I have no idea why it took me so long.
Yesterday I explored a little nook that felt like a portal to the 17th century. The funny thing about this place is...I have driven by it nearly every day for most of my life.
The Richard Wall House was built in 1693 by a charming Quaker couple from the town of Cheltenham, England. They were among the "First Purchasers" to obtain land from William Penn in what we now know as Cheltenham Township.
My outdoor painting quest of Cheltenham Township has taken a dive into its rich 300 year history.
Since it's still plein air painting season (meaning it's not too hot and not too cold to paint outside), I went to High School Park and found this lovely spot along the meadow walk built in memory of Joshua Schwartz.
It only seems fitting that if I am a resident artist in Cheltenham that I paint Cheltenham. I foresee "Meadow Walk" as the first in a series. I'm putting on the hat of being a tourist in my own town!
That "Tourist in my own Town" theme, by the way, is an excellent writing prompt that was given to me by the great Mt. Airy writing teacher, Minter Krotzer. I, in turn, assigned that topic to countless unsuspecting 10th grade students when I taught high school English. We read an essay entitled "A Tourist in my own Town" by an American author for inspiration. I'm a bit embarrassed that I can't remember the author. Can anyone help me out?
During my family's John Muir quest in August we not only visited Glacier Bay, Alaska where through his observations he advanced the understanding of how glaciers shape the landscape, but we also made it to a few significant spots in California.
Yosemite Valley obviously was on that list. We also explored the coastal redwoods of Muir Woods, poked around his house and fruit orchard at the John Muir Historical Site in Martinez, and gazed in wonder as the setting sun cast its golden glow on the Grove of Giants (which he named) in Sequoia National Park.
I had the opportunity to sit with Half Dome for an hour or so and paint this watercolor while my son caught the light of the setting sun on the massive granite face with his camera. Plein air painting is truly a meditation. I almost enjoy the experience more than the final product, especially when the air has cooled off after a very hot day.
In Alaska, this lone cottonwood tree sat in a field behind the Glacier Bay Country Inn where I stayed with my family earlier this month. I painted this on the only day we saw sunshine and one of the few glimpses that we had of those distant mountains of the Fairweather Range. I saw my first moose walk across this field later in the week.
The inn is situated in Gustavus, Alaska: population 428. To get there we needed to travel by plane since, as opposed to Rome, no roads lead to Gustavus.
Located in nearby Horsham, Pa, the Pennypack Farm and Education Center has been a great source of joy for me this summer. Not only am I probably better nourished from all of the yummy vegetable I've been eating from there, but I've also been able to bring my kids there to see where food comes from.
The farm also generously hosted my outdoor painting class from the Abington Art Center one recent morning when I painted this view as a demonstration. As a result, this painting is bit more planned out than how I usually work since I was explaining several techniques while I worked on it. Judging from the impressive work my students did that day, I think I achieved my objective. And there is a bonus...I like the painting.
Not far from my house, there is a river of rocks. I could see two patches of it pretty clearly from this vantage point on Hawk Mountain in Kempton, Pa.
The story of this river goes back to the Pleistocene Epoch, the Ice Age that ended about 11,000 years ago when glaciers left the rocks here. There is a trail along the "river" that I have yet to hike.
As I research Glacier Bay, Alaska and Yosemite Valley in California, I find this local connection to a similar geological process utterly fascinating.
Hummingbirds love this stuff! It's like the blossom of this coral honeysuckle plant was made for them.
I planted this in our yard 3 years ago. It grows more slowly than the aggressively invasive honeysuckle plants I enjoyed while I was growing up, but it's much more beautiful and better suited to our ecosystem.
However, in its first year this plant's greatest threat was a local predator, my son.
Nowadays, the plant is big enough that I no longer have to protect it from his sweet blossom appetite. New growth outpaces his "harvesting." I painted this on a recent rainy summer morning, similar to the daylily I posted a few weeks ago. Doesn't it look delicious?
Today I painted outside with my daughter while my husband and son went for a bike ride at Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Since I was a child, the view from the ridge where Route 23 cuts through the park has always impressed me. From this little area next to the parking lot of the Washington Memorial Chapel, we could see quite far into the layers of foliage that distinguished themselves chromatically from each other in the midday humidity of August.
While the boys rode a loop around the site of the 1777-1778 encampment of Washington's ragtag band of Revolutionary soldiers, my husband stopped and took a picture of our location from the further hill visible behind the third tree from the left. I'm so glad our ancestors decided to preserve this beautiful expanse of land. Our national park system is truly integral to our national identity.
Recent Pennypack Farm bounty included these beauties which together make a very tasty slaw!
Kohlrabi came on my radar this summer. It's a part of the cabbage family and originates from northwestern Europe. A friend of my mother's who is of Hungarian heritage said that she grew up on it. It's crisp and crunchy. It's flavor is like a mix of a radish and a cucumber. It's so delicious raw.
Fennel is a little more familiar. It originates from the Mediterranean and is a part of the carrot family. I've loved its anise flavor ever since I tasted roasted 'finocchio" in Florence.
I've been greatly inspired by the beauty of the fresh produce we have been picking up from the farm every Monday. I hope to paint some more!
I have a lot to celebrate.
My first baby turns 10 today. I've placed this print of him at age 3 next to "Pizza", named for the Peperomia plant in the terrarium he made last winter.
The moment after he was born, the doctor called him King Kong. Sure, he was pretty big for a baby (9 lbs 4 oz), but he was so little, especially compared to the person I woke up this morning who is about as tall as his full size bed.
Not only was Dylan born an hour before the 7th and final Harry Potter book was released, he also sneaked in his birth on the sixth anniversary of the wedding of his parents.
As I said, I have a lot to celebrate.
Note: As I researched for this post I discovered that it was announced an hour ago that there will be two new Harry Potter books released this year. They do not continue the series. Instead, they are about the "History of Magic." More here.