Today I was up at dawn to catch the sunrise.
After breakfast we took a long walk in our neighborhood.
After the rains of the last couple of days the flowers were abundant.
We certainly do not have to look far for interesting things to sketch or paint.
Yesterday we visited the site of a natural amphitheater. Although a short hike it is quite beautiful. I also met a couple of friendly Blue Tailed Skinks.
I woke Jean at 6:00 AM to see the sunrise. It was spectacular before the sun came over the mountains. Unfortunately by the time we got up and got our cameras the sun was up. It is still beautiful, but tomorrow we need to try for 5:30 to get the full effect.
It was a cloudy day with a big rain storm in the afternoon. Therefore, we stayed home and drew, painted, and played some music.
Here are my two paintings from today. Canyon Ruins is a made up image of the ancient ruins that are everywhere around here. The Pedernal is the mountain to the southwest of us. It was made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe, who painted its dark looming presence hundreds of times. This is a view of it from our road.
I completed a couple of other experimental landscapes in the last couple of days. I’m trying out some more simplified and slightly abstract techniques. They are both called New Mexico Mesas.
New Mexico Mesas
New Mexico Mesas
In addition to that I finished composing a song I’ve been working on since we arrived. It’s called Having A Drink With Charlie and is dedicated to my friend Kathy Kimball, with whom I perform in Ukestra Seattle. However, due to limited bandwidth in our rented house I cannot post a recording of it. Kathy will have to wait to hear it in person.
Jean also has been busy. She did a painting of this morning’s sunrise.
Yesterday she painted a stair outside our bedroom window as the shadows changed during the day.
The weather is predicted to be a bit unstable for the next several days so we may be staying home and doing more painting.
Today was shopping day. That means a 55 mile drive to Santa Fe to stock up at Whole Foods. It’s only another 55 or so to Albuquerque so we added that to the shopping trip. The reason? I had not seen Steven Hether since high school graduation 51 years ago from Oliver P. Morton High School! Steven and I have communicated on Facebook for several years and decided that since we were only 100+ miles apart it was time for a reunion.
We first met in 6th grade when Steven moved to Hammond, Indiana and entered Harding Elementary School. He was placed in Mrs. Zarth’s class and so was I! We moved on into 7th grade together, but Steven’s family moved to a different district for 8th grade. I spent 9th grade in Seattle and then we were reunited in 10th grade. That’s a brief history of our connections. Of course we talked about all the details. No I will not bore you with those here.
It was great fun to share memories of grade school, junior high, and high school. One of my vivid memories of Steven was his commitment to civil rights. He and his older sister joined the NAACP in Hammond when they were in high school! They were the only white members of that chapter. This memory stuck with me for many years, although I did not have the same commitment at that age. For me it was one of those ethical check points to which I often returned as I forged my own ideas about justice.
Neither of us has change a bit. Okay, I admit, I have less hair.
It has been five days since Pat, Jean’s sister, died. We have been comforted by this very spiritual place in a remote mesa-top house. The only sounds are from the wind moving around the house. The house itself has a very comforting feel as if it embraces us. There are few square corners here. Everything is rounded and smooth. We are feeling very thankful that we rented this house as others may not have provided the solace we are feeling.
Today we returned to Plaza Blanca that we visited briefly in yesterday’s post. This was an opportunity to spend time in Georgia O’Keeffe’s footsteps. The formations are very different that other southwest rocks – white/gray limestone. She painted these white monoliths beautifully.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s “White Place”
Although the cliffs are limestone, the wash through which we walked was paved with rocks composed of all sorts of minerals and gemstones. It was a place Pat would have loved. A few rocks found their way into our pockets.
This time of year there is a great deal of green to compliment the red rock, the white rock, and the blue skies. Sprinkled throughout are colorful surprises of blooms on cacti, shrubs, and flowers.
After hiking for a few hours we drove to El Rito for a late lunch at El Farolito restaurant. A couple we met in the canyon recommended it as the best Mexican food in the area. They were correct.
As you can see it is not large, but the food is fantastic. Everything is made to order. Their green chile is unbelievable. Their only advertising is matchbooks and word of mouth from very satisfied customers. This evening I checked Tripadvisor and see that it is rated very highly. Needless to say dinner tonight as very light.
Memorial Day weekend has begun. As the sun sets we see cars streaming north on the highway several miles east of us. The sky is pink, lavender and blue and we are nestled in for the night.
Today we decided to do some plein air drawing/painting despite the 30 mph winds that have been howling nonstop for 2 days. Our primary target was the Chama River canyon that begins just below Abiquiu Lake. It is pretty to look at and away from the madding crowd. We did manage to do some drawing despite the winds.
The wind finally forced us to retreat to Bode’s Store in Abiquiu for a few supplies. Then we decided to visit Dar al Islam, a mosque out in the desert. The mosque itself was closed, but it sits on land called Plaza Blanca. The white cliffs of Plaza Blanco were popular subjects for Georgia O’Keefe. We have seen several of her paintings of these formations. We will return for some drawing/painting out there on a less windy day.
An added bonus at Plaza Blanco was to find the desert in bloom. We were in this area 15 years ago. painting with Jane Shoenfeld at Ghost Ranch, at the same time and saw the bloom. Desert flowers are remarkable.
It has been a difficult few days since Pat, Jean’s sister, died. Days are filled with phone calls to friends and family as well as exchanges on the internet with people who knew Pat. We still do not have specific plans for the service in Colorado Springs. Therefore, we don’t yet know when we will be driving up there. However, we have changed our route to return home through there so we can help deal with Pat’s condo and things in storage.
Despite sitting close by the phone and computer these last few days, we did manage an evening walk nearby. The adobe house we are renting is part of an of 5 acre lots, some of which have houses. It sits on a high mesa overlooking Abiquiu Lake to the East. We have ravens, elk, hummingbirds, and swallows for neighbors. It is sunny, very windy, and remote on a 2 mile dirt road.
One of the side “roads” leads to what is called the boat launch. Our house’s guest book describes a walk through some red rock formations at the end of the road. The term road is used rather loosely out here in the wilds. We drove as far as we were comfortable with our 4 wheel drive, then parked at the top of a steep rock gully and walked. We never found the red rocks or the boat launch, but the scenery was fantastic.
Tomorrow I will report on my continuing experiments with painting if we aren’t traveling to Colorado Springs.
Yesterday was a sad day in our temporary New Mexico house. We received a call in the morning that Jean’s sister, Pat, had been found in her condo in a coma. Hospital tests revealed a massive stroke. Last night she died in the hospital having never regained consciousness. Today Jean has been talking to family and friends on the phone.
2016 at her Granddaughter’s Wedding
We are thankful that we just spent three days with Pat and celebrated her birthday a bit early. Yesterday was her 84th birthday.
Blowing out the candles.
Pat’s two children live here in the southwest and we will be joining them soon for a service to remember her life and share memories. Pat led a peripatetic life, living in places like Level Green Pennsylvania, Adrian Pennsylvania, Buffalo NY, Oklahoma City, Roswell New Mexico, San Diego, Tempe Arizona, Alexandria Virginia, Seattle, and Colorado Springs. She also worked many different jobs to which she applied what often seemed like boundless energy. When she moved to Arizona Pat became an avid rockhound and spent many years roaming the desert looking for minerals and gems. Once she even hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with her rock collecting friends! A proud achievement was completing her bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University.
She is survived by her daughter and son, Denise and Greg, their spouses, Doug and Alicia, two grand daughters, Meagan and Erin, their spouses, Sam and Steve, and her great grand daughter Evelyn, also known as. Squeakers. Pat had been living close to her daughter in Colorado Springs for a few years.
Pat, you will be missed.
Last evening we enjoyed the delicate colors that the high desert uses to paint the mountains and skies.
I had a rather uncomfortable night with back spasms and other aches and pains probably from unloading the car. Artists do not travel light. However, I finally emerged from my bed-ridden state and managed to fit in a walk and some sketching.
We walked down our road toward Abiquiu Lake. It is a winding route through the mesas and we never reached the lake. I thought it best to stop after a mile in deference to my legs and back. However, along the way we enjoyed the high desert in bloom and a memorial to someone’s grandmother.
And yes, JP, we did some drawing today. I have set myself the goal on this trip to explore line, value, color, and shape. How does one begin? How do these interact? Can one be used without the others? What is foremost? Does it change with the subject? Yesterday a particular stump of a pinon tree caught my eye as a great subject for my first experiments. I began with line, but quickly decided that I needed value to make a portrait. All of my attempts with this subject I will call Quixhote’s Ghost.
Jean entered into the fun and drew the same stump with water soluble graphite.
Next I will try shapes and colors to see what happens.
This evening we sit in our mesa-top home looking east to Lake Abiquiu and the mountains beyond. Soon the sun will sink and we will have those wonderful colors that I showed at the beginning of the post.
Life is good.