Saturday, April 25, 2020

Shining Mountains - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Shining Mountains" Colored Pencil

It’s late fall as first light seeps across the Great Divide and floods into the Blue River Valley, illuminating a celestial kingdom. Rising out of this divine realm, the Shining Mountains sparkle like jewels and their jagged profile serrates a docile sky.

The ethereal incandescence reveals a royal tapestry of woven colors that conveys a spiritual loftiness unique to one of Colorado’s most pristine wilderness areas. The golden peaks are modeled by a jigsaw of sharp-edged shadows of the purest violet-blue.

In the field, a barren aspen grove and a few dark trees are scattered remnants of autumn’s last breath. The bronze meadow sits somberly below snow-dusted summits that glimmer with multi-facets of hope.

This merciful period of reflection offers precious time to prepare for the difficulties that lay ahead. The melancholy season’s cold air blows with indifference forcing the high country inhabitants to respond with unyielding perseverance and patience.

The gleaming alps suggest a forbidding tone concerning the hardships suffered during an everlasting winter. An unwavering faith in the predictable cycle of nature is necessary in order to believe these broken hills will someday be brought back to life.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

White Bergen Peak - Colored Pencil Drawing

"White Bergen Peak" Colored Pencil

It is daybreak after a big storm and a white Bergen Peak is like an apparition rising out of an undulating field. Blanketed by fresh snow, the mountain’s bulky form is defined by sharp, gray shadows.

A dormant grove of ochre aspen clings to the pale behemoth’s lower slope while dark trees dot the valley floor in the distance. A receding ridge line is set at an angle as it cuts through the middle of such spectacular scenery.

Cast as the center of interest, a ponderosa pine creates a striking profile against a backdrop of open air. It’s curving, crimson trunk is topped by a bright green canopy whose beautiful blue shadows melt into the heavens.

As the moisture dissipates, an ominous, cobalt-colored sky gradually gives way to sparkling cerulean. A flood of warm sunlight sets the grassland on fire as interlocking shapes of red, yellow and orange sweep across the foreground.

The barrage of bad weather is just beginning so it won’t be long before this whole landscape is buried beneath deep snow. Autumn is on its last gasp but the colorful season is going out in a blaze of glory.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Elk Meadow Mornings - Chasing Bluebirds

Chasing bluebirds

During this wearisome time, my mornings have been spent in Elk Meadow chasing bluebirds. It is early spring in the foothills so the steep trails are slick and muddy and Bergen Peak’s rocky summit is still laced with everlasting snow.

Most of the summer residents are back including the red-winged blackbirds that nest just above waterline in the cattail marsh located at the lower end of the park. The lonely pathway is completely quiet except for the chorus of conspicuous calls made by the elusive inhabitants of this isolated grassland.

Nuthatches make a tapping sound as they peck into the bark of a ponderosa pine while a northern flicker claims territory by emitting his distinctive call from the tree’s top. The sweetest song heard in the countryside is the beautiful melody sung by the western meadowlark and that unique warbling sound made by mountain bluebirds in flight attracts my attention to their variable landing zones.

This season there has been such a profusion of bluebirds that it is as if the sky has shattered and tiny bits have rained down on earth, splashing into our drab meadow. Their photogenic profile captured in low light only enhances their legendary stature as one of America’s most beloved birds.

The female bluebirds have dull coloring that provides protection during the nesting season but the eligible males display bright plumage making them easy to spot. Many of the bluebirds like to congregate on the iron fence attached to an old, abandoned barn.

At first, they were wary of my daily incursions through their habitat and they got spooked by the slightest movement. Over time, day after day, I have gradually earned their trust as they have come to accept my recurring presence, allowing me to observe their most profound behavior.

When hunting, the bluebirds perch on mullein stalks and cock their heads sideways while listening for prey. Once they have acquired a target, they swoop down to the ground and pluck a juicy earthworm from the moist soil.

The mountain bluebirds generously share their grassland territory with robins and western bluebirds. These two red-breasted species exhibit identical behavior as the mountain bluebirds but their sparse populations are segregated into smaller pockets within the spacious field.

Mountain bluebirds dislike the cold and rain but they love warm, sunny days so that's when they are most active. Springtime in the Rockies is notorious for its fickle weather as a fierce blizzard can strike at any time before official summer.

Mountain bluebirds expect this harsh weather and have learned to adapt to the heavy snow and frigid temps that occur this time of year. Maybe we can learn something from how they respond to a disruptive hardship - they retreat to the safety of a cozy nest box and shelter in place until the storm has passed.

A profusion of bluebirds

They congregate around a barn

They swoop to the ground

They love the sun

Hunting for earthworms

They cock their heads and listen

Dull coloring provides protection

Bright blue plumage

A beloved bird

A photogenic profile

Captured in low light

Western bluebird

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Clash of the Seasons - A Skirmish of Bad Weather

Clash of the Seasons

While the world is at war with an invisible virus, we have been witness to a dramatic clash between our two most volatile seasons. It is a classic battle between Good and Evil as impatient Spring tries to usher out an unwilling winter.

A couple of weeks of warm weather almost wiped out the last pieces of evidence betraying the dark season. Not surprisingly, on the first day of spring, a fierce blizzard destroyed the early vestiges of calm.

The next morning was bleak as rising temperatures mingled with moist atmosphere, resulting in a veil of condensed fog. Objects close-up appeared with crystal clarity but as the field of vision expanded, the shapes disintegrated into a screen of nothingness.

Wet snow had poured down quietly through the night and accumulated into a heavy pile at least a foot high. The tall pine trees wilted and bowed under the pressure of tremendous weight while smaller ones were smothered in a blanket of flakes.

The steely sunrise absconded with any semblance of color, leaving in its wake a solemn wilderness of sober gray. The feeling of isolation conjured up by the forlorn forest only exaggerated the heightened state of solitude.

Within a few days, the snow had melted and the skirmish of bad weather was all but forgotten. Still sequestered in place, we yearn for a smooth transition between the rival seasons and pray for a swift resolution to the World’s current crisis.

Clash of the seasons

An unwilling winter

A fierce blizzard

A bleak morning

A solemn wilderness

A state of solitude

A forlorn forest

Isolation

Smothered in a blanket

Condensed fog

Crystal clarity

Yearning for a smooth transition