Paintings . . . Hellbenders . . . Good Eats and Great Laughs !
by Rachelle Siegrist
Fall is just around the corner, and I can’t believe the summer is almost over! It seems to have flown by this year, perhaps because of the many hours spent relaxing in the river. Nonetheless, the falling leaves are a telltale sign that cooler days are coming. While most of my time was spent spent at the easel this past week, Wes has been working on several projects around the house and yard. Thankfully I’ve been able to slip down to the river a few times throughout the week with friends, and although time spent in the river is always delightful, sometimes things happen making it better, and such was the case one afternoon this past week! I have been enamored with Hellbenders since seeing their photo in a little book featuring photos of fish and amphibians I had while growing up. I have always wanted to see one in person, so imagine my sheer delight when that dream came true this past week!
While lazily sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, I noticed a smaller “rock” that I didn’t recall seeing seconds before, and suddenly realized alas . . . it was a Hellbender! I squealed to friends Sharon and Tom . . . “There it is!!!” as chill bumps covered my legs from the intense excitement of finally seeing one in real life! Not only did we see one, but alas three of these amazing giant salamanders, most likely named Hellbender for their odd appearance! Generally solitary, Hellbenders are thought to gather only during the mating season which begins in late August or early to mid-September, so it was a real treat to see three in the same area! We were obviously in the right place at the right time, and felt so blessed to be able to watch these awesome critters for awhile! My Mom’s sage advice “Look with your eyes and not your hands!” was instantly out the window as I slowly and ever so gently touched their tale and back foot, and it was amazingly silky smooth! Sadly, man has caused detrimental effects that have irreversibly damaged hellbender populations, thus it is imperative to do our part to help conserve remaining populations through protecting habitats, such as not moving rocks around and building make shift dams in rivers and streams. A practice much too common in our area here in the smokies!
Friday evening we all went back to the river at the Wye for awhile and I so enjoyed watching our friends grandson Chance riding in what he calls “Oval Boat” down the smaller rapids. He was all smiles as he went down rapids, at times even backwards! He’s certainly a baby river rat and fits in perfectly with us larger river rats! Just before leaving that evening a gentle rain started to fall, mesmerizing us as the drops danced on the water’s surface, as yellow leaves slowly drifted down from the surrounding trees, and a breeze filled the air. It created one of those magical settings that you could enjoy forever!
Several wonderful friends joined us for a dinner party last evening, and after a delicious dinner consisting of Elise’s delectable salad, my baked Ziti, Norma’s garlic bread and Sharon’s delicious cherry dessert, we played a dice game called “You Blew It”. Sharon was the big winner of the night, while a couple others were just happy to finally be able to roll enough points to get on the board! The evening was filled with lively conversation and such bursts of laughter, it made our tummies sore at times!
~ Currently on the Easels ~
I finished my painting of my brother Marshall’s adorable Dachshund Roxie, this past week. As soon as he sent me the photo of her posing like this recently, I fell in love with it and knew I had to paint it, while immediately thinking of the title “The Seal Impersonator”!
Wes finished his miniature landscape painting of a gorgeous scene from inside nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a beautiful wintry day when we photographed this magical setting, and with the recent heat and severely dry weather, I think it actually made Wes feel better while painting this cold scene!
Until next time . . .