Up until a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t remember the last time I had laid a quilt down under a shade tree and opened a book, but that is exactly what I did when I clipped small dog, Charlotte, into her car seat and headed to Weir Farm, a National Park in Wilton, Ct. dedicated to American Impressionist painting. It was one of those faultless summer days when the air was warm but not hot, low humidity with a gentle breeze drifting across the wide expanse of lawn. A few artists dotted the landscape and were painting ‘en plein air.’ Surrounded by wildflowers and small rustic gardens, they had set themselves up in the fields near and beyond the early nineteenth century restored farm buildings that were once home to painter, J. Alden Weir, and his family. Standing before their easels, some with thumbhole pallets in hand, the artists looked quiet and reserved, like inspired librarians.
Once I got Charlotte settled down, I sat back and took my time drinking in the tranquil setting. The only sounds were the murmurings of scattered birdsong and the chirp of a fast moving chipmunk playing on one of the granite outcroppings. Several butterflies danced around the terraced garden, and high overhead a small hawk soared on expanded wings. Slipping my hand through Charlotte’s leash should she be tempted to dart off, I dozed and read for more than three hours, on and off, occasionally rolling over on my back and marveling at the solid blue sky contrasted with the green over-head leaves of the tree above me. The cool solid earth beneath the quilt gave a reassuring feeling about my place on the planet and after awhile I let my thoughts drift. There was no hurry. The solitude of the dark surrounding woodlands, the serenity of the near and distant meadows in a scene largely unchanged from days long ago added to my powerful, much needed meditation. When I later posted about my excursion on Facebook saying that I had “indulged” myself - my friend, Ina, was quick to point out that the right word was “sustained.” She could not have been more correct.
There was great comfort in being in a place so timeless, so connected to nature and to a part of early, quintessential American life. Inspiration lives here in the “quiet plain little house among the rocks,” in the artist’s well-worn studio, in the pond, the secret garden, the trampled paths and mysterious gray stone walls that define the landscape of this area. In Weir’s paintings, subdued washes of color echo the continuity of the landscape. This is a place where a twenty-first century woman, a dog, a book and a blanket can mingle with the old, and each is welcome. But you don’t need Weir farm or a national park to find this kind of peace - just look for a large shady tree, maybe in your own backyard and lay down a quilt!