Icebox Falls – Watercolor 18×24”

Art, Hike of the Week, hiking, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

Icebox Falls – watercolor 18×24”

The mind never stops churning, even on a relaxing weekend upstate in the Catskills (NY). The Glen Falls House is where we stayed and everyone was super nice. There are short nature trails on the property, some of which, lead to one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. It’s not a big waterfall, but the surrounding rock formations are hypnotic.

Painting this was FUN. I worked on it a couple of hours after work for a little over a week. The water was the biggest challenge but the scene already offers great contrast between the light coming in through the trees and the darkness underneath the rocks. The Eastern Hemlock stand at the top of the falls really hit home. I love these conifers and who knows how long until they are destroyed by the woolly Adelgid. Finally, I went for more glow and stronger color to depict the funky vibe I feel from the Catskills.

Not Just a Mosquito Breeding Ground – Watercolor 14×20”

Art, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

This place is not far from home. A swamp, a wetland, a breeding ground for a myriad of organisms. Some we consider charismatic, some consider us their host, and some we don’t recognize. It’s hard to walk by without noticing things here, especially, in the fall. What was a sea of green is now a textury color kaleidoscope. This season seems more fleeting than the rest. So little time, so much to paint.

Man Mourns Oak – w/c 10×14”

Outdoor Adventure

I’m driving to work. It’s September and the weather is kind of muggy already at 7am. Right before the light there’s an old abandoned village, or so it seems. This obscure place has become a resting place for a giant white oak that must have died a while ago, but fell not too long ago. I wondered if this tree was special to someone.

Man Mourns Oak – w/c 10×14”

Into the Sun – Day 3

Art, hiking, Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure

The trail turns eastward and the walker, if walking early in the morning, is rewarded with an illuminated morning view of Boston Mine at Harriman State Park (NY). This old iron mine was last worked just before the 1800’s came to an end. With the sun shining so dramatically over this relic, the walker may be seduced for a closer look into the mine, as I was, but do beware of unsteady rocks and saturated ground within. Best to have a quick look and continue on sauntering.

Sun on Boston Mine

The sun and the mine working together to lure the walker in for a closer look!

 

The sun is many things – a star, a giant sphere of energy and hot plasma, the center of our solar system. I also think of it as the star of aesthetics. It is the main ingredient to a beautiful landscape painting with a rustic old barn; if the direction of light is well represented it is likely a success. A light and dark side is key, but what about temperature and feel? The sun painted on the hillside or riverbank adds a feeling of warmth and comfort to the picture, and the viewer may unknowingly start to smile, as a result.

Into the Sun – Day 2

Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure
Nature's Stage

Nature’s stage – light…action!

The stage is set by a solar spotlight. This morning the light is cast on what may seem like random spot of dirt and rock. But, this little lit-up soil patch contains millions of organisms – nematodes, algae, bacteria, and many other. I wonder how many earthworms, pill bugs, and millipedes are hiding under the leaves. Is there a salamander under that rock? I’m not typically a stone-turner, but I do get the urge once in a while.

Nope. Just an assortment of bugs scattering about. This time of year, the photoperiod (aka hours of sunshine) is on the decline in the northeast; this patch of soil and its inhabitants now have a big workload of leaves to decompose, as a result. The Jays seem particularly rambunctious nowadays, as their calls have gotten noticeably louder and more frequent. I wonder if they too are concerned about this photoperiod business; never enough time in the day to cache all those acorns, I suppose. Thanks for planting all those oaks, my friends.

 

5 Days into the Sun

Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure

The sun is the heart of our solar system; it is a driving force behind much of the activity (seasons, climate, currents) and life on earth. Throughout history the sun has been worshiped and debated; ancient civilizations built stone structures (calendars) to mark the sun’s path through the seasons. During the days of Ptolemy, most believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Then, much later, we learned it was the other way around. Today, many people are still excited about the sun, especially during phenomenons like the solar eclipse, but most of the time it sort of goes unnoticed.

This is an exciting time of year to notice the changes! During the next 5 days, I’ll make an attempt to be a bit more mindful of the sun by noticing its intensity and position in the sky. I may try to compare to the sun’s presence a month ago. Each day, I will post a photo taken “into the sun” as a way to reflect on the sun during this time of seasonal transition, when the sun becomes a bit dimmer and more pleasant, like turning down the lamp light in the house for a more relaxing mood. I hope this little 5-day activity inspires us to notice our natural surroundings more often.

Into the Sun - Day 1

Photo taken near “green pond” at Harriman State Park, NY

Connecting with Nature?

Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure

A friend recently gave me a book called “How to Connect With Nature”, written by Tristan Gooley. At first, I thought, “are you saying I need help connecting with nature”? How dare you; after all, I attended “Nature College” and earned a “Nature Degree”. Of course, I dare not actually say any of that stuff and I thanked him profusely for his kind act. But, hang on a minute; my friend is actually spot on! Reading scientific papers about deciduous forests is not the same as experiencing a deciduous forest, fully with the senses. Better yet, hiking through a deciduous forest and identifying plants with a wild, scattered mind is not the same as experiencing a deciduous forest, fully with the senses.

I’m only a few pages in, but so far I like it. It seems the purpose of this book is to give people practical tools to make a profound connection with Nature. Sounds very cliché; we hear it on television, musicians sing about it – take it all in, commune with nature, they say. But, to consciously want to connect with our natural surroundings, in my opinion, is not a common desire. I had a friend tentatively make the following request a few times per year – “take me hiking, dude, so I can be one with nature and shit”. I assume this request came out of the idea that going to some scenic setting with birds and a nice overlook would seem cool. But, perhaps there is also a good chance that folks who want to take a hike for commercially inspired purposes might develop a deeper interest in nature through that experience.

It seems that to be present and “feel connected” is no easy task, even for people who really want to experience nature in a primal sense. For me, there is often an in and out signal – sometimes I feel more aware of my surroundings and sometimes I feel foggy-headed and distracted by thoughts of what has occurred in the past or what might occur in the future. This dilemma seems to circle back to ancient teachings about the practice of awareness and staying in the present moment. I believe this is the fundamental step for people who want to “connect with nature” in a truthful way. There are many wonderful sources out there for folks who want to learn more about mindfulness (and I don’t mean to use the term “mindfulness” as the marketing buzz word that it has become). Below are my top 3 favorite sources that I follow on this topic, and I hope you can benefit from them too. Happy trails!

3 Great Websites About Awareness / Simplicity

Audio Dharma – an archive of Dharma talks given by various speakers.

Zen Habits – a blog about finding simplicity and mindfulness, by Leo Babauta.

Raptitude – a blog about getting better at being human, by David Cain.

 

Find Your Flow

…Nature-inspired watercolor paintings available on our Etsy Shop!