Sunday, January 10, 2010
The Joy of Outdoors
A couple things helped me to decide the title for this post: receiving a late Christmas present of 'Up River' by the artist Darren Woodhead, and spending five hours outside yesterday in 30 degree sunny weather counting birds for the Schuylkill Center Education Center Christmas Bird Count and the Philadelphia Mid-winter Bird Census.
Darren Woodhead's wonderful watercolors of the natural world are all done on site, outside. Some are done as the snow falls. But all show the joy of being outside. Additionally the five hours spent outside yesterday were terrific. It was in the 20s when we started and I had to get up about two hours earlier than normal, something I really hate to do! Still there is something I find completely enjoyable about being outside in winter, even more so when I'm counting birds for a useful purpose, such as the CBC and the mid-winter bird census.
It reminds me of what Ellen Snyder said recently in her Spicebush Blog: "Getting outdoors, bundled against the wind, is the only way to enjoy winter. "
Perhaps it's the fact that we tend to get outside less frequently in the cold of winter that makes it so enjoyable. Regardless of the cause it's an enjoyable experience. I think that Darren Woodhead's watercolors crystallize this. Nothing can match the experience of being outside and creating art outside. Now I say this as someone who doesn't do so all that often. You didn't see me doing watercolors in sub-freezing weather yesterday. But it's good to have some artists who do. The liveliness and vibrancy of their work reminds me of how much art can do and how much art has to offer.
The two create an experience of the natural world that I think is unmatched by anything else. As the natural world faces greater and greater threats, not to mention callous indifference, it's nice to see something that so brilliantly celebrates it. Europe lost much of its wilderness years ago. I can only hope that America will do better, especially as more and more reasons are constructed for its 'wise use', i.e. its destruction.
One of the small pleasures of yesterday and of most winters is rediscovering the beauty of the fairly commmon White-throated Sparrow. It's brilliantly white throat is a pleasure to see each winter, along with all it's other striking coloration. It's one of life's small pleasures.
The quick watercolor above is based on a photo I took yesterday. Perhaps one day later this winter I'll work up the nerve to try it live.