i’ve written here before about how much my dear husband enjoys my accompanying him when he goes out to paint en plein air. And by “accompanying” what I really mean is “painting.” One summer, I think it was 2012, I went with him two or three dozen times as he drove all over Boundary country, painting as we went. I still have most of the paintings I did that year, one of which I’ve actually hung on the wall and looked at every day since.
But since then, I’ve let painting lapse in favour of quilting. I have no training in painting and little confidence in my ability to shove paint around to produce something pleasing. On the other hand, my dh tells me I’ve got oodles of natural talent for it, and now that I’ve retired, I think I’ve used up all my excuses for not having another run at it.
So last Thursday, we had an art date. I’d been struck all over again, as I drove back to Greenwood from the coast, by the beauty of the Similkameen valley. The deep teal green of the river itself, bordered by the last of the snow and ice along its shores, then by the striking red bark of the red osier dogwood in its spring burst of colour, with the tawny hues of grassland stretching out on either side of the river: what a show! I came home raving to my dh about how lovely it would be to paint (meaning for him to paint) and he suggested that we both go and paint it.
So back we headed onto Highway 3, bound for Cawston and points west. In the event, we didn’t get any further than Cawston, because we followed our noses down a side road leading south, hoping it would end at the river, as it did. We hit the jackpot, really, because we ended up in a riverside public park, a place the locals obviously know well and use a lot, but which isn’t marked on the highway at all. We spent the rest of the day here.
Winter isn’t far from the valley bottoms, still, and this is what I saw while standing with my back to the river on the dike (possibly an old rail line?) above the rocky beach.
Really, it was just lovely, no matter where one looked (except for the scrap yard a few hundred yards downstream). We drove up onto the dike and painted versions of the scene in the second photo below. The tripod, by the way, was meant to support my pochade box and easel, but dh, to his enormous embarrassment, forgot to bring the all-important piece that attaches the one to t’other. He insisted that I use his easel and he propped his box up on the hood of the car. Not exactly ideal painting conditions for him.
Having struggled for an hour with my own painting, I declared it as done as it was ever going to be. Dh finished his at about the same time, but declared he wanted to do another one. I was all painted out, so I took my camera for a walk down the dike.
But it wasn’t just the wide vistas that grabbed me. Some of the small things around me were just as eye-catching, such as this brilliant lichen on the rocks on the dike; the first green I’d seen growing wild since leaving the coast (a currant bush just coming into leaf beside an enormous yellow pine); a cracked rock on the beach; cottonwoods coming into bud; and another rock whose texture intrigued me. Does anyone know the name of this kind of rock, the one that looks as if it contains shards of light rock in a dark base?
As the sun slowly sank behind the hills to the southwest, the light began to change and I kept clicking away.
I arrived back at the car just as dh was putting the finishing touches on his second painting.
By this point, the breeze had become pretty chilly (it is still March, after all, and the sun was off the river), so we packed up and considered our day a success.
But it wasn’t quite over. As we came back along the Kettle River, I suddenly spotted a herd of elk just below the highway. We pulled over and crept out quietly to have a look, me with my camera in hand. I would perhaps have managed a better shot, but someone in a truck behind us also pulled over and spooked the herd by walking down the slope toward them.
A moment later, they’d disappeared into the woods, heading down to the river and safety. See? They’re gone.
But it was a thrill to see them, however briefly.
We arrived home to happy, welcoming dogs, chilled and ready for supper, but well pleased with our day. I hope it’s the first of many such days we’ll have this year, now that my time is freer thanks to retirement.