Holland Symphone, Pleasnat Hill Farm, and a Mystery According to Mom

Posted on September 17, 2015 by Kate Moynihan | 6 comments
It was an honor to be selected by the Holland Symphony to paint Pleasant Hill Farm  - the setting for a benefit dinner. The date was late June and the rustic barn was surrounded by acres of dazzling yellow wild flowers. It was the perfect inspiration for an artist.
   I was sketching in the studio when Mom shuffled into the gallery.
   “It’s a privilege,” I tried to explain to Mom as she stood watching.
    She gave me a blank stare.
    I pressed on, “The Holland Symphony asked me to paint the location of their farm-to-table dinner fund raiser.”
    “What does a painting have to do with eating dinner?” Mom asked, turning her ear toward me so she could hear a bit better.
    Her hearing aid rang out in a high squeaky pitch, so I spoke a bit louder, “The Symphony is raising money for the orchestra and hosting the event out in the country. The painting will be given to the barn owners as an appreciation for graciously hosting the dinner.”
    Mom nodded. Her only reply was to turn away and head home toward her independent living center down the street.
    I shrugged at her apparent disinterest and continued painting.
    Throughout the month, periodically, Mom would return and watch as every stroke brought the painting to life. Using a palette knife I composed the grassy field, cascading flowers, and quaint barn. This impressionistic style suited me and committee member, Lori Gramer, just fine. “Focus on the blossoms, not so much on the barn,” she requested.

    Mid-summer came, and I gave Mom her invitation to attend. She put the date time on her calendar and didn’t say much more.
    Now it was September, and we were meandering our way to Pleasant Hill Farm in Fennville to the fund raiser.
    “I told my friend, Martha, I was going on a mystery trip,” Mom said in the car.
     I looked at her dazed. We’d been talking about this event for months. “What’s the mystery?” I asked.
     “Well, this of course,” she said, waving her arm at the rolling fields. “Who eats dinner in the middle of nowhere? Lord have mercy.”
    I explained the fund raiser and concert again, and Mom nodded right along.
    Shortly, we turned onto a dusty, two-track lane. A canopy of maple trees enveloped around us as we inched our way along the narrow, bumpy road. Then, at the top of a crest, the forest opened into a vast field of prairie grasses that danced in the wind. In the distance sat an isolated rustic barn. We edged closer rolling along the dirt path. We parked next to the only other car in sight.
     “We’re here early to set up for the auction,” I told Mom, referring to the quiet atmosphere.
     She nodded. Her silence unsettled me a bit, but I had a show to set up for so I couldn’t worry about that now.
     I helped Mom shuffle up the grassy slope toward the barn. Once inside the smell of raw wood filled the air. Open wood beams crossed high above our heads and our footsteps echoed in the cavernous empty space.
     “So, there’s gonna be a big hoo-ha here tonight,” she said.
     I raised a brow in disbelief. I knew in Mom’s past she had a simple life, but she had enjoyed local dinner- theater in Florida.
     Before I could explain more to Mom, suddenly, from the back of the barn, we heard thunderous steps. White-apron chefs and crew came funneling from a staircase. Like an army of ants they created a dressed-to-the-nines backdrop.
     With Mom settled in a chair, I made a trip to the car. By now the grassy lot was filled with cars and there was a buzz of guests arriving. I set up an area to paint in the barn and soon a quartet was strumming beautiful Beethoven as I mingled watercolors to the serenity of the notes.

     I’ve never painted in such a picturesque setting: sunlight streaming through wavy old barn windows, the enchantment of music, and the murmur of guests. All this mixed with the scent of country living floating in the air.
     Next came the mouth-watering farm-to-table meal.
     “I’ve never had such tasty, tomatoey lasagna,” Mom declared. “And these little red specs on the green beans, Mmm-mmm- mmm.” If I imagined Mom’s apprehensions earlier, they were long gone now.
    My evening went beyond expectations when Don and Debby Axce contributed a very, very, generous donation to the symphony for this painting.

     Next, came another uplifting feeling when I presented Joan and John Donaldson-VanVoorhees, the Pleasant Hill Farm owners, their barn and field flower painting. A teary eye is the best compliment an artist can ever receive!
     Driving home, Mom said, “I’d like to go on that Mystery Dinner again. Tomorrow would do nicely.” I agreed.
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  • Kate Moynihan

    Thank you for coming into the shop to share your “mom” story with me. We are both blessed with treasured family memories.

  • Wilda

    What a sweet story and beautiful painting. I have always wanted to win one! You are blessed Kate to still have your mom to go one these little outings.

  • Kate Moynihan

    It took a lot of people and many volunteer hours to present the Farm to Table event. I feel so lucky to live in a community that supports the arts culture and its cause.

  • Nancy

    A worthy cause! A gorgeous meal and setting! Paintings that make you feel nature! And time with Mom!

  • Kate Moynihan

    It’s enchanting to hear the soothing symphony, making it easy to support. Pleasant Hill Farms is beautiful, too. It’s worth remembering that you can pick your own blueberries July – August. In the meantime, with autumn approaching, a drive through Fennville would be spectacular.

  • Paula Lewison

    Wonderful story Kate! Sounds like a wonderful event and cause.


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