Nature found

madavenportsNature and scenery turned up afterall. All that landscape got me thinking about landscape painters, which is what my friends Debbie and Phil are (it’s a wonder they talk to me, but they are too kind to confront me and tell me my views offend them). Every summer they go somewhere to paint and then come home with a pile of paintings, many of them quite beautiful.

Anyway, I was thinking about how being in the landscape is such an amazing experience, each view each day transformed by conditions, each view sweeping and requiring a physical reaction whether it be a turn of the head, a swivel of the eyes or a step forward or back. Either way, the view changes dramatically as we move in the greatness of the space in the country.

I was also thinking about the response of painting landscapes–an urge to preserve that magic of what we see out there, and to bring it indoors into a room or a city or on a canvas or some other constrained space. And the urge to take a picture of that landscape, which I am unashamedly inflicting on all of you (fortunately, you can skip the pix), is not much different.


But the product of a photo is quite different in terms of the likely possibilities. If I just point and shoot with my little digital, all I get to determine is my position and the frame. Beyond that I’m stuck (unless I Photoshop it). But when painters paint, they get to decide the color, the mood, the highlights and low lights, the way the planes fit together; they can add or omit or move details; stretch them or compress them–in other words, they paint not what’s out there but what they decide.

And if they can add to that vision some idea of why they’re painting it and what it has to do with the times in which they live and the times forever after and the people who they are, they might come up with a winning landscape.

madebbieWe stayed in an ungainly little cabin shaped like a railroad car and put together from spit and builder’s supply specials. Here’s Debbie sitting on the porch of the little house.


maphilsclothespinsAnd here’s a shot of two clothespins Philip made, hanging on the clothesline that was right near where Debbie was sitting.

mabridgeofflowersmurrayThe nearest town was Shelburne Falls, and because we were separated from our natural habitat–the city grid–we had a little bit of trouble getting there at first. But at last we made it. Here’s a picture of Murray on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne, which is a volunteer effort by people in the town.

maflowerbridgereflectionHere’s another view of it from the car bridge. At night when the water is still, the reflection looks real.


mapotholescloseAnd best of all, here are The Potholes. They were ground out during the glacier age by whirlpooling water and spinning stones.

masalmonfallsThe falls, called Salmon Falls by the Native Americans, was declared a no-war zone between the Mohawks and the Penobscots. Their treaty, during the 1700s, stated that all land within a one-day walk was a free hunting zone for both tribes.

mathistlefieldThe two fields in front of our cabin were filled with a variety of wild flowers, from thistles to goldenrod to queen anne’s lace. The fields were the main route in and out of the cabin.

mahighledgesYesterday morning I headed out for a walk. Debbie and Phil were both out painting and Murray wanted to finish the book he was reading. I strapped on my Chacos and headed for High Ledges, a rocky lookout over the valley of the Deerfield and Green Rivers. I took a number of photographs up there and they were all worth looking at–but they also were failures at projecting what I wanted to capture.

mabigoakAs the various insects feasted on me in the woods, I found much to look at. Here’s a beautiful old oak.

On my way back downhill, I decided to take Lady’s Slipper Trail, where I found these rocks in the woods.

maredtoadstoolI also saw lots of toadstools. Here’s a red one.

mayellowtoadstoolAnd here’s a yellow one.

maphilandmurrayIn the afternoon, we all four set out together for a walk. We hiked up to a fire tower built in 1909 and walked through this beautiful farm (here are Murray and Phil walking through the farm).

maphilandcowHere’s a picture of Phil talking to a cow.

This morning we headed for home, catching an astounding panorama of fluffy white clouds looking like they were resting upon all the mountain tops. I won’t include my picture. It didn’t even give a bit of the sense of the light, the magic, or the land.