Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back from NC with lots of inspiration

We are back home after spending the past nine days at the wonderful spot in Western NC that our friends, Noel & Patrick own. Their 100+ acres of wooded land has been an inspiration for my imagery for over ten years now. The property is filled with beauty, from the pond where river otters feed on native trout and the wood ducks thrive, to the great diversity of the trees and other plants. The American chestnut leaves I've collected for some of my art work have come from the many sprouts that continue to try to grow from the old root stock. Unfortunately, before the trees reach maturity they'll be stricken by the chestnut blight that was responsible for changing the nature of the eastern forests during the 20h century. This young tree is one I've watched and photographed a number of times in the past couple of years. Sadly at this visit, there's evidence that the blight is taking its toll.

Over the past decade I've taken probably thousands of photographs there, as well as made many drawings and paintings of views both large and small. The place is incredibly beautiful. And now, with Noel and Patrick putting 121 acres of the land into a conservation easement, it will never be developed in the ever increasing breaking up of the mountain land into smaller lots that happens at a seemingly increasing pace in this part of the world.

This trip I spent less time behind my camera and more time sitting in the woods near one of the falls, given the name Dorothy's Falls in honor of Noel's mother. Even through the drought is making quite an impact on the water flow, the spot is still beautiful.

A number of hemlock trees surround the falls, along with tulip poplar, frasier magnolias, white pines, maples, and many others that I can't identify with my rudimentary skills.

There are also mountain laurel and rhododendron of several types around the falls.  Lots of laurel hells on the property, in fact.  George Ellison wrote about "balds" and "laurel hells" in this Smoky Mt. News article of 2001.

Galax surrounds several of the trees...there's quite a lot of galax throughout the woods.

Almost every day while there I also made a small sketch of a view I saw as I sat on the front porch.  One or both of the dogs were usually out there with me.  The cats would come and go and the hummingbirds zipped around the feeders constantly.

Two days were exceptions to these little drawings...last Saturday when I came back to Dahlonega for the opening of our exhibit at Kryder Gallery when I didn't have time to do one, and the view done inside on the evening of the day we went back out into the "real" world so Thomas could pick up some NC pulled pork barbeque at a local market. 

Now, I don't eat that stuff myself since I'm vegetarian! But I surely did enjoy each day's meals of wonderful organically grown vegetables, products of Noel & Patrick's hard labor throughout the growing season!! I think I've eaten my weight in cucumbers and tomatoes over the past few days, along with broccoli, cauliflower, and squash. And, the fruit! Plums, blueberries, and the last of the blackberries, peaches beginning to ripen, and we even found one small Golden Blushing ready to be eaten as we walked through the woods.

Noel and Patrick's animals, for whom we were sitting while they were away, are great fun.  Two bearded collies, Erika and Parker, got me up at the break of dawn every morning...and this allowed me to see a a fantastically colored sunrise the other morning.  

Their two cats, Macaroni and Professor, kept us entertained with their antics, from chasing butterflies in the garden to taking a nap in the hammock along with my husband.

And the chickens kept us fed with fresh eggs daily...happy chickens who eat windfall fruit, kitchen scraps from organically grown food,  scratch and other feed.  They have a spacious pen and hen house, carefully screened in from roaming wildlife.  This visit we didn't experience anything other than the hummingbirds in the day, and the frogs in the evening...but Noel and Patrick have had experiences there with copperheads, black bears, and wild pigs!

I'm so grateful that N & P feel they can trust my husband and me with the care of their animals as they take a rare trip together.  We take their trust very seriously and work hard while we're there to make sure all's well when they return.  Yet, we both have time to spend with what we need for R&R ourselves...sleeping, reading, sleeping some more, fishing some, deviling the cats some, more sleep, more fishing for my husband.

 And studio work of assorted kinds for me, from continuing the fiddlehead tapestry for a few more inches (I'd left my loom at Noel's after the recent Guild demo weekend), to the drawings and paintings done each day.  

All in all, it was a retreat for us both and now we're back, mostly ready, willing and able to move on with our lives here.


  1. Tommye, your watercolors and sketches are amazing...fantastic...inspiring! Here I go to get out the sketchbook! Thanks for sharing. Your past several weeks sound much more peaceful than mine were, as we were being grandparents and hectic tourists. No sketchbook time at all!

  2. Kathy,
    Thanks! We always love being at Noel & Patrick's place. Your photos from your trip look wonderful.