West Tisbury


Observing nature is a big part of what I do with my days. I don’t know how to separate it from being an artist — whether I look because I’m interested in the world around me, whether I look at it differently or not? I know part of it is the shapes and patterns, breaking colors and the effects of light into mixtures of paint. Part of it is a simple interest in my surroundings, how they change day by day with the passing seasons, how life around me goes along.

One of my favorite places is one I pass almost every day. The Mill Pond and Whiting’s or Parsonage Pond, the pair of wetlands at the end of our road. Both are always-beautiful spots that offer a constantly changing array of visual images.

There was a blue heron to the back of the Mill Pond last week, standing straight and alert. The spring’s cygnets are almost as big as their parents now. They have been flapping their wings with enthusiasm, necks outstretched, clothed in still-gray feathers like 19th-century boys waiting to grow into long pants. Canada geese are flying overhead, and what seem like thousands of starlings are leaving on their southern flight.

Across the back of the pond there is a ruffle of shrubbery turning a rusty autumnal hue. It is always the first sign of change. In early spring, it appears as pale chartreuse, way before the trees behind it flower and get their first leaves. Now, only the very beginning of September, its leaves have already lost their summer green.

Parsonage is hardly a pond any more. Transformed by encroaching reeds and rushes, purple loosestrife, cardinal flower, and mallows, there remains only a shallow channel. The greenery is fading to yellow, the lawn leading down to it purple and orange with the moving sunlight. The slope from Newhall’s, now Noon’s, is often backlit, making patches and stripes behind the growth on its face. On the lawn side, a different presentation of multiflora rose tangles and cherry trees, separate, a visual stop, bare branches or clothed in tangled yellows or greens or, briefly in spring, pink and white blossoms.

Some of my best paintings have been done on those two spots. Both seem endlessly changing, endlessly interesting, subtle and blatant evidence of progress and demise.