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Summer Respite

Summertime. I have loved it since I was a child experiencing freedom from the drudgeries of

the classroom! Today, the freedom isn't quite as profound as I must keep up my responsibilities, but something in me reminisces to the carefree days of my childhood summers and I still love summer for the sense of a freer spirit that seems to come with it. Summer itself is somewhat of a respite from the daily grind of the rest of the year and we try to take advantage of the more relaxed pace and get outdoors as much as we are able. However, there are some days that are sweltering hot and humid, and we then need a respite from the heat. This is the story of such a day and the reason for the title of my painting.

When we moved from Summersville (which was very close to the New River Gorge and lots of hiking trails) to Morgantown (which I thought was mostly city), I asked locals if there were any trails close by, and the one place that was repeatedly recommended was Coopers Rock State Forest. We had moved in June of 2018 and became very busy with settling in along with other things going on, and summer was flying by without much opportunity to check out local trails. The previous summer I had been finishing cancer treatment and wasn't able to hike much, so you can imagine how anxious this nature girl was to get out and hike! The first weekend of August, Ray had a business trip so I decided to get myself out to Coopers Rock and check it out. I drove the 30 minutes from our home and found a very crowded parking lot. This is not what I had in mind! I wanted a peaceful place. I followed the signs to the overlook which is pretty amazing, but I had a hard time enjoying it with the mass of people there. I was quite disappointed but was not going to give up. I went into the visitor's center, picked up a trail map, and chose a series of trails that I thought sounded interesting because it led to a historic thing called the Clay Iron Furnace.

I found that the trails are where it's at if you're looking for solitude. As I mentioned, there were a series of connected trails that began in a sort of meadow area. That was fine and I enjoyed the butterflies, grasshoppers, and wildflowers, but was getting very tired from the extreme heat and humidity as this trail was in full sun. I was beginning to question whether I should keep going or turn around, but if you know me at all, you know I'm not one to turn around before I've reached the destination. I had my water bottle after all! After a while, the ground began a gradual slope down and it became more wooded. Soon, I was in a forest and heard a bubbling stream. I could actually feel the coolness arising from the stream, giving beautiful relief from the heat. Ohhhhh, it was wonderful! I love woodland streams, and these had nice footbridges. I felt like I was in a different world as I padded along the trails and crossed the bridges. I could stay in this kind of place all day! It truly was a respite in my three-and-a-half-mile hike that hot summer day!

The photo above is my reference for the painting. Notice the water bottle that is not in the painting. I had left it sitting on the rail as I clambered around taking pictures. Maybe I should have included it?

Several months later, I learned that an upcoming exhibit theme at a gallery that I am juried into (Tamarack) was "Bridges of West Virginia." I had previously exhibited my painting of the New River Gorge bridge in the same gallery and needed a new bridge piece and had an idea of what I wanted to paint. Here is the description I wrote for my entry: "Of all of the wonderful bridges in our state, the ones I love best are the foot bridges on our beautiful hiking trails and so appreciate the workmanship that aids our enjoyment of our wild and wonderful outdoors. Remnants of the moss-covered stone abutment from a bridge built in days gone by can be seen as we cross this newer bridge over a creek at Cooper's Rock State Forest."

This painting has become a favorite among my clientele as the original as well as several prints and have already sold. I think that we can all relate to the respite a cool stream in the woods provides in many different ways. I hope you find refreshment in these last days of summer!


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