Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another Failed Effort

BP has admitted that its latest effort to stem the flow of oil into the no longer pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico has failed. They claim to have another plan to implement but if we all pull out our best plans first and BP is down to attempt four or five then what is in the future is not good. The sick jokes are now popping up: BP's new oil clean up method - birds and furry animals. And a website is taking bets on which will be the first fish, bird or animal of the gulf to go extinct because of this. I hope not the brown pelican. I love pelicans.

I am not sure why this particular event of all the horrid things going on in the world today is so troubling to me. Maybe it is the greed of BP and other oil companies. Or all the short cuts we now know they took to expedite the flow of oil and make this spill more than just possible but probable. Or that our country has no power to oversee these oil shore leases because of concessions made by Bush II. Or that BP has been able to block inspections to its other rigs. Or that it has lied to the press about the enormous amount of oil spewing from this hole they drilled.

My upset is due to something more than just the fact I am intimately familiar with the shoreline effected or that I have fished on the gulf more than once or I feel for all the creatures great and small that are so horridly effected.

Maybe it is that I lived through the first oil crisis in 1970's. When we pledged better gas mileage on cars, use of alternate fuels and development of clean energy. And none of that was done. We wasted 40 years! And during that time our greed for oil just grew and grew and grew. And there have been other spills because of that greed for oil. And other wars because of oil. And we have made concession after concession to oil companies because of the finite amount of oil they can tap. And they have raised prices and recorded some of the largest profits ever made by corporations. But still they will cut corners (6 safety valves instead of 21) to make more profits.

But I think it is that in my inner self I know that this spill is not over and that the scope of it grows daily and it will end up being an ecological disaster on the scale of the eruption of Krakatoa. And a political disaster because Obama is bearing the blame he does not deserve. The drilling began almost a decade ago on this rig. And concessions on oversight before that.

But mostly this upsets me because this was preventable had we stayed the course that was talked about in the1970's.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Disturbance in the Force

I was remarking to a friend recently that the month of May was lost. I am shocked to find that in a few short days it will be over. By lost I mean in the scheme of the normal flow of my life. There was vacation and visit from friend and then the death of my brother-in-law. So while I was totally aware of the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon on April 22, 2010 I have come late to the total scope of this disaster.

In fact, it is only within the last couple of days as the reality of the volume of the oil spill upon the waters of the Gulf of Mexico has reached the news, despite BP's efforts to minimize coverage of this event, that I am becoming fully aware of the horror of this. It isn't just the pictures of the oil slicked dying birds, or the soiled beaches I have walked upon in better days. It is the screams of the earth as the ecological microcosms of salt marshes and bayous are chocked off from oxygen and life which are such a disturbance in the force for me.

A cycle of birth and renewal begins in the shallow waters and inlets of the delta of Louisiana - or did. There are the things we can name like crayfish and clams and oysters and crabs and shrimp. And the things which are so tiny we are not aware of them - a veritable soup of amoeba and protozoa and micro-organisms which are the basis for a food chain like the tiny krill that feed the huge whales in Antarctica.  Without the marshes the sea dies.

The Gulf of Mexico is the 10th largest body of water on our planet. It comprises 582,000 square miles of sea water and coasts from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to the Florida Keys. Those that think this is just a few birds which have to be washed with Dawn are fooling themselves. The oil on the surface also decreases the exchange of water vapor between the sea and the atmosphere where clouds build to bring rain. Oil upon the waters disrupts oxygen exchange and because it is dark it effects the reflection of light and the penetration of that light below the surface where phytoplankton live. And given the size of the Gulf of Mexico and the spill which continues it is bound to effect climate and ecology of the area and the world for years into the future.

And all because of too many people that want to live life as they have always lived it and oil companies that are willing to cut corners to give us what we don't require - just want - at a price that lines their pockets.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Plodding Along

Some days I really don't feel I make a lot of direct progress: Sort of like a crab that walks sideways through the sand, first scuttling one way and then the other. Yesterday was like that. I seemed to be going all which ways and not making my way any further up the shoreline. Spinning wheel days.

But as I was making a shopping list for a previously unplanned trip to Taos this morning I began on the back side to list my accomplishments.
  • I got all the trees and bushes around the house watered
  • I got the Smokey Thyme (only 6 to go) and the purple flowering ground cover planted
  • I have a definite plan for two 14 x 46 inch horizontal paintings (perhaps I should finish the others)
  • Laundry and the last of the suitcase unpacked
  • Tended to pet sitting duties including talking to two new clients
  • Interviewed a possible long term renter of the apartment
  • Looked through Utah pictures for more ideas to paint
  • Made a chicken salad to nibble on the next couple of days
Admittedly I did not make a beginning on all those paintings I have masked off in prep for pouring the skies but I thought about what kind of skies I was going to do for each painting. Does that count? Sometimes you just have to scuttle along sideways toward your goal like that crab. Better than just sitting still and staring up the beach.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Re-Entry Issues

I think I am having re-entry issues. First there was the vacation in Utah. Then I returned home to have my friend, Dianne, stay another week to help me finish up the furnishing of the rental unit.  Then she left and I thought I could get back to some semblance of normality and my sister called to inform me her husband, Alan, had just died. Below is a typical image of him on the vacation.

I have lots of images with him and my sister. I find them every time I go through looking for a particular picture I want to use as a basis for a painting. Like this one.

Or this one.

And yesterday after I returned from the memorial service I had all the telephone calls to make to those who asked to be notified how it went. And then this morning I got the calls from the people that somehow had not heard but were wondering if I had returned from my vacation yet.

I had asked my neighbors to watch the fur kids and water some plants on Saturday. It did not look when I had returned that either had been done. I gave them my set of house keys because I was not sure the set they had was from before or after I had changed the locks because of the contractor from hell. I called to get them back yesterday afternoon and only got their message machine. Neither ever returns a call so I bopped over this morning to get the keys. (I had only the key to the studio door and needed to unload something through the front door.)

Steve has been making a career out of dying - not unlike Sanford on Sanford and Son. The only difference being that he has been diagnosed with a fatal cancer. His wife, not to be outdone, has decided to enter the medical mystery arena with a D & C scheduled for next week. This would mean they have to put off Steve's lens replacement surgery (new eyes for the dying). I wanted to get my keys and run a quick errand and get home but upon being let into their home (they had to hunt for the keys) I was assailed with all the latest medical information and how they were too sick the last three days to do more than open a can of food for my pets.

To cap this off both dogs of theirs had gotten a porcupine or it had gotten them and before the emergency ward because her bleeding was worst there was the vet.

I wanted my keys. I did not have time for the stories and besides they just seemed to be having too much fun dying. After the shock of my brother-in-law expiring in the shower I just did not see death as funny or enjoyable. What do you say at moments like this? "My keys. I want my keys."

Please, Lord, make my life about living and not dying.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


What I shall always remember about J. Alan Baker is how much he loved my sister. I always told her she got one of the last good ones so I was not even going to bother to look. He was not only good to her but good to her two kids, Patrick and Mary. And he was a grandfather to end all grandfathers to the six children of Pat and Mary.

The back country trip up Lavender Canyon was the last of our road trip this May and we all had fun including the Rubicon.

We all laughed when Alan lost his shoe in the wet sand of a narrow canyon he scouted before we went through gingerly. He took more photos than Deb and I so being able to take one of him was special.

I stood back and photographed them together on more than one occasion like this one where they paused in the middle of Musselman Arch. The whole trip seemed like a last adventure on some level. But as the eldest I was more concerned I would not be this way again.

This was the ritual tripod photo. One of those happy moments on a back road adventure to Dome Plateau. All smiles now but an hour earlier Alan had been sick, Deb and I thought it was from reading the GPS while we were bumping along. He was our navigator. He always knew just where we were lost. He took a nap in the shade while us sisters rock combed some caves.

When I took this picture from beyond the canyon spanned by the Gemini Bridges I thought he looked tired, but then vacations are tiring. And hadn't he beaten me and Deb to Tower Arch a couple days before?

As any true navigator he is probably just scouting the trail for us.

In loving memory of J. Alan Baker
May 19, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Stolen Day

There is an arch in the ridgeline, just left of center, in this picture. It was one of those surprise treasures discovered when focusing entirely on something else. We had been looking for arches in the main Lavender Canyon but in the West branch I had begun aiming at recording just the colors and formations of the walls. It was so narrow and the walls so tall. I loved the pinks and yellows and the lavenders and the rolling shapes.

I have taken those colors into my appointing out of the apartment. Now the goal is to take the forms and sights into my paintings. But rather like looking for arches it is difficult to look for creativity. I have done all the "tasks" connected with painting. I have the canvases stretched and the sizes of them marked out on my sketch pad. I have gone through those pictures among the thousands that stand out in my mind and printed them out in 5 x7's to inspire my sketching.

Now it is time to center myself and find the arch when looking for something else. Time to breathe. Time to see the forms within the forms. The goddesses hiding in the walls. The forms within the splash of color boldly displayed by a cactus on the desert floor. That takes a stolen day.

I have but one task to complete this day and it is early. Then it is home and into the studio to commune with my muse. I don't even plan to wash the dishes. I am boiling eggs for breakfast and two extra to go on my spinach salad for lunch. A repast quick and easy that does not interrupt my thoughts. I will not answer either phone. You did not see me here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Settling Down

The frenzy of getting ready for a road trip and then the frenzy of this particular tip followed by getting home and hitting the ground running, as it were, has been exhausting. But there has been something calming about returning to some sense of normal routine. But after the time away they do seem a bit strange.

But isn't that rather what vacations are all about: to open our perspective and stretch the envelope just a bit. A friend of mine mentioned the Zen in the photographs I have been posting after my Canyonlands adventure. And in culling through them and uploading to FlickR and posting to my blogs and Facebook I began to slow down just enough to see that aspect. I would have loved to have set on the bank of Lavender Creek and just sketched and meditated.

Or contemplated for hours the reasons for the folds and crevices and hallows in this rock face. But during vacations we are trying to cram so very much in to so very few days. It has only been upon returning home that I have been able to look at the scenes in pixels and just be the rock.

Or the water washed from a stream by my crossing. Water that will soon soak into the sandy soil.

Or the delicate bloom of the cactus flower that is able to do so just because of the precious water it gets in this arid land.

I have come back from this journey in stages and I don't know that I am all here yet but I am settling down so I can see what it is I thought I saw. And those things I have missed until now.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Settling In

Why is it I always forget the amount of time after a vacation that it takes to settle back in. I have been home since Tuesday and am not completely unpacked. My friend who was house and fur kid sitting is still here. She goes back on Sunday. Meanwhile she is helping me spruce up the apartment. It will be a vacation rental this summer and fall.

I was at the local thrift store yesterday and got some lovely lamps that just match the bedding on the queen bed. And some great decorator pillows too. Still looking for the table and chairs. Taos trip tomorrow for that and a couple Wal-Mart items. Today I decided to reward myself for my hard work by working on two unfinished paintings in the studio. Taos means art store and I want to figure out what size of stretcher bars and panels to buy to record my new Colorado Plateau impressions. Thinking of actually painting some cactus flowers.

Speaking of paintings, I took some of those I do not lug to shows these days and used them to decorate the apartment. Always for sale of course. It gives me more room to hang the new paintings once they are framed. I have eight to frame for the June 19-20 Red River Fine Arts and Wine Festival. Would like to have a few more to add to that number because there is just a month between it and Artsfest in July.

Speaking of framing; I traded a painting of mine for one of Katherine McDermott's watercolors on canvas. She has recently changed medium and I wanted to be sure to get one of her watercolors before they were gone. Anyway that also needs framed, and will soon be hung in my bedroom. Currently in the living room taking advantage of one of the hangers vacated by work moved to the apartment.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Desert in Bloom

One Prickly Pear Blossom with friend

When we scheduled our trip to Arches and Canyonlands we were thinking about the temperature and the fact that school was not out. Figured it would be warm enough to camp but not too hot to hike, and the vast majority of people we would encounter on weekdays would be adults.

What we had not considered was wildflowers and cacti. We were absolutely amazed at the variety of plants in bloom around us - or getting read to bloom like the prickly pear cactus. Of the fields and fields of budding Prickly Pear we found only one blossom.

One Prickly Pear Blossom

The Claret Cup Cactus was another matter all together. After we spotted the first flash of vivid dark red we saw them everywhere - even sandwiched between rocks.

Claret Cactus in the crack

Another star was the small barrel cacti with their lavender blooms. They seldom got more than a foot tall and 6" around but they largely grew in a solitary setting where they could make the most of their showy flowers.

So Lilac

The Yuccas were everywhere too and we watched them for days as their purple stalks gradually filled out and the white blossoms began to open.

Pair of Yucca

Up close Yucca blossoms

For more blooms in the desert see the following slide show.

Off the Beaten Path

My sister with her Rubicon allowed us to get off the beaten path in this last road trip to the canyonlands of Utah. Perhaps my favorite off-road experience of the trip was the one taken on the last day - Lavender Canyon in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

The trail opened with what could be a view in any of the four states the Colorado Plateau covers. I thought this bluff, which I photographed again and again in various lights and from different angles was very New Mexico in its appearance. And the lavender and purples of the morning shadows hinted at the name of the trail.

Here is that bluff again after we had turned up the trail and encountered the stream which would be a repetitive feature in our trip. We would cross it several times and meander along dry beds feeding into it when the rains come.

The deeper we went into the canyons the higher the walls rose. And the desert lacquer took on subtle shades of lavender too.
The very tops of the canyon walls were often 1200 or more feet above our heads.

And the crevices hid ancient Anasazi ruins.


And unnamed arches.

And just some awesome walls of rock.


And surprise splashes of color which are deserving of a blog of their own in the near future. Also look at Creative Journey where I will very soon post blogs of inspiring images to paint.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Moab - The First Days

We left at 4:21 in the morning on Sunday too excited to sleep longer. And had to drive through winter to get here. We saw tons of elk and not very much road because at times we were in total white out conditions. Still the early start got us here in plenty of time to do a beginning loop of Arches National Park to refresh the spirit. The remnants of clouds and snow were to make for some fantastic photos for the next days.
While it was still quite chilly we did have to stretch our legs from all the driving and take in some of the short treks to arches just off the loop drive.

Had missed Sandstone Arch on our first trip here but got some great photos of it on this trip.
Only on the beginning of our third full day in Moab. Seems as if we have done more than can be included in those days. But each day begins about 6:30 and goes to 7:30 or eight before we return to base camp to prepare dinner and enter into the continuing Yahtzee tournament.

Inspiration for paintings has been abundant and close to the car but the Jeep has also allowed us to get further away from the standard photo opps. Yesterday we went on a 10 mile back road trip to do a 3.4 mile round trip to Tower Arch. And the day before we did Shaffer trail to White Rim trail. Shaffer trail was a six year dream. And maybe the reason Debbie got the Rubicon. White Rim trail resulted in the experience at Musselman Arch among others.

I have found lots to inspire me. And the cacti have been blooming which deviates us from grand view photographs. I think they and my inspirations deserve their own blogs outside the travel log.

Debbie on Musselman Arch

Tower Arch

Just a small fragment of the photographs taken.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


My first excursion into the canyons of Colorado Plateau was in 1963 when to celebrate my graduation from high school the family went to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. My sister and I did not get back to there until 2004 and then our focus was more on Arches and Island in the Sky and Bryce. I found my muse that August. And went to Lake Powell, formerly Glen Canyon, in 2006.

Tomorrow we depart to take another look at Arches and Island in the Sky but we are also going to the Needles and Maze area of the south part of Canyonlands National Park. Our intention is to see what we missed, but there are favorite spots we will no doubt revisit.

There will be three laptops and six cameras on this exhibition to the Utah part of the Colorado Plateau. No doubt when there is time and WiFi we will post the visions we see on our journey and have attempted to capture. But most important to me is to reconnect with the spirits of the walls and canyons. It is indeed a magical place and I need a refill.