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.

Darkness and Dawn

Darkness and Dawn
I woke up and glanced out the bedroom window to see streaks of light breaking the darkness, crossing the night sky with hints of the new day. Racing to my studio, I painted this in the dark; if I had turned on a light, I would no longer have been able to see what was dim but dramatic in the early dawn light beyond my window. As I look at the sky on such mornings, I can’t help wondering how often our lights, sounds, and other ways of adapting our world obscure from our view the often-silent beauty of that which is beyond our control and is far more majestic than anything we can create. 
This is one of the paintings on display at the East Fishkill Library until Friday this week.


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 naturepainter@hotmail.com.
Here are a few of my journal pages from recent days, sketched in between shoveling snow:

Wise Old Owl

Wise Old Owl

morning before dawn my children and I went to a nearby county park to see if we could see
a Barred Owl that reportedly was in the area. We waited quietly a half hour or so, before
an owl suddenly swooped in on silent wings, then perched in a tree in plain
sight. We observed and sketched him for over half an hour, before he left as
silently as he had arrived.

Here is my journal page from that day in 2001, when I observed a Barred Owl with my children. We also found a dead weasel right near the owl’s area, and we wondered whether the owl had killed the weasel.

 This watercolor is currently on display
at the East Fishkill Library in Hopewell Junction, NY. If interested in
purchasing it, please contact me at naturepainter@hotmail.com.

Pileated Woodpeckers

Watercolor 12×8
Pileated Pair

One day, feeling down, I walked outside hoping
the fresh air would lift my spirits. One of these magnificent birds swooped low
beside me and landed on a tree just feet from me—the first Pileated Woodpecker
I had seen on our land! We now have a pair in our woods, and every time I see
them, I am reminded of that gift.

Pileated Pair is currently on display at the East Fishkill Library in Hopewell Junction, NY. If you’re interested in purchasing this painting, please contact me at naturepainter@hotmail.com. 

(This painting is based on reference photos by me and by Samantha Keith– many thanks to Sam for permission to use her photos of the wildlife she sees around her home.)

Snowy Owl

Watercolor 7.5×5

I was out cross-country skiing on a golf course today and kept hoping to see a Snowy Owl, but if there were any in the area, they stayed well camouflaged. This has been one of those winters when there are many sightings in our general area, but most seemed to have been when I was in Florida, so I missed them.

Snowy Owls are the heaviest owls found in North America. They spend summers north of the Arctic Circle, where they hunt lemmings, small rodents, and other prey. Often hunting during the day, unlike most other owls, when they migrate to the northern United States during some winters, they can frequently be spotted on open fields and airport runways. Young have dark bars, with males becoming whiter as they mature, while females keep some dark bars throughout their life.

Thank you to my friend Carol Hickey for the use of her beautiful photo for a reference for this painting.

Solo Exhibit at East Fishkill Library

My paintings are on display this month at the East Fishkill Library, and we had an opening reception last Friday. It was a wonderful and fun evening with many visitors– my parents were there, as were many friends, including a few whom I hadn’t seen in many years, so it was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect. Over the next few weeks, I’ll post some of the watercolors that are on display at the library, along with the little write-ups I’ve done to go with each painting.

Painting in the Adirondacks

Last week I spent two soul-refreshing days in the quiet and beauty of the Adirondacks. A friend invited me to her place in the North Woods Club, accessible only by a 10 mile long dirt road that gets progressively narrrower and bumpier the closer one gets to one’s destination. Of course there was no cell signal along the road, and I was hoping (at times doubting) that I was on the correct road. Nevertheless, as my car bounced along over stones and rocks, I marveled at the scenery on all sides, from the small scale beauty of a stream gurgling on rocks beside the road to the breathtaking vista of a spruce-lined pond with a backdrop of bluish mountains. I figured that even if I were on the wrong road, it was a fine place to be lost.

Happily I was not lost, and eventually arrived at my friend’s house, already awed by the place and eager to pull out sketchbook and paints. Within minutes I was on the deck, sketching the mountains, while sampling a variety of delicious cheeses and chatting with my friend. As evening drew near, we drove to nearby Mink Pond, loaded up a rowboat with provisions, and rowed across the pond to a fire pit on an island, where we cooked steaks and home fries (and, of course, I sketched). Steaks grilled over a campfire taste better than almost anything else, especially after a long day of travel. Only one party at a time is allowed to sign out a rowboat for a given pond or lake, so we had Mink Pond to ourselves. As I watched the reflections on water and the colors of sunset, I marveled that there was no sound of traffic anywhere around– such a welcome sound of silence.

–Click on photos to see images large enough to read notes–

Polaris Mountain from the deck of the house
West Bay of Mink Pond from Mink Island
Sunset over West Bay of Mink Pond
Sunrise from my bedroom window
Looking toward Mud Pond from Prospect Rock
The second day I was there, we drove along a very long, very, very bumpy road (more like a rock-strewn path through the woods) to a more distant lake– Split Rock Lake. There we loaded up rowboats and rowed a fairly long way across to a fire pit and lean-to, where we made a fire and prepared to cook burgers, when suddenly storm clouds appeared across the lake. We quickly doused the fire and rowed back through rain, thankfully making it across before there was any thunder and lightning. I love storms, so once back at the house, I happily sketched cloudy skies.
Stormy afternoon view of Beaver Mountain

On my final morning visiting, I again woke early enough to watch the sky turn from dull gray to pink-tinted gray, to a full-blown wash of pink, orange, and purple. Both mornings I was there, I heard loons start calling on the lake just as the first hint of color appeared in the clouds.

I departed reluctantly but well-refreshed, having thoroughly enjoyed good time with friends, the splendor of nature, and the quiet of the deep woods.

Sketching and Birding at Olana

Today the
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!