Drab and unappealing outside, a damp chill in the grey air of a mid January day without even a trace of tired snow to brighten the dull countryside. But I've been spending too much time indoors of late. I tack east across the county to an obscure nature preserve hidden on a broken road, twisting through an unremarkable patch of southeast Pennsylvania farmland. Walking a seldom traveled path past a lone barn down to the woods, I notice a storm felled tree, trunk ripped with a fallen crown of limbs and snarled branches obscuring the dark pine boughs and barren woods beyond. An incomprehensible and unlovely thicket. For a moment, I'm tempted to stop and take out my sketchbook, but I press on into the woods. It isn't a picture begging to be painted.
The trail loop is unexpectedly short. Back where we entered the woods, I stop and look at that tangle again. It's been six weeks since I last opened a sketchbook other than to take design notes, so with a grim sigh, I pull my folding stool out of my shoulder bag, settle it into the half frozen mud, and sit down to draw. I really don't want to. What's in front of me is so damned unappealing and disorderly. What I really want is lunch - my stomach is growling at me.
After a few minutes, though, my eye starts to sort the chaos. I follow what begins to emerge as a thatch of loosely repetitive pattern, and I start to comprehend a scene whose language emerges to captivate me. Distantly I hear the rapid clip-clop and rattle of a horse drawn Amish buggy up on the road, and somehow that informs the rhythmic movement of the pencils in my hand.
Not for the first time, I wonder what else I've missed simply because its beauty wasn't instantly obvious.