Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Hemlock in Wind, 1955; watercolor, conté crayon and pencil on paper, 17 x 21 1/2 inches; Image from the Burchfield Penney Archives
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, July 1, 1948
Sunday, July 1, 2018
July 1 (Thurs)
To the country south of Java Village sketching.
A fine windy day, with deep blue sky and an infinite variety of rain + cumulous clouds – First over the Warner Hill + Vermont Roads, which last summer I found so rich with material; but somehow it seemed sterile today, and so I went south on Vermont Hill Rd. + then eastward on the Chaffee Rd.
For a time, I thought it was going to be one of those futile days, when no spot seems exactly right, and I drove endlessly on until complete frustration sets in and I must give up and go home. But then I took a road east from a “corners” (unnamed) (But which was east of Sardinia according to the signs) which soon turned from macadam to a hard graveled road, I had not gone far until I came to some wide-spreading hay meadows, enclosed by deep mysterious woods on all fronts, excitingly of [unintelligible], the road outlets, and a [unintelligible] on the north, + then to the northwest, where was afforded a run over rolling blue hills (it was from this direction that the great sweeping phalanxes of clouds proceeded). The sides of the road now [solid?] here and I was able to pull over off the road, and park under a group of small cherry and ash trees.
For a time I merely wandered about reveling in the beauty of the day, as a child might, reaching out to get handfuls of the cold wind, and examining each field flower – self-heal, black-eyed susan, pink and alsike clovers, buttercups, white daisies, yellow + white covert clovers – as if they were the rarest flowers on earth, as indeed they are! – the Timothy was just coming into hand, a soft silvery green, which the wind, and a strong burst of sunshine turned in to glistening white ripples that that raced across the meadows with joyous abandon. Sometimes great cumulous clouds filled up into huge towering masses, overhead, blotting out the sun, and casting a deep shadow over the trees and fields that almost seemed as if it could be felt with the hands – To the north white round clouds, on a background of deep blue-black cumuli were startling + dramatic – a fine North feeling, especially above a low-lying woods.
A barn-swallow (who stayed all afternoon + evening) kept flying low over the meadow, evidently catching insects; darting with extreme reckless abandon here + there in great long glides, making sharp angled turns or even an about-face in a split second, or turning half over revealing his orange tinted breast. – a meadows creature, the extreme of the day – of wind blown meadows in June or July. The longing to do exactly what he was doing became almost too much to bare.
First I ate my lunch – with great relish – and then after a brief exploration of a nearby woods (where a little hemlock over grown with moss, and tiny brilliant orange mushrooms attracted me) I came back to the car, made a few studies of motifs for the Bob-white picture, then set about finding the spot and motifs for my afternoon’s painting. I finally settled on a spot close to the little clump of saplings where the car was parked – an ideal location, of easy access to the car, and out of sight of anyone going along the road. I was alone on the earth, in a windy meadow.
All afternoon painting with great joy + abandon, a sort of child’s view of a hayfield, a uniformed vista framed in by leaning grasses + flowers, in which I introduced the barn-swallow. At times a song-sparrow ‘scolded’ pleasantly at my presence; bob-o-links flew up now + then and flooded the field with thin tremulous outpourings of song (when will I get at the bob-o-link picture? I become almost sick with anger when I think of the many motifs I have not even started) a wonderful episode, when (I hope) the spirit of god touched, however glancingly, the miserable and uninteresting clay, that forms my person.
Near six o’clock, exhausted + the sketch seeming complete, - I spread out some blankets + lay down for a few moments. Altho at times during the afternoon it had been almost chilly, the sun now shown full from a continuously open sky, and flooded the earth with warmth. Twice a red admiral alighted on my picture, a beautiful sight.
I hated to end the spell. To relieve myself, I set out to explore the woods to the east + south. There was too much underbrush, and swampy tracts to make pleasant strolling – eventually the increasing swampy character made me abandon my original intention of exploring the south + west woods bordering the meadows, and turned eastward instead, and came out nearer some open fields. I turned towards the road again, and after another brief encounter with the woods, unusually dark + overgrown I came out again into a field lying by the road. As I emerged I caught a fleeting glimpse of deer that had been feeding in a field of young corn.
I came out upon the road considerably to the east of where I was parked, and it was on higher ground, I decided to move the car up here to eat my lunch. After eating I sat here for a long while, enjoying the evening. The wind continued undaunting, and grew colder; the western sides of trees, with the undersides of leaves upturned, now catching the pale sunlight, and now a cold greenish white. A dramatic sight was a vast storm to the northeast, beyond a dark woods, a mass of deep blue black clouds, topped by white clouds, and to the east, spreading at the horizon several cumulous clouds, a wonderful pink color, as ominous as pink lightening.
I wanted yet to see twilight over a pond or a lake, so I set out to find Java Lake. First I went back to the “corners” and telephoned home to see if all was o.k. or whether any word had come from Sally. B said Red had come in about 7:30 and was taking a trailer back to [Mansville?], that they would be coming up to Barker on Saturday.
Asking my way to Java Lake at the store, I learned that it lay very near to the road on which I had spent the day, but farther east.
I arrived at the lake region at twilight – but I was “burned out” by the days efforts, and reached no real impressions. My road ended at the southern end of the junction of 98 + 78. I went home on 78, enjoying the brilliant afterglow, with bleak windy trees against it.
B was enthusiastic with my sketch.
Charles Burchfield, Journals, July 1, 1948