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.
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.
Adorned in light
Well, the sun has set on our 5-day Into the Sun blog series. Thank you, thank you.
It has actually been more than 5 days; I have skipped some days and the reasons vary – rain, laziness, too much work at work. But, when I did write, I found this little exercise very refreshing. It has helped me use a different part of my brain (or use the brain differently) – that is, the act of writing creatively. And, it has definitely helped me to notice and celebrate the sun during this season of change. However, no matter how mindful we try to be; it is inevitable that we get swept away by a wave of confusion, anxiety, and haste. Maybe this wave is a byproduct of the society that we’ve created, I don’t know. But, if we can bring ourselves back to noticing things and get out of the funk every now and then – bravo!
Lastly, I leave you with some fun facts about the sun (from https://space-facts.com/the-sun/). Cheers!
- The sun is not a perfect sphere. It is imperfect by just 10km between the poles and the equator.
- The sun is a yellow dwarf star (main-sequence G2V star).
- The sun is 4.6 billion years young.
- The sun is 70% Hydrogen, 28% Helium, and 2% other stuff.
- Our planet can fit inside the sun a million times.
Hopefully, you are inspired to learn more about the sun or just to look up once in a while.
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.
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.
Photo taken near “green pond” at Harriman State Park, NY
And now….an exercise in Bioregional practice; a moment from tonight’s class assignment.
I was very excited to see today’s discussion topic because it ties in nicely into my daily routine. If I don’t get to take a walk I get a little crazy; like a golden retriever that didn’t get to run around. In the northeast, we are very fortunate to experience the seasons. During the hot summer months my strategy is to get out around 6am and take it all in while the air is still cool (or at least tolerable) before it climbs to a thick soupy 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, I’m outside during lunch time when the sun brings comfort in the cold. But, this time of year I choose to enjoy the experience later in the evening so I can smell the cool earthy crisp air, as that nostalgic fall feeling sets in. This is my favorite time of the year; a time to enjoy the brilliant display of “nature’s fireworks” as the leaves change before the cold makes its return.
These days I tend to run out of day light before I can escape outside for the daily life-place bonding ritual, and today was no exception. Much to my chagrin tonight was an unusually warm October night and it seems that the cool air arrives later and later every year. I stepped outside and headed down my usual route. I designed this route specifically to avoid as much car traffic as possible. To the casual observer, it may appear as if I am trespassing through private backyards into order to avoid busy streets, but I am traversing through areas where small businesses have shut down and the spaces are still unrented. I proceed to climb up a familiar gravel slope, as my eyes finally adjust to the dark to help me see the shape of the old stone church against the evening sky, which was noticeably darker than usual as we are only a couple days away from a new moon.
As I continued up the slope the area began to shift from an urban scene to more of a wooded area. The area I am describing is the beginning of a 276 acre sanctuary called the Scherman Hoffman sanctuary, which is owned by the New Jersey Audubon Society (2013). The sanctuary is named after Mr. and Mrs. Harry Scherman and Mr. Frederick Hoffman who donated the land to the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJ Audubon, 2013). I could only make out the silhouettes of the shrubbery growing along side of the road, but I knew well enough (from weekend day-time visits) that growing along the road is a tangled web of field thistles, chicory, golden rods, the invasive Japanese knot-weed, and the poisonous snake root, which follows me everywhere I go.
On my way back down the slope I tune into the sounds of late evening and it is quite the symphony. Crickets engage in harmonious music making that seems to carry on throughout all hours of the night. Don’t they ever get tired? Other insects (cicadas perhaps?) up in the trees echo back and forth to one another: chee-chee-chee….kaaa-kaaa-kaaa….chee-chee-chee…kaaa-kaaa-kaaa. It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore these sounds if our attention is focused on something else and how impossible it is to ignore these sounds once we become aware of them. Upon my return I am almost saddened that my experience had come to an end, but I am happy to know that I will do it again tomorrow.
New Jersey Audubon Society. (2013). About Scherman Hoffman. Retrieved from http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionCenters/SectionScherman/AboutSchermanHoffman.aspx