Dawn broke cool and cloudless yesterday despite a forecast of rain. The chilly air was fresh and remarkably free of pollen under a royal blue sky as we took a light breakfast of fruit and yogurt with our tea and coffee out on the brick patio. As perfect as only a Sunday morning in the spring can be. A morning not to be squandered indoors.

We set off on a drive with no clear destination, impulsively following cues that caught our eyes as we motored across the rolling farmscape and wooded hills in southern Lancaster county. Eventually we came across a narrow road marked by a sign warning that a bridge ahead was closed. We pulled off, parked, and emerged from the car to continue on foot.

Time stopped. No cars, no overhead jets, only the soft burble of the creek as we walked along a crooked country road lined with blooming wildflowers luminescent against the dark woods. We followed Little Conestoga Creek downstream, passing a decaying steel bridge. About a mile further, we came upon a stone farmhouse with a sagging old barn and attached sheds at the confluence of the creek and the Conestoga River, where the road ended at a lane with a closed gate winding off into the woods. 

Pausing for a few minutes to sit under an enormous sycamore to do a pencil and watercolor sketch, as much as anything else an excuse to tarry and drink in the loveliness of this out of the way spot. A fisherman waded in the creek behind me, casting with a flyrod through the sparkling air.

We talk about exploring faraway places - traveling to Iceland to experience its harsh beauty and spare landscape. Japan to seek out the old culture with its preserved settings. Oaxaca to discover for ourselves its ancient ruins. But on this lovely April morning, it was more than sufficient to be immersed in the beauty of this dwindling Pennsylvania countryside, so close to home.

along Little Conestoga Creek, 8 x 6.25, graphite pencil and watercolor




Without the traditional family get together around my dining room table this year, Easter weekend has left me feeling disconcertingly adrift. I have a sense of having missed an important annual observance, even though with other obligations making it impossible for everyone to be here, no one expected me to provide the usual setting. I joined Ina at her house in Takoma Park as she hosted longtime friends of hers from Boston for brunch. The company was pleasant, the weather lovely and the food delicious, yet I found myself anxious and antsy. I talked with my children and parents on the phone, and missed them all. On my return home early afternoon, I couldn't settle down - I felt at loose ends and unreasonably guilty that I had somehow let people down, that I'd failed to do something that I should have done. And I felt obsolete. Ridiculous, I know. I guess it's hard for me to let go. I'm having to reconsider my role as my family's needs, and my own, are in flux.

Easter's message to me this year is that a full life is one that accepts and embraces change. Difficult though it may be at times, I'm grateful to be reminded.

mirror image, 11 x 11, 2B graphite pencileaster eggs and azalea, 8 x 5, 2B graphite and colored pencil


Seeding alfalfa

I have to qualify that this is fictionalized. The farm is the one I've been lurking around just south of New Holland. The farmer and his mule team really were seeding the front stretch with alfalfa yesterday as noted my previous post. But the sky was almost cloudless. I couldn't resist messing with the weather in this watercolor version of the scene.

Hey, what can I tell you? I'm a drama queen!!



I met the farmer yesterday.

A warm and bright afternoon, too nice not to stop and do a quick sketch on the trip back from a mid day visit to the shop. Passing an Amish farmer and six brawny mules seeding a field, I pulled off the road, got out and stood leaning against a wooden utility pole to sketch this view. Taking a break to satisfy his curiosity, the farmer parked his team and walked across the lumpy field to greet me. He'd noticed me the previous times I'd stopped.

We chatted about the farm life. He shared that he tills about 55 acres, has a barn full of milking Holsteins, and was planting alfalfa. I talked a bit about my years of living amidst the plain sect just a few miles east, and my own youth spent in New York state doing farm chores. A small but meaningful connection across otherwise quite different cultural backgrounds. I tried to explain what fascinated me about his farm building cluster. The great main barn looking like a ship cutting across a rolling ocean of rich soil. The house and minor buildings nestled into a shallow hollow, extending in segments parallel to the ridge beyond. How the structures seemed like they belonged there. He got it.

Concluding a few pleasant minutes of relaxed conversation, I commented my appreciation for the amount of manual toil involved in dairy and crop farming as the Amish do it on family farms in Lancaster county. He smiled and said, "It makes for a day's work!" before we each turned our attention back to the business at hand.



Something about this farm, I'm trying to understand just what, keeps me going back to look again. At the end of a long graveled lane, an imposing barn with its vast roof and towering concrete silos planted at its flank and gable end. The large rambling house with its telescoping extensions in a shallow dip, pointing off into the horse tilled fields and 80 acre farms to the east. Buildings and livestock silhouetted against the horizon under an expanse of ever changing sky. A rich cropland, tamed but still somehow wild, giving its bounty and withholding its secrets across the generations of Pennsylvania Dutch who have patiently worked it.