Sunday, March 18, 2007

Celebrity hawks and model bovines

The problem with recounting a trip after it's over is that it starts to take on the quality of unfinished reading assignments: We're on the next book now, Sherrie. Please try to catch up. Already events of last week have taken on a dream-like quality... so I'll hustle things along and return us all to the regularly scheduled program already in progress.

Before we bid farewell to Pennsylvania, we visited with friends and bovines in the vicinity of Phoenixville. I am always touched by the generous nature of folks who are, we
ll, interested in nature, and their willingness to share their work and lives with a wandering pair toting pencils and paintbrushes.

David and Edie at
Seven Stars Farm are two such kindred souls. They opened their home, their business, and their thoughts to us... and we are better people for it. (More about Seven Stars.)

It's calving season at the biodynamic dairy. One night we worked until well after dark, and were rewarded with a look at a just-born calf, still quivering under the ministrations of its mother's tongue. (Or perhaps from the shock of an uncere
monious thump into the big, wide world.) In a few short minutes it was able to hold its head up- much faster than me on most mornings.

I also met Cindy, AKA #186. Big Jersey doe-eyes and a curious disposition. While her barnmates ruminated, Cindy watched Carroll spread the silage, watched Denis and I drawing, watched the cats, watched Sue at work. David told me later that Cindy produces fine milk with a high butterfat content, and I myself saw her strong new calf. Apparently a curious attitude about the world around you is good for everyone. (I've always thought so, and it was nice to have my supposition validated by a cow.)

In too short a time we left Phoenixville and Pennsylvania and headed north to New York. Again we were welcomed into the homes and lives of friends and colleagues, and at last Denis was able to speak French with people whose vocabulary exceeds three words.

Saturday evening it rained a bit, and on Sunday we met friend Roger in Central Park to do a little birding and sketching. New York, early on a Sunday, blue skies after rain, is a fabulous place to be: fresh and sparkling and amazingly hushed.

I think it's safe to say that Roger grew up in The Park, and he knew precisely where to take us to see its bird life in good form, even in early March. (Black duck and tufted titmouse new for me.) At my star-struck request he also directed us to the penthouse nest site of the famous Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk who set up housekeeping across the street from the model boat pond in the early 1990s. Now star of literature, screen, and television, he and his mate have a devoted cadre of hawk paparazzi and well-wishers everywhere.

Lo and behold, the hawks were home when we came calling... so we sat in the park and made some sketches. We also drank coffee and people-watched. C'mon! It's Central Park!

At the end of this day, our journey together came to a close. Denis went on to Boston, and I stayed in New York another day for meetings and visits. I was strangely reluctant to come home just yet... sorry to have spent so little time in places and with people I've only begun to know. But perhaps it won't be long before I wander that way again. As Denis and I have said to each other at every unlikely travel proposition for the past 16 years: "Why not?"


  1. Hi Sherrie,

    I found your site today and loved it! I am a fellow wildlife artist, a watercolorist painting African wildlife. I am really interested in your published sketchbooks as I am hoping to produce something like this myself. I'm returning to Zimbabwe, spending 6 weeks painting the endangered African Wild Dogs and I want to produce an artists sketchbook for sale when I return. Any advice or contacts you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Hi, Allison,

    Sorry.. I seem to have a blog-poltergeist! A post and my return comment seem to have disappeared into the ether.

    Thanks for your kind words about the site, and congratulations on your upcoming expedition. Sounds wonderful.

    As for sketchbooks, mine are completely produced by hand: I do the scans, the layout, the printing... build the covers, stitch them all together. (It's a project that became much larger than expected.)

    So. If that's what you'd like to do, I can give you some references for techniques and materials. My biggest suggestion would be plenty of band-aids (I can't tell you how many times I've stuck myself sewing books together!)


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