New Hampshire Getaway

Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I carried our one-and-a-half-year-old son up a mountain to a clear, quiet lake in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was a blue-sky November day; fall colors lay on the ground; my son wore a blue sweater that his grandmother knit for him. I loved that hike and I remember the details because we took a photo at the water’s edge, mountains tinged by an early frost in the background. And then—life happened. We had a second child, my husband’s family sold their property in the mountains, we chose the Maine coast for vacations and, suddenly, 25 years passed.

Last weekend, we finally returned to those ancient granite peaks. Our first hike closed the gap of all those years. And while I loved being surrounded by mountains and returning to Lonesome Lake, what I loved, perhaps, best of all, was hiking behind a young couple carrying their young son in a backpack up that same mountain. I couldn’t help but think: they have no idea.

Tips and Techniques– Go with what you’ve got. I was eager to sketch the many beautiful wildflowers in bloom during our hikes. But it was so cold that I couldn’t do so comfortably until the temperatures warmed into the 50sF. By then, black flies emerged and mercilessly attacked. I tried to “embrace the place,” but after speed sketching orchids, I decided to skip the trillium. Ultimately, what was the sketch about? The damn black flies.

36 Comments on “New Hampshire Getaway

  1. I love your emails classes and nature drawing but as a grandmother watching her kids navigate life, this one made my heart swell.


    Claudia Sent from my iPhone


  2. Your last sentence made me laugh. Just moments before I read this I told a friend that I’m so glad we can continue to sit/paint outside as we don’t have those black flies here in the city.

  3. Love your “Black Flies” entry, Jean! I so appreciate your unique view on nature…who else but you would even think of focusing on those annoying insects as the subject of a journal entry? Beautiful…and so informative! Thanks for the gift!! 💕

    • I assure you that I would have much preferred a beautiful page of orchids…but that was not meant to be. Glad you enjoyed the black flies nonetheless.

  4. LOVE this. HA! Black flies are horrible. We moved to Earlton NY many years ago and were completely unfamiliar which those little bloodsuckers. I actually bought netted hats but frankly what you learn to do is STAY IN for a couple of weeks. I took up cycling due to the mosquitos, black flies and deer flies to replace hiking during the “insect” months. I expect that because of climate change we are finding them here too but not to the extent they are in the mountains. By the way, speed is of the essence when escaping deer flies.
    Anyway, what a beautiful and delightful painting. One of my favorites.

    • I found that outwalk black flies, and I can’t outwalk or outrun deer flies. They are just coming out where I live and I am very grateful that their season is short lived. I’ll be doing a lot more cycling in the coming weeks!

  5. Lovely painting and lovely memories…..thanks for sharing! I guess I’m not familiar with “black flies” here where I’m at in north central Ohio. We have flies that are black, but they just sit and stare…no biting. On the other hand, I unfortunately have a one-sided relationship with deer flies……they love me to pieces and in return, I detest them! Their “love bites” turn into big itchy welts that last for days!

    • We have deer flies too and they are quite annoying. Black flies are tiny and they swarm your eyes and head. You just can’t escape them when they are out. Fortunately, black fly season in the mountains generally lasts a few weeks and then dies down. I’m glad the weather was cold and kept them at bay for much of our trip.

  6. I loved your story Jean, and your paintings (as always). But just wait until that young couple in front of you on the trail is one of your sons with their child on their back. It’ll turn those black flies to butterflies in your heart.

    • Oh, geesh, Audrey– Yes, that will really be profound! I enjoyed seeing people of all ages on this hike, and thinking about where we’ve been and where we may be years from now. Nice to hear from you.

  7. I just love this memory story. Such memoirs should be logged and then kept tucked in our hearts. It’s funny. Just this week I’ve been sketching pink lady slippers too. It’s been a good year for them in N. Michigan. And just saying, I didn’t notice the inclusion of the black flies until you mentioned them. It’s a beautiful sketch.

    • What a treat that you have lady slippers where you live. They are so sensuous. We saw white and pink ones. Gorgeous! I’m glad the black flies didn’t bite you til the end.

  8. Thank you, as always, for another beautiful moment, this one particularly poignant for us. Our 41-year old son, a teacher, linguist, avid hiker died two weeks ago, leaving two children and his wife and extended families. So, please, everyone, live in the moment, hug each other and save up the memories…

    • Chris– I’m so sorry to hear of the very tragic death of your son. What a stunningly sad loss. You are so right that we must appreciate the moments we have together– time passes so quickly, and though we can look back, we can never really see what’s ahead. I hope you have many good memories to ground you at this time and much strength to carry you and your family forward. With sympathy, Jean

  9. I absolutely love your story about the blackflies and the way in which you wound their story around the amazing woodland flowers you found as you hiked. My favorite thrush is the hermit thrush because of it’s amazing voice.

    • I love the hermit thrush, too. It was a treat to see several in the mountains. I love the wood thrush and veery, too, for their ethereal songs. We have both in the woods around our house. It’s a treat to wake up to them.

  10. In spite of the flies, it’s a beautiful painting and a lovely story.

  11. Hahaha in summary I got “they have no idea” and those damn black flies!” Lol

    Sent from my iPhone


  12. This made me smile! I grew up in Ontario, Canada with blackflies! And, now, living in WA state and we will be empty nesters in the fall with both of our boys at university, this story touched me and made me a little teary-eyed actually! The wonderful memories of the places we’ve been with our boys will be with us, luckily forever! Thank you for sharing your beautiful sketches and personal story!

    • I’m glad you could relate, Karen. We have enjoyed seeing our sons launch into their full lives as young adults. It’s sweet to look back and I’m sure you have much to look forward to as well.

  13. Thanks for continually weaving a story on the pages of your beautiful art journal. I’m reluctant to write anything but the date on my painted pages. You leave a diary of lovely renditions along with tender reflections that will immediately bring back the day and memory. Thank you your sensitivity and tender heart.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comment Bernadette. I don’t write a lot, but I do enjoy looking back and remembering places and experiences held between the pages of my journals.

  14. I have to echo your reply to Chris Klose. What incredible, unfathomable heartache. I will definitely hug my two sons & their children very close the next time I see them. And remember to count my blessings every day…..

    I’m headed to Lk. Winnepesaukee, NH at the end of the month, and am hoping those “DAMN flies” will be long gone by then! Then I’ll mainly have to worry about the also-DAMN Lyme ticks!

    I love both of your sketches, as always. You brighten my days.

  15. Oh those wicked flies!! But I sure loved the story about hiking behind the young couple with their son…..those reflections are so sweet at this time of life. We just became grandparents….and all these memories of my children when they were little are coming back in a big way! Life is good!!

  16. I’m very happy for you! I love the way you incorporated the black flies. Just hilarious. You do continually reinvent the wheel, which I truly appreciate.

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