Friday, February 20, 2015

Dreaming of Payne's Prairie

Along the LaChua Trail, Payne's Prairie
One of my BFFs, Trace, moved down to north-central Florida a few years ago. I've been down to visit her twice. Now, as I mentioned in my last post- I love the cold and snow. I love the north. I've never had ANY desire to visit the Southern States or heck anything south of Mason-Dixon. Some people hear the word "Florida" and get all dreamy-oggley-eyed. Nope, not me.

Then I visited Payne's Prairie State Park, just outside the city of Gainesville.

Trace brought me and my friend Bridget to hike the La Chua Trail portion of Payne's Prairie on both of our Florida trips and I kind of, yeah, fell in love with it. I've never seen so many wild animals in one place before. It was like the Serengeti in the United States. Alligators. Herons. Bison. Cranes. Snakes. Ibis. Egrets. I've even heard there are wild horses and pigs, but never got to see those (maybe next time...).

A few weeks ago I decided to finally start drawing some of the amazing animals I saw on my hikes along the LaChua Trail. Colored pencil has become such a vibrant and amazing medium for me. Drawing on black paper is like- drawing line and shape out of nothingness. It's hard to explain. It's an electrifying feeling.

Little Wader- 8x8 colored pencil on black paper

One of my favorite birds along LaChua were the fat Common Moorhens. With their flashy red beaks and HUGE yellow feet, they waded through the edges of the Alachua Sink looking for treats among the water plants. They look like crosses between a sea gull, duck, and really obese chicken. I wish we had them up here! I do see Coots sometimes, which are a relative of the Moorhen, but not as colorful.

Three Sandill Cranes- 51/2 x 10 colored pencil on black paper

I saw Sandhill Cranes on my first trip to Payne's Prairie back in 2011. They are HUGE, elegant birds and make the craziest honks. They were scattered throughout the scrub brush using their long beaks to dig into the soil - dozens and dozens of them- grays and whites with bright vermillion caps, stalking against the browns of winter. And, of course, Florida has the bluest of skies. Day after day after day. We don't see that up in New York! I had originally sketched the birds out against the landscape, but decided to erase it all and focus on some close-ups.

I can't wait to work on more drawings from my Florida visits!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Winter Wonderland

Besides a few, ah, interesting years living in NYC after college, I've spent all of my life in Central New York. We lie just southeast of Lake Ontario. As you can imagine, we get a lot of cold temperatures and the snow shovel gets a good weekly workout with all the lake effect- not as much as we used to, mind you, but still a nice amount.

People gripe about the weather, but I love it. Winter has such a wonderful personality, a depth you don't see in any other season. Everything is crisp and cool and glazed. All is white and steel blue-grays. Month after month, the sky broods and waits. Occasionally the sun cracks and she opens into the most amazing shade of sapphire blue you've ever seen! It's a brief moment to enjoy before the soft gray curtain closes over again. Jack Frost draws beautiful patterns on the car windows. The dogs leave crazy snow-angel impressions in the snow. The stars and moon never seem to be brighter.  I just love, love, love winter.

Lela and Joey do, too. I just love to watch them race and wrassle in the white stuff! There's just something so raw and elemental about watching them play together. Both dogs have own techniques and tricks; Lela being the most coquettish and relentless. Joey utilizes the drifts as part of his offensive and defensive strategy.

I do miss long walks in my shorts and tevas -camping- car rides with the windows down. But Spring is coming and Summer will be here soon enough. Until then, I feel blessed to live in such a beautiful area, with two pups who enjoy the cold weather as much as I do!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Peru: Did I Really Agree to This?

I really can't believe this is happening, but I'm taking a trip to Peru this year.

Three days acclimating in the former Incan stronghold of Cusco, then a 4-day, 26-mile backpacking trip up the Inca Trail to the Machu Picchu. A relaxation retreat in the backwater Cloud Forest town of Aguas Caliente. Five days in the Tambopata National Reserve, on the edge of the Bahuaja Sonene National Park. What? Me? How is this possible?

(Map courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

I have never really been comfortable traveling long distances and have NO desire to really go anywhere again except maybe Poland once more, and Newfoundland/Labrador (but let's be honest, that's Canada, and Canada doesn't really count). One of my BFFs kept asking me to join her on a trip to Peru though, and since I was getting my usual late-winter ancy-ness, I told her I'd think about it. It was a camping trip up the Inca Trail, and she knew how much I liked camping. And yeah, I DO like camping. In New York. In the Adirondacks (I once went to the Catskills).  But South America? Umm...

Anyway, I began to half-heartedly pray about it (not that God ever seems to listen to me, and I rarely EVER get signs or inspiration of any kind, but I try anyway. "Answer me when I call to you, O my Righteous God... " Psalm 4:1, yes??)... and wouldn't you know, for the next couple days I would turn the corner in a store and BOOM. There's a huge picture book with Machu Picchu on the cover on display. BOOM. I open Bookpage magazine and there's a book with an Amazon River Dolphin on the cover. BOOM & BOOM & BOOM.

Sometimes I can take a hint.

I said Yes.

So in several months I will be up in the Andes Mountains and then down in the Amazon rainforest. In a totally different hemisphere. Hiking mysterious high ruins that are hundreds of years old, canoeing river filled with piranha and caimen.

Holy moly.

Some people thrive on travel. No issues flying, no culture shock, no anxiety. I'm not one of those people. But strangely enough, I'm feeling very excited and confident. My reading material and studying have given me so much to think about. I'm overloaded with all of the wildlife viewing opportunities and photos of lush green landscapes and tidy, terraced ruins and so much of it is already blowing wild ideas out of my head for drawings and paintings and sketches! It's kind of amazing. How can a person be so totally excited to go someplace she's never wanted to go before?