I am here & beginning my artist residency at Zion National Park… it is stunningly beautiful. And those words do not even really do justice to describe where I am privileged enough to be living during the entire month of September.
My journey north to Zion from Tucson began with an overnight stop in Flagstaff in the Monte Vista Hotel, a lovely, quirky, & historic lodging. Thanks to a tip from the bartender, the next morning I experienced the most massively delicious vegan breakfast I have ever eaten in any restaurant at Martanne’s.
It was also just plain massive. The “Emmett” is their only vegan dish, but I would gladly pig this baby down at least a couple times a month if I lived here.
I decided to overnight in “Flag” as it nicely breaks the eight hour drive to Zion National Park roughly in half, but the other reason for stopping was to hand deliver my tapestry, canyon night, to the Coconino Center for the Arts for their upcoming exhibit Night Visions V. When I return home in October, again overnighting in Flag, I will be able to go visit the exhibit!
The past week since my arrival has been one of settling in, developing the feeling of a sense of place, & decompressing from the city vibe to canyon time.
After a small (& a little embarrassing) glitch of locking myself out of the cabin while I was unloading my temporary household from the car, which allowed me to meet a few of the very nice Park employees, I have been settling into my sandstone nest—The Grotto House—quite nicely.
I have become quite attached to a little unnamed riverside path that is just steps away from the cabin,
have come to recognize some of the resident fauna that tiptoe by in the mornings & evenings,
& am growing used to the fishbowl feeling that comes from living on a path used by large number of Park visitors on their way to & from the nearby Grotto shuttle stop.
I welcomed Dennis, who arrived a couple days ago to share the Grotto with me for the next week, & have set up my “studio”.
After a few rounds of sketching & simple photography down on the riverside path, I surprised myself in developing a design that is in some ways quite unlike my previous work, using two of my photographic images to create a transparent collage--
--from which I will attempt to weave a sample section.
While I was still at home preparing for this residency, I had developed the desire to examine & depict Zion in a different way than most people experience or perhaps interpret it. When one does not have much time to spend in places like Grand Canyon or Zion, the impressive geology & terrain command all senses.
However, if one is lucky enough to have more time or is more observant of smaller environments, the hidden life becomes apparent. I have become intrigued with focusing on the microcosms of Zion, placing the massive towers, cliffs, & temples in the background like a spoiled child who is used to getting all of the attention & is in need of a “time out”.
The weaving is underway (well, at least the header!) & this week I am looking forward to:
hosting my first open studio at Grotto House;
a trip to nearby Cedar City to give a presentation at Southern Utah University’s Art insights, a program run for the art department’s teaching staff, students, & general public;
& setting up to demo in a local coffee house just outside the Park for the town of Springdale’s Second Saturday Art Walk.
And, of course, soaking in more of everything Zion has for me to discover!...
The Canyon & I have had a busy week.
A tropical storm that made its way up through the Southwest arrived in Zion on Monday afternoon, deluging the canyon until late Tuesday. And when water meets gravity & rock on a massive scale, things transform in a hurry from this…
The Virgin River, which flows through Zion Canyon year round, increased several times in size, morphing from a clear, shallow stream to a raging chocolate colored boulder & sand milkshake, hurling itself down canyon, gouging new pathways & distributing debris in its wake. Waterfalls gushed like severed arteries from every hole & crack in every visible cliff face, tumbling rocks, boulders, & mud onto the road. It was fabulous!
I have settled into the warm & solid sandstone embrace of the Grotto House, joined by Dennis this week. It is the most posh residency accommodations I’ve ever had, from the charming kitchen...
...to the cabin like living room, now converted into my studio space.
While Dennis enjoyed himself hiking & doing small watercolor sketches, I hosted my first open studio in the cabin & finished preparing for my Southern Utah University presentation for their Art Insights program,
which upon arriving at the University I discovered was to be conducted in their humongous basketball stadium…
…no pressure, right? It was actually all dolled up for the next day’s inauguration of the new University president, not me, but it was a little daunting to see all of the bling & lights. Over 100 people attended, including students, professors, & members of the public. My slide show presentation was followed by a very active Q&A session. I feel I was very successful in bringing awareness to both tapestry as a valid art form & also to the Park’s AiR program.
Dennis & I celebrated my birthday by doing a five mile hike on part of the West Rim trail, pretty much a straight up & down affair.
The trail also links to the popular Angel’s Landing trail that traverses an exposed ridge, suitable only for those who are fearless or crazy. Kinda have to wonder why the trees on the West Rim, which overlooks Angel’s Landing, seemed to be heavily populated with turkey vultures.
My week was finished off with Dennis’ return to Tucson & the arrival of my friend Connie & her friend Barbara who were passing through on a leg of their southern Utah trip. After doing a short session of tapestry demo in Springdale’s Second Saturday Art Walk, the three of us enjoyed dinner & strolling through town as the Art Walk continued.
I feel settled into the rhythms of the canyon. Shuttles full of Park visitors churn up & down canyon all day into evening; people trudge by, sometimes asking unusual questions (“is there food in there?”); sunlight strikes the canyon floor late & climbs out early over the west rim;
canyon breezes blow, gently dusting the remaining spots from the mule deer fawns as fall approaches;
& after a 3 AM visit from a ring tailed cat who came in through the open window near my bed, I have learned to keep my screenless windows closed at night. The little guy just couldn’t help himself, tempted, I guess, by the smell of my bananas wafting out of the house in the breeze. After hearing suspicious noises, I discovered him in the kitchen sitting on the windowsill with a half eaten banana & was greeted by the strong odor of his skunk-like spray, the remaining bananas chewed & strewn all over the counter, & rather large amounts of his gory fuchsia colored excrement (from a diet of cactus fruits) deposited on the counter & on the white tile floor under the table & in the bathroom. Needless to say, after evicting my unwanted guest & cleaning up his leavings, it took a while to go back to sleep.
Sunday dawned to find me in solitude again, so I began the day with an eight mile round trip walk up the canyon road from the Grotto to the Temple of Sinawava & back again.
My small sample tapestry is well under way…
…and my senses are open, awaiting whatever treasures the canyon will decide to send my way this week.
Last week marked the halfway point in my residency.
I have grown accustomed to being alone, my patterns of living are simplified, I am free. Free to wander, to work in the studio, to observe; opening myself to gain a small inkling of what it feels like to live in place that most people only get to spend hours in.
It’s not all glitter & bambis, though.
Someone has to drive into town to do laundry & take the recyclables out.
And even though many Park visitors pass by Grotto House every day, there is a deep feeling of solitude, mixed with an undercurrent of melancholia for familiar loved ones & things of home, juxtaposed against a realization my time in this sublime place will be ending soon.
September is a time of change… summer moving to fall as the equinox heralds shorter, cooler days. Sunlight does not gild the canyon floor here in the Grotto until nearly eleven after which it makes a quick journey across to the west rim, finally sinking from sight to leave this part of the canyon aglow with amber radiance from the still illuminated east rim.
The week’s end was marked by a visit to Springdale’s tiny farmer’s market to take advantage of the last bits of summer’s harvest,
& a celebration of the season’s transition at the town’s community center, where the yoga co-op practices. A two hour session of 108 sun salutations, an offering to the earth & the canyon.
the river talks to me as it tumbles past
September has flown by & my time in Zion is over. I have given Grotto house back to the canyon; it sits quietly awaiting its next inhabitant who will fill its sandstone embrace with their personality & creative endeavors.
I did not do the extreme things most visitors to Zion have on their punch list—crawl up to Angel’s Landing or one of the other gravity defying hikes or slosh through the slot of the Narrows—but my senses are full. After walking the quiet river path & strolling along the canyon road over time I came to know things about “my” little part of Zion that will be held in my heart & memory forever.
My eyes have seen baked red & cream cliffs served up against aching blue skies, standing black against blue velvet nights, & screaming with the glory of gushing waterfalls.
My ears have heard the soft tap of deer hooves strolling by, the cascading song of canyon wren & cascading chatter of mountain chickadees as I wove quietly in my Grotto studio, the quiet tumble of the Virgin River over its course, & the mad rush when it churned into a chocolate boulder slushy after storms. The wondrous echoing growl of canyon thunder cannot be described with mere words, its has to be experienced.
I have smelled the sweet scent of tall grasses, the greenness of fall wildflowers, hot earth, the frog belly coolness of wet sand, & the pungent aroma of ring-tailed cat.
I have felt at different times & sometimes all at once enthralled, lonely, joyful, inspired, vibrating with energy, tired as hell. I have laughed. I have cried. I have learned how to deal with unexpected guests.
September’s end, I reluctantly left the sensual sanctuary that is Zion. At the same time, I eagerly anticipated returning home to my desert. To return to my studio & put to use all I have learned during my time in the Grotto. I am looking forward to the magic that will surely be woven on my loom.