Blurred by ice-then-snow-now, grass and tree and house and bay are rendered in the softest greys. Meteoric, a crow as black as space lands on a tailwind. Then another; black feathers plump and shudder off the snow. They strut like they own the place. Which today, they do.
Neighbors’ grand homestead, built out over decades of prosperity, has been surrendered to bankers, unmanageable. Dad became grandpa, then lost his memory one football story at a time.
So now, a ghostly hulk, their happy place is falling to ruin.
We had the world by the tail. We were invincible. We believed the tv gurus: you can have everything you want, if you focus clearly enough.
They didn’t tell us how inevitable the wind worries away the rock, and how an arc must eventually return to earth.
Let it snow, this cool balm, on the first days of spring. Breathe in the hush, let the softness dust your hair. It all happens right now. The house will disappear, and This will still be true.
Painters have been busy in the beautiful open-air studio here in the Swamp Forest, my pet name for Piscataway NP’s hidden Moyaone neighborhood, just south of DC. The mild summer temperatures have made outdoor art a pleasure, and my students and I have been taking advantage of this.
Meet Neil, Accomplished Oil Painter
At the ripe old age of 15, Neil is quite handy with a brush. He and I have worked together for about 2 years now, and I’ve had the joy of watching him gain mastery over this ancient technique.
Neil loves the landscape; he’s a hiker and a camper, active in Boy Scouting and soccer, so for him, plein-aire painting is just another outdoor activity – one he really enjoys.
We’ve worked on-site and in the studio, in fast-drying oils on paper, canvas and panel in a variety of sizes. Neil has a great sense of composition —the fundamental arrangement of shapes within a painting — a tough skill to lear, or teach. He’s learned a great deal about the nature and science of color, pigments, and how to mix colors that create the illusion of space and shape.
Neil will be exhibiting in his first show, the Charles County (Maryland) Arts Alliance Fall Art Show, a multi-media public exhibit, to be held at the Waldorf West Library, 10405 O’Donnell Place, Waldorf, MD, from October 2 to December 30, 2014.
A “Meet the Artists” Public Reception will be held on Saturday, October 4, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, at the Gallery to honor all the artists participating in the fall show.
A friend of mine has been building her own water park in her back yard, one that includes among other things an outdoor shower and dog wash. I took both dogs for a lovely cedar massage bath and we talked about how summer heat meant seeking relief in the cool of the water.
I’ve been going to the water all my life. I love the rocky forest, adore the sky, dance around the fire, but my Element is irrevocably Water.
Yesterday the heat broke in the afternoon, a great whoosh of wind blew leaves, rattling and bone dry, and thunder rumbled, but not a drop of moisture fell. The thermometer dropped from 103f/39c to 88f/31c and the sense that I was imprisoned indoors lifted. My kayak was still on the car from Monday’s jaunt (more later) and I zipped over to the local launch ramp and managed to get both dogs in with me and go for a paddle. (No pics, alas, since my phone is so water-averse!)
It was glorious, if a bit awkward getting sorted. Lily didn’t want to sit in her seat behind me. Seneca was confused and had trouble arranging her boney arthritic limbs. But eventually, with much splashing and a false start (white poodle swimming behind kayak) we were off. My old dog barked at the waves, my young dog leant against my back, too warm, but reassuring for both of us. I paddled without clobbering anyone. We pushed out against the incoming tide, aided by a breeze from the stern.
I was rewarded by an osprey rush-hour, each bird carrying their fish like a suitcase as they flew. A very large and splendidly marked bald eagle sat prettily in a tree. When I paddled too close, s/he flew out in a circle but returned, showing off the broad white tail, handsome walnut dark wings and snowy crown. Catfish like leviathans leapt near the boat, thrilling that is! What if one managed to flop IN the boat? It’s happened!
A squadron of 21 white egrets flew overhead. We saw terns, tree swallows, geese, a green heron. I heard redwing blackbird, wood thrush and cardinal. Two very tall Great Blues flew in to find a roost, clearly a pair who wanted to be together. It looked tricky, all those long legs trying to perch in a tree.
Then the water breaks into rippled flowing colour of underwater and sky and three shades of each looping forth and back, I feel the most connected, I feel the flow, I feel at home.
I took the dogs to the river today, the sun was out! We’ve all been indoors too much, writing, painting, cooking. Today, walking was the first priority.
The winter beech leaves can be quite a bright golden peach in the winter, contrasted with the drabness of dried leaves and bark. The green of moss and holly are most welcome. Add the blue sky and you have a beautiful winter palette.
Of course the dogs were ecstatic. Oh, the joys of sniffing! Seneca forgets she’s a gimpy oldster at the park (this one) and romps like a puppy, a comical sight as she seems to gallop in slow motion. When we rounded the path to approach the boardwalk, a brisk wind was blowing off the river.
This is often the case; inland even a few yards the climate can feel very different from what’s happening on the water. Today, this strong, steady breeze was whipping the shallows into tiny whitecaps, making a frothy sound. And the bare branches were making that distinctive wintery roar. My hair flew around and I felt the cold come through the buttons of my jacket.
In the marsh a few groups of mallards were chattering nearby, then further back a flock of Canada geese rose up and make a V heading toward open water. But in the stiff breeze they seemed to hang motionless in the air. They were moving forward very slowly, and not really moving their wings. The wind alone was holding them aloft. It was eerie and beautiful, these big birds floating strongly, as if they reached the river on will alone.
Sometimes where we are trying to go is harder to reach than we expect. But maybe there is an added lift, an unlikely gift, from the obstacle.