Wishing You A Little Peace on Earth

I’m standing at my office window contemplating the scene outside. The sun is rising, but its faint glow is barely discernible behind a wall of clouds. In the growing light I see a thick blue-gray blanket of snow covering streets and yards. It is 8 degrees out there.

View from my office window

This morning my plein air group will meet at a local natural area to paint and I must decide whether to join them or not. Here’s the dilemma for a watercolor painter like me in winter conditions like this: both the paint and the painter freeze. The last time it snowed — two weeks ago — the earth was still warm from a late Indian Summer, and snow on the woodland trail melted quickly under a bright sun.  Getting to an appealing view and setting up out of the snow was easy.  

The painting from two weeks ago: Mallard’s Nest Natural Area, gouache on paper, 6 x 9

Today the bitterly cold temperature and the deep snow on the trails means that no matter whether I sit with a blanket around my legs, or stand at the easel with what sun there is full on my back, my feet will be in snow and grow painfully numb in an hour.

An artist friend shows how its done: sit in the sun

So, why bother? Here’s why: If I don’t go I’ll miss experiencing the forest as a fairyland, with tree branches frosted in white and tiny grass-blades sparkling with crystal tips. I’ll miss seeing the criss-crossing tracks of deer, rabbits and tiny birds that scurry about in the underbrush and the eagles overhead watching to catch small creatures out in the open. I’ll miss smelling the spicy sweet scent of the dry vegetation warming in the winter sunshine. I’ll miss watching tree branches stretch long blue fingers across ponds and meadows.  

Tree shadows on frozen pond, Riverbed Ponds Natural Area – ink & watercolor on paper, 5 x 8

I’ll miss hearing the squawks of geese objecting to the growing layer of ice on the river.

Ice forming on the Cache La Poudre River

 Finally, and most important,  I’ll miss experiencing a hush so intense all you can hear is your own breathing and the soft crunch of snow under your boots. Where else, in these days of so much rancorous shouting, can you hear such quiet except out in nature after a snow?

So, I’ll be there this morning, cold as it is, enjoying the charms of the snowy landscape and appreciating winter’s special gift of quiet. Happy Holidays, my friends. May you, too, enjoy a little Peace on Earth this holiday season.



  1. Ruth Potter says:

    You are certainly braver than I am, though I’ve had to go out 2 mornings in a row when the temperature was at ZERO degrees. Believe me, being a southern gal like you, if I hadn’t had to go out, I wouldn’t have. And I’m driving a sleek brand new luxury Buick, which is a loaner from Markley while they fix my car, and I’m terrified of someone sliding into me!

  2. Merry Christmas – wishing you sweet luck for 2017. I didn’t discover I had Raynaud’s Syndrome until I moved north to the cold after being in Florida for 36 years! I could not go out into the weather you describe! Keep up the beautiful painting and your happy creative life!

    • Casey Wilhelm says:

      Merry Xmas! It sounds so beautiful. I would go out
      no matter what!! We can only embrace the
      Moments in life that nature gives us. These moments
      are the only true colors in our lives!!!!
      May the New Year bring very rich color to you!!

    • Denise Stoker says:

      Merry Christmas Marilynn! Thank you for the little piece of paradise that you have painted in my mind. I so love the area where you live. Now being a southern gal, you might not know what hunters use here in the north for sitting out in the woods for hours at a stretch–electric socks! You can surely find them at your local sporting supply. I hate to hear your feet are so cold and these socks will keep them toasty!

    • You stated your argument very well and, with some feet and hand warmers, I can see why you continue to go out there. I bet that once you are “in the moment” the cold disappears.

    • Thanks, Sandy. I have multi-layer gloves and those hand-warmer thingys. And hot chocolate waiting at home.

  3. Wow. What a wonderful writer you are. I could feel myself out in the cold and silence with you.

  4. Ann Robertson says:

    Lovely snow paintings! Sounds like electric foot warmer socks battery powered should be on your list for Santa!

  5. Poetry

  6. Your photos are also lovely. Perhaps you could go out for a short time with your group and make photos to share. In any case, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy seeing your work.

    Have a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year.

    • Hi, Jim, and thanks so much for your comments about my work and your holiday wishes. Yeah, taking photos is actually what I ended up doing that day. But not just because of the cold; the snow scenes were gorgeous and I knew they wouldn’t last.

  7. Sounds wonderful, tho the cold not so much. I envy your living out there!
    Merry Christmas!

  8. Hi Marilyn

    I too paint and live in snow country. This year I bought a travel easel but have yet to take it out in this beautiful winter wonderland. Thanks for your inspiration! You do beautiful work.

  9. Maggie Bethel says:

    I think freezing paint is nature’s way of saying “stay home”. Or just take pictures. That way you still go out, but you get to move around.

    • You’re right, of course, Maggie, but since moving out here to Colorado I’ve learned the “secret” of staying warm: dress with lots of layers, add a goose down coat, wear waterproof boots and put those hand-warmer thingys in your gloves and boots. Then go home for a nice mug of hot chocolate.

  10. Patricia Grimwood says:

    Thank you for the beautiful message!

  11. Bonnie Hummel says:

    Thank you for your lovely posts. So – how do you manage to watercolor in freezing weather – put rubbing alcohol in the water?

    • Hi, Bonnie. So glad you enjoy my posts. As to keeping the watercolor from freezing… First, I use water brushes, which have water in the brush handles, so my hands help warm it. Secondly, if my palette sits in the bright Colorado sun, it’ll stay warm enough so the color mixes usually won’t freeze. Even so, sometimes I just have to give up on watercolor and work with colored pencils.

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