Historical Excerpt – Thomas Moses, “The Brook,” part 3


This is a perfect description of how time stands still when you paint out of doors.  The music of the nature around you takes over – especially the trees.

Like most scenic artists, I gained experience in a variety of shops where music played in the background and your mind is occupied by the lyrics when you paint. Classical music was always my my preferred selection as I could listen, solve the world’s problems, and instinctively apply paint to the canvas.  When I thought too hard about what I was painting, I overworked it. I needed to mentally multitask to get the best results – at least that is what I have told myself for years.

After reading another section Moses’ text, however, I remembered teaching plein air painting on our Cambridge property for a few years for community education.  It was so peaceful as we painted in those early spring and fall days, setting up our easels next to the Rum River.

This is one of the few times since moving to the cities in 2015 that I truly miss living the middle of the woods, far away from the concrete and noise of civilization.

“Every other voice was shut away by the voice of the stream as by a closed door, so that I sat in a little solitude of sound. The brook and I were alone, together. By the side of running water my thoughts, if I think at all, are born away on the waves, leaving me with no measure of time. The minutes grown into hours so that when I come to leave I take with me no definitive memories, no deepened wisdom, only a vague sense that I have been happy and nothing could have been added to make it a more perfect day. A thunderstorm in the woods crushes out of recognition all the separate language of the trees sweeping them into a wild confusion of leafy tongues. I find I can distinguish the deep base tone of the pine grow behind me from the whistle of the beeches in front. One can hardly mistake a pine tree at midnight. The wind is imprisoned among its thickest needles and issues from then in a sound always likened to that of ocean surf. In the beech, however, it clashes and rasps its way across flat hard, almost metallic surfaces. The beach is like a beautiful woman with an unpleasant voice. The oak would give little trouble in the darkest night, for the flapping of oak leaves again the twigs is the driest sound in nature.”


Our home in Cambridge, MN

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