Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I had a good excuse for being late to class today - it snowed last night!  It was the kind of snow that sits on bare branches and holly leaves, smothers the tips of old sumac berries like white icing, and makes the early morning road extremely slippery.  It was 26 degrees as I drove and slid my way to Wofford to teach my part of the Modern Physics/Modern Art class.  Traffic was moving at only 25 mph. and even then there was an accident along the way.  Public schools were closed for the day, but colleges are their own little worlds, aren't they? Besides, if I missed class today, the physics teacher would have taught tomorrow's lesson on Quantum Theory, something I look forward to hearing tomorrow, so there you have it.  I had to press on!  Then, even though I got to class a little late, I dismissed the class early so that everyone could find their way to a TV to watch today's historic event:  Obama's Inauguration. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Horse Nettle and Sumac

What a beautiful day!  It was cold and breezy with deep blue, cloudless skies, but the most beautiful part was that I was free! It's been a while since I've been able to hike with Winston and Radu and draw in my journal so I followed the dogs out to the pipeline with a happy heart.   As usual we turned downhill toward Meetinghouse Creek.  The wind tossed my hair around, but my layers of fleece, my hat and gloves kept me fairly warm as we hurried down the hill.   Once we crossed the creek the steep uphill climb got my heart pumping and staying warm was no longer a problem. At the top of the hill Radu raced along sniffing and pouncing like a puppy.  I wandered the edge of the pipeline, in and out of the woods, admiring red maple stems and dogwood buds, as well as mossy rocks "unleafed" by last week's super strong winds. Winston lagged behind, as usual.  

On the way back downhill the wind was in our faces.  Brr....  it's amazing how quickly body heat disappears when you're not having to work.  I had to stop to draw the little bit of color I found near the creek. Down in the valley the wind was blocked by the hill and allowed the afternoon sun to warm me to the bone - a wonderful treat on this cold January day!


Here is a journal entry from last week. Unfortunately life has been getting in the way of regular entries, but I hope that things will be easing up by the end of January. In the meantime, here are some galls for your viewing pleasure.  

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mushrooms vs. Birds

It was cool and cloudy today, and still damp from last night's heavy rain and this morning's thick fog. Luckily I'd already walked Radu on the road (with leash) for exercise, for on my way to the pipeline for a good doggy-run/hike my attention was caught by these tiny waxy-orange mushrooms growing on a long, rotting log.  Ha!  I was still within sight of the house when I sat down to draw.  

As I admired the multitude of mushrooms that glowed brightly against the saturated log, two things happened at once -  a squirrel scampered through the woods and up a Cedar tree carrying a wad of fallen leaves to add to her nest (we've been watching this project slowly progress), and a screaming Pileated Woodpecker zoomed through the treetops and landed high in a Tulip Poplar. He continued his noisy kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk the whole time he investigated the tree. He didn't seem to be foraging.  Perhaps he was scoping out a nesting tree. More sightings this afternoon:  Titmice, Chickadees, Goldfinches, Purple Finches, pair of Cardinals, Carolina Wren, Song Sparrow (bathing), and White Throated Sparrows.  The big treat was seeing (in the same field of vision through my binoculars) a Brown Creeper and a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker hitching up neighboring trees at an identical pace.  Hop - hop - hop - hop - hop! You could never plan such an event.

Even though it was a great birding day, I chose to draw the tiny mushrooms. These two were such well-mannered models - they stayed in one place the whole time I worked.  

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year

It was in the high 30's this morning when the dogs and I headed out for our first hike of 2009. Frost glittered everywhere, and patches of two-inch ice crystals that had pushed out of the ground still stood at attention with their miniature red clay caps. As we hiked we stepped over fox scat full of persimmon seeds and rabbit fur, and the deep tracks of white-tailed deer, then continued down through the Meetinghouse Creek valley. We turned back up towards the headwaters of the creek, into a wide open oak-beech forest with evergreen American Hollies crowded near the thin trickle of water. Across the creek a high, north-facing bluff held huge, mossy boulders. They looked as if at any moment they could roll down through the mountain laurel thickets below them and right into the tiny creek. 
I settled to draw under the swooping branches of this beautiful old beech tree with last years leaves, now the color of straw, clinging to its inner branches.  The Beech's fat, multi-trunk had wonderful shadows - its outermost branches touched the ground beside me. In the leaf litter beneath the tree grew the green, purple-backed leaves of Cranefly Orchids and Spotted Wintergreen, with white-veined leaves. It was so quiet that I could hear bugs clicking in the leaves around me.  

All in all, the perfect way to start a new year.