Monday, November 28, 2011

A Drive to Nowhere

I like to take what my five-year-old grandson calls a drive to nowhere, to get in the car and discover what is out there. Recently my husband and I drove to Mt. Holly, NJ, an historic town that has a revolutionary war history. The old stone houses recall its glory days, though the town has seen some hard times since. As we drove around we found a wooded area tucked behind its busy Main Street. We got out to explore. There was a leafy, trodden path that led up a hill. It was a lovely day so we took our time to climb. Along the way a jogger appeared. “Quite a hill,” he said as he continued past us. Yes, it was, and quite a view from the top.

Was this a virgin forest? How come it hadn’t been developed? Hills usually are no impediment to a bulldozer. But I was glad it had been left alone. There were a few survey markers along the path but otherwise we had the world to ourselves. It was an exhilarating feeling, primal and beautiful. We finally wended our way back toward the road, skirting the houses on the edge of the woods. Our drive to nowhere led us to a grand place.

I can understand an explorer’s impetus to go beyond the accepted knowledge. The familiar often fades into the background. A drive or walk to nowhere brings out qualities of nature, not that they are hidden but rather they are overlooked. Busy lives leave little room for slow observation. Every now and then it is worth setting aside the known for the new. Something fresh, seen with open eyes and an inquisitive mind, expands the spirit. And that, to me, really makes it a drive to somewhere worthwhile.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nature – The Painterly Way

There are many ways to view the wonders of nature. I like to be plant myself in the middle of things – the woods, a garden, a bird sanctuary, an arboretum, my backyard. It is how I feel the energy of what I am observing. But there are other ways to appreciate what nature has to offer. One grand way is through the artist’s vision. This weekend I went to the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA for an exhibit called The Painterly Voice: Bucks County's Fertile Ground. What a treat.

Brian H. Peterson, the Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator, provides commentary about the work, the artists and Bucks County’s artistic progression. He takes the viewer behind the scenes with descriptions that allow us to feel the mystery of each artist’s voice. And the exhibit itself adds to the mystery with little doors that open to the comments about both the works and the artists.

The Painterly Voice is very people accessible. Other than the occasional DO NOT TOUCH sign, there are no ropes or barriers to getting up close to the paintings. I like to get near enough to see the individual brush strokes, to be able to see each color as it is applied, and to feel embraced by the minutia of the artist’s vision. Then I step back and let the fullness of the scene envelop and expand me. Here are hills and fields and water and flowers, long expanses and up close details.

And then there is Bucks County itself. A lovely ride through those same hills and fields. A nice way to spend a day.

The exhibit runs through April 1, 2012 but if you can’t get to see it in person, you can see some of it out here:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Autumn Invitation

I was in Virginia last week. It was a treat walking through the different neighborhoods and seeing the trees in their autumn beauty. I wondered if the trees back home in my more northern state would have lost their color by time I returned. I imagined their brown remaining leaves clinging momentarily to the branches before, with a windblown sigh, they released them all to the claim of the season. So I was happily surprised to see the vivid red and gold lining the streets of my own neighborhood when I went home.

Even with the pending barrenness of the trees and the nip of the fall air, I appreciate autumn. It lifts my spirits in a way no other season does. There is drama all around. I can’t imagine anyone not being affected by the brilliance of the trees. I agree with Albert Camus: Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. I am also cheered by the tufts of mums adding bursts of yellow, purple, orange, and red to the crisp days.

But there is also a sense of wistfulness, a look back at the summer just past where the sun stayed high longer and invited us outdoors well into the night, when the sometimes baking heat would give way to the refreshing relief of a day at the shore or the embrace of the cooling indoors.

I think the change of seasons is the perfect time for rethinking. I know it shifts my awareness out of the usual and promotes a different state of mind. Autumn does this with an intensity that’s hard to ignore. It offers a door into imagination and each burst of beauty beckons, an invitation to enter.

The US Forest Service tells all about autumn:

Some quotes about autumn: