Wildflower Studies (Tall Anemone, Columbine), Decorah, IA

May 27: I went back to the quarry, being careful not to walk far enough in to startle the owl who lives there. I painted near the quarry entrance... I love quarries but was drawn to the scene also, I think, because it echoed the West: orange tinged exposed rock, young aspens, dramatic relief, etc. I also made two little painting, on one panel, of wildflowers I found nearby.

The most interesting scenes today are things I couldn't even begin to capture: around the fire after dinner, candles on the table illuminating the bouquet of dame's rocket (a purple wildflower some call wild phlox), fairy lights along the porch, the lamppost on the lawn. Friends and neighbors drawn together by the flames. I've never been with people who use the night so festively, who interact with it so aesthetically, as a matter of course. This place is run down. They live on hardly any income. Yet at night their world is filled with elegance and enchantment.

I rarely attempt to paint people. When I was younger it was because I had no interest in painting them. Later it was because I'd never developed the skill to do it well. It can be crushing to want to paint the grace and spirit you see in a face and to fall miserably short. So I rarely try. Landscape is a completely different language, especially the way I approach it. That is where I find the most fluent poetic language. But I secretly wish I could paint people in a way that showed what I feel when I read T. S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday passage about the Lady of Silences. This is the closest I've come, done on the second week of the tour, on a morning when I had the paints out and happened to catch myself with my guard down.