A Floating Thanksgiving

rachelle siegrist kayaking

What are the chances that the one single pretty day out of an entire week will actually fall on a holiday? . . . Well, this past holiday was 100%! So while many gathered with family and friends for a feast on Thanksgiving, Wes and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and enjoy it afloat in our kayaks! Armed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our lunch, we climbed into our kayaks and off we went happy to have the wind at our backs! Instantly I found myself amidst a flock of mixed warblers, checking, chirping and calling, as their little black silhouettes flitted from limb to limb against a brilliant sky.

photo of Loon
The loon enjoying his fish

We had paddled a short distance up the river when all of a sudden we heard a loud cry! I tried to imagine what in the world it was, and Wes even thought that I had somehow made the noise, and then we suddenly realized that it was a loon. What an amazing sound it was, funneled by the surrounding hillsides and made to sound even louder! We’ve never heard a loon cry before that close in proximity, so it was an experience we will indeed remember! Several Belted Kingfishers flew by at a high rate of speed while chattering their scolding call much of the way, and an immature Bald Eagle gracefully flew directly overhead at one point, gliding over to where it landed on a lofty perch atop a tall pine tree nearby.

beautiful stream

Our precious little friend, a Pied-billed Grebe was floating in the same vicinity we’d seen him before many times and later that afternoon, we saw three more of these adorable tiny little ducks. We found a sunny location for our Thanksgiving feast and slowly floated along, enjoying the ever-changing scenery and gentle rocking motion of the kayaks. Later we found a lovely sundrenched pebble beach where we got out and ate our holiday dessert which of course involved chocolate! While relaxing and watching the ever-changing patterns of the water’s flowing surface, I noticed something was making shadows along the sandy bottom, which were shape-shifting and at times looked like wee perfect solar eclipses! Soon I realized it was floating clumps of sand that were creating this amazing phenomenon, and found myself mesmerized for quite some time as I sat there watching the changing shadows dance across the bottom of the stream.

solar eclipse
The perfect miniature solar eclipse caused by the floating sand

Climbing back into my kayak, I paddled along until I caught up with Wes who was flyfishing, and we enjoyed a most relaxing paddle back to where our adventure started earlier and couldn’t believe it when we came upon the loon!  He had caught a fish and was enjoying his own Thanksgiving feast, graciously letting us watch him the entire time.  For what seemed like half an hour he swam all about me while I sat there in my kayak enjoying every second, most thankful for this amazing encounter!

Loon
Me watching the beautiful loon swim nearby

I took this short video of the loon, and although it’s not the best quality, it still shows how magical our special Thanksgiving Day encounter was!


~  In The Studio  ~

I’m still currently painting a commission that I’ll share with you later. Wes is painting a collection of miniature songbirds that will be comprised of 6 paintings.  This week he’s painting the Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, and Eastern Phoebe. The set will debut at the 38th Southeastern Wildlife Exposition this coming February.

WES SIEGRIST BACKYARD GEMS SET
Three of Wes’ miniature songbirds

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~ See Our Miniatures In Person This Week ~

A Tradition Of Excellence: American Women Artists
Until December 7, 2019: RS Hanna Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX

86th Annual International Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature
Until January 5, 2020: The Mansion at Strathmore, Bethesda, MD

In the Tradition of Audubon Exhibition
Until January 5, 2020: Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati, OH

Society of Animal Artists’ 59th Annual Art & The Animal Exhibition 
Until January 5, 2020: The Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

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Until Next Time . . . 

~ Rachelle

What Are You Thankful For?

cute squirrel photo
My precious Bunny squirrel

So . . . What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season? I’m thankful for Wes, my health, family, and friends, including my precious critter friends like Peedeepeeps the wren, Bunny squirrel and the titmouse family, and of course sunshine! But this Thanksgiving I’m especially thankful that my dad was released from Moffitt Cancer Center this past week with a good report! He and my mom have spent the past 5 weeks living in Tampa, where Dad has been battling cancer.  This is the 2nd time Dad has had cancer, both a result of being sprayed with agent orange while in Vietnam.

You see my dad was drafted along with countless others in the late ’60s and sent to Vietnam, where many of them were sprayed with agent orange.  Now hospitals and Cancer Centers like Moffitt, are filled with men my dad’s age, all fighting their own battles against cancer because of it. During Dad’s time at Moffitt, my parents were constantly meeting and seeing men walking through the halls or sitting in waiting rooms, all wearing their Vietnam Vet caps.

rachelle siegrists family
My Mom and Dad during his time at Moffitt

Mom shared with me one particular encounter that really touched me.  She and my dad were just stepping off the elevator at Moffitt, when they saw an older gentleman sitting in a wheelchair alone in a corner, wearing a Vietnam Vet cap.  He was very pale in color and wore an extremely forlorn expression on his face while gazing at the floor. As my dad with his walker drew near him, the man obviously quite weak, very slowly raised his right arm and saluted my dad. My dad returned the respectful gesture to the gentleman, and even though not a single word was spoken during those moments, a multitude was said between them as they understood and appreciated what the other had been through in the past and was going through now. My mom obviously deeply touched by this exchange of empathy and respect, had to look away as she wiped tears from her eyes.

So this Holiday Season and throughout the year, when you see an older gentleman wearing a “Vietnam Vet” cap, please take a moment to genuinely thank them. Most likely they made many sacrifices during that war and are still making them now, and there’s a good chance that many like my dad, were drafted into it and it wasn’t something they signed up for, but are still paying the price for being part of it.


~  In The Studio  ~

I’m currently painting a commission that I’ll share with you later. Wes is painting a collection of miniature songbirds that will be comprised of 6 paintings.  This week he’s painting the Bluebird, Carolina Wren, and Downy Woodpecker. The set will debut at the 38th Southeastern Wildlife Exposition this coming February.

songbird paintings by wes siegrist
Wes’ songbird series in progress

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~ See Our Miniatures In Person This Week ~

A Tradition Of Excellence: American Women Artists
October 21 – December 7, 2019: RS Hanna Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX

86th Annual International Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature
November 17, 2019 – January 5, 2020: The Mansion at Strathmore, Bethesda, MD

In the Tradition of Audubon Exhibition
September 12, 2019 – January 5, 2020: Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati, OH

Society of Animal Artists’ 59th Annual Art & The Animal Exhibition 
September 19, 2019 – January 5, 2020: The Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

EXQUISITE MINIATURES ~ September 15 – December 3, 2019: Kennedy-Douglass Center For The Arts, Florence, AL

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Until Next Time . . . 

~ Rachelle

 

An Unbelievable Experience

rachelle siegrist snorkeling5

Wes and I have had the chance to snorkel several days this past week while exploring different areas and streams here in the Smokies.  While we always see an assortment of fish and greatly enjoy our time in the water, sometimes we encounter things that create a remarkable experience!  This past week, it started out like all other late afternoon snorkeling visits, showcasing several schools of beautiful fish in unbelievably clear water.

rachelle siegrist fish photo

Then as we embarked upon a journey into yet another pool and swam up to the cascade feeding it, Wes spotted what we’re always hoping to see . . . a Hellbender!  We were both thrilled to see this beautiful aquatic creature which is one of the largest salamanders in the world and can grow over two feet in length!  We carefully watched and videoed, as it slowly made its way up the cascade.  It seemed to be having almost as hard a time as we were just trying to stay in place, but had the advantage of rough pads on its toes, giving it extra traction on the slippery rocks.  Meanwhile, we carefully held onto rocks to keep ourselves in place, so we could watch it.

wes siegrist underwater photo4

It finally managed to crawl into the deeper water where the current wasn’t quite as strong, and I was delighted to watch as it slowly crawled by while making its way upstream!

 

rachelle siergist snorkeling

With wee little eyes and poor eyesight, it relies mostly on vibrations detected with a lateral line and didn’t mind at all, us observing it from a safe and respectable distance.  It was truly amazing to watch and we couldn’t believe this incredible opportunity we had been given to observe this Hellbender who spends most of its day hiding under rocks.

wes siegrist underwater photo5

We carefully and slowly followed along behind it and watched as it appeared to be hunting for food, which is mostly crayfish while peering and searching underneath rocks and ledges before moving on.  The fish, especially the smaller bass, were as intrigued by this magnificent creature as we were, and kept swimming all around it, even going right down to it and bumping it with their mouths a couple of times!

wes siegrist underwater photo1

As long as it let us, we continued to watch and observe in amazement as it crawled along, and at times it would crawl right by us, making for a great photo-op for Wes at one point!  After resting there for a bit, he crawled underneath Wes’ arm and went along his merry way.

wes siegrist underwater photo3

He had wonderful little white-tipped toes and wrinkly looking skin through which it breathes, sporting some of the best camouflage ever, and it could instantly blend in with the rocks, seemingly disappearing! We kept pinching ourselves to make sure it was really and truly happening and that we weren’t dreaming this amazing encounter up!

wes siegrist underwater photo2

We said goodbye to our little friend and made our way up into other sections of the stream, and couldn’t believe it when we spotted yet another Hellbender!  It too didn’t mind us watching as it slowly crawled upstream, occasionally being rolled over and sent backward by the very strong current!

rachelle siegrist underwater photo1

Nonetheless, each time it gracefully recovered, almost looking as if it had meant to do that as a joy ride, and started making its way upstream once again.  I watched and videoed as it went along until it found a nice large rock to go under, and it wasn’t until we were back at home and watching the video in slow motion, that we actually saw that I had captured another Hellbender darting out from underneath the rock and biting the one I had been watching!  “WOW . . . What are the chances of getting something like that on video!” . . . we said as we watched it in slow motion again several more times.

rachelle siegrist underwater photo

What an amazing snorkeling adventure it had been and once again we were reminded of all the truly wonderful things nature has to show us if only we’ll take the time to go out there and patiently watch and observe.

~ In The Studio ~

While Wes has been very busy with office work for the upcoming Society of Animal Artists 59th Annual Exhibition at the beautiful Briscoe Western Art Museum, I have been busy at my easel and finished this miniature painting of a beautiful Painted Bunting, painted from a gorgeous reference photo taken by one of my Dad’s good friends.  This painting will be featured in the upcoming show, A Tradition Of Excellence: American Women Artists. at the RS Hanna Gallery, in Fredericksburg, TX and runs from October 21st through December 7th of this year.

 

painted bunting painting by rachelle siegrist
“A Southern Kaleidoscope”

 

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Until Next Time . . . 

~ Rachelle