Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Star Openings in the Woods- Wood Thrush, 1947; watercolor on paper, 39 3/4 x 25 3/4; Private Collection, Image from the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives
Charles Burchfield, Journals, November 17, 1941
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Nov 17, 1941
Three glorious Indian Summer days. Three days of wandering and painting in the country, so full of beauty and happiness, that I find it almost too deep to explores in words –
Monday morning, start out, headed for Lockport; I had in mind the shelf of land there, when the whole country recedes abruptly to a lower level, perhaps the pre-historic bed of Lake Ontario – I fancied I would experience some vast North country feeling here.
There had been a heavy frost but the sun, shining from a clear watery blue sky, soon created a mellow Indian Summer atmosphere – it’s light streamed from low in the South, striking the faces of houses, giving them a yearning look.
My first sketching trip in weeks, I sang and whistled old songs as I went along.[i]
The Lockport country disappointed me, partly I suppose because I was still imprisoned in spirit by the weeks of worry, exhibitions, and other duties – I drove on to Medina, and then decided to head south for the Wyoming Village country. Altho I saw many beautiful effects, I could not decide on any one thing. I stopped at Wyoming to get some honey. (Noticed here, a glass case full of odd stones etc.)
Growing more discouraged as the afternoon waned. It was not until the sun was low, and its light falling on some rolling hills to the east, with a rich orange glow, that I finally gave up all thoughts of painting, and could really enjoy the beauty of the day.
Wanting to get to some high point to see the sun set, I turned off of the road I was driving on (which turned out to be the Dale road running north from the Warsaw (20-A) road) onto a narrow road leading westward up to a high table-land. At the high-point, the road turned northward, meeting a dirt road which ran south-west; the junction forming a little triangle of turf. Here I parked the car.
And it was here that I threw off all the destructive yearning for the country in Ohio , and the sense of frustration that goes with such a longing. This ever-recurring nostalgia arose from the obsession that here in Gardenville, I have lost all sense of directions and with it the elemental side of nature. North – East – South – West, do not seem to have their true character.
But in this spot, where I spent the evening, I experienced again all the elemental feeling of direction –
The sun had disappeared behind the wooded edge of a hill to the S.W. – I took a walk in that direction thru a swamp, and scrubby woods – The post-sunset chill invigorating, Back to the car, where I spent the rest of the evening, watching the stars come out.
In the S.W. Venus shone brilliantly, at first seemingly alone, but as the light faded, seen to be set square in the midst of Saggitarius (sic). Above the dry macadam road which gleamed a pale blue gray ribbon in the dark brown fields, I could just see far away remote North Star, before the apparently larger stars of the dipper were visible.
It was to the East and Northeast, however, that the most interest lay. To me, these two directions, at twilight are full of a deep mystery, or mystical significance that I cannot explain. In Ohio, it was at the middle part of Post's woods, looking across the Valley of the Little Beaver, that I felt it mostly strongly. Not until tonight have I had the true feeling of northeast, in my New York State existence, and now it has come with much more power and meaning than I ever felt in Ohio.
It has always seemed to me, that the space to the N.E was much more infinite than the S.W. – or any other direction
High in the E – SE – a another (sic) planet, (I never can remember which if Mars, Jupiter or Saturn it is) shine steadily, while in the Northeast, Capella, already risen, soon became visible – unable to leave the spot, I watched until Orion, most [ii] beautiful of all constellations, had risen three-quarters above the horizon. By this time, it was almost completely dark, and the North-east sky, from the zenith diamonds was like a fountain of stars – Pegasus, Andromeda, Cepheus, Perseus, Cassiopeia, Taurus, Auriga – [unintelligible] was so clear, that Procyon was visible the instant it rose above the horizon –
Had I been able to reach a phone, (to allay my family’s worries) I would have stayed longer, at least until Sirius had risen. But the thought that Bertha might be imagining some calamity had befallen me, obtruded on my mood, until I must needs (sic) tear myself away.
I called home at Varysburg. Most of the way home, I watched Venus slowly setting in the S.W.