John Burroughs and between seasons

must be fall_with nameWe, meaning those of us who reside in the western hemisphere, are between seasons; for sometimes it is as warm as a summer day and the next it is cool and fall-like. And though there is no name for this in- between season, the trees seem to agree. One has only to look around and observe that many of the leaves have not made up their minds either as to what season it really is.

The red maple, for example, presents her foliage as half-green and half-orange. The green leaves are hanging on to their end of the summer color as stubbornly as a child who refuses to eat his or her vegetables. But, like the child that will eventually have to complete the meal, these leaves will eventually have to submit to the inevitable by exchanging their dwindling summer green to a more glorious golden orange. It is a wonder that we too are not sure what to do about our own apparel…whether we should keep our t-shirts in the drawers or remove our sweaters from the cedar closet!

So, like those who look to the groundhog to determine the length of winter and are sadly disappointed that he will not come out of his warm burrow, do not rely upon the metamorphosis of leaves for the official start of autumn. But rather, it will be Mother Nature, like the stern mother that she is, who will cast her seasonal spell upon us, and we will awaken to the harvest days of fall!

John burroughs 2Today’s post is a return visit from the esteemed thinker: John Burroughs (1837-1921) a man who reminds us to observe and take time out of our hectic day to enjoy earth’s free gifts. (And who does not like something for free?) Born in Roxbury, New York he is known to us as an essayist, environmentalist, and conservationist. His union with nature was prominent in his work and his writing.

And so I bring you a snippet of his lovely words from his book, Under the Maples…which is most fitting for today!

“The time of the falling of leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept.

How beautifully the leaves grow old! How full of light and color are their last days! There are exceptions, of course. The leaves of most of the fruit-trees fade and wither and fall ingloriously. They bequeath their heritage of color to their fruit. Upon it they lavish the hues which other trees lavish upon their leaves. The pear-tree is often an exception. I have seen pear orchards in October painting a hillside in hues of mingled bronze and gold. And well may the pear-tree do this, it is so chary of color upon its fruit.

But in October what a feast to the eye our woods and groves present! The whole body of the air seems enriched by their calm, slow radiance. They are giving back the light they have been absorbing from the sun all summer…”

Henri Rousseau and cats

pebbles on the landing_with name Although the phrase, “Dog is man’s best friend,” it may actually be a misnomer for according to some folks, it is the cat that rules the roost. And yes, we all know that it is the dog that greets you when you come in from work, the dog that accompanies you on long walks in the park, and it is the dog that sleeps by the foot of the bed. Yet, isn’t this he same beast that is “oh so needy”. How often do we have to come home just to “feed” the dog because he or she is too greedy not to leave some for later, or we have to “get home” quickly to take the dog out because it can’t do its business on its own, or get back to the house to “check on the dog” because it can’t be trusted not to keep the sofa pillows out of its mouth or overturn the flowerpot!

But the cat, with its self-sufficiency, its independence, and yes, smugness about its aloofness as well as its ability to get what it wants by sauntering and parading about on little cat pads…we all might just admit that just perhaps it is the feline that might be deserving of the phrase, “Cat is man’s best friend.” After all, it can’t help it if they consider us “staff”… teasing us with just enough affection to lead us into a false sense of necessity. But perhaps, with all their independence and self-reliance they just don’t need us after all, but rather they are stringing us along for their next fix of cat nip!

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker Henri Rousseau (1844-1910 b. Laval, France), a most creative and a self-taught genius whose paintings are of high artistic quality. Rousseau, a French artist, is famous for his representation of the jungle, though he never left Paris. In addition to his exotic scenes there was a parallel production of smaller topographical images of the city and its suburbs. His work is often categorized into several different periods: Post-Impressionism, Naïve art, Modern art, and Primitivism.

I now bring you Rousseau’s painting titled, “Portrait of Pierre Loti”, a most interesting work that defines the cat’s ability to showcase itself in a most unassuming and cunning way…for clearly we can see it assumes a prominent spot in this portrait!

Rousseau portrait-of-pierre-loti

Esteemed thinker: Henri Rousseau

There are twenty-four hours in the day all making up the exact amount of minutes, sixty-per-hour to be exact. However, it is curious that some of these hours seem to fly by, not allowing us to complete specific tasks. It is during this time that we often say, “time flies”. Yet, on the opposite pole, there exists times when we feel an hour goes by so slowly that we wish it away. These creeping hours are universally agreed upon to be relegated to the occasions when we wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back to sleep.

During these fitful hours nothing seems to agree. Our pillows are too flat or too thick, our sheets are too hot or too cold, and the room is too quiet or too noisy. The clock’s ticking or lit numbers seem too loud or too bright, and seem only remind to us that we should be asleep.

Twenty-four hours in the day may be the official count however, during unintentional times we are awake instead of sleeping, twenty –four hours seems interminable. rousseau image

Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), a self-taught French artist born in Laval, France. His nickname, “Le Douanier” (“the customs officer”) by his acquaintances in the Parisian avant-garde was given to him because of his occupation as a toll collector. During his life as an artist he was often ridiculed as not being good, and unlike his peers who profited by their art, Rousseau did not.
His style, often described as childlike and naïve, did in fact portray his subjects with bold colors and very personalized style. His style was never appreciated by the conservative art officials in Paris, yet he was able to find exhibitions that accepted his work to be shown.

It was contemporary artist friends such as Camille Pissarro who praised his direct approach. After his death in 1910, his work did influence other artists; from his friend Picasso to Max Ernst and the Surrealists.

And so, I bring you a most famous painting by “Le Douanier”, which envisions those set hours we call night….here is an oil on canvas titled “The Sleeping Gypsy” (1897).

rousseau_ sleeping gypsy

Second image: Henri Rousseau 1902 photomechanical print : photogravure

Winslow Homer and simple pleasures

close up flower tree_compressedThere are some things in one’s life that time is unable to devour… and that is the simple pleasures. And although time may chip away like the splintering of a tree into kindling, only to be consumed and then float away into ashes, simple pleasures often remain a constant.

How we occupy our time may change from decade to decade, person to person, generation to generation, yet some pleasures are still considered favorites. And even though the world has slowly been dominated by technology, there is still room for a most unelaborated contraption, the swing. The very act of swinging has the ability to transport us back to our youth on a spring day; a carefree moment in life.
And so, I invite you to swing back in time, close your eyes, and allow yourself this unsophisticated delight. Recall a time when a simple pleasure occupied your time; and I would imagine for some, it may have been between the boughs of a tree…. upon a swing. winslow-homer 1890

Today’s blog returns to us the esteemed thinker: Winslow Homer (1836-1910) America’s great artist who in the ninetieth century had the vision to recreate on canvas and paper both the simple pleasures and harsher realities of life. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Homer began as an illustrator and developed into the arena as one of the finest realist painters in the United States. Known for many of his watercolors, his work often emphasized nature; such the cliffs, mountains, rocks, and the seas of New England. He captured the wildness of the forces in nature as well as the people that endured and settled such harsh regions of the time. He found the tranquility of Mother Earth and her beauty… and then, through his art, brought it all to us.

I now bring you Homer’s interpretation of what I call simple pleasures; a watercolor completed in 1897, Girl on a Swing.

swing winslow-homer-

First image: NL Avery archives, Brickell Walk (2012)

Portrait image: Winslow Homer, circa 1890. Photo: Courtesy the Theodore Bolton papers, 1917-1958. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Esteemed thinker: Winslow Homer

landscape Nature’s influence is as expansive as the wonders she endows upon us. And with this thought one can only turn to the arts for examples of such marvels. From poets, to painters, to musicians, the natural surroundings have inspired.

Our inspirations come from the both large and small, tiny and grandiose. A warm breeze or a tidal storm; all products of nature; she is the source, the “ah ha moment” that stirs the creative process… gets the brush dipped into paint, the fingers flowing across the keyboard, and the first notes on the staff.
It is not hard to become inspired by nature; what is difficult is taming her for our distractions. It is true that some may pass her by with a carefree smile; however there are others who are propelled into her world as great as the passion provoked.

Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Winslow Homer,( 1836- 1910) a American artist and illustrator. Homer, considered to be one of the greatest American painters, was born in Boston, Mass. His career as an artist began at the age of 19 when he apprenticed at John.H Bufford’s lithography shop, teaching himself to draw by illustrating or the copying of photographs for sheet music covers of popular songs (1855-57). Two years later he moved to New York, attended a few art classes, later freelancing for Harper’s Weekly where he was sent to Virginia as an artist correspondent to cover the Civil War. winslow-homer

Homer travels and paints in France for a short time, only to return to the United States developing an impressionist style of painting years before the established school of Impressionism. His return to the United States takes him to seasides and rural communities where he is surrounded and enchanted by the beauty of nature, enticing him to experiment with technique, style, watercolor and oils. Throughout his life he travels to destinations such as the Caribbean, the Adirondacks, and rural Maine where he completes some of the most dramatic paintings. To date he continues to motivate and awe with his energy and artistic skills…for to see a Winslow Homer” is to be in the presence of greatness.

I now present to you one of our great American paintings, The Gulf Stream, 1899, an oil on canvas, inspired by Mother Nature and two winter trips to the Bahamas in 1884-85 and 1898-99. Painted by none other than Winslow Homer, take a moment from your hectic day and enjoy!

The Gulf Stream Winslow Homer