On a sweltering day in July, I drove up a gravel driveway to Trail Wood Sanctuary. This 168-acre property in rural eastern Connecticut was once home to naturalist writer Edwin Way Teale and his wife Nellie. In 1980, Nellie donated their pristine land to the Connecticut Audubon Society, which now hosts artists and writers in an artist-in-residence program at this spectacular location. I was lucky enough to spend a week there last summer.I stayed in the Teales’ old farmhouse, and carefully eyed the bookshelves in Edwin’s study, which were filled with literature, nature writing, and field and travel guides. I ate my meals at their metal kitchen table, read my library books, and let my mind wander. But mostly I explored outside: lush fields, woods carpeted by ferns, Edwin’s writing cabin by the pond, and all the animals I could find. On two days I got up before sunrise so I could walk with my coffee to the center of Starfield or Firefly Meadow to hear the dawn chorus.
My plan was to make sketches and small watercolors, take photos, and write a manuscript for a picture book about a meadow habitat and a child conservationist. This manuscript was a challenge. Who was the character, what was the problem, how did the story end? I had no idea, until I came across this passage from Edwin Way Teale’s A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm (1974):
Anyone who wanders over some old abandoned pasture with a pocket magnifying glass, examining the flowers of grasses and the forms and colors of mosses and lichens and leaves, enters a whole new world of beauty. And to lie on your back in the grass on a summer day, looking up at the drifting clouds, is to become aware of all the tiny overlooked sounds rising from among the slender leaves and roots beneath you.
Now, six months later, I am returning to the Teales’ neighborhood for an exhibit of work created by five artists and two writers who experienced Trail Wood in July and August, 2019. On display at the CT Audubon’s Center at Pomfret, from January 26-February 28, 2020, will be poetry, photographs, woodcut prints, watercolors, and drawings from all different perspectives. For those who cannot visit the exhibit, I am sharing my art work here. The manuscript has been revised many times, but it’s content is still a secret. We will all hope it finds its way to a publisher.
CT Audubon Center at Pomfret
218 Day Road
Pomfret Center, CT 06259
January 26-February 28, 2020
Opening reception is January 26, 2-4pm
The artist-in-residency program was established in 2012. You can read more about this experience and find an application here.