En plein air

En plein air is a French expression that means in the open air and is usually used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

However, part of our son’s recent visit occurred in plane air as Len piloted us to one of the many adventures we had during his stay.

Aviation headsets allow us to communicate with the airport tower, other planes, and with each other.
Aviation headsets allow us to communicate with the airport tower, other planes, and with each other.

Cruising at an altitude of 9,500 feet and a speed of 140 knots in a Cessna 182, the whole family — including Willa — enjoyed a bird’s-eye view as Len flew us over many of Idaho’s gorgeous peaks and valleys.

Willa wears “mutt muffs” for hearing protection.
Willa wears “mutt muffs” for hearing protection.

Much of Idaho’s rugged terrain is threaded by blue ribbons of rivers — many of them tributaries of the mighty Columbia River — whose fresh water eventually makes it to the salty brine of the Pacific Ocean.


What’s your most recent en plein air (in the open air) experience?

© lauriebuchanan.com

77 thoughts on “En plein air

  1. Wow, Laurie! That is certainly a different view of a family vacation! Beautiful photos. Did Willa enjoy the trip?
    My recent en plein air experiences are much more mundane–we ate lunch and dinner outside at restaurants on our anniversary last week as we celebrated in Philadelphia.

    • Merril — Willa is under the complete and total impression that all of our moving vehicles (regardless of the type) belong to her, and that we’re merely chauffeurs at her beck and call 🙂 Happy anniversary! A Philadelphia-style celebration sounds wonderful!

  2. Up up and away in my beautiful balloon … as the song lines go! Lovely experience I am sure! I remember seeing the Great Lakes from above for the first time unaware that I was near them and wondering what the heck is all that water? LOL

    My en plein air is my regular walks with Muffin and the camera in the park by the apartment. Nature is a never ending source of amazement!

  3. Recent en plein air experience: Taking in great gulps of fresh air in the North Carolina mountains. Your son has the famous Buchanan smile – and probably chutzpah to go with it.

    • Marian — Your comment made me laugh! Waaaaaaaaay back in the day when I taught “MAGIC” (Make a Good Impression on the Customer) to employees at a particular company, I spent a lot of time in the drop-dead gorgeous Carolinas. Yes, I can well imagine the wonderfully refreshing air you enjoyed during your adventure!

  4. Now that looks like fun! My flying days are limited to the places if it’s the only way to get their. Commercial flying is no longer fun and is a big pain in the you-know-what. Other than that I get fresh, sweet, air when I walk or work in the garden … also napping in the shade in my back yard!

  5. Oh Laurie I am just so traditional as my en plein air experiences frequently do include easel, brushes and paining surface. The second to last such adventure was just posted yesterday on Creative Potager. The landscape was the beautiful Saturna Island. Lovely to see you all flying high!

    • Terrill — As a subscriber to your blog, I saw an email in my in-box that you have a fresh post. We’ve just returned from taking our son to the airport for his return flight to Illinois, so I’ll be catching up shortly. I look forward reading about Saturna Island.

  6. What a wonderful trip and you can see Willa is enjoying it too with that lovely smile! I’ve been crocheting outdoors an awful lot lately, as it’s been lovely and warm and we’re now at the start of a heatwave, so we’ll all be out and about a lot more now. 🙂

  7. I just got permission to not use the walker! Yes Going to start walking around the house sidewalk this week. I have to stay out of sun with med warnings and with this heat wave it is difficult, but am thrilled to be able to be outside after 3 months life is good.

  8. Wonderful view from above. Reminds me of 30 years ago flying low (not piloting) in a small plane over the lakes in the Haliburton Highlands cottage country in Ontario. I remember the trees resembled broccoli.

    Today, it is being out in my garden and letting the colours, fragrances, berries and even the weeds (but not the rain – too much of that in southern Ontario lately) seep into my body and soul.


  9. What a wonderful family outing. You all look so happy–even Willa. : )
    My last en plein air experience…
    I recently got a bike. (I call it my ‘granny bike’–one gear, basket in the back. You get the idea.) It’s been sixteen years since I was on a peddle bike. Boy, was that first ride an experience in self trust. : )

  10. I wrote a response on my iPhone this morning. Not sure why it didn’t come through. . .

    I love your simultaneous interest in the lofty perspective from the sky and the miniscule detail on the ground. That’s an artist’s sensibility, Laurie.

    I love sitting on our deck, listening to the wind chimes and the birds, and looking over the valley almost as if we are in a plane.

    And I’m thinking of taking up en plein air painting, inspired by the mountain vistas. Not there yet, however.

  11. I go for regular walks and leave in a semi-rural area (have a farm right at the back of my house and a field at the top of the road). One of my cousin’s has a pilot licence and I went flying with him once. A great experience although he lives in London so the landscape not quite that spectacular during a short flight. 🙂

  12. Hi Laurie

    With the views out the window, even sitting here in my chair feels like open air much of the time.

    And Sunday I was out in the open air playing golf. Yesterday morning I walked home from dropping off the Hilux at the service station (to replace a couple of broken rubber parts), and had Huia along for company, and in the afternoon we reversed the process, walking back to pick it up again.

    It’s been about 6 years since I let my pilot’s licence lapse, so it’s been a while since I was at the controls of a Cesna, and I have flown over most of NZ over the last 25 years, including a flight to the Chatham Islands (over 400 miles of ocean each way – in a Beechcraft Queenair).

    And I spend a lot of time in conceptual spaces that are infinite in all dimensions (including, recursively, dimensionality itself), and my limited mind does its best to grasp something of scope of what is present.

    So yes – it is an amazing thing this thing called life, this experience of being, this profound mix of levels of interacting systems, of the random and the lawful and the intentional.

    Great to see you guys having such fun in the air 😉

    • Ted — As you know, seeing the view from you and Ailsa’s windows is on our bucket list! Goodness, you’ve definitely been OUTSIDE enjoying en plein air! Your Chatham Islands flight sounds amazing!

  13. Laurie you and your family truly live fully!
    If you were around at the time, you would have been a great candidate for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And Sagigewia (sp?) would have enjoyed the company along the way.
    My favorite out in the air experience was years ago. I won (at a school fundraiser; I was a member of the board at the time so I never even thought of winning) a week in Vail, Colorado. .. in the summer. I was solo that week. One experience I had always wanted to do was take a hot air balloon ride.
    So I joined others and took a breathtaking ride in a hot air balloon over valleys and closer to the mountains. I loved every minute. I especially enjoyed the quiet up high!
    I did in my youth get an opportunity to take the controls of a small plane. It was another thrilling moment. .. since then especially admire small plane pilots. Hats off to Len.

    • Audrey — I can only begin to imagine the magnificence you saw as you hot air ballooned over Vail, Colorado. That once-in-a-lifetime experience had to have been an incredible! 🙂

  14. Forgot to mention l am blessed to live next to a early stage wetland area. If I walk down my road in the open air rain or shine, I am able to see the full section of the wetland (its sister wetland very nearby). I hear an orchestra of different “voices” numerous birds, at night frogs and crickets, and throughout the day other small residents.
    I smell the high grasses and reeds. I see too on occasion the quieter members of the community, turtles and snakes.

    • Audrey — Blessed, indeed! We had a similar wetland “orchestra” quite near us when we lived in Crystal Lake, Illinois. At night we always thanked the “conductor” for the gorgeous music we fell asleep to.

  15. Laurie, we know Eoghan will never forget this special time spent with you and Len. He’s a very lucky guy to have two such interesting parents to emulate. My latest en plein air adventure just ended a short while ago. I have introduced Dennis, the Desert Rat, to the fun and joy of cutting a couple of acres of grass with a riding mower. I told him, “sit and steer, the mower does the work.” And I read a book. Not really, I had a weed pulling marathon, so glad the sun has gone down!

  16. What fun you’re having with your lovely son and just look at Willa…so brave .
    My open air experience happened last Saturday . I took myself off at 5.45 , armed with nothing more than a chair , newly painted, a cushion for comfort , a pair of scissors , a comb and of course your truly to a car boot sale to sell my wares . You are aware I am a hairdresser ?
    Hope you have heard of a car boot , it’s like a market where you pay for a pitch and sell your wares from your car . For me it selling my skills as a hairdresser.
    It was such good fun Laurie . I had three customers ,loads of interest and made some new friends …so I’m off there next week .

  17. Every day is an “en plaine air” for me……LOL. Though I had to giggle at the first picture of Len….I felt like saying, “look forward and pay attention to the road!!!” But perhaps that’s the point of the picture – the road is where you want to make it, and it’s not always straight ahead.

  18. I took my husband and kids for a walk along the beach on Saturday with the dogs. It had crossed my mind that although the dogs and I enjoy our local beach most days, the rest of the family rarely gets there, although my daughter had joined me the previous weekend. We are actively trying to distract our son from Minecraft and expand his horizons…not an easy undertaking at all. Not everybody seems to share my love of being en pleine air!
    Great photos and an amazing experience. Will have to show the kids. they’ll love seeing the dog up there, especially with the muffs on xx Rowena

    • Rowena — I remember when our son was young we got him a “Game Boy” and it quickly became an all-consuming piece of technology that as parents, we learned to despise 🙂

      • I had a Game Boy type thing. They were also addictive. It seems that once your kids kids get hold of this technology, you have to be quite purposeful about weaning them off it. Need to have a good range of planned activities like before they went to school.

  19. I have delayed commenting, trying to come up with something original and creative, but find I cannot. My en plain air is what it always is – wandering about my yard and sitting on my front deck late in the afternoon with something cold to drink, thinking I really should have taken that nap in the hammock, which is “en plain air”.

  20. Hello…I saw you over on Roweena,s, Beyond the Flow post and thought I would check out yours, funny how life throws us all in the same barrel, so to speak, while you were flying high above Idaho, my husband and I just got back from a vacation there….we went up the Little Salmon River on the West side and back sown the Salmon River in the middle of the state…and connected the 2 rivers by traveling along the Clearwater river West to East…LOL
    Absolutely beautiful countryside….each and every state has so much to offer….love your pictures…..I think I will enjoy your post and following you,….have a wonderful day….

      • It wasn’t our first trip there, we love the rivers….its like going to paradise…we RV around the country, we live on the West coast and have seen pretty much all you can up and down the west…a few places still allude us…but not for long….

  21. What a great adventure you had as a family! From up there Mother nature shows her best face, and everything manmade looks pretty small and insignificant 🙂

    • WriterChristophFischer — Thank you for stopping by. The part that scary for dogs (typically) is the noise. Wearing “mutt muffs” goes a long way toward eliminating that potential issue 🙂

  22. WOW ! That’s indeed a great and novel way to see a place.

    It reminded me of a seaplane low flying excursion of the city of Dubai I had done a couple of years back. The highlight was circling the Burj Dubai, the tallest man made structure in the world, below its height!


  23. What an absolutely incredible post! Stunning! Who would have thought that Len is a pilot in addition to all his other talents. And what a way to usher in your son’s recent arrival! That is mighty impressive!! My most recent ‘open air’ experience (and as always I love the ideas you come up with and what they all lead to!) is the outdoor graduation of my son Sammy from Cliffside Park High School. That is one experience we’ll treasure for our remaining days!

    Geez, what a post!

  24. I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed the trip. I don’t really like flying mich and especially not in small planes. My most recent outdoor experience was walking along the crumbling cliffs in Barton on Sea.

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