BLOG: Heady Door County Blossom Time

Bambi. Thumper. Flower. Twitterpated in the springtime.  The long winter over and time to get out there and…make some babies.  All manner of flower and tree bursts forth in a song of color for our hungry eyes, ready to do the same.

I tumbled into Door County during the grand swell of springtime.  Ripe and ready myself, with big wondering eyes, surveying my new surroundings, hungry for adventure that lay ahead.

As is my wont, I’d brought an eclectic collection of art supplies with me, including a set of Swiss-made gouache pan-paints, a gift from my sis on a Euro-trip. They’d sat around a while. I decided it was time to find out what they could do.

Treating myself well, after my daily work stint at The Ridges Sanctuary (which was more like breathing to me than work), I’d jump into my swimsuit, load up those paints, and hop on my bike, heading onto Ridges Rd. in search of wildflowers:  a Wood Lily, an Indian Paintbrush.  Whatever I saw that struck my fancy, I’d plop down right there on the ground and begin to sketch.

I read somewhere a good sketcher is behind every good painter.  It remains true yet.  I paint better from a sketch.

Well-meaning passerby, in cars, often stopped to check if I was all right—what possible entertainment could I be finding there by the side of the road?  I was actually more than all right–having some of the grandest escapades I’d ever have. There were some true gifts to this art thing:  it was warm out; the mosquitoes waited until dusk to attack, and I could sketch and paint, in detail, a wildflower, in about an hour. The world disappeared while I captured delicate details of blossoms.  Each time I finished a flower painting, I blossomed a little bit more myself.

Then, I’d go jump into the lake.  Bliss.

Once our eyes open to a certain kind of beauty, they continue to seek it out. Among my favorites blossoms is the stalwart Thimbleberry.  For me, Thimbles represent  freedom and fresh, cool air of the North Country.  I am grateful every single day that I get to live really close to Thimbleberries!  I do a Thimbleberry painting each year, finding different growth stages and parts of the plant to highlight.  The blossoms are bright white with yellow centers, sticking up out of lush, velvety foliage.

Late June brings brilliance to Catalpa trees around here.  You’d swear the Catalpas were dead, no leaves, no growth of any kind showing, next to trees fully leafed out, until, suddenly, all over their branches, cascading white blossoms mingle next to huge green leaves.  Brides’ trees they are, blooming at traditional wedding time.

I used to exult, as a younger person, when I found “onion grass,” hiking around the lower Midwest.  At Logan Creek, a Ridges Sanctuary property south of Jacksonport, on Trillium missions, I sink my nose into the heady fragrance present in the air, of ramps.  Ramps are wild leeks, oniony with an added undercurrent of flavor.

Bailey’s Harbor puts on quite a 4th of July parade.  I gave it up, once, along with a street side Bloody Mary, to capture some early blooming Showy Lady Slippers.  A Showy has this meaty pink cup with bold white petals over it.  Showys don’t last forever, plus deer like to nibble them, so, when warm weather brought the blossoms on early, I chose to hang out with them instead of the parade-goers one year.  It was a good choice.  I bonded with a regal blossom, a local resident brought me over an icy soft drink, and, when I rode by to say hello the next week, they were eaten right off.

No day is ever too busy to pull over to treat my eyes to acres of our Door County fairytale-land cherry and apple blossoms.  I simply can’t resist getting a good, strong whiff.  That kind of stuff, I believe, stays around in our senses, to build our character, forever.

I was painting a lemony and orangey Butter-n-Eggs blossom out at Bues Point Boat Launch, when a salmon fisherperson came over to view my progress.  It turns out his son lives in a MN town where my family lived for a few years.  He was a picture framer. He offered to frame a bit of my work in trade for some prints.  They now grace my kitchen walls.

I taught myself how to mat my prints in bright colours and exhibited them for sale. Every once in a while, one of my baby blossoms goes to live with someone far away from Door County.  I hope they look at it and remember how they felt when they visited our paradise.   I gift people with my prints, to say hi, to say thank you, to say, hey, be joyful in the beauty of this blossom and be strong!  It all carries my blossom joy a little farther along.