This morning I had the pleasure of searching for a new composition to paint along Putah Creek in Winters, California. Originally, the area was the territory of the Patwin people, a large complex society mostly wiped out by disease upon contact with the first explorers, and later by settlers, discrimination and oppression. It was a sad time in American history to say the least. As I walk the banks I can only imagine the paradise it must have been. I’ve been told the wetlands was as wide as 5 miles across in some areas!
Today the tightly controlled stream in Northern California is 85-miles long, and you could easily throw a rock across it, at most any point. It’s headwaters are in the Mayacamas Mountains, a part of the Coastal Range, continues thru a couple of lakes, diversions and dams eventually fading somewhere along the Yolo County bypass.
So why am I painting this area.. because of the restoration efforts along the banks by the Putah Creek Council based in Winters. As I strolled along a well beaten path, I noticed native plants being added, like cottonwoods, mug wort, wild grape, oaks, willows, wild rose, redbud, bunch grasses and more. (I also noticed some really bad invasive plants that are not native to the area, but we’ll leave that for another day).
Native flora is very important to this landscape for so many reasons. The reasons that are obvious is their adaptation to California’s hot dry climate and then there are a few reasons, not so obvious. Some plants depend on California’s fire season, for seed germination, a natural adaptation. Another not so obvious reason that could surprise you, is the fact, that local wildlife, has evolved over thousands of years eating certain foods. They utilize certain plants for building nests and constructing homes. And when those plants are not available, what may appear to be a healthy environment to you and I, could be a complete desert to local wildlife!
Here’s where I would like your help. Below are two images I find exciting. The left image illustrates some gorgeous bunch grasses in the foreground, and the image on the right, of course, has the sparkly water. Also, I would be standing in the creek while painting the scene on the right, and that is pretty fun.
Please let me know in the comments below which you would prefer to see in tomorrow’s plein air painting?
Left or right? There is no wrong answer, so feel free pick which ever calls to you the most.