I've just completed my second week of forest adventures! (To find out more about this project - The Forest Year - read my previous post!)
As we set out into the heavy mist, car packed with snacks, tripods, paints, and hot tea in hand, we remarked at the brilliance of the heavy grey sky.
Driving deep into the hills, we chose a favorite local forest - one that we've frequented over the last two years.
There were only two cars parked at the entrance, and it was no wonder...as we started walking down the path, we discovered a solid sheet of ice had formed on nearly every inch of the trail.
Not just the crackly, snowy ice that crunches beneath your steps... no, this was some hardcore stuff. Almost as though the forest had flooded and frozen within the same instance! It was 1-2 inches thick in most areas.
There were areas where walking was not even an option. Instead we skated. Sliding down the inclines was a bit frightening, as the edge of the trail often dropped off into ravines.
However, despite the danger of falling, we embraced our icy forest and I kept my eye out for potential places to paint. The beauty of Scotland is that even during freezing temperatures that bring ice and snow, there is still an endless array of life, especially within the forests.
As we approached the most popular point in the trail, Rogie Falls, we couldn't help but stop to stare at the beauty of the rushing water over dark, icy rocks.
The ice on the trail was thickest near the falls, as the relentless torrents forced moisture into the air.
I knew I needed to capture the beauty of the icy falls, so we crossed the bridge and headed up to our favorite little "lookout" spot above the water. It requires jumping over a gap, which was even more challenging on the icy rocks.
But once across, I found my happy place. (That's what I've named this little overlook).
We sat down for a paint session, the roaring falls just below us, and let the powerful energy of the falls flow over us.
It was a bit chilly on our perch, with the falls pushing up the moisture, acting as it's own source of wind. I gave myself about 15 minutes to sketch, and by the last brush stroke, my hands and face were numb. As beautiful as the falls are, the relentless pounding of the water on rocks wears on your head after a while. We decided to seek solace deeper in the woods, so we packed up and ventured on.
As we expected, we found peace (and warmth) within the protection of the trees. The thing that captivates me the most about forests in Scotland is the absolutely astonishing variety of mosses and fungi and mini growies all around. The forest floor has it's own miniature forest!
After some sliding, skating, and walking, we noticed the ice started to diminish, and the air grew warmer. We were insulated by the trees and vegetation. We hiked up a hill, driven by a new sense of relief, and we stumbled upon a little ravine between two hills. Fallen logs, dense ferns, and a happy, curious squirrel greeted us there. I immediately sat down and started to paint.
This place was magical, and in the silent protection from the biting wind, we could hear the forest whispering to us. It was letting us know that we were safe and welcome.
As I painted, we broke out the snacks, and let the calm wash over us.
I'm trying to find words now to describe the complete peace and fulfillment I feel while painting in a forest.
As I sat below the large pine, listening to the sound of birds on the gentle wind, I escaped into a world of endless possibilities. Painting in nature is freedom. Being surrounded by beautiful and vibrant colors, with a palette of my own, I find myself drawn deeper into observation. Noticing things that may otherwise go overlooked.
"How does the fallen log rest there? See the color within it's shadows blend from blue to purple to green."
"Look how the mosses shift from a deep green to a bright orange as they cascade over the rocks."
"How many variety of grasses and ferns are there within this small view?"
It leads to total immersion within these natural havens, and I do believe it is my ultimate joy.