Fleeting Beauty

Janice and I had the opportunity to visit some friends in North Carolina this past October. What an amazing time.

Janice and I had never seen the fall colors back east. We tried once a few years ago when we visited New York City in the hopes of seeing Central Park in all her fall glory. It wasn’t meant to be. That year fall had been very mild so we missed the peak of the colors by at least a couple of weeks. We saw glimpses here and there and it was certainly enough to come home and do some paintings, but it wasn’t what we came for. We would have to wait.

The few days we spent in western North Carolina was a different story. The colors were at peak, or at least very close. Our days were spent in the car just driving from town to town seeing the colors in all their glory. If you’ve never witnessed fall colors it’s really quite hard to describe. Bright displays of yellow, red and orange. Whole mountain ranges in the distance had a rosey hue. Rivers and creeks parading through canyons and valleys lined with color not unlike the piles of paint on my palette. It was truly a gift, a gift that was fleeting.

The fall colors, like all things beautiful, are fleeting. Beauty doesn’t last very long. It’s there for a few weeks or even a few moments and then it’s gone. I think that’s the way it’s meant to be. Beauty can be appreciated much more when it lasts but a moment. Take a sunset; can you imagine if sunsets actually lasted all day? They would become boring, ho-hum, just another sunset. How about a dozen roses? what if they never died. Would they still be as special as they are?, as beautiful?  I remember when Janice and I had the chance to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time about a year and half ago. We arrived at sunset. Wow, sunset on the rim doesn’t get much better. What made it even more amazing was the fact that it didn’t last very long. 20 minutes after we arrived it was only a memory, but what a memory, what a gift. We couldn’t wait for sunrise the next morning, which again, only lasted a few minutes.

Even during our short visit to North Carolina, the fall colors were changing. The “winds of change” were sweeping through the valleys taking back the beauty that autumn brought. The trees were being stripped of their “bling”. Soon it would all be gone and we would be left with memories… and a whole lot of photo reference to paint from when I got home 🙂

Someday we look forward to going back to see the fall beauty return. I think the northeast might be in order for our next fall adventure.

Here are a couple of paintings from this trip. There will be many more to come in the coming weeks and months. Check in on my website to see more as they’re completed.

Woodland Glory, Highlands, North Carolina. 14 x 18

Autumn Whispers, North Carolina

It Wasn’t a Dream…or Was It?

Ever have one of the moments when you have an image of a memory come to mind but you can’t remember whether it was real or a dream?  I’ve had one of those reoccurring memories for the past few years.

I remember so strongly the imagery; tall stands of eucalyptus, cattle in the fields, barns dotting the landscape, a fence along the side of the road, that smell of summer in the early evening air, (you know the smell). It was late afternoon and the sun was going down for the evening, creating long shadows rich in-depth and that golden light so unique to California. The imagery was not unlike many areas in California, but there was something different about this place, about this memory. Why was this memory of this place always coming to mind?   The only thing I couldn’t remember was where this place was.  I had no idea. I even had thoughts that it didn’t actually exist, that perhaps it was a place I dreamt about.  This memory haunted me for years.  I wanted badly to go see and experience it again.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago.  Janice and I planned a bike ride along the California coast just south of Half Moon Bay. It would be a 58 mile day that would take us just inland on a few side roads. I had been on most of these roads before so I knew what to expect. However there was one road on our map that I had no recollection of, no memory I can recall to remind me of what to expect. I love roads like that. I love not know what’s around the corner, what beauty lay around the next bend? Will there be something I just need to come back and paint, or not? or would there be a long uphill climb not knowing where the summit was.

Not knowing what’s around the corner happens in life all the time. We come to crossroads in our life that cause us to make a decision, we must act if we want to move forward. Faith in God plays a big role in my life when it comes to making these decisions.  Knowing that God is for me and not against me allows me to make some pretty risky turns, perhaps even go down some pretty dark roads. But I know He’s with me and for me. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy but I know there’s hope if things get rough, that any hard times I face, we face, are not the end of the story.  Taking these risky roads can also lead to some amazing panoramic vistas or simple scenes that remind us that we live in a beautifully created world, a world that was designed for us to discover. These roads can also lead to some long uphill climbs that never seem to cease. None of this can be experienced camped out along the side of the road waiting for a sign of certainty that the road we take will be trouble free.  That sign doesn’t exist, although, I must admit that at times I wish it did.

Ok, back to the memory/dream thing.

A few miles into our ride we make a left turn off of the coast highway and start making our way inland.  The road was lined with massive eucalyptus tress with dappled light leading the way on the street ahead of us.  Janice is riding a little ahead, which gives me the opportunity to take a picture of her riding through this canyon of trees. As you can see in the photo it was beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We continued a little further up a short climb and we came to the summit and a great view is in front of us. I began to sense that memory coming to mind again, not fully though, just a taste. As we descended into this beautiful valley I realized that this was indeed where the memory originated.  Everything came back and seemed almost surreal. I even remember slowing the pace just so I can take it all in. The tall stands of eucalyptus, the roadside fence, the fields and the cattle, barns dotting the landscape. I never mentioned this memory to Janice in the past. I did, however, share it with her on this ride. I told her of the memory and how it felt like a dream and that this short road was that dream, that memory. I’m still not quite sure why this memory always came to mind, I still haven’t painted anything from that little valley south of Half Moon Bay.  But I will, someday. For now it’s a place that remains in my memory, but one I know how to return to, and I will.

I look forward to getting back on the bike, in the car, or on foot to discover what’s around the next corner or down the next road. It’s always a good lesson for life. I hope you feel the same when faced with your own crossroads.

Here are a few shots from the day, including a painting I completed a week or so after the ride and a view of the valley that was in my memory for so long.

A view of the valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Barn, 17 x 18

Art of the West Misquote/Typo

In the March/April issue of Art of the West magazine there is a glaring misquote that I need to correct.  The writer states that on my blog I state the following “Courter explains how a particular grove of eucalyptus trees remind him of an elephant woman draped in a gown…”  an Elephant women, seriously?!  My blog actually refers to a grove of eucalyptus trees as an elegant woman draped in a flowing gown.

As you can imagine, I’m quite embarrassed by the misquote and wanted to clear things up.  The actual quote can be read on my blog at the following link: https://kevincourter.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/picking-and-choosing/

Thanks for taking the time to read.