After seeing snow geese at
Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge a couple of weeks ago, I thought
about artist Suzanne Stevens.
I have one of her works hanging over my fireplace. Stevens' images of
bright white snow geese swirling in from the sky at sunset to settle among
the toasty brown marshes at Mackay Island are the next best thing to being
there. Though her paintings don't portray realistic images, they bring
TO mind all the natural beauty of the Mackay Island landscape in winter.
Everything about my geese is suggestive of their graceful flight over
the marsh. The grasses appear to be bending in the breeze. Stevens' magical
use of colors are reminiscent of a beautiful sunset with darkness approaching.
I can even hear the geese calling.
Although Mackay Island is still
one of Stevens' favorite places to paint, she recently found another more
civilized, but equally beautiful, spot right on the shores of Lake Smith,
Stevens recently moved to a 1940s vintage hunt club In Lakeview Park,
one of many little neighborhoods on Lake Smith.
Steven's painting of her view of Lake Smith from her home reveals the
often haunting beauty that the area offers.
Lake Smith, like Stumpy Lake
and Lakes Bradford, Chubb and Joyce, was built a century or so ago by
Norfolk to feed its water supply. The city created Lake Smith by damming
off a large wetland area associated with the Chesapeake Bay. The dam kept
saltwater from Intruding into the lake, and over time the water became
fresh - fresh enough to drink. The lake grew into an ecosystem in its
Now home to freshwater turtles, fish and snails, Lake Smith is also a
hunting ground for herons, egrets, osprey and other birds. Tall, old oak,
maple, dogwood and pines grow along the lakeshore and cypress trees skirt
the water's edge.
The lake has shed any look in which man may have played a role and is
as much a part of our city's landscape as any natural feature. It also
has become part of Stevens' art portfolio. She sits on her front porch
and gazes out to the water through a window of venerable tree trunks surrounded
by autumn leaves and paints. She takes her little johnboat out on the
lake and travels down to a shallow area where cypress trees grow and she
sketches their stark beauty.
On the way to the swamp in the late afternoon she watches as cormorants
come from all directions to roost for the evening In two lakeside trees,
a future canvas for Stevens.
On the other hand back in her yard, she can turn to her left, to the right
and look behind and see beautiful gardens that have been lovingly tended.