Blueberry Hill with Strawberry Topping

Blinded by the light: what I saw when I got up this morning, over coffee and watercolor.

There is such a rich mixture here right around Benson House that it’s tempting to stay nearby and simply record what’s close to home. Perfectly lovely views are to be had from every angle, porch and window; step away thirty feet and look back to see your sweet little colonial cottage tucked into a lush woodland. Sit out on the front porch with your morning coffee, as I did today, and watch the sun light up the sugar maples’ leaves like they were blazing green torches. The little hill next to the house is covered in wildflowers and meadow grass and a low shrubby groundcover, no more than six inches high, which today I discovered turns out to be a respectable blueberry patch. I see pie in our future.

And to make it even sweeter, the entire hill is swimming with wild strawberries, their long runners twining through everything else: yarrow, milkweed, asters, ox-eye daisies, little violet-blue flowers that might be something like bachelor’s buttons and some other stuff I’ll have to get back to you about, y’all. The strawberries are teensy, not a lot bigger than a pea, but sweet, oh, wow, really sweet. And deliciously fragrant. I collected a handful of them and they just smell red.

Pond at Fever Brook, Quabbin Reservoir near Petersham, MA

With all these riches right at hand it’s easy to find excuses to stay put. But part of the fun of being here is going exploring. Last week it was Fever Brook at the Quabbin painting with Barry again, the day before yesterday it was Royalston Falls in the company of botanical illustrator and biologist/naturalist Elizabeth Farnsworth, who introduced me to this beautiful nature preserve owned by the Trustees of Reservations and entertained me with natural history lessons. She even pointed out my first Ebony Jewelwing damselfly for me. Thanks, Elizabeth!

Fever Brook, Quabbin Reservoir, Petersham, MA

A quiet shady pool just below Royalston Falls

Just below Royalston Falls, a great tree root grows down to the water’s edge from its perch on top of a cliff. Smart tree.

If you have kids and they can’t tear themselves away from their electronics and other indoor pursuits, I recommend they take up birding. Bill of the Birds has written an excellent book to help shoo them out the door and into the field, binoculars and all. And if you want to read and hear what he has to say about it all, he’s featured on All Things Considered this very afternoon, taking Melissa Block and her daughter Chloe on a bird walk. Bill, you have the perfect voice for radio.

Stone wall in Harvard Forest; part of the ruins of the old French Inn, once a drover’s waystation between Athol and Petersham.

Today I went for a long walk in Harvard Forest and was enticed by a hand-lettered wooden sign that simply said, “Doyle’s Wall” pointing to a path leading down the hill. Who could resist? Doyle built himself one kick-butt excellent wall of stacked stone that must have once bordered Doyle’s fields (did he grow strawberries?) a century or two ago. Now it meanders down the hill through a close-knit forest that’s grown around and through it, tall trees filled with singing birds. There are lots of walls like this one all across New England, marking property boundaries where people lived and worked the land. At the end of Doyle’s Wall is a lovely cascade, also marked with a wooden sign, and an old campsite that might have once been a little cabin. A tiny, perfectly enchanting waterfall drops like a glass sheet over stone and roils one end of a quiet pool no more than four feet across, It’s secluded and mossy and cool. There are spirits there. Tomorrow I’ll go back with paper and paint. If I disappear it can only be because I’ve been carried away by fairies. Check with you later. Maybe.

9 thoughts on “Blueberry Hill with Strawberry Topping

  1. 100swallows says:

    This is another great post of yours, Debbie.
    I’m sorry so many of those beautiful drawings and paintings are in a notebook and would have to be torn out to frame and hang. I know you use the notepad in the field to “jot down” ideas. But few scientists have ever drawn and painted as well as you do and while it might be curious to page through their notes, no great art is lost there. I hope you at least put together a book (or a dozen of them!)with the best of these drawings and paintings and your fine writing too.

  2. Becky says:

    I totally agree! Beautiful drawings and paintings, and your descriptions make us feel as though we’re right there. Thanks for posting!

  3. zeladoniac says:

    Thank you, both of you. Sometimes knowing it’s “just a sketch” frees you from the pressure of having to create a masterpiece :-). I’m always happy but wistful, too, when I get a good one in the book. The big graphite and pastel drawings are on loose sheets, though, intended for show in the indefinite future.

    Swallows- I’m not actually a scientist, (although I’m married to one) but I thank you for the compliment. More like an observer with a field guide and pencils. And speaking of writing a book: you could put together some wonderful art guides. A Field Guide to Michelangelo? I’d take it to Florence in a heartbeat!

  4. gatoscuro says:

    I agree completely on taking kids birding. One of my favorite adolescent memories is hiking around a Carolina bay, looking for birds I’d not yet seen. I lost a shoe in the bog, fed untold numbers of insects with my blood, and had more fun than I could recall at the time.

  5. forestrat says:

    Very nice work – I especially like the tree root.

    Fortunately my six year old son loves to be outdoors. He still wants to go hiking with me even though he has been bitten by bugs, pinched by crawdads, slipped and fallen into icy cold water, and been caught more than once in torrential rain storms with such thunder and lightning that it even gave me pause.


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