I spend Thursdays with my father.  He suffers from dementia of one sort or another, most likely Alzheimer’s though the official diagnosis has not been given.

Dad writing at The Great Swamp, Boondocks Boardwalk Observation Deck

The day was beautiful and Dad seemed to have bounced back from the world of fog and forgetfulness, at least temporarily.  Though his balance was still shaky, his stamina was incredible.  We made it all the way to Boondocks Boardwalk and back.  I couldn’t resist sketching him as he attempted to write another poem.  We were sitting in the observation deck above the swampy waters and lush water plants, taking a nice long rest before the long hike back to the car.

Sketchbook drawing: drawn with fountain pen filled with green ink.

A day with Dad is always an adventure.

Fragrant Herb Garden at Lord Stirling Park, Great Swamp, New Jersey

After four days of rain the sun broke through the clouds and we headed to Lord Stirling Park.  Many years ago I took my students to the Great Swamp to paint en plein air.  Today, I took my dad to smell the leaves of the herbs, listen to the birds and enjoy the light filtering through the leaves illuminating the hummocks reflecting in the still, swampy water.

Rusty Sickle and view from the West Observation Tower

We ventured off the path to explore overgrown steps leading up a hill to an old building that had been used for turning sap into maple syrup.  Beyond the grove of trees and clusters of empty benches we discovered a Harrow and Sickle buried in the overgrown grasses.  Dad talked about his childhood on the farm in Indiana.  He knew those tools well.  A little further on we found the West Observation Tower. Thirteen steps led up to a platform where you could view nothing more than what you saw without climbing the steps.  Dad called it “Make Work”, a project created for the purpose of putting people to work.

The path from the observation tower led into the marshy wood where we were devoured by mosquitoes and covered in invisible webs spun by either inch worms or young tent caterpillars.  Through it all we laughed and talked, the sound of our soaked shoes squishing in harmony as we continued to take in the beauty of the moment.

Sketchbook Drawings –  Fragrant Herbs: Phileas Waterman Fountain Pen and watercolor

View from the West Observation Tower: Phileas Waterman Fountain Pen and Marvy Marker