Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), In the Deep Woods, 1918-56; watercolor on joined paper, 33 x 45 inches; Private Collection
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, July 24, 1948
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Out painting – to the country around Rushford Lake.
I had in mind the shot I found two years ago (July 26) – when I took a dirt road south from Bliss. – A lonely crossroads where there is a deep woods. A fine invigorating day -, with great fleets of compact cumulous clouds sweeping across the sky from the northwest.
The spot (exactly 50 miles from home) seemed even more fine than I remembered it. I parked in the shade of one of a row of maples on the north side of the road, for beyond which was a field of ripe wheat, swishing in the wind. Beyond the wheat, which was growing on a rising swell of land, were some farm buildings.
I ate my dinner here, with great relish & contentment. I felt that surely I ought to spend the day here, & find a subject to paint - but I had on mind a different problem (skeletonized trees & clouds with the wind blowing them the cavities this created) and it seemed to require more open country than this. So, reluctantly, I drove on after finding lunch. First I took the hill road which I had taken south from Bliss, and followed it to its end at route 243, just outside Rushford. – I then took route 243 back to the first road north & so came around to my starting place – then went east – to the road’s termination then south, into Rushford & by a series of turns, again to a narrow dirt road leading westward into a valley (just east of my original place, as I found out later) – Here I found a wild spot & here I determined to stay.
I had great difficulty choosing a subject but finally settled on one spot and was soon at work - a difficult problem but a glorious afternoon – the black mysterious interiors of the maples formed a fine contrast with the road – and enormous white-topped clouds above. Mysterious whisperings on the grass.-
At late afternoon, a farmer came down, parked his car above where I was, & then walked down past me. He looked sideways at my sketch but said nothing – presently he came back in the field; driving cows before him. They all made directly for me & crowded around in great curiosity, blowing thru their noses & craning their necks. The farmer said “They know nothing about it” – Fearing a stampede when they would come past me on the road I asked him if I had better take down my easel – but he said he was taking them in the opposite direction.
Finished about 6:00 & after backing up the car, I set out for a walk up the hill to the north of the road. The land kept going upward, but at so slight in degree that it was not like ordinary hill-climbing. The wood here seemed to increase in volume and was almost cold. The sun high in the west made dramatic patterns as it passed in & out of the path of the clouds (or vice-versa, properly speaking-). At the extreme highest point was a vast luxuriant clover field. From here I could see for miles in all directions, a feeling of being “on top” of the earth – Far to the SE Lake Rushford. – I picked a large bouquet of the handsomest clovers, to which I later added some yellow daisies.
I then drove back to the roadside woods where I had eaten lunch & ate my evening meal. Afterwards for a walk in the woods – a beautiful place – the floor of the woods clean of underbrush & covered with a think growth of small plants, chiefly think-me-not. I followed a crude sort of lane until it came out into open fields, which were yellowed by the horizon sun. A field of timothy, in shadow wind-blown in front of a sunlit patch – a bewildering effect – Here I found a small fringed orchid. Back to the car for trowel & basket so I could dig up for B.
In the car making a few notes then got out for one last look. At that moment a young deer stepped into the road from the wheat field. He saw me, but did not seem alarmed but walked leisurely toward the woods – I advanced continuously to get a better look at them, but he heard me & ran a short distance. Then he paused in the opening of the woods, which formed a dark background for him. A beautiful sight. (I could see he had tiny horns). Then he turned & leaped away.
A few moments later, when I had started down road, a fox ran across in front of the car, the first I have ever seen wild. He was a dirty tan & seemed to be in poor condition.
Home by 243, 98-39 to Savage Rd. & thence by Mattison Corners Rd to Center St. A fine evening. High in the northwest a solitary growth of great blue black clouds against the pale after glow – grim ominous, advancing threateningly over the black earth. A feeling of vast northland, of the rim of the earth – elemental awe-inspiring.
I dreaded arriving home, because I know the folks from Cleveland would probably be there – not that I did not want to see them, but I knew the ensuing talk & excitement would tend to erase the day’s glory—and so it turned out—we did not go to bed until 2:00, by which time I was so tired I could hardly sleep. Stomach cramps.
Charles E. Burchfield, July 24, 1948