sketching in pencil or ballpoint pen and observing the animals moving around and interacting. After we got home, I added color to my sketches and wrote up some information about each. I can hardly wait to go back sometime soon!

(If you click on a photo, you’ll see it large enough to read my notes.)










Scarlet Ibis
Ebony Langur
Silvered Leaf Monkey



Watercolor 5×7
From early spring through
summer, I awaken to the song of a Cardinal, the first herald of the new day. In
winter, the Cardinals around my home seem to prefer their cozy perches and they
let other birds announce dawn, preferring to wait for the late-rising sun to
fully appear. Just in the past week, though, the  Cardinals have started singing their cheerful morning song, which tells me that they believe spring is just around the corner. Much as I love winter, I will welcome the warmth, the sunshine, and the song of spring.

This Cardinal watercolor is currently on display
at the East Fishkill Library in Hopewell Junction, NY. If interested in
purchasing it, please contact me at
Here are a few of my journal pages from recent days, sketched in between shoveling snow: