En Plein Air (A Report from the Field)

Plein Air Painting at Kent Falls

Plein Air Painting at Kent Falls

Hudson River P6204731_edited-1Recently, the presence of a Very Important Visitor (a.k.a. Mom) inspired local sojourns of a kind we don’t take as often as we should. The weather was with us, sunny and fine, without the high humidity that comes with summer months. The post office lady, in one of her more affable moods, extolled a Hudson River Cruise that embarks out of Kingston. With two lighthouses in the bargain—the Rondout and Esopus—that became a must-do trip.

West Cornwall Bridge Mom P6215322_edited-1I wasn’t sure we could top the river cruise until I remembered covered bridges we’d once spotted in western Connecticut. Off we went on another perfect-weather day to see three: Bulls Bridge, Kent Falls, and West Cornwall, all on a route that follows the Housatonic River’s curves.

Kent Falls P6215223_edited-1At Kent Falls, we had an unexpected bonus: clusters of plein air painters out in force to paint the falls. From one of the plein air painters, we learned that New Milford and Kent, two towns in Connecticut, were having Open Studio days.

New Milford P6235383_edited-1As part of the festivities, the New Milford Garden Club, celebrating its 90th anniversary, had an “Art in Bloom” exhibit on at the Historical Society.

We stopped in at smithy Peter Catchpole’s studio on the way, and our Very Important Visitor treated us to lunch at the green granary. Another perfect day.

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Listening List

Spotify playlist: En Plein Air

 Paul Ben-Haim  Pastorale Variée For Clarinet Solo, Harp and String Orchestra, Op. 31b

On Youtube (piano reduction of Ben-Haim)

Christian Lindberg The World of Montuagretta (part 1)

Jennifer Higdon Trumpet Songs (mvmt 1)

Bonus Track (well, depending on your point of view; I’m inclined to stay with Ben-Haim, Lindberg, and Higdon . . .): Had we been at the green granary a couple weeks before, we might have caught up with Comedians (Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman) in Cars Getting Coffee (at about 6:15):


29 thoughts on “En Plein Air (A Report from the Field)

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      angela: We had a great time, and the weather people must have known I had a Very Important Visitor here, as the heat, humidity, and torrential downpours held off for all our trips. The Ben-Haim, new to me, also, seemed a perfect fit for the post. (More on that to come when I respond to Elizabeth/New Leaf, if of interest.)

  1. Britta

    Dear Sue,
    what lovely walks – not only your V.I.P. will have enjoyed it!
    I am in love with bridges (and once with a man who constructed them :-) , in London they were so fascinating, so in-between earth and wind and water.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Britta: How exactly right you are about bridges! “In-between earth and wind and water” is such a lovely way to describe the space bridges claim.

  2. David N

    Ah, the Hudson – how I miss it, and to think I could have been there this year. England has no rivers to show so broad, though one almost as fair on a miniature scale is the Dart in Devon; that’s a beautiful journey from Dartmouth to Totnes past the rolling country estates.

    The plein air painters – I did not know they so described themselves – remind me of the ladies painting outside the late Derek Jarman’s strangely lovely garden on the shingle at Dungeness (despite, or perhaps because of, the nuclear power station, a place of great imagination for me). The sight of home counties daubers – the sort who vomit at fetes on Little Britain – admiring the work of our most outspoken gay icon of the 1970s-90s was most amusing.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: The Hudson is indeed mighty and glorious–though, as someone who grew up in the Midwest, I have loyalty to that other mighty river, the Mississippi, too. When you come here, we should take a walk on the walkway across the Hudson, a truly inspired use of an abandoned railroad bridge that had been in danger of being demolished.

      You’ll be amused to know, though I had an idea of it, having watched some episodes of Little Britain (“I want that one” among our favorite lines), that I didn’t know about the predilections of home county daubers! I do know about Derek Jarman’s garden, through an unusual source–John Metcalf wrote a lovely piece, Paradise Haunts, inspired by the gardens, which takes its title from a quote from Jarman, “Paradise haunts gardens and it haunts mine.” (I wonder if I can find the Little Britain episode to which you refer–I suspect it is a gem!)

      1. David N

        The vomiting ladies (I hesitate to say I think they might be modelled on my mother and her best friend, since David Walliams was brought up half a mile down the road) are your average green belt Tory (probably now UKIP, though Ma has been totally turned off that party after the taxi driver incident) voters. They sip their tea at garden parties, but if a word like ‘lesbian’ should be dropped, start vomiting copiously. You’ll find them in most episodes.

        There’s a beautiful small book on Derek’s garden, with wonderful photos by Howard Sooley. Always makes a lovely present.

        1. Susan Scheid Post author

          David: I remember seeing photos from the Jarman book on the web, every one of them gorgeous. You may be amused to know that, when we met John Metcalf in Wales, we learned that the real town counterpart to Little Britain’s fictional version, Llanddewi Brefi, was a stone’s throw from his house. We even passed a sign for the town, a rare sighting, it seems, as it was repeatedly stolen.

  3. newleafsite

    Susan, your en plein air photography grows finer and finer. Beautiful compositions! I spent a long time looking at them, while listening to your musical choices. I like both the Ben-Haim and (oh, too short) Higdon very much, and they both blend well with the images. The Ben-Haim has a New Age Music sound which I love and didn’t know you did – if you have listed anything else like this in previous posts, I have overlooked it. The Higdon is deliciously in my musical enjoyment zone.

    Now, back to the main point, your photography. The pictures are all delightful, but I have a favorite: I’m guessing that’s the Very Important Visitor with the smith. What’s interesting about this one, for me, is that you chose, instead of a “say cheese” portrait, a candid shot of their conversation. There is such a vivid meeting between their expressions, their two minds – there is an almost tactile energy in the air between two persons who know so much (know, not just remember). You captured a special exchange. — Elizabeth

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Elizabeth: You are so kind about the photography–in truth, the clarity of the air and the presence of non-threatening clouds made it hard to miss. I love that you pointed out the photograph of my VIP visitor and Catchpole in conversation. I think it’s my favorite photo of all. As for the music, you may enjoy knowing this: I was listening to Q2 Music radio (an internet radio station that may be found here: http://www.wqxr.org/#/articles/q2-music/) as I put together the post, and the Ben-Haim piece came on. I didn’t know the piece or him, but it seemed to me a perfect fit for the post. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it, too! All three pieces, actually, were ones I heard on Q2 as I put together the post. Of the composers, I knew only Higdon, but not the trumpet songs. Too short, I agree. I must seek them out.

      1. David N

        Gosh, then, your ma’s so elegant – could be your sister (with no insult intended to you at all, of course). As to the high brow stuff, Sophie’s always dissing me because I once groaned about the Doors. But I really do believe that saying that there are only two types of music, good and bad.

  4. wgbrooks

    Looks like a lovely adventure and you seem a fine tour guide for the Royal visit! Bull’s Bridge sent me looking for a connection, though one was not immediately to be found, between my ancestors, William and Sarah Bull of Hamptonburgh, New York. Sarah was the first female settler in the area when she arrived at age 16 to work as a cook. Anyway, she married and they did very well for themselves and there are towns and all manner of things named after them in the area… Kent Connecticut is not that far away and instinct tells me they may indeed be related! -from the ‘small world chronicles…
    Aloha Gill

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Gill: The Royal Visitor is always an inspiration for finding fun things to do. We were particularly lucky with the weather–it’s been a combination of hot/humid and rainy ever since. I am sure the Bulls who are your relatives must figure in here. I’m surprised Google has not revealed the facts as yet, but I suspect you’ll track it down.

  5. sophie sarin

    Hello Susan,
    I looked up your link for the covered bridges- so I know they have nothing to do wth the Madison County… I know that is a little low-browed for you Susan, but I loved ‘the Bridges of Madison county!’

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Sophie: How lovely to see you here–and given the state of your internet connection, a very special treat! As for the low-brow/high-brow, David is the real deal, you know, whereas I am a total fraud. You may be amused to know that my idea of great popular music when others were listening to what was really great was Nino Tempo and April Stevens singing Deep Purple. It’s probably a good thing for all humankind that I didn’t pursue popular music after that! While I haven’t watched The Bridges of Madison County, I do know it stars Meryl Streep, which is all to the good. Perhaps one day we’ll be in the same place at the same time and can have a look at it, popcorn in hand. I love the idea of that!

      1. Susan Scheid Post author

        David, Sophie: re David’s comment about this, I remember David mentioning The Doors episode once before–I bet that was a spirited debate! Agreed that there is, in the end, only good music and bad, though tastes certainly can diverge on which is which. I think, though, I can safely state among present company that the Nino Tempo and April Stevens rendition of Deep Purple is not anyone’s idea of a desert island disk.

        1. David N

          It was no such thing, it was a battering from Madame Sarin on her high Swedish horse (‘you are so stuck up with your classical music, relax, chill out, you wouldn’t know a good tune if it’ etc…) Peace and love, Sophie, we can BOTH be eternal adolescents. Anyway, I’m now on a bit of a Bowie binge myself – Lulu’s rendition of ‘The Man Who…’ is so infectious.

  6. Mark Kerstetter

    Of your beautiful photos I’m particularly taken with the views of the metal smith’s shop, but then I’m fascinated by all sorts of craftsmanship. That green set table is a stunner too! Did you actually eat off those plates?

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Mark: I thought of you often while in the metal shop (I mean this, truly). Catchpole was the most enjoyable of people, and he had a true affection for his tools. We could have stayed there much longer than we did; I took many more photographs than you see here. He told us that he needs to simplify a bit, but there are some tools, like that marvelous green contraption (it cuts metal, and amazing to watch in action), is one with which he will never part.

      As for the green set table, it’s a lettuce pattern that was on display at the historical society. I took a huge number of photographs of it, none a patch on the real thing, though I’m so pleased something of the whimsy and beauty of it came across.

  7. wanderer

    Am I the only one who just had to start watching the comedians-in-car video so as to see and feel the family lunch at ‘Green Granary’ and couldn’t stop?

    You do know, I’m sure, that North America is the most physically blessed of countries, astoundingly beautiful, sea to shining sea etc etc. Of the Hudson Valley I only know the drive up to the Catskills, and now have some idea of how stunning it must be from the water, and especially in the fall.

    I’ve never understood covered bridges, not really, and for all the driving I’ve done in the USA, and that’s a lot of driving, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. Are they covered to keep off the snow?

    I am looking for “Paradise Haunts”. That got me, that one.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Wanderer: We do live in a particularly beautiful spot. As for the country as a whole, agreed that it’s loaded with beautiful places, but also more than its share of that blight on the landscape known as strip malls (for us Route 9 is such a place). Big everything, the good and the bad!

      On covered bridges, Wikipedia to the rescue, states: “The purpose of the covering is to protect the wooden structural members from the weather. Uncovered wooden bridges have a life span of only 10 to 15 years because of the effects of rain and sun.” (I’d assumed weather was relevant, but didn’t know why.)

      And as for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, rest assured you are not alone. A friend who didn’t comment here advised elsewhere that he particularly enjoyed that bit. It is hard to fathom what hooks one in, as it’s really just two guys talking about not much, but I guess that’s Seinfeld’s genius. And speaking of Seinfeld and cups of coffee, our NYC apartment is right down the street from Tom’s Restaurant, which, if you’ve ever watched Seinfeld, is the place of many scenes in that show (though I don’t believe any of them were shot there, but rather they just used the exterior shot). Even today, we see people taking pictures of this most unglamorous of places.

      1. wanderer

        Watched Seinfeld? Are you kidding? For years, you couldn’t get away from it, and to this day it’s still on planes, not to mention late night comedy channel reruns. When in NYC we always stay at Washington Sq, a long way from Tom’s & Columbia (googled), but there is the Waverly Diner at the end of the block, cnr Waverly Place and 6th, and it is about all the New York Seinfeld diner experience one could ever wish for. It’s changed, what hasn’t, but we go at least once for old times sake.

        As for urban blight, no finger pointing from down here.

  8. friko

    Splendid photographs of what must have been delightful days out. That’s the way to do it to keep important visitors happy. I don’t know if yours is given to criticising, as mine was, and keeping her busy was the only remedy.

    Interesting and picturesque views, if that is your near-as-dammit daily fare you are indeed fortunate.

    I used to enjoy Seinfeld. I also enjoyed Cheers and we once made a detour simply to visit the bar which provided the steps and front door to the film location.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Friko: They were all picture-perfect days, no question (the last we’ve had for now!), and a great reminder of all the beautiful places within striking distance of where we live. Between times, we sat on the front porch mornings with our coffee and binoculars to see what was happening in the bird world, then put our feet up, read and relaxed. A good time was had by all!

  9. Hilary

    Hi Susan .. sounds an absolutely wonderful trip … and one that I’d have loved to do with my mother … one perhaps we were able to do in her head, when she was ill … just had the first anniversary – but I went off to see an Exhibition in London earlier in the year “Amongst Heroes – The Working Artist in Cornwall” – set in an amazing place – Astor’s ‘office’ .. just incredible. Here’s the art link http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/amongst-heroes-artist-in-working.html … 2 Temple Place is the older post – the window is worth looking at …

    Love this – such memories and so many wonderful interactions from your readers … an area I’d love to visit sometime – sounds just great … a peaceful, happy, embracing family visit … I’ll be back to listen to the music and explore more of the photos – great explanations …

    Looks like we might have one of those weekends now – glorious sunshine! Bliss – we’re due a little … cheers and happy days – Hilary

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Hilary: Hard to believe it’s one year on. Thank you so much for the link to the Cornwall art post on your blog, too. I seem to get further and further behind in my reading, let alone writing posts, but please know I do look in at your site from time to time to see what new discoveries you’ve got in store!

  10. shoreacres

    Of all the things recorded in this post that I envy, I envy most your ability still to enjoy your mother’s presence. It’s a plus that she enjoys traveling and is able to do so. I’d give anything to have both my parents back, just to take them around and share some of the wonders of the world with them, but alas! such days are gone.

    Your bridges reminded me less of the covered bridges of Madison County (part of my home state which I’ve never seen) but the wonderful piano bridge of central Texas. You can see it here. The description offered in the link isn’t as lyrical as some. I talked once with an “old-timer” who used to farm in the area. He said that the bridge could be positively musical, and listening to cars cross it was one of his real treats while in the field!

    I hope your Independence Day was as delightful as what you’ve shown us here. We had some marvelous fireworks – not the biggest or best of the shows, but visible from my apartment and, hence, free of any involvement with traffic either before or after!

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      shoreacres: We had a great time, no question about that! I love that piano bridge. I wonder what tunes it plays when it really gets humming, eh? We had a fine 4th with some friends up visiting, no fireworks, but a lovely evening chowing down on our back porch.

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