9/18 day 14
Dennis left today so I am beginning the process of adjusting to being alone again. An agonizing hour spent in the Camper Store trying to publish my last post-- not only is their WiFi connection at times slower than dial-up, the atmosphere wears on one after awhile… many people from the campground gather in there for most of the day with their gigantic laptops & coffees, dragging tables to cluster like drug addicts around the only available electric outlet, bringing their children & allowing them to run like wild things without supervision, & once you’ve heard the same three Marty Robbins songs 5 times in a row, you feel very ready to leave (no offense meant if you are a Marty Robbins fan). All I wanted to do was publish my post & get the condor release update from the Peregrine Fund’s website! Isn’t it funny how we are all so used to having everything quick & easy that having to wait even a nano-second for internet service (or do without it) can cause such angst? As more & more people came into the store lugging their laptops & realizing that there was only one outlet (my mini netbook runs on battery power), their expressions read like someone getting antsy for their next fix. If we ever had to go back to the days of waiting two weeks for a hand written letter to arrive, I’m quite sure many would perish.
A cabin day, my cello out & tuned up for some practice time. I had been playing before Dennis was here, but there was only room in the cabin for two of us to move about, so she has been in her case for a week. Afterwards, I lugged my Shannock out under the fir trees just outside my cabin window in view of Transept Canyon to work on widforss wizards. The days have been quite warm here, in the mid to high 70s, so it was very pleasant. All the cabins around me are inhabited by employees who are mostly gone during the day attending to their Park duties & only a couple people came off the Transept trail while I was weaving. A day of solitude, feeling a bit melancholy & homesick.
That feeling intensified when Dennis called by late afternoon to say he had made it home safely, also telling me that one of our little finches died while he was gone. Our pet sitter was upset, but he reassured her that we had been expecting it as Dulce was quite old for a tiny bird. He was a Spice finch, & I had named him Dulce because it means “sweet” in Spanish & also for his glossy dark chocolate color. A sweet little bird that lived up to his name, we will miss him & I am quite sad.
An early journey planned tomorrow to the plein air weaving spot Dennis & I found. It must be claimed before someone else snags it as it only accommodates a couple of vehicles! Cannot wait to see how it will be to try this technique out & experience how it will feel. I am hoping for a calm day so that my balls of yarn don’t get projected over the Canyon edge by the crazy wind currents. While I’m sure the ravens would be chortling to see it, I really don’t want anyone thinking I’m some kind of weird Cristo clone & arrest me for defacing National Park property!
9/19 day 15
I am learning things about myself during this residency, mostly about my artist self. Today I learned I am not a plein air tapestry weaver. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy weaving outside, which I do love to do, but when it comes to designing, I am a studio artist. Although I enjoyed the experience of sitting at Canyon’s edge, I didn’t enjoy trying to make decisions about color & technique in that setting. Perhaps it is the setting; after all, the Canyon is completely overwhelming all at once & needs to be taken in zen bites. But I suspect my need for control is the real issue. I gave up on weaving at a certain point & moved on to trying to sketch, but that also fell flat.
As I was driving back to the cabin, taking in the indescribably vibrant beauty of the alpine meadows & forest along the way, I realized that I am a plein air photographer. I love nothing better than wandering around outside finding things that interest me, either as subjects for tapestry or just because they are beautiful, & trying to capture the object in an unexpected way. Once I know what image will be used for a tapestry, I absolutely love fiddling with the design process in the studio: enlarge or crop the image as needed (I’m a bit of a purist & almost never “photoshop” my images) or perhaps sketch it, create an outline cartoon (unless it is very simplistic, as is the aspen piece I am working on now), & select a color/texture palette. At the same time during all of that in the back of my mind I am deciding on weaving techniques for the subject. Then, finally getting down to the weaving of it, whether inside or outdoors.
So, what I need to do with my remaining time here is find places to wander around & take photos of everything that captivates me. Captivation = Inspiration. The captivation seems to be in the small things that exist here, which perhaps go unnoticed & overlooked by casual visitors. On average, judging from people I have spoken with, 2 to 3 days is the normal time people spend here. In that time, they are rushing to do all of the “must see” overlooks, trails, & Ranger Talks, in addition to fitting in souvenir shopping & dining in the Lodge. The attention glutton of course, is the Canyon… like a spoiled child wherever it is visible it screams, “LOOK AT ME, ME, ME!!!”. I like to get under the surface, probe to find the hidden or notice that which is in plain view, but not seen.
Of the many books I brought along, Georgia O’Keeffe: the poetry of things, has been the most inspiring for me. It examines her propensity for looking closely at things ordinary & unnoticed & the chronology of her artistic interpretation of them. I was surprised to learn that at the time she was establishing herself as an artist, realistic/representational style was highly criticized, resulting in her use of the term “objective” to describe her style & also leading her to portray her subjects in the way she became renowned for… a kind of abstracted realism. How very bold of her to create in the way she was drawn to, despite the potential for rejection, while at the same time forming an alternative description of her style to confuse the critics. You have to admire that in an artist!
I ended this afternoon by moving a table out under the fir trees & working on the art journal I have been creating about my experience here. The first half will be about the residency itself & the second half will be an art journal style record of the design & creation of the condor tapestry. The page size is odd & small, 7” x 6”, but that works well because the pages can be prepared & created quickly. I have found that art journaling is the perfect counterbalance for my weaving… it is totally uninhibited, sometimes messy, & evolves naturally as I work. Usually art journals are very personal, as is mine, but I am thinking about reproducing it as a small booklet that might inspire other artists/weavers. In the coming year, as part of my residency requirements, I will have to give a public presentation in Tucson about my experience in order to spread word about this opportunity. I am thinking the booklet could function as an “avant-catalog” of the residency that I could offer at the presentation. An interesting idea that I will have to consider further.
Another thing I have been thinking about is what to put in the Artist in Residence journal that is here in the cabin for artists to make an entry in. In addition to writing brief statements about their experience here, they have all included examples & images of their work. A “sample” of tapestry isn’t really possible, especially pasted into a book, & since I didn’t know the journal was going to be here, I did not bring any photos of my work. As I worked on my small art journal under the fir trees with balmy Canyon breezes wafting scents of warm sand & bark while ravens croaked & floated overhead, I decided my entry would be an art journal collage about my time here. After all, tapestry is a collage of colors, fibers, textures, & ideas… and if other artists want to see examples of my work, they can visit my website. The photo above this paragraph is the page I have prepped for the AiR journal… now I have to think about how I will describe my experience.
9/21 day 17
Yesterday was a wonderful day of hitting the Cape Royal/Point Imperial Road early to beat the tourist traffic that trundles back & forth to the overlooks. I stopped at almost every small pullout & found something to photograph, most of which was not Canyon vistas. Ferns, Mexican locust, & aspen saplings are going amber, brass, & gold as late summer wanes into fall, my favorite season. As the sun beamed up over hillsides, the young aspen lit up like torches, light breezes shimmering their quaking leaves into eye-dazzling patterns of color, light, & sound. Flowers that were in full bloom last week now drying, petals turning crinkly, & flower heads going to top-heavy, buff colored puffs of seed bobbing in the breeze & floating away. There is a quiet, dignified beauty in fall that I cherish & which puts joy in my heart.
By midmorning I reached my destination-- Cape Final –-for another hike on that trail. I was wearing my uniform & talked with quite a few people, quickly correcting those that thought I was a Ranger. Back at the cabin, I discovered I had a voice message from my friend D.Y. Begay, who is back in Phoenix in between her cultural exchange journeys to Guatemala, Bolivia, & Peru. We made plans for me to stop for an overnight visit with her on my way home from the residency & the condor release. The rest of my evening was filled with happy thoughts of the last time I saw her in Phoenix, at August’s beginning, which we timed so that we could also see Janie Hoffman, who was stopping over in Phoenix during her return from California where she had been helping her mother after her father died. The three of us spent a great afternoon & evening together. We have begun planning to gather together at D.Y.’s hogan on the reservation for creative focus time together next spring. We also invited Rebecca Mezoff, whose artistic aesthetic & passion for these lands we live in matches our own.
Today was my last demo at the Lodge & it went very well… as with the first demo, a small group was so interested in what I was doing that they stayed with me the entire two hours, asking many questions about tapestry weaving & my creative process. Afterwards, I quickly deposited all of my weaving paraphernalia in the cabin & hurried over to the the employee laundromat for that chore. I have gone once before during my stay here & was surprised to see how tiny it is with only three washers & dryers! How odd to be in a laundromat again after so many years. I remember well the 10+ years I spent traveling to wash my clothes before I was able to afford (& had a place to put) my own washer & dryer!
9/22 day 18, autumnal equinox
This morning has dawned thick with grey clouds rolling in over the Canyon. For the last three days & nights, the wind has been roaring through the trees like a heavy incoming tide, stripping needles & leaves from trees & blowing hats off heads. I had thought to take a long hike today, but with a 70% rain forecast, I will hang out in the cabin instead.
The equinox, this 24 hours will be one of equal light & darkness. I feel I have found my balance here & today I will enjoy weaving, art journaling, cello playing & listening to music. My uniform is washed & ready to be returned. The rowdy trail crews who lived in neighboring cabins left yesterday for the South Rim, their season here on the North Rim ended. It will be very quiet during my last three days of residency.
After writing the above, later in the morning I was struck by a brief period of intense grief over missing my father. What I learned so long ago in nursing school about death & the process of grieving is so very true… each change in seasons brings a flow of new memories. Today felt very much like autumn, in the color of light, the feel of the atmosphere, in my heart.
Since it was supposed to rain, I had stayed in all day, & was irritated to see that the sky stayed mostly blue with puffy white clouds scudding across. But, in the past, having hiked very long distances in cold rain & mud, I know how unpleasant that is, so I resisted going out. Storms in the Southwest, especially in canyon & mountain country, can appear rapidly without warning. Finally, by late afternoon, tired of being cooped up, I made my mind up to drag myself out on the Transept trail… just as I got my hiking clothes on & backpack readied, a low growl of thunder announced a wall of rain that I watched sweep across the Canyon, a curtain of misty white that completely obliterated the view across. Hail & rain, punctuated by thunder rumbles spattered for nearly 40 minutes & I watched the temperature drop from 61 to 47 in fifteen minutes. I thought of all the unprepared hikers I have seen during my time here, several miles away from their vehicles carrying only a very small water bottle & nothing else. I was glad not to be one of them now. I decided to stay put & since tomorrow’s forecast is for sun, it will be a good day to hike. Only two days left of my residency & one must be spent packing my things & cleaning up the cabin for the next artist.
9/23 day 19
This morning I went to Admin to return my uniform & meet with Robin, the Ranger who coordinates the coming & going of artists & who, it turns out, will be my contact for communication about the condor tapestry. We discussed my plans for the design of the tapestry; at first she was concerned that my loom can only produce a 6 foot width, because they really want the impact of a full size condor in flight, but after explaining the positioning of the bird in a more diagonal plane to achieve the 9 foot wing span & how that will also show the distinct under wing markings of the bird, she was extremely satisfied. She also, it turns out, has a giant portfolio of images of condors, so she let me choose quite a few, letting me know I can contact her if I need more. Other interesting & good news that she shared was that the other fiber artist will not be doing a condor piece (no reason given for that decision) & that the Visitor Center will begin update plans this next year, making plenty of room for my tapestry to be positioned as a center of attention!
On to Widforss Trail, where I planned to only hike half its distance for a round trip hike of 5 miles. Just as I was getting my pack out of the Rover, a yellow jacket hornet went up my long shorts & gave me a nasty sting just above my knee. I am lucky it only stung me once because hornets do not lose their stingers & can sting repeatedly. I don’t know how I resisted the urge to swat my leg, which probably would have caused more stings; instead I shook my leg & shorts leg at the same time & the little f****er flew off. I have never been stung by one before, only bees & wasps, the last time was over 20 years ago! Before setting out, I waited to make sure I wasn’t going to have an anaphylactic moment on the trail. It hurt like hell, but off I went. As I was hiking through the tall conifers & lush understory, my eyes suddenly filled with tears, not with the pain of the sting, but because the realization that I will be leaving the Canyon so very soon overwhelmed me. In spite of the pain, I enjoyed every moment of the hike, trying to imprint the sights, sounds, & smells on all my senses. On my return hike, what I wanted to write in the AiR journal finally came to me.
This evening was spent writing in the AiR journal, doing half of the cleaning chores, & starting to pack up some things. Tomorrow is my last day here. I have decided to drive the Cape Royal road one more time, just drive to see the beautiful terrain once more, then return to the cabin to pack up & load the Rover as much as possible during the afternoon. I really want to be able to hike the Transept Trail one more time tomorrow evening & get back to the cabin in time for sunset.
9/24 day 20 my last day
A fretful night, mostly because of the painful yellow jacket sting, partly about packing today & hoping to be able to do what I planned for my last day. Finally, at 1:30 in the morning I remembered there was a first aid kit in the cabin & found a small sample size packet of cortisone cream which helped enough so I could sleep a little better without waking up with the sensation that I was being stung all over again.
On the road early for one last drive up Cape Royal road. Going early avoids most of the tourist traffic that isn’t interested in seeing the landscape on the way to the viewpoints which results in speeding & then tailgating those of use who do. At the beginning of the drive, it was cold… 31 degrees cold. The road undulates & winds almost 20 miles to the top of the Cape. The sights along the way were well worth obeying the speed limit… alpine meadows of grass & dried flower heads glittering with dew & frost in the early light, ringed with stately firs & spruce pointing up to clear sky; two turkey hens with close to a dozen almost full grown polts stepping daintily along the roadside, their sharp eyes on the lookout for tasty morsels & their sharp beaks making short work of them-- I rolled down the window & drove by slowly to enjoy their soft “urps” to one another; hillsides ablaze with aspen gloriously shouting out their fall colors; dead spars from old fires standing as silent sentinels over the thick growths of Mexican locust, chokecherry, & young aspen that benefitted from their passing; as the road climbed, temps warming into the 50s & the thick vegetation of the lower, cooler elevations gave way to open slopes & flats covered with towering ponderosa pines & bushy pinyons; the open areas giving brief & sudden views into the Canyon-- if you are brave enough to glance away from the curving road for a split second, your heart jolts at the sudden view into the astounding abyss, its beauty & depths wonderful & terrible all at the same time. On the way back down, repeat the pleasure in reverse.
Now I am packing; Catherine, my other Ranger, stopped by earlier to invite me to her apartment for dinner this evening with several other Park employees & I am looking forward to going! If I can get my packing done well before then, I hope to take one last hike down Transept…
…which I was able to do. It seems fitting to end with this little hike since it was the first I did when I first arrived.
And so this wonderful odyssey is nearing the end of this phase. My Rover is almost packed & I’ll be journeying down into Marble Canyon to view the condor release tomorrow morning. I’ll be writing an addendum post about that once I’m back home.
And finally, my entry for the AiR journal:
My residency is over & it’s time to go.
This work by lyn hart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.