Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back Home Again

I arrived home here to Maryland yesterday and very much enjoyed all the familiar smells. Particularly the smell of honeysuckle. Honeysuckle and rain-fattened foliage and the smell of Thirteen Original Colonies dirt. At the least the northern seaboard Old Confederacy Thirteen Original Colonies dirt and foliage. There is something very satisfying and cozy -- for me -- about the smell of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. In the spring and autumn especially, the smell is all of mustiness and life. Or maybe it's just a reminder of the good memories of my time in NC and now here in MD. This is also the season where I have to resist the very strong urge to buy a farm. Or at the very least a cottage in the countryside.

(I visited my favorite cottage in the countryside, overlooking Burkittsville and, yet again, there was no For Sale sign on it. Luckily for me, I suppose. I ought to go back there and sketch the expansive view from the front porch. I wonder if the residents would mind. Hmmm! Field trip! For a photo at least. Quickly snap a pic before taking a pants-full of buckshot, for trespassing.)

The sketch above is of another lazy old porch in the late afternoon, with the sun on the backs of the dark green Adirondack chairs filtering through some enormous trees. It's part of an old country inn nearby that I stopped at, to prolong my vacation.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

El Santuario de Chimayó

I went on a scenic tour of the area north of Santa Fe yesterday because I wanted to sketch the church at Chimayó. It's a very powerful pilgrimage destination. It was a very nice drive up there and a lovely day. There were a few folks inside the church chanting the Hail Mary, a group that I joined for a while. Then I found myself a seat outdoors, in front of the famous doors that have never been closed. It's a lovely spot and I did a few drawings, one of which is above.

Next I stopped at the famed Rancho de Chimayó Restaurant, which on all my other trips to Chimayó I seemed to hit at a time when the parking lot was overflowing. Yesterday I got there at about 11:40am and got right in! The service was delightful, a very sweet waitress in 'traditonal' Hispanic costume of black full gathered skirt, mid-calf length, wide red sash, white blouse with white lace around the neck, and puffed sleeves. (The blouse was worn sort of off the shoulders and, on my waitress at least, revealed a --[sigh]-- tattoo on her back! But oh well! She was a sweetie!) Anyway, the food was not at all great and the place was messy and cluttered and dusty. The gardens around the patio showed quite alota bare dirt.
But! When I left, the parking lot was overflowing. Which says that yes, you can rely entirely on reputation, service, location and dispense with that pesky detail of offering good food.

The sienna tint on the blouse of the woman in the above sketch is done with the red pepper sauce from my Carne Adovada, smeared
onto the paper with my little finger. Discretely of course! Alas, the peppery aroma has since vanished...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Grand Pic

I got only one good picture of the Grandest Canyon. It is a view down the Bright Angel Trail, with the oasis-like Indian Garden in the foreground.

Grand Canyon webcam is here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shorts, you think? Ha! Not in May!

I left Flagstaff this morning at about 8:30am, having made the foolish decision to wear shorts. Subsequent events will cause me to rue that recklessness. Arrived back up at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon later in the morning. There are gray clouds all around. Real windy too.

I began to lament my decision about the shorts as soon as I got out of my car near the lodge.

I suppose I could have scrounged up a restroom somewhere where I could have changed back into jeans, but nooooooo. I am Betsy Backwoods and a toughie. I commit, brazenly, and go to find the shuttle stop. (Most of the rim west of here is under re-construction and is closed to all except shuttle buses.) But I have second thoughts when a big gust of wind and rain hit me while waiting for the shuttle. I estimated the wind chill at that moment to be somewhere in the thirties. Thank goodness for my hoody fleece and the rain jacket on top of it. My legs, however, were out there a-hangin’. Yee-ouch. Too late now. I get on the shuttle. We’re off. (Gad, this shuttle is nice and warm!)

So we get to the first overlook and it’s still windy and drizzly and natch – no one gets off the shuttle. Yeah, we all say to ourselves, glancing around at each other, it’s grand and all but, umm, I’ll wait just a bit on this particular view. I’ll come back! (Oh yeah, right.)

Second overlook is Maricopa Point and now the sun is shining, the wind is gone, so I got out and sketched for a quite a bit of time. Next stop is Hopi Point, the last stop, and the wind is kicking up again and here come some more gray clouds. But this is the westernmost viewpoint that is currently accessible, so I get off the shuttle. I had to!

My remorse about the shorts reaches a new high when the wind comes back and it starts to rain again. I shelter under a small piñon pine tree and am pretty snug and kind of change my mind. I am actually enjoying it, in an irrational way probably induced by the lightheadedness that accompanies hyperthermia. That is, I like it until I hear thunder. Uh oh. Ummm, thunder is possibly not a good sign when you are sheltering under a tree on the very rim of a massive chasm. I make a note about the rain and thunder in my sketchbook, but then look up and notice that the rain has turned into little white balls. By god -- it’s frigging hailing! Sheesh! But … WAY COOL!!!! I shout to the person across the walkway ‘Hey, look! It’s hailing!’ My icicle legs are forgotten. This is fun!

Alas! The hail lasts only a few more moments, turns very briefly to sleet, and then is gone. Blown away. In about five minutes here comes the sun and I stick around at that Hopi Point viewpoint for quite some time after that, to do more sketches. The ink lines on the one drawing that I had open when I was under the tree is all mottled with water drops. Extremely nifty and I have enjoyed it all quite a bit. Despite the fact that I can no longer feel my legs. (That coffee after lunch sure tasted good!)

My palace of a room in El Tovar is finally ready at about 3:30 but when I get into it is smells odd. Like cleaning products from 1920. I have opened the windows but they tell me it’s going to go to 22 degrees tonight. So close them I’ll have to. Later on. I may leave here tomorrow smelling like a flapper. Albeit a clean one!

The dining room here at El Tovar is listed as one of the best 50 restaurants in all of Arizona. I confess that I am a doubter. This is a federal operation (at bottom -- despite being a “concession”) and I have my doubts about a federal operation spawning an outstanding restaurant. That concept conflicts with good reason. Anyway, we’ll see!

Later: Unfortunately, I was right about both the food and the service. Especially the service. Blah.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Significant Grandness

Yesterday John and Marie and I made a pilgrimage to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. None of us had never been there before, so we felt a proper day of homage was necessary. It began with a stop at Cameron Trading Post north of Flagstaff on Highway 89, based on a tip John had gotten in Utah. I have seen quite a few native arts stores but this one (I have to admit) was the best I have ever seen. To think that I have passed it by well onto fifty times in my travels hither and yon, thinking it was just a tourist trap/gas station. WOW! Great stuff to see (museum quality) and buy. It's now on the 'must stop' list. Above is a sketch of John driving up there and Marie in the other front seat.

Arrive at the East Entrance of the Park and we're a bit let down. Very few overlooks and the rim road is hemmed in on both side by dense pinon pine forest. (Is this Maine or Arizona?) No views! Except at overlooks overrun with German and Japanese tourists. Then --- gosh. We stopped at Desert View overlook, the one with the faux Watchtower, and we could clearly see the Colorado below. I felt a peculiar tightness in my chest -- which was (I decided) a remnant or a memory of the fear and anticipation from thirty years ago --> when we assembled outside of Page, on the shoreline of the river, at Lee's Ferry just above Marble Canyon, and got ready to launch the 2nd River Trip. Sanderson River Expeditions. Back in the 70's, a million years ago, but the sensations were vivid.

In any event, I sketched the view of the green-watered river from that overlook:

And wrote a bit about what I was feeling/reliving. It was exciting, the remembering, And presto --> all the yammering tourists disappeared.

We three had a nice picnic (sort of, given the bee the size of a hat that was hanging around and the fact that the picnic table was so tilted on the slope that no bottle on it could stay upright --- the future 'Legend of How the the Picnic Table got to the bottom of the Grand Canyon') and then went on to a few other overlooks, To jostle other tourists. ("Entschuldigung." "Vielen dank!")

But then finally got to the El Tover Hotel overlook area at about 4pm. Hey, wait!! LOVELY!!! And few folks there! I am going back on Wednesday to spend the night there (don't even ask how much the rooms cost) and to sketch again. Below is my fav of what I sketched from that walk area yesterday and what follows it is a quote (to go with it -- to engender suitable humility) from the current show at the Museum of Northern Arizona entitled 'Grand Canyon Grandeur':
"I struggle in mad haste to utilize the moment but ah! How futile! How hopeless! What a wretched makeshift these paltry pigments! How hopeless to attempt. What inconceivable impudence to dream of imitating anything so ineffable! It challenges man’s utmost skills. It mocks and defies his puny efforts to grasp and perpetuate, through art, its ineffable grandeurs." William Robinson Leigh at the Grand Canyon, 1929.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Arch at Arches

Relaxing in and around Moab with my friends Marie and John. (It has been quite a pleasure showing my dear friends all my favorite spots hereabouts.) I sketched this view of South Window in Arches while they hiked up into it. I thought that I ought to add a vibrant blue sky to it, especially inside the arch. But decided not to. It's my favorite thing that I've sketched so far. Off tomorrow at the crack o' dawn for Sedona and the drawing class.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Colorado Plateau Week One

Day 1: end at 726.8 mi. on the trip odometer, ending in IN (the first 0.1 of which, I noticed, was getting out of the Irene parking garage)
Day 2: end at 1,165.1 mi. ending in KS
Day 3: end at 1,795.3 mi. ending in drab Dillon, CO
Day 4: finally off the interstate at 2,033.6 mi. in UT ← hip hip hooray!!!
All is well here in Moab. I am busy getting reacquainted with all the spectacular scenery and coffee shops. Love it here!

Trip Notes

Q: Was that really the carcass of a bear in the median of the Slot Car Track section of I-70 west of Denver through the gut of the mountains? Couldn’t have been! But there were indeed three different herds of big horn sheep grazing along the shoulders of the highway. They looked pretty ratty, ragged winter coats partly shedded and partly hanging on in tufts. To think that in most places you need a telescope to see big horn sheep where they (literally) hang out on remote mountain cliffs. In CO you just pass them on the left.

Coldest Moment: Vail Pass, where it was 28 degrees.

Wind Farms: I’m sorry but I find these "farms" beautiful. Passed one in west-central KS that is called the Smoky Hills Wind Project. Its two phases will encompass 26,000 acres and hundreds of wind turbines. I passed sections of the shiny smooth, bright white poles (pylons? towers?) being hauled on semis on the highway the day before and wondered just what they were. They were so pristine and perfect. I couldn’t imagine. And when I saw the wind farm, I realized what I had seen. The blades are most graceful in shape as well. The full spread of the three blades is about 270 feet. Spectacular to see hundreds of these things across a low ridge with no other landforms in note anywhere in site. They were visible from about 30 miles away. Lovely! Works of art! I rarely thank engineers for anything, but I make an exception with this grouping of objects.

Microbrew at Elevation: Note to self→ at 9,100 feet above sea level beer must be consumed very slowly.

Home made pigment: I have decided to collect various kinds of red rock soil around here and see if I can make watercolor pigment out of it. I have studied my geology and am ready! (But dang, I forgot my mortar and pestle!)

The image above I took yesterday afternoon of a big bend in the Colorado River, seen from the overlook at Dead Horse Point State Park. I shared the overlook area with an entire busload of French people. (Hey, aren't French people supposed to be the best dressed people on the planet? I guess not so much when they are on vacation. Je suis désolé, mal habillés dame, mais il ya une file d'attente ici.)