Do you want to tag along with me to go to a majestic Heaven on Earth down at the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge just minutes from our city, Starkville, home of Mississippi State University?
The autumn month of October is one of the most colorful, beautiful, enchanting months of the entire year here in our Deep South. We are slipping away from all the “have to do,” “ought to do,” mundane, boring, and tiresome things in our everyday life to a world of majestic bald cypress trees. A cypress is an evergreen coniferous tree having flattened shoots with scale like leaves, exposed root-buttress, and cypress knees.
During the Great Depression in the 1930s, about 45 thousand acres of land was bought by the United States government to develop national wildlife refuges. It also offered young men opportunities to find jobs during the hard financial times of the Depression. Virgin trees were cut, lakes were built, and the land was developed into a national refuge for animals, trees, and for all of us to enjoy for years to come. My daddy, John Andrew McReynolds II was a young A&M College freshman in the College of Business, which later becoming Miss. State College and finally Mississippi State University. He graduated in 1930. He later became a part of the staff of Student Affairs working with Mr. Malcolm Gray at MSU and gave 35 years of his life at MSU before his retirement from this fine institution. He also was a real estate broker and appraiser. Daddy was a part of the WPA seeking work. He was head of all the equipment and machinery used to develop this refuge. He was responsible for making sure that it was all put back into place at the end of each day. I am so proud of him for being a big part of the creation of this refuge that we now have a special place to call our very own retreat and refuge. Daddy adored President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he always voted and remained a proud Democrat all of his life. He told me once that Roosevelt gave us the America we have today, and if it were not for Roosevelt, we might have had a totally different USA that we have today. He was a Blue Dog Democrat. He once said, “I never knew a Republican I liked or ever voted for.” On Oct. 1, the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge celebrated a family event all day long which culminates the entire week of celebration for all National Wildlife Refuges in the U.S. We are all thankful to the people who work so hard to give us this gift of a national refuge.
We are almost there as we make a turn and go up a hill and down a hill to we get to the cypress tree area on the left side, which is the 400 acre Loakfoma Lake which is a 400 acres, and is just across from the side of Bluff Lake. The road divides the two lakes. We shall pull over and start unpacking all of my art supplies that I shall need for this glorious day of sketching and painting. I silently and with a prayer in my heart and on my lips whisper, “Oh what dignity and grandeur I see everywhere.” This scene promises us a majestic day ahead. The very word, majesty gives us the feeling of greatness, and the glory and the love of a higher being, God as He is suddenly appearing right besides us too. We are in His world of awesome beauty! I bowed my head and said, “Dear God, use me today to be your instrument through these brushes and art supplies, and use my talent of sketching and painting to show off your beautiful, colorful, splendid autumn so that others will know that someone bigger than we are gave us this earth we love and enjoy so much. It is You, dearest God, and we say thank-you.
As an artist I feel like a tiny speck of life besides the tall cypress trees nestled inside the almost blue, golden, purple, lime green swampy like Loakfoma Lake. Find me as a tiny dot almost hidden from view on the slopping embankment right by the road. In a way, I am hanging onto the road itself hoping a car or truck does not hit me today. You are with me today, and we are almost invisible and lost in this scene of greatness of so many colors, and such exquisite beauty. Today, I , as the artist, am using my artistic ability to capture on my canvas what I see, hear, and then love to the best of my artistic ability. We are both visitors in a beautiful world one of the prettiest and most pleasant months in Mississippi, October. Look at all those cypress trees. I saw and now see 21 leaning, bending, hanging on, and standing trees.
Suddenly, I feel a sweet, quiet peacefulness around me as the shadows fall across the water. The sunlight plays its own music as it dances across the colorful, moving water. The light blue sky above slips quietly down as if it looks into the water, and suddenly, the water becomes an identical image of its reflection of itself. The sky, water, reflections of all the trees and leaves into the water suddenly become dancing partners rippling along, smiling, giggling, and having so much delightful joy together as they listen to the soft music of the warm sunlight orchestra.
I chose to paint only one bald cypress tree on my large canvas. Let’s look at my painting and read it left to right starting at the left hand side at the top sentence by sentence like a page in a book until we reach the bottom of the my canvas. Don’t leave out one sentence or one word of this painting. Let’s chew and drink every single bite of our meal of beauty. Remember to listen carefully and then hear clearly the softly playing music of the sunlight orchestra. Hear the violin? Hear the beautiful words of the rustling leaves as the autumn dry falling leaves twist, turn, and finally fall into the lake? Hear the beating drums of the far off traffic, the almost irritating sounds of intrusion? A drum sound or two is nice, too, to add to the romantic softness of the music. I see with my eyes, hear with my ears, and feel with my heart. Don’t you, see, hear, and feel also? A beautiful painting is suppose to move you inwardly to your heart to venture into greater heights in your everyday life. Something from this artist’s heart should be shared with others. What price tag do you put on a painting? What price tag do you put on something that is created from an artist’s heart? It’s priceless. This painting is stamped, “Free with love.”
Look at both the photo of the artist and the Loakfoma Lake bald cypress area and the painting I am about to complete and sign my artist’s name and date. The dark greens mixed with the lime greens go so nicely with the dark and medium browns, yellows, oranges, purples, reds, blues, turquoises, golds, copper, peach, white, grays, blacks, light tan, and wheat colors of the sage near the bank of the water, and the almost pink of the road near by. Search, find and discover colors I am not even naming. I am using all of the autumn colors of this extra special season of the year. This whole scene both the photo and the painting hold hands and waltz together to the music as they hear those sweet voices of the nature.
Find a cypress knee or two especially to the right of my painting. Look how almost silver the gray trunk looks. See how I mixed from my palette the lime, swampy green watercolors into the side of the portrait of the one tree that I chose to paint. I only paint a hint of all the other trees in the background of this painting. Find them. The light blue water is almost delicious with all its golds, grays, oranges, and browns. Does it not look like golden Mississippi sweet tea with a mint or two mixed in? Pretend we decided to suddenly take a little cruise in a canoe as we paddle quietly along and into our scene. We can hear the water slosh up and down as the paddle moves slowly up and down within the water itself. Use your imagination.
Suddenly I spotted a white crane, a tall lanky bird. He decided to pose for his own portrait. If you take a magnifying glass you can spot his handsome feathered body standing stately on a clump of grass or maybe it is a rock. See him? He added life to this painting. I could hear a fish or two jumping, too, and I spotted a turtle sunning in the far distance. Near the bank I saw a tadpole swimming by me, and I bet he wondered, “Why in the world is this lady artist in our world today?”
I am dressed in my wine/red artist’s smock, rolled up jeans, wine/red socks, blue hat with autumn leaves, bows, ribbons and frills pinned on on side, and blue shoes. I have my red easel and my red brush in my right hand and my palette in my left hand. What is an artist palette? It is an thin oval board with a hole for the thumb on which an artist lays out and mixes her colors. In this painting, I am using autumn colors on my palette. A palette knife is a thin flexible steel blade with a handle used for mixing color, and can also be used as a brush do make the paint look much thicker with unusual swirls within the paint itself. I have over 90 different colors, and I always take all 90 tubes along with me when I go outside to paint. I never know what color I shall use and need. A palette can also be viewed as a musician. A musician uses a total range of a variety of tonal instrumental color in a musical piece. A palette can be used by a writer as the verbal range of words he or she uses. Even a computer graphics person has a range of colors and shapes available, too. We all use palettes.
Find my artist palette. It is in my left hand by my cheek with my thumb in the hole and two brushes are being held in my fingers. which are visible near the canvas itself. My colorful woven basket and carry-all is holding all my art supplies and one extra stretched 100% cotton canvas. Do you see all the gorgeous autumn leaves I found underneath my feet weighting down and tilting the basket to one side?
I am a mere human being, a lady among the majestic bald cypress Trees. Now look at both the photo and the painting together as one. This is an autumn parade much like the Easter parade in our spring time of the year. The trees are boldly dressed. They are dressed for the coronation of a queen. Its autumn, and she is dressed in her majestical dress in delicious, vivacious, and vivid colors. Our very being in this one spot hidden from the rest of our world leaving behind those should do, aught to do, and have to do things back home and escaping to a secret spot not too far from home on the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge for a few hours to sip the sweet beauty and hear the soft and soothing music and the loud ringing voices of birds in nature as the blue sky reflected into the swampy golden water among the tall bald cypress Trees, and we, together, my viewer and I, held each other’s hands, danced first a waltz, and then the waltz suddenly became a fun, happy Irish jig because we together just shared and enjoyed seeing my gift, an artist’s palette in October.
Carole Elizabeth McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .