Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lessons from a Fly (or was it a Bee?)

“Study … the Wonderful Snowfall of June the 9th”
(Winter Ridge, Oregon Basin & Range)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
5” x 7”


A week after cutting my way back into Oregon, in June of 2018, and before I got up to Three Creeks Lake (see my last post), I was up on Winter Ridge, 3000' above Summer Lake, and a couple miles north of Fremont Point. The 8th of June was a peerless day, and drifts of buttercups were shining brightly in the green grass of any open meadow that I happened to pass by. Winter was the last thing to be expected, but it's not called Winter Ridge for nothing. I awoke to a wonderful soft snowfall, of a couple of inches, increasing to four by the time I meandered down the west slope to Thompson Reservoir, where the campers there were only experiencing a bit of rain.

It was a wonderful, magical snowfall, and it's been on my list to paint since then. The soft snowfall at my camp on April 4th this year, got me to thinking about my June 9th, 2018, Winter Ridge experience, and so I dug out the reference photos, and painted away. I had taken the photos during an intermission in the snowfall, so the hardest part of the painting was remembering where each and every snowflake had been before the snowfall took its pause;D (chuckle), but I got ‘er done! This small Oil, turned out to be a study, for a larger (9" x 12"), finished Oil painting of this magical moment, so I'm warning you in advance that that one will feature in my next post, and quite a bit more costly, I hasten to add.

I am going to change the subject now and return us to the camp I was in when painting the “Ode to an Ancient.”, several postings ago. It was here that I was reminded yet again of how interesting and surprising the Natural World can be, even in the smallest of observances. As children, I believe we noticed many more such things, that we as adults completely overlook, or, indeed, do not take the time to let the small things come to our notice. Whilst supping breakfast, early one morn, I noticed a shaft of light coming through the trees, and reflecting off a tiny object suspended about ten feet off the ground. I had been gazing at it for some time, before it actually registered in my consciousness. At first I took it to be a spider dangling on its gossamer strand, but then I realized it was a small bee, or one of those flies that look like bees. It hung there, staying in position, seemingly motionless, but obviously hovering by the sheer rapidity of its wingbeats, which upon inspection were a blur. Now I’ve seen bees hover over flowers for a second or two and then move on, but this wee beastie, hovered ten feet off the ground for 10 or 12 seconds at a stretch, and then would dart  in some direction for a distance of 10 to 15 inches, halt and go rapidly back to its original position. I had never noticed this phenomena before, but thanks to a shaft of light glancing off it, and causing it to glow like a jewel in the forest, it had come to my attention. A bit of  scanning throughout the clearing revealed several more of these hovering creatures, but none were lit up like the one that first caught my attention. I expect I might have seen this behavior many times before, but had not noticed. I kept my eye out for it the next morning and sure enough it was there. Perhaps this hovering and periodically darting forth only to resume it’s position, was a mating ritual, or maybe it was a defense of a specific territory, or was the darting an assault on some unseen prey (I doubt this latter) … I'll probably never know, but now that I have seen this, l will notice it again, and in fact I did so, later last Summer, in another clearing, 25 miles west of Klamath Falls.

“Inconsequential … who cares(?) … Let's drink beer, get neked and drive fast!,” I hear you say … well, some of you, perhaps … actually, none of you. But some of you have thought it … in your darker moments … however brief (come on, admit it) … but of course you never acted upon such rebellious desires, as no doubt I have a better class of reader (aside from the possibility of arrest or fatal accident, or both).

But enough of the meandering mind. What I am postulating is that to take notice of your surroundings, taking time to see the small, inconsequential things, as well as the larger, more sublime moments (storms, snowfalls, the magnificence of the Desert Night Sky come to mind), enriches your life, and takes you outside the realm the mundane. I know my life is richer for it … even noticing a fly/bee hovering in the dark forest, caught like a jewel within a shaft of light.

The Pigments used in the painting are:
Imprimatura & Drawing: Rublev Italian Burnt Sienna;
Pigments: W&N Cobalt & French Ultramarine Blues;
Rublev:  Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Lead White #1.

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