Thoughts in Isolation: 2

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I did not think I would experience any new emotions after posting the two week journal “Thoughts in Isolation.” I was wrong. Today. Today I ache inside. I am numb yet sad yet nauseous. I made a double batch of no-bake cookies after starting the last 15 pieces of the 100 Day Project. I feel weepy yet I don’t weep! I’m mad. I’m dissatisfied. I’m disappointed. From heart down to my stomach I feel bubbling emotions but I can’t identify them. They swirl and toss like a shipwreck. I’m relieved and angry. I’m sickened and disgusted. I’m empty. I’m a tempest.

Today people choked the capital of Michigan protesting governor Whitmer’s executive orders. They block emergency vehicles. They mingle. They are mad about seeds. Some of my Facebook friends support this. Most do not.

Today I skimmed Facebook trying to avoid all the conspiracy theories. I’m baffled by the ridiculous number of them. And everyone yelling at each other to “think for themselves.” I don’t know if I should be comforted by listening to an expert explain everywhere in the world comes up with conspiracies during outbreaks with convenient scapegoats particular to their corner of the world.

But what really breaks me is the normality of my Grandfather’s death amidst everything.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I’m trying to wrap my heart around the grieving process for my grandfather but it all feels so distant. In a different time I would of driven the forty minutes to see my family immediately after I was told. In this world that seems irresponsible. So I stay home. I hope that my grandmother is safe. I hope no one in the flurry of activity carried the virus with them to my grieving family. I hope they were able to keep him comfortable in his last hours.

My grandfather was kindness where my home life was chaos. He fixed up an old banana seat bike and spray painted it dark green for me. Remedying my lack of bike riding knowledge. He taught me some doodles I can still draw. Tried to teach me a line or two of French. I went with him walking at the ice rink. And fishing.

Grandpa was flannels and suspenders. Mint chocolate. Tomato thieving. Chipmunk taming. Garage tinkering. He was full of games and riddles. He was a collection of hematite rocks. Old westerns and baseball. He was ritually painting the deck brown. I watched him give up his raspberry patch, his truck, his boat, his sight. He was wit and charm.

Most of all he was Grandpa. When I was confused by my father’s side of the family and reproached by his wife, Lucille, not to call her grandmother. This Grandfather never made that distinction. Even though most of us weren’t his by blood.

How do we mourn in this time of corona?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Everyone is getting their chain yanked by someone in country. And everyone thinks they are the ones “thinking for themselves.” Everyone is at each others throats on social media. Guilty. How does something so simple as staying home to save lives become so politicized? I have questions.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Many members of my family have posted on social media about the passing of our Grandfather. I can’t do it. I cannot bring myself to deal with the societal etiquette of public condolences and public thanks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

mitigation

social distancing

PPE

N95

corona

covid-19

ventilators

flattening the curve

Dr. Birx and Fauci

the scarf

Governor Coumo

fabric masks

Wuhan

isolation

quarantine

USS Comfort and Mercy

the cure cannot be worse than the disease

the invisible enemy

testing

false negatives/positives

supply chain

chloroquine

hot zone

that woman from Michigan

pandemic

Spanish Flu

1918

second wave

Chinese virus

contact tracing

exponential

two weeks

six feet

2%

0.1%

15%

asymptomatic carriers

shelter in place

So many words that have taken over our language in the last weeks and months. Our minds quickly pick up on and race away with a flurry of new vocabulary. Wielding them like knives against each other.

I wonder when life will feel normal. I guess society always fluxes. We never went back to pre- 9/11 life. We’ve been fighting that war since. I only knew the feeling of job and financial security during the last years of the Obama administration. Wiped away again by greed. Watching big businesses suck up bail outs while little micro-businesses are starved out. Watch them wink out one by one. Stranding families and once thriving communities.

The system only works by a thin thread of belief. There’s nothing real about the ant hill of capitalism. An engine that drives and consumes the planet for profit. But why? More electronic money. More. More. More. Not even paper anymore. Just numbers we believe in. To make our lives better? It’s NOT so! I witnessed two different America’s driving across this country. People living in towers overlooking people living in gutters.

What’s real? We have one life. Once it’s over… A company can be rebuilt. A country can recover from a recession or depression. We won’t get our people back if we send them off as sacrificial lambs for capitalism. No one needs a hair cut that badly. What we need is food, water, shelter and our tribe to be safe.

I’m just not willing to give up my mother, grandmother or husband because some people believe the economy is more important and some others believe the virus is a hoax.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

I was brutally awakened from a nap by a cascade of horns honking and a cacophony of dogs barking. When I tried to hush the dogs my husband yelled back “their having a parade.” Out here in the middle of the woods? with us as the only witness, they came out to their camp to have themselves a little birthday party for the wife. A nurse at a nearby hospital. Complete with children and the elderly. How sweet.

And…

The president suggested we disinfect our lungs. Inject cleaners.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I’m getting weird about things. I’m closing in around myself. I’m not going out. Not looking to leave the house. I don’t want to talk to many people. I’m not accomplishing much. I don’t feel sad. I’m ok. I think? I miss the desert. I miss the road. Although I’m not afraid, the current events prey on latent fears. If that makes sense. The current isolation mimics the times from before I was on medication. When stores were the enemy. Strangers. Contact. An invisible barrier. I at that time was getting weird about going into stores I wasn’t familiar with. About talking to anyone. Leaving the house got troubling. And it’s like that now I’m feeling, but a different cause. And I’m distant from people the same way I was then. Not out of social anxiety, but because of social safety. But it feels emotionally the same. The difference now is that I have a partner to lean on. At my worst with the social anxiety I was alone.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I’ve been thinking about my father and everything he’s missing. What would he make of this time? He was never one that could stand being still. He always wanted to go. How would he handle being asked to stay home? I cannot imagine it. I caught myself sitting in repose like him the other night. One arm swung over my head and fidgeting with the cuticles of my other hand. When I realized that was a piece of him inside my posture, I separated from space, time and body for a moment. Grief is like that, it comes at you like a freight train when you least expect it, years later. It’s him not seeing Star Wars or Dune. It’s not getting his opinion on politics. It’s walking through Family Video. It’s watching the places he once inhabited with his mass disappear from the world. Popping like little soap bubbles on a timeline.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I have not been taking care of myself. My husband asked me to go for a walk with him today and I felt a bit of panic at leaving the house. This is not a good sign. I took a shower. Changed my clothes. And swept the floor. Tomorrow I will do more to be human. Oops. I’m not all the way down the rabbit hole yet.

Monday, May 4, 2020

I’m annoyed by my dry skin. I was scraping at it on my face with my finger nails. Now I have a scab on my nose where I went to far. I thought the doldrums I experienced in Death Valley were bad. That was just preparation. ‘Twas just a fng precursor. I’m thinking bangs. Perhaps I’ve watched enough Asian woman successfully give themselves bangs on YouTube to manage. Or at least I’ll have a few minutes entertainment before meltdown.

My lack of consistent schedule may have resulted in some medication dose misses. I’m hitting the anxiety jackpot. And since I’m not seeing anyone or interacting with anyone, I can only guess that the current feeling of mild terror about leaving the house is where my brain is putting all that anxious energy. Light feelings of agoraphobia are not new anxiety symptoms for me, it’s just been awhile since it’s been expressed this way. And not exactly surprising since we’ve been asked not to leave the house for over a month now.

So. I’m working on getting myself righted a little every day. I finished one big art project and I’m working through the other I have going. I’m not unhappy. So I have that. Just a bit… off kilter, but then so is everyone else as far as I can tell. We’re going to be alright, just a bit damaged. And heartbroken. With terrible bangs. And picked over skin.

Spring is here. Can you feel it’s renewing energy?

100 Day Project: Last Two Days

100 Day Project, Projects

Day 99: April 29

Pacing myself. I thought when I started this I wouldn’t care how many pieces I made, then I figured fifty would be a fine number. As it became clear that I was averaging one a day, even if that’s not exactly when I finished them, I decided to shoot for 100 pieces.

Day 100: April 30

I thought I’d bring this project to a close the same way I opened it: with a self portrait. 100 pieces. 100 Days. A road trip across the country home. A pandemic. Strange times. Bittersweet.

100/100 Days

100 Day Project: Week 11

100 Day Project, Projects

Day 71: April 1

I’m struggling to maintain interest amid everything.

Day 72: April 2

Productive. But, I’m not sure this is the direction I want to go? I continue to play with plant textures. But maybe I’d rather get back to skulls and ravens???

Day 73: April 3

Feeling trapped by this direction. Definitely. Will have to break free of it soon.

Just when I felt over it all. Inspiration. I found a feather floating around my house. A new experiment.

Day 74: April 4

Interesting results today. I am placated.

However. I don’t know that I’ll commit to a hundred days of anything again. 27% of the year. That’s a lot of days. A lot. Look what can happen to the world in 100 days. I’m a commitmentphobe (is that a word?) and I fell for that optimistic feeling seventy some days ago that said: you have time to commit, it’ll be fun. Maybe it’s that I feel I’ve learned what I set out to learn, with twenty-five days to go… what investment am I making with my time now?

Day 75: April 5

I lost a day again??? I guess I didn’t have an important breakthrough.

Day 76: April 6

I brought in fallen oak leaves. They are a nightmare to work with. But something new.

Day 77: April 7

Working up to it today.

Days 77/100

The Road: Part 7

Art Journal, The Road

Los Osos

A driveway stay for a little over a week. Long enough to completely scatter our things across the camper. A breath of stability and exploration of the coast.

There were challenges finding the correct location of the tide pools. Challenges, I say.

Attempt no. 1 brought us to this beautiful bay we could park right next to and waltz up to the shoreline. We arrived just before sunset at low tide.

Attempt no. 2 “I think it’s this way.” We parked and had a few choices on trails to take through the low shoreline scrub brush leading into the cascading dunes. I followed, blindly, my husband up and down the coastal dunes (sand mountains?) to a dead end with rubber legs. And back up I slogged through the sand. We tried another trail. Up and down the dunes to the tide pools.

Attempt no. 3, with new directions, we tried again following a reasonable trail down through the shore vegetation to the tide pools.

I can’t forget visiting Morro Bay and Otters…

Elephant Seal Rookery, San Simeon

Near Hearst Castle the Elephant Seals gather for the breeding season. Thousands. Hundreds were on the beach and so many more were in the water. Mostly they lay on the sand barely moving, flipping sand across their backs on occasion. We followed the sounds down the beach to where an older male was chasing away an interloper and the yearlings and pups were playing.

After leaving the main beach we stopped at another roadside pullout. My husband thought it was a regular beach (signage was in not apparent) and just before reaching the beach I stopped him from coming face to face with a young male elephant seal.

Los Padres National Forest

Big Sur. We stayed on the south side for two nights and it rained in California. For a brief moment the sun shined and we took a walk to the ocean cliffs. Where I was quickly about the abundance of poison oak in the state of California. I made it out of California unscathed.

Monterey

We left the campground in Los Padres National Forest and followed 1 up the coast to Monterey. We camped at Laguna Seca with it’s epic green views and racetrack. Racetrack. Yes we camped to the sounds of race cars zooming all day.

250 years old with a literary and canning past, Monterey sits by the ocean with its gem the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’ve never been to one so I have no comparison. All I can say is it was spectacular and inspiring. When we arrived the octopus was active and moving around it’s tank. Swelling and swirling his arms. In addition to the real Octopi there was another beautiful multimedia exhibit dedicated to how octopi and squid were historically depicted. There were schools of fish swimming in current tanks, jellyfish dancing. rescued shore birds, touch tanks, sharks, a green sea turtle, and art exhibited by artists dedicated to bringing awareness to the problem of plastics in the ocean.

Unfortunately for me I was the recipient of an ignorant and hostile public policing effort at the Octopus tank. A young mother, with a brood of homeschool kids, took it upon herself to attack me for my camera’s meter light because the sign said no flash. Then there was a mob reaction. Another woman chimed in with: “haven’t you taken enough photographs, you can stop so the rest of us can enjoy the exhibit.”

I was so frustrated and angry. Not one of those women felt the need to say a single word to my husband who was also photographing. And a guy next to me flashed the octopus with his iPhone, but he just “made a mistake.”

It took a male staff member to step in and set the mob straight. And as an artist I’ve been singled out more than once in my life for not following the rules as other people, and often, women see them. And more than once I’ve had to stand my ground, hold my breath and carry on knowing that I’m on a different path they don’t understand, I’M NOT WRONG I AM AN ARTIST.

San Franciso

We made a stop an hour outside of San Francisco so I could attempt to make contact with someone in the city. We crossed over the Golden Gate for fun (not fun) and later the Bay Bridge for me to search a six story public library with no luck on finding this person. My heart breaks for this country of haves and have nots. I wish others understood, or tried, a little, to understand how fragile mental and financial stability are.

Northern California & Touching Oregon

Northern California….

Its sort of a blur now. I’m writing this and it is still recent history. That wasn’t even days ago I was in San Francisco and now its under a Shelter in Place order. The thing about the old truck was we didn’t have a radio. We couldn’t listen to any news in the truck and we were often places with poor service. History is now catching up so fast now that we have the news available in the new truck. When we were driving up the California Coast to Oregon the Covid-19 troubles seemed distant. By the time we landed in Brookings, Oregon it was obvious that we needed to head home. Now California is shutting down state parks. New Mexico already shut them down.

With great sadness, my feet kissed the Pacific Northwest and turned tail. We are heading south to head east because it is still winter in the Rocky Mountains. It is time to go home. The world is out of our control and it’s time to go home to the roads we know.

Brookings Oregon

The rest of this tale will hopefully be of the long road home.

100 Day Project: Week 8

100 Day Project, Projects

Day 50: March 11

A little color study. Not the sexiest work, but the best way to systematically understand the colors. And of course I had way too much paint left over… so more of those spare paint types of pieces will probably be in the works.

Color study.
Spare Paint Color Study.

Day 51: March 12

I also worked yesterday on some texture studies. Which I continued this morning. What a frustrating challenge to get things to stay in place. Today I white washed the pieces to make the textures pop out. To be continued.

Work in progress. Pine Needles and Linen.

Day 52: March 13

Lines. Lines. More lines. Struggling to find some new insightful thoughts to regurgitate here.

Day 53: March 14

Is this mid-project exhaustion? 53 is so many days.

Day 54: March 15

I about ruined a piece this morning. Added spare paint to it to cover areas I didn’t like. Then it got out of control. So I washed it all off. I like the way the lines look worn now from being under water.

Covid-19…

Detail.

Day 55: March 16

In the spirit of exploring textures and with the inability to find supplies on the road, I worked plies of toilet paper onto a piece last night with paint and added lines to it today. Can’t find hand sanitizer either. It’s going to be a long road home. I don’t know what further measures will be taken to slow the spread of this virus and I hope we don’t get caught up in it on the road.

Day 56: March 17

That didn’t go as planned. Again. Tuesday’s never seem to be a good day for one reason or another to lay the art out for documentation.

Days 56/100.
In progress.

100 Day Project: Week 7

100 Day Project, Projects

Day 43: March 4

When I started I figured I’d make maybe 50 pieces. I’m on track for one a day even though I don’t finish one each day. I work here, there and then all of a sudden a bunch teach the finish line together. Today I worked with a textured crow again, and again used the leftover paint to experiment with. Definitely not how I want to create work, but still a fun thing to explore.

Extra paint explorations.

I have to acknowledge this. It was supposed to be a color study. But oh no no no…

In progress…

No!

Things went wrong quickly here. The colors didn’t work the way I imagined. Then it just kept getting worse. I’m still thinking of ways to salvage it. But I feel nauseous looking at it from the color combinations.

Day 44: March 5

It isn’t that I don’t have time or ideas today. It’s that I just don’t want to. Not even a little bit.

I’ll start some pieces just with color. And leave it at that. No pressure today.

And then I never stopped.

In progress.

Day 45: March 6

Traveling today. Had to fight for my work time this morning.

Detail

Day 46: March 7

No Internet Service.

Day 47: March 8

Did minimal today and yesterday. Was busy with human interactions. But I did start a big canvas…

I’m going to work on that separate from the 100 Day Project, even though it has sprung from it. I make the rules here.

Day 48: March 9

Plugging along.

Day 49: March 10

This week became about exploring color. I was working it out on the paper and letting the colors surprise me. I think in the near future I’d like to explore color more.

Finished works. 49/100
In progress.

100 Day Project: Week 6

100 Day Project, Projects

Day 36: February 26

Yesterday being entirely too windy for photos, this morning’s work time was spent catching up on documenting last weeks progress and posting the blog. Now we travel. I hope to touch paper later…

Day 37: February 27

It’s a slow start to this week. I started the bones of a new piece, but I cannot do much else. The camper isn’t stable enough to do lines and I don’t want to pull out the paints. I am thinking it’s about time to break out a canvas though. I feel I am ready to begin a body of work based on where I am at currently. My one thought is… “can I get myself to continue making small studies past the 100 Day Project?” Working out different ideas at the 5×7 level has given me many new ideas. I’m not one to work in a sketchbook, I like to put my energy into works not sketches. This is something of a compromise. I’m forced to explore “mistakes” (which I love) and follow them into new creative paths, but I’m not invested into a large piece.

Today I feel very confident in myself. I feel I’ve found a way to open it up to include exploration so I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice a medium or idea I love, nor do I have to keep working with one forever and always. I’m not looking at other art with doubt for my own choices.

I feel like I’m here. I can draw, paint, explore texture, symbolism… all in the same piece. Yes! Yes! Yes! One million times yes!

Detail of the line drawing from February 27, 2020.

Day 38: February 28

A lot and yet a little happening this morning. Been sitting here working for some time. Peace in my heart.

Day 39: February 29

Just a little bit today.

Day 40: March 1

Came very close to nothing happening today. Then I caught a second wind and prepped some pieces with white paint tonight. When you are not feeling it… you can always do groundwork. It’s also very clear if I don’t work in the morning, I’m going to struggle to do something.

Day 41: March 2

Very productive this morning. Working on a lot of pieces, but not finishing anything.

Ok… maybe I am finishing things. I don’t love everything I’ve made, but I’m glad I explored them.

Still going.

Took up a lot of the day.

I showed them in person for the first time to real live humans other than my husband this week. It was good practice being able to explain the process. WHAT? I used complete sentences about my work with people I didn’t know well and I think I even made sense. This process is working for me. Make art, daily. Preferably in the morning. Reflect on it using the blog. Who cares if anyone ever reads it, there’s an accountability that makes it happen, it works for me.

Day 42: March 3

That’s a wrap on week six. Explored color combinations and layering color combinations on textures this morning.

This weeks finished works.
In progress works.

100 Day Project: Week 5

100 Day Project, Projects

Day 29: February 19

Yesterday afternoon through this morning we spent in an area with no cell service. I was able to get a lot of pieces to a starting point and a couple ready to take some color this morning before we packed up for the road. I even varied some techniques. This is a good time to explore those “what will happen if I do this” moments.

Day 30: February 20

I had some time on my hands. We had no cell service so I went to bed early and woke up in the wee hours of the night. I had a lot of extra hours of dark to fill with creative practice.

One day’s creative practice… but I kept going.

The Cow Skull on White Ground:

I began by playing more with the idea of a textured shape. That worked well in the previous skull pieces. The textures took the paint well and added interest without me working for it. For this one I knew I wanted the skull on a white ground. But white isn’t white, is it? I like using negative space. I felt a lot of pressure by professors to fill that space unnecessarily with details. For this one I used extra textures, a little color and played with paint drips. Even though it is nowhere near precisianism, it reminds me of Georgia O’keefe. I came to it from my own direction, but I recognize I may have interests inline with her work. Started reading up on her life and work.

Acrylic (white, burnt sienna, raw umber), glass bead texture, ceramic stucco texture, cotton fabric, and Faber-Castell black ink pen.

Big Skull:

Added a layer of burnt Sienna to the cow skull shape. Let that dry before fleshing out his lights and darks and adding splatters/drips.

Acrylic paint (white, burnt sienna, and raw umber), fabric, and Faber-Castell black ink pen.

Connections:

I wanted to continue to study the acrylic colors: white, burnt Sienna and raw umber together. Decided to try a contrasting textured with ceramic cement.

Acrylic (white, black, burnt sienna, raw umber), ceramic stucco texture, and Faber-Castell black ink pen.

Leftover Paint:

I hate leaving leftover paint so I smeared it on a piece of paper. Then came back to it later and added some doodles.

Acrylic paint (white, burnt sienna, raw umber) and Faber-Castell black ink pen.

Green:

I wanted to try out some green. I hated it. I tried mixing it a few different ways. It has also become an experimental color study.

In progress. Not impressed by this green.

Day 31: February 21

I’m so tired. Today was turned on it’s head. Instead of spending the day with art at a campsite in Sequoia National Forest we drove pointedly away from there. A storm was coming. So I touched the paper tonight. Caught up my notes to the blog on the 100 Day, because there was no internet connection up there either. And now I stare at that atrocity that is the green color study. I’m not ready for THAT. I think I’ll put some color on a raven.

Day 32: February 22

I tried last night to make that green experiment into something. Everything made it worse. So I painted it black, because that’s what was in my hand. And that sparked my interest, but the previous brush strokes were to visible. I mixed in the ceramic stucco texture and let it dry overnight. This morning it struck me to make lines, of course. From this piece I think I may want to explore more.

Acrylic paint (black), ceramic stucco, white posca pen.

This morning’s second finish; another raven. Playing with different applications of texture and color combinations. I was going to polish it up more, but decided to leave the painting areas less perfect. Not usually something I’d do, but I’m leaving more room for experiments right now.

Acrylic paint (cadmium orange, white, and thalo blue), Faber-Castell black ink pen, white posca pen, and ceramic stucco.

Day 33: February 23

This morning I started in on The For Agreements… then my human pushed me out the door. Don’t know if I’ll get back to anything today or not.

Day 34: February 24

I don’t think the lines were working this morning’s piece. I’m going to paint over them later. Try something else…

Day 35: February 25

Ok I don’t hate it today. But we are going with a different color combo. Onward.

Acrylic (white, raw umber, cerulean blue), Faber-Castell black ink pen and ceramic stucco texture. In progress.
Week 5, 35/100 Days
35/100 in progress.

100 Day Project: Week 4

100 Day Project, Projects

Day 22: February 12

All I wanted to accomplish to day while I had access to electricity was finish editing the polaroids for my website portfolio and then I’d do some work on the 100 Day Project.

Instead, I just finished doing meditative lines on a 100 Day piece just before midnight to relax after my thumb drive failed and erased the last batch of edited images before I could transfer them.

Not all days can be easy.

Day 23: February 13

I had a shower epiphany. Usually I have driving epiphanies, but I’ll take it wherever it comes… work on 100 Day later.

It’s later. I’m very happy with where my head is going ( blog post about the epiphany). And my 100 Day works are going exactly as I’d hoped. Better even.

White, Burnt Sienna, and Raw Umber Acrylic, Faber-Castell black ink pen, and cotton fabric.

Day 24: February 14

I took a moment to apply a little paint to one piece while waiting on my husband. Nothing else. Today was a day for adulting.

Day 25: February 15

Another day for adulting. I did a little more painting on the same piece from yesterday and added a little more texture. It is not done, but not much time for that today.

In progress…

Day 26: February 16

Things are back to our more typical rhythm I think. Had the time and ambition to put some effort in this morning. Starting reading articles about Georgia O’Keefe.

Progress shot. Don’t mind the studio assistant Mr. Gato.
Acrylic (yellow ochre, white and raw umber) and faber-castell black ink pen.
Acrylic (yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, burnt umber, white, raw umber) , faber-castell ink pen, ceramic stucco texture, fabric, and paper towel.

Day 27: February 17

Today was a long travel day. I did the meditative lines on the third longhorn piece. Also re-drew the skull outline that I lost in the first layer of paint.

Day 28: February 18

This week was more productive theoretically and less productive physically. But I never thought I’d produce high volumes of work. At the close of the fourth week I’m happy with the progress. And even more happy with the mental breakthroughs. Hopefully with the end of truck problems I can put more concentration towards creating. I did make an effort to touch paper every day even if I didn’t feel like it.

Acrylic (yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, raw umber and white), fabric, paper towel, Faber-Castell black ink pen, ceramic stucco texture.
Acrylic (white, yellow ochre, raw umber) and Faber-Castell black ink pen.
Acrylic (white and burnt sienna), fabric, and Faber-Castell black ink pen.
Works in progress.

The Road: Part 5.2

Art Journal, The Road, Thoughts


Arivaca

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After Tucson we headed closer to the border with Mexico, again, staying in the small town of Arivaca, Arizona. When visiting the town center, I noticed immediately a small building with hand-painted signs: Humanitarian Aid Office. Being the curious human I am I had to ask them about their mission. I was informed that migrants come across asking for water and there was a legal case brought against someone for giving them water (since dismissed). But there was a bigger mission. They assist local ranchers dealing with the newly “militarized border.” The person I spoke with mentioned ranchers dealing with the Border Patrol landing helicopters on their land. Of course I asked about the wall and if the crime rate justified it. This person didn’t blink, they 100% wanted a wall, but added that was just their opinion and the local people were just getting swept up into the politics.

One has to recognize the prism of local issues at play. As we were exploring the area we discovered ranches that allowed the public onto their land. One asked us to sign in and use a tag another asked people only walk in. One posted no Border Patrol ORVs and no militia. The restaurant we ate at posted a sign saying vigilante and border militia groups not welcome. The website I found for the Tohono O’ddham Nation reservation made it very clear they were against a border wall on their land. And not so far away is the area reportedly being cleared of ancient cactus to make way for border wall.

Please go to the Humanitarian Aid Web Site for a far better explanation of the situation in the borderlands.

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Humanitarian Aid Office, Arivaca, Arizona
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Jake local celebrity, of Arivaca

Kitt Peak Observatory

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Observatory Structure at Kitt Peak

Setting ourselves out on a different pace, we had a place to be and a time to be there. We drove the nearly desolate two hours from the small town we were staying at to visit the Kitt Peak Observatory for a four hour nighttime star gazing program. Up the switchback mountain road we drove into the crisp air of the sky island. Upon our arrival the staff directed us to park in a specific spot, everyone lining up facing the same direction.

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Tour Group watching Sunset

We were informed, fed, toured, given red flashlights. Warned to point them down, to protect the science. First we watched the sunset while the observatories opened unexpectedly to the sky by scientists working remotely. As the dark descended went up the stairs into an open top observatory with a 16″ telescope and looked into the past. I saw with my eyes another galaxy (The Andromeda Galaxy), star clusters, and other wonders. (You can see and read the blogs from the night of our visit. Lorelie, Robert (our Guide) and Fred. ).

They prepared our vehicles for departure by covering our headlights with red plastic and then signaled us to start our vehicles together and descend the mountain in a caravan lead by the Observatory staff. All to protect the science. No phones. No errant lights. No photography after dark. Nearly fifty people working together to respect the delicate work of the scientists.

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Sunset on Kitt Peak

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

It is all about the Masked Bobwhite Quail at the Buenos Aires Refuge. They have them penned up, but good luck seeing the quick little… Anyway. The visitor center is in a beautiful old ranch house looking out over golden grasses and mountain horizons, with opportunities to bird watch and a nice display of cacti.

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Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Tohono O’odham Nation

While visiting the Kitt Peak Observatory I read about the Tohono O’dham Nation, which the Observatory sits on their land. There were these beautiful baskets made from traditional materials and then there were tiny little baskets made from horse hair and other materials. Repeating throughout the artworks on display was the Man in the Maze.

So moved was I by the the craftsmanship of the basketmakers and the symbolism of the Man in the Maze I wanted to know more about the people. We visited the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum. 10,000 years their people lived on this land with the desert. I learned a little more about how they lived prior to western influence and their involvement in the conflicts since. There were also on display some fantastic artists: painter Delia Velasco, block print artist Keith Norris and weaver Arlene Thomas were the three that really stood out to me. Sorry no photos! And I respected that. So I will describe them for you.

Delia Velasco:

Her piece was a large mixed media painting in earthy tones of rust red and yellow dripping at times like a wild watercolor, layered around the symbolic elements. In the upper left hand corner the suggestion of a saguaro silhouette is visible. The most striking element is the repeated Man in the Maze in the composition. A 1/4 circle of the Maze fills almost half the canvas, it’s epicenter the lower left corner.

Keith Norris:

Norris’s work was a block print of four figures walking the land titled: “Getting Home.” One female figure in a skirt carrying a pot on her head, a smaller male figure carrying sticks, a smaller figure in a skirt, a male figure with something strapped to his back, and all using walking sticks. The bottom third of the print are the figures, two hills and vegetation detail. The top 3/4 is filled with a radiating sun patten that feels like hope, heat, and sunshine.

Arlene Thomas:

Thomas crafted a miniature Man-in-the-Maze basket out of horsehair. It is slightly bigger than a coin, the label is bigger and it is completely dwarfed by its companions. Each line of the Maze is balanced to the scale and elegantly executed. If you cannot tell, I am absolutely thunderstruck by the craftsmanship.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The good, the bad, and the ugly. We were trying for Phoenix and didn’t make it. This beautiful spectacular failure went from we’ll stay one night to three. The drive in on 85 was spectacular. The sun set on a magestic jagged red mountain backdrop with the teaming desert landscape in the foreground. The first morning after our arrival I met the resident Raven lovebirds who posed for me on the campground saguaros. Thank you ravens!

We drove a loop through the park on one end enjoying the day and viewing the cholla, saguaro, and organ pipe cacti in all their various forms. Met a couple people plein air painting.

On the last day we drove the loop that went alongside the border wall where reports in the media were made of the saguaro’s being destroyed to make way for the new border wall. What I saw were some brush piles of willow and cacti marked. I did come across one saguaro that was in the process of being cut down. Access to some roads are blocked because of the border wall construction.

Saguaro Landscape

Phoenix

Costa’s Hummingbird

I just wanted to stop to see one exhibit… my husband signed us up for nine days? ten days? Two different campgrounds. The thing is we didn’t do much during this time. We took two drives. One on a back road that went through a hot-springs business with palm trees in the middle of nowhere and another on a quest to find a business that might sell cow skulls in Yarnell, which did not end up existing anymore. I was delighted by the wild donkeys, hated the suburban sprawl of Phoenix, baffled by a lake lined with saguaros, and beyond irked with the airplanes circling our second campground choice. We went into a grocery store that sold luxury spirits and cigars. In this high rent area all the brands were mercifully subdued, I wish the whole world could throttle consumer culture this way. And we made it to the Phoenix Museum of Art to see the Ansel Adams exhibit. Mostly we just enjoyed the subtle warmth of the January desert and caught up on the things that have been tickling our brains.

Sunset McDowell Regional Park
Black Throated Sparrow
Curve Billed Thrasher
Donkeys at Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Harsh Light on a back road.
Dying Saguaro.

Escaping Flagstaff

Snow. Cold. Bailed on our plans for north Arizona. Knew it was going wrong when we started climbing in elevation and never went back down. After a night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot we drove west on the old Route 66 towards Oatman. Now if you haven’t experienced the Oatman highway… prepare yourself. I mean, maybe a lot of people are used to mountain roads. But this one makes worldwide lists. Once you cram your stomach back where it belongs and unclench every muscle in your body you’ll be treated to wild donkeys hanging out in the streets of Oatman. Really. And so many people all of a sudden. We camped well outside of the town. And would you believe you don’t have to set an alarm? Donkeys will come by at six in the morning and take care of that.

Goodbye for now Arizona…

Sunbather
Scenic and terrifying Oatman Rd.
Cholla chunk