Saturday, July 28, 2007

Monsoon, didja say?

I don't know about you, but the weather-and-climate education of my squandered youth linked the word "monsoon" inexorably with the word "India." I saw myriad images on TV news and classroom films: torrential curtains of water, submerged homes, beleaguered people and animals... year after year after year. Excessive rainfall in an already humid and heady environment.

But that was elsewhere. Monsoons were obviously a completely foreign phenomenon. It was a relief to believe "monsoon=India," and that such frightening weather was definitely NOT going to be on my high desert, 10-inches-of-precipitation-a-year-if-we're-lucky, radar. Tornadoes and hail were enough, thank you very much.

So imagine my surprise when, as a full-fledged (in chronology if not behavior) adult, I heard a parched June gardener wishing aloud for the early arrival of the July monsoon.

Pardon me?

In a land where an inch of rainfall over a 24-hour period is regarded as monumental I found it difficult to parse the idea of a local monsoon, but sure enough, we have one. It's even got a name: the North American Monsoon. (I didn't say it was a clever name.) And it has arrived.

Personally, I'm always glad to get a break in the summer heat and to enjoy the crash and rumble and splatter of our afternoon thunderstorms. (Thunder rumbled in acknowledgment as I typed that sentence.) Yesterday we had a doozy, with rain coming and going well into the evening. This morning there were puddles in the drive and a half inch of sparkling agua in the neighbor's rain gauge.

Yup. That's our monsoon. A half inch of rain.

Laugh if you want, but there are dire consequences in the wake of such weather excess. The Arkansas River "beach" out behind the café is gone! Continued runoff from last night brought the flow level back up and the wide summer-into-winter sandy bank is under water again. Paddlers are happy. Sand castle builders are not.

I'm sure it won't be long before the beach is back, but in the meantime it was nice to take a minute to make a little sketch and to watch the river flow a little more enthusiastically than it has recently. Monsoon? Bring it on!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, B!

Just matter where we travel and how our lives continue to unfold.... I'll always be younger than you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Well. Another interesting little white flower on my walk yesterday. I pulled a chunk of vine that I thought was the flowering form of our wild cucumber vine, but when I made this little study I discovered I was wrong. Instead it seems to be sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora)... a beauty, but an invasive. (sigh) I guess I don't have to feel guilty about dismembering it anymore.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Trail of tears

Maiden's tears, or bladder campion. Silene vulgaris. It's blooming just now along the trail from Frantz Lake to the top of the mesa. One of the many reasons it's good to be home and taking regular walks again.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bye-bye, CB...

A week in Crested Butte is now over... a week of great workshop participants and grand vistas, and just a little rain. Well, there was quite a bit of rain, but most of it was NOT during the times I had folks in the field. Thank goodness. Yesterday we had to make a dash indoors when big lightning and hail hit, but otherwise we were lucky, lucky, lucky all week. We even dodged most of the evil black flies.

So now it's back to illustration work, deadlines are looming. Hopefully I'll get to sneak in some studio time, too. My lino tools are lonely, and my linocut drying rack is empty and gathering dust.

Workshop participant and friend Margot sketching at the Pavilion above Mount Crested Butte.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Golden Compass

I'm not even sure how I stumbled upon this website... but WAH! New Line's making a movie of The Golden Compass...

I've been trying to embed the trailer, but can't seem to get it right... so you'll have to go there on your own.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Another week o' workshops

I'm off today for a week of workshops at the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival. (A little field sketching, a little journal-making.) This is the fourth or fifth summer that I've taught classes for the Festival, but it's the first time the schedule actually gives me a "down day" on site. I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with an actual day off... it's been such a long time since I've had one.

Not sure if I'll have internet access, so full report upon return.

Friday, July 6, 2007

I can see clearly now...

Opening the window blinds this morning sent me dashing out the door so fast that I left without my binoculars! Last night's rain and this morning's sun combined to create a lovely and rare "temporary fog event" in the valley, and I wanted to be out in it.

The binnies were sorely missed, as the morning was far "birdier" than it's been of late, but I did have my little camera in my pocket.

Part of the reason I nearly sprinted down to the lake was that the back of my mind has been occupied for several weeks with images made by my friend Michael. He caught the valley on a fog-bound morning last autumn and took a series of photos that I just love. The thing was, I couldn't quite describe why. Yes, yes... nice atmosphere. Yes, yes, striking compositions. "Something I might paint." But why?

Eureka! This morning the haze made it all clear. (No, really. I'm serious.)

There before me was a familiar landscape transformed and simplified. The fog isolated a single hill in a complex piñon-juniper slope and suddenly I saw the shape of THAT hill for the first time. Those pesky, attention-demanding mountain peaks? Gone! Rubbed out by a cloud. The mind-boggling profusion of leaves? Smeared to a lovely soft green shape.

Of course, the fog also created a charming soft and subtle color palette. The kind I can appreciate but never, ever pull off successfully either in paint or in ink.

I scribbled the words "isolated landforms" on the back of my hand, and later on a little piece of paper I found in my jacket pocket. (Along with the cryptic notes: BUOR FY, choco rio, catalyst, foreign air, stillborn fawn, no bins.) Make of all that what you will, there is something about pared down, stripped down, fogged down, even desolate landscapes that drops me every single time.

But, as with most atmospheric weather events here in the 300-days-of-sunshine-a-year Center of the Universe, the magic was short-lived. A short climb up from the river to the mesa and I was eliminating the middle ground instead of the background, squinting into crystalline light, and wishing I'd eaten some breakfast before I bolted from the house.

In all, a satisfying walk... bins or no bins.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Eight Random Facts

A Snail's Eye View has tagged me with my first-ever meme! I feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk, shouting "I AM somebody!"when his name appears in the phone book for the very first time.

Here are the rules for Eight Random Facts:
  • Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  • People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  • At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  • Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
And here are the eight random facts:

1) Despite my obviously European blonde-and-hazel aspect, I am in fact one-fourth Mexican.

2) Someone, somewhere, has a photo of me with a bloody knife in my teeth whilst I was learning to castrate bulls. A friend who was present at The Big Event snapped it with what she thought was my camera. Nope.

3) Hanging in my studio are two arrows, one impaled precisely through the nock by the other. I shot them myself on the very first day I owned them. (I bought my bow just last year.) Robin Hood, eat your heart out. (And yes, smarties, they were relatively close to the center of the target when I did it.)

4) I am still in contact with the boy who left a note in my desk when we were eight years old that said, "I love you, I think you are beautiful." (And I still have the ring he gave me when we were 10.)

5) Staedtler-Mars Lumograph pencils. Period.

6) The ratio of edible foods to museum-bound specimens in my freezer is approximately 1:5.

7) Sure, I have the usual childhood bangups, but I also sport scars bestowed by two species of eagle, three species of hawk, one owl, and a Mexican gray wolf. Cool, eh?

8) I can't bring myself to eat things that can't decide if they're solid or liquid: Jell-o, pudding, custard creme. *shudder* Ew.

Perhaps Number Nine will be that I'm not sure I know 8 other bloggers well enough to tag them, but I'll do what I can. Willy, Karine, Debby, Katherine, Susan, Carla... tag, you're it!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Time off IS good behavior

Took a walk this morning for the first time in a week. (Ack!) The trail welcomed me back with little treasures.... which I then had to carry home in my outstretched flat palm for almost 2 miles. I wonder what the neighbors thought.

(Note to self: perhaps a small plastic box in your pocket would be a good idea.)

This former monarch looked pretty good for having been stepped on (presumably). Not TOO tattered.


I spent most of last week herding cats.

It was Upper Arkansas TEN week, a week-long outdoor education workshop that I help organize and present for area teachers. Wrangling 30 teachers in a class during their summer recess can be great fun or a great trial, but this year it was sheer delight. We had a fabulous group of enthusiastic, engaged, thoughtful, and oh-so-flexible participants and it was a great week. I didn't get any sleep, mind you. But we had a good time.
Here's the gang... thanks again to all of you!

You can't go home again...

... Unless, perhaps, you go by a different route.

The last month has been absurdly busy, and in the past two weeks it all took on the quality of an uncontrolled steep descent on greased rollerblades. (Yes, that shrieking, flailing blur that shot past you might have been me.)

Strangely enough, a lot of this running around has taken me back to territories and people I haven't seen in 5, 7, even 10 years. Despite being tied to a local workshop this entire week, I made the run to Golden and back one evening (5 hours driving round-trip) to attend an event at the Foothills Art Center. (Organized for CultureHaus by my friend Michael.) I lived in Golden for 10 years, but hadn't set foot there in the last seven.

It was the third time in as many weeks that I had gone into once-familiar-but-long-abandoned territory. All of the places I have lately revisited have changed, of course-- some subtly and some startlingly. But going back has made it very clear that I have changed, too.

I'm not sure how to describe the feeling. In a strange way I felt as though I was in disguise. I recognized the places, but I was never certain that the places recognized me.

Is this how Rip Van Winkle felt when he came down from the mountain? It seems silly to be brought up short by the realization that life went on without me in places where I once belonged. But somehow the trajectories of these old stomping grounds seem to have been so linear, while my own path has been more like a stumbling drunk wearing one high heeled shoe in the dark on gravel near a cliff. (That I found my way back at all seems like proof of chaos theory.)

Still, there was something exciting about coming back to these places as a different person, via a different road. The view is different, the perspective is different, and the possibilities are endless. It's like the ultimate "do-over." I can build new relationships with old landscapes.

But they won't be home again. That's here. And now. Where I'm still wearing those skates and laughing maniacally as I rocket up and over the next hill.

Linocut in Progress: The Third Act

Time to wrap up this linocut ! And we are wrapping at warp speed (see what I did there?)... because there are deadlines. Exhibition deadline...