Friday, July 31, 2020

Poldark Country.

“Evening Light in Pendarves Cove”
(Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall, England)

A Watercolour
on Saunders Waterford, 140#,
cold pressed Watercolour Paper

4”  x  9-1/4”

I lived in Cornwall, England for 23 years ... Poldark country. Sadly I have only seen a couple of episodes of that story. The first series, back in the 70s, I had no television, and this latest series ... I have no television. But many of the scenes I have painted over the years, you might say most of them whilst living in Cornwall, were of Poldark country, since all of Cornwall is really Poldark country.

Four years ago, I stopped for the night in Moscow, Idaho, at an old friend from Cornwall's house. Tim (and his first wife), was my downstairs neighbor, when I lived at Treyarnon Bay. Not having arrived until after eight in the evening, after eleven hours of driving and crossing seven Oregon mountain ranges, we repaired straight to the kitchen, ate and drank and laughed for the next seven hours. The television in the sitting room had been on low, in that room, the whole time we were regalling each other with stories in the kitchen. When at 3:30 or so, we entered the sitting room and found it still on, we both stopped and stared at the screen, for it seemed familiar ... and it was, for we both realized we were looking at the end of show credits of a Poldark episode, scrolling down over a view of Bedruthan Steps, not a mile and a half from our former residence ... Surreal!

[Note: After that, I slept in a chair for a couple of hours, then hit the road, going over the Lolo Pass to Missoula, Montana,  and subsequently driving 634 miles, spending the next night at the first rest stop past the junction of the Little Bighorn with the Yellowstone River. I was headed for Minneapolis and then the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a class reunion.]

For sixteen years, I had lived a mile and a half from Bedruthan Steps. The first several years I rarely got down there, as the bottom of the stairway down to the beach had washed away in a storm, and, subsequently, the National Trust had blocked off the top of the stairs for safety purposes. The only other way to the coves below, was from the north end of the beach at extreme low tide, and with the water's edge then so far out, it was not so interesting. Once the stairs had been repaired,  Bedruthan Steps became one of my favorite bits of coast to go to and to paint. For four months during the Winters, the top of the stairs were also blocked, but by this time I had discovered how to scramble over the blockade, and so have the place all to myself, rarely seeing anyone else who might also know how to get down there.

Pendarves Cove, in the painting above is the first cove you descend to, down the narrow stairway in a crack in the cliffs. That would be to the left off the painting. Another of my paintings with the shadows of early morning, from this viewpoint, was in the “Artist's and Illustrator’s Magazine,” back in the early 2000s ... Issue #19 rings a bell. On a Summer morning, with an ebbing tide, from this point you can scramble around into the next cove, Redcove, and if you watch the waves and are quick enough, you can get into it twenty minutes or so before any of the Summer visitors find their way into that cove. Then skirting around to the other side, there is a cave that you can scramble through, and be in the third cove (which name escapes me at present), and be there for an hour and a half, before any one else makes it around the headland ... few people were aware that the cave went all the way through, I discovered, and besides, it was a bit of a scramble as well. Bedruthan Steps became one of my favorite painting subjects, during my final years in Cornwall.

Incidentally, Bedruthan was a Cornish giant who fled across the coves here, using the sea stacks as stepping stones, when fleeing the devil one night ... at least according to local folklore; and who would dispute such a venerable source?!!

More  campsite observations:

During the last half of June and the first ten days or so of July, whenever I walked up into the Ponderosas, there were big caterpillars marching along every few yards. These were not of the hairy kind. They were about four inches long and about half an inch thick, dark grey-green in colour with some brown and black in the design. They reminded me of the white ones I have found under the bark of some sort of dead pines, in the past, and which I roasted and added to a rice dish (I followed the directions found on a survival site). I did not try these, as I am yet unsure as to whether all un-hairy caterpillars are edible or not. Hopefully I will find information on these, at some point, as they could be a survival food source at some future time. Incidentally, the white ones depended on the condiments added to the meal for palatability; I understand that Witchity grubs, down in Australia, are flavourful in their own right.

A few days ago, the wind blew many little catkin-like objects out of the trees. They are about an inch to an inch and a half long, about a quarter inch wide, and rusty brown in colour. I think that these are what are called male pinecones. These, I believe, are the source of all the pollen, I talked about back in the first couple of weeks in June; the greenish-yellow smoke, that I thought was coming out of my car when driving out of La Pine on the 4th of June; the same colour dust that Kicked up on my trouser bottoms when walking through the woods; the same stuff settling on my car and any horizontal surface, for that matter; and the same stuff left as a scum ring around the puddles in the road after the rain ... that stuff. I have vague memories of reading and/or seeing documentaries about it. Since my connectivity is so sparse out in the various places I camp at, I cannot research this. So I will go with what I just said.

In the evenings, before pitch dark, I have noticed smallish butterfly-like moths working over the old blossoms on the bitterbrush. There are fewer bees working them in the daylight, as they seem to have lost interest in them since the flowers are so long past their prime. I wonder if these moths were working them all along?

The Spring, before I turned nine, was when I began to make discoveries in the woods where we lived in Northern Wisconsin. We lived three miles from the small village of Lake Nebagamon, and our nearest neighbors were a quarter mile away. Everyday, after school, I was out in the woods, and the fields and down at the extremely small and seasonal pond. Before that Spring, it was mostly play, and my observations were incidental. But that Spring, things began to have more meaning, I began to see more relationships, and had more understandings of my observations ... they also built upon the earlier “incidental” observations. It was a time of discovery ... with meaning. These days, out here, I am feeling that same sense of awe and discovery of my childhood.

As adults too many of us have lost that sense of discovery ... of wonder. I pity those poor fools who purport to love the great outdoors, but then come out here and treat it as a shooting gallery, and an ATV race track, and, too often, a trash can. The World would be a better place if these folk would get off their vehicles, lay down their arms for awhile, and stop to smell the roses during their time out here; perhaps then they might gain an actual respect for these Great Outdoors, and take their trash back home.

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