Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Vineyard in the Valley

Last weekend I loaded my backpack with art supplies and hiked into the countryside near my house. It had rained earlier in the day, but as soon as I saw a break in the clouds, I gathered my art supplies and headed out to sketch.
The golden grasses covering the hills during the dryer months are turning green with the help of recent rains. Reaching the top of a hill, I was confronted by the bright colors of Jordan Winery’s vineyard and a red-roofed shed guarding its gate. What a great view I thought, and parked myself on my folding stool to paint.
This northeast edge of Healdsburg used to be a horse ranch until about 15 years ago, when it was replaced by the homes in my neighborhood. Some reminders of the ranch still remain, like the old wooden fence posts climbing this hill. Although people have encroached upon this once wild land, the area is still home to raptors, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and migratory birds. Blue herons and egrets, much to my dismay, like to eat goldfish out of our backyard pond. But it’s a small price to pay for living near open land. Some of the wildlife can be dangerous, like rattle snakes and mountain lions, and many of my neighbors have reported sightings. Luckily, I’ve never run into any problems but still keep a sharp eye whenever I’m out in the field. At night as I’m drifting off to sleep, I often hear the howls of coyotes celebrating a new kill and the feast that follows.
The sky above me darkened and small drops of rain splashed on my page. Looking toward the west, I could see that another storm approached, so I packed up my gear and headed home. Under the next day’s sunny skies I returned to the same spot to add the finishing touches.

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