I took a drive a few weeks ago up to the Catskills Mountains in New York State. I hadn’t driven there from Massachusetts before, although I realized I had been there before on an APLD conference bus trip from Connecticut. It took about 4 hours and after I turned off the 70mph interstate, I was enjoying the little back roads which are still contoured the way the land is, where you wind up and down and around, offering you these incredible glimpses into the woods.

Subtle tonal contrasts & layers of charcoal, blue, white & silver green created one of those special, restorative experiences

This is one of the places that I stopped, where I was drawn to the colours in the subtle palette of this woodland winter place. The sun was out and you can see in the photo’s background the lovely horizontal gradation of a misty through to dark blue sky, and the silvery water reflecting the clouds. I love the contrast of large and small, vertical and horizontal. The dark charcoals of the tree trunks of varying widths painted with splotches of silvery green lichen contrast with narrower branches of saplings and shrubs. The horizontal layers of sky, cloud, shoreline, and water add a depth and tonal texture to the strong vertical textures of bark and lichen. The subtle influence of sunlight keeps the misty tones happy rather than sombre.

All so lovely, and I realized at a certain point that it was the hues of white, silvery green, blues, brown, and charcoal color my living room. The inspiration of the landscape comes right into my house.

I was traveling that day to WinterSong, a magical song writer’s weekend of workshops, performances, and jams. I’ve yet to write a song about the landscape but perhaps there’s a song to be inspired by this winter woodland patch. I also got thinking about how songwriting and landscape design share the task of creating a place and taking you on a journey. Designing garden places and the journeys that offer treasures that are more than just aesthetics, but ask us to linger, pause, breath deeply and restore us to the present is my lifework. Some call this a mini restorative experience and others, who teach meditation, would say that these sorts of places offer an experience that takes us deeply into the present, which is very important to add that balance in our lives. So the gift of that place that beckoned me to pull off to the side of the road, and walk down and then take this picture – it was a gift that day, a gift of wonder, and every time I look at the photo, I’m reminded of it.

I hope that your day includes gifts of wonder, either from planned and designed landscapes or the natural places that you can find here and there, no matter where you are in the world.