Many years ago...close to thirty, now...one of my lifelong dreams came true--with lots of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention exhaustion and expense) to be sure, but the dream came true all the same.
Down a dusty gravel road I found a bit of land with a pond, a creek, and acres of oak, hickory, walnut and cedar forest. There were, in some places, a concentration of redbud trees, so that in the spring the forest was painted with splashes of pink. Wildlife, plants and flowers were abundant...I was in love.
I found it in the midst of a hard drought, not unlike the current conditions, when small creeks and farm ponds were drying all around and wildlife searched for any source of life-giving water.
That small pond glittering in the sun made a backdrop for a dusty "for sale" sign that I almost missed under its coating of dust, and I had to stop to explore. I jotted down the phone number on the sign, thinking perhaps the land would be in 5 acre plots or smaller, like the homes on the cul de sac on the hill...and perhaps I could think about buying this tiny bit of paradise.
I was working hard, in those days...as a freelancer, I wrote a regular column in Country Living Magazine as well as The Artist's Magazine and then Watercolor Magic (now Watercolor Artist). I was doing a bit of screenwriting, as well as commercial illustrating for Early American Life, Country Life, and Sports Afield, among others. Added to the books I was writing--two at a time that year--I often put in 14 hour days. And was paid for it! (And paid for it as well but that's another story...)
Turned out that it was NOT a 5 acre plot for sale but almost 20 acres! I was sure that I couldn't afford it...but given all of the work I was doing, everything fell into place, and lo, I could...and did.
I hadn't intended to build...only to explore, and learn, and have a safe place to wander with few people. But my childhood spent in tiny cabins all over the Ozarks and Colorado kept haunting my dreams...I knew a place in the woods would give me a place to work undisturbed. And so the dream took hold.
"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." --Henry David Thoreau
So, I took the old man's advice, and did. With the help and guidance and mentorship of young friend and builder Greg Young, that's exactly what I did.
And of course, wrote a book about it...
|Published in 1991, the book was the culmination of a dream. And what a joy, first to build the place and then get to share that process...|
|And to my great delight, nearly 30 years later the book has been republished, by Echo Point Books and Media! You can find The Naturalist's Cabin; Constructing a Dream on Amazon and elsewhere!|
I've drawn and painted the place many times and written several books there. I've shared it with friends, celebrated milestones, and gone to ground there when my heart was broken by grief. And then, took myself there to heal...and start the cycle of life all over again. It's one of my heart homes...
We've been through a lot, that little 14' x 16' cabin of mine...floods, droughts, losses, triumphs, celebrations...we're aging, hopefully gracefully, together.
And so, still, I find things to chronicle. Closer to the cabin, these days, since arthritis curtails much of my wandering down the rocky creek or up and over the steep bluffs. but even when I was younger, I was fascinated by details...like my covered bird feeder. It once had plastic sides to hold more seed, but the resident raccoons soon made short work of that!
|Triplets were a bit hard on the thing, and once I found the whole superstructure on the ground...|
|This is all that remains, today...it's aged, as have I! What's left of the roof is under the deck, and the remainder is now a platform feeder--and moss garden!|
|But as always, I wanted to chronicle the changes...|
|Pen and ink and watercolor were my mediums of choice...first washes, here...|
|I was using my customized small Schmincke travel set--I'd removed the inner metal tray for half pans and replaced it will full pans with my own pigment choices. A pen and a travel brush kept my gear simple!|
|I played around a bit with my kids' set as well--I ordered it online from Wet Paint in Minneapolis, where my friend Roz Stendahl finds such fun things. I pulled the guard off the Niji flat waterbrush to make a longer, juicier brush...it's still small enough to fit in those little round pans, though! (Check out Roz's linked blog and classes, she is a GOLDMINE of information!)|
|This is one of those progressive pages...testing inks, pens, brushes...|
Again, if you'd like to read about finding the land, exploring its natural wonders, and building a cabin in the woods, here is the link! Just click on the title: The Naturalist's Path