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Arches and Canyonlands and Exertion

“What are you thinking about at this moment right now?” I asked as we sat on the cool stone in the shadow of the massive red rock stone arch spanning out over our heads. This arch was a giant circle hewn from the stone by decades of wind and rain. The blue sky beyond it spread out rather infinitely with just a few little cumulus cloud puffs floating through it casting delicate shadows over the red rock towers and cliffs in front of us. We’d hiked up from a grassy valley to the stone towers and the aptly named ‘Marching Men’ rock formations and then onwards, trudging through beach like sand, passing wind blown sand dunes, delicate curves etched in their crests, and winding twisted junipers, aged and grey.

“War.” replied Violet. “Endless war. The concept of ‘inheriting war’ is so… strange… and sad. That a kid feels he has to go off to war to be a man and have stories to tell about the war because he heard stories from his father…” She trailed off.

“It’s been going on long before this – the Iraq and Afghan and Gulf and Vietnam and Korean wars… and all the little wars in between.” I replied. “Go way back – to the Crusades and such – and you have knights always going off to war and you are either going to be a knight, a farmer or a craftsman. Most people wanted to be knights – to have stories to tell of battle, to have scars… It hasn’t changed much.”

We sat in silence. I thought about a painting I’d painted five or six years before called “Breathing with It” about breathing with the tension, the inner wars and fires and waves that crash upon our mental shores. They all pass. A lot of people could use to learn to breath with the myriad phenomena that come up in their minds.

A stark black raven circled over head and called to another perched on a tall rock tower. The sun slowly circled to the west, We left our perch and climbed higher up on the rounded mounds of red sand stone, shimmering in the sun, the white sandstone glittering and the expanse of Arches National Park spreading out – interconneting cliffs, valleys, red rocks and segment of fingers of rock pointing straight up into the air.

We drove down an eight mile dirt road out to this red rock garden across a wide open grassy plain. We’d left the crowded expanse of the park behind us for this silhouette of fingers rising out of the horizon. Earlier we’d hiked through another massive arch peppered with sweaty tourists, out of breath from the quarter mile hike to the upper lip of the bottom of the arch. We had a plan to go sit on the opposite side of the curving rock wall that connected between the double arch and our choice of sitting spit. The climb down from the lip that most tourists stop at, peer over and gasp at was steep but not unpassable. With our sketchpads and camel packs, we scaled the wall, walked along the lower edge of the towering red rock walls and made our way to the opposite side where we climbed up and sat in the crook of a gorgeous arch that looked some some kind of hugely exaggerated Gaudi arch from Park Guell. It’s column – at least eight feet thick, maybe 24′ circumference – came down and twisted in giant stone chunks to the hot sloping rocks below. We sat there, in the bottom of it’s curving window, in the shade, drawing, laughing, talking and expanding.

I made a trip back along the hot expanse between the two arches and climbed up the other side where I entered back into tourist land. Tourist land in Arches Nat’l Park, Moab, Utah:

  • Mom, Dad, 8 kids
  • Two older women from the south. Why yup, that’s a big stone arch there.
  • Healthy Dad, Healthy Mom, two healthy kids. Maybe from california or Washington.
  • Kids who don’t want to be there, parents who are hot
  • Younger guy off for a hike alone.
  • Lines of RVs, all vying for a parking spot

I went to our vehicle and drank some ice cold strawberry lemonade (Santa Cruz Organics…. mmmm….), read a passage out of “Training the Mind” by Chogyam Trungpa about the value of effort to overcome laziness and that even with discipline, one still needs to exert a certain amount of effort to put your foot forward, one after the other on the path. Overcoming laziness is the act of engaging our practice and focusing the mind to hold it steady and not veer off course with all the different trains of thought that come up. I though back to the landscape sketch I’d been doing and just how hard that is for me sometimes – to stay focused on drawing the landscape without following my lines into imagination. Just another part of the practice.

A bit more to drink, a bit of reflection and I got some other things needed for a picnic lunch: manchego cheese, herbed salami, an apple, flatbread crackers, cherry tomatoes, a cucumber, a knife and a cutting board, and some Green and Black’s Hazelnut Currant Dark Chocolate and then I made my way back to Violet and our sitting spot. As I passed through the flocks of tourists, I worked hard at not judging what I seemed to immediately perceive as laziness. The overweight seated guy drinking his can of Coke, the parents who keep irresponsibly cranking out the kids, one after the other… all of them on their path, wherever they need to be in that moment. Learning to breathe with it.

I made my way to the first double arch and then, after a climb down, over, across and up (at which point, not paying as close attention as I should be, letting my mind wander a moment, I slipped and took a chunk out of my elbow) Violet and I ate.

We spent some more time drawing and this time I let my hand flow with inspirations from the patterns of the landscape: the streaked rocks, multi-colored by the minerals that have dripped down over them in various patterns and colors of burnt reds, siennas and oranges, yellow ochres, subtle metallic blues and occasional greens, in various sizes and proportions, nooks, crannies and the like and little swallows darting in and out of their homes made in the cliff walls. Their lines of flight made delicate cuts and curves through the air, juxtaposed against the massive tonnage of the rocks that surrounded us, as they darted playfully in and out of the arch we sat in.

Eventually it was time to change our spot and that’s when we opted for the less traveled dirt road across the valley to the distant rock outcroppings, much larger in person than from a distance. Just the day before we’d had an adventure off on some random roads when we’d gone to the Canyolands National Park.

The drive from Arches to Canyonlands was about forty five minutes and that day we went to the Island in the Sky area, the northern half of the park. A mile walk along the canyon rim, further than most visitors traverse, granted us an immaculate view of the layers upon layers of canyon walls, towering rocks and narrow passages that led down down deeper and deeper, deeper and deeper, to the canyon floor and the river far below.

From where we sat, there was no sound – literally: silence. Not a breeze, a bug or an airplane. Just this vastness spreading out before us and the warming silence we breathed in from where we sat under a rock, slanted and providing shade from the hot sun.

We walked back towards our vehicle and then started to make our way along the roads to other view points. Storm clouds were approaching and we stopped at an overlook, hiked out on some smooth boulders and watched the massive rain clouds sweep up through the canyons. Streaks of lightening cracked the sky and we could see the canyon floors getting soaked. The storm passed by us, leaving us dry but windblown. The intensity of the weather – the distant rain, the clouds, the lightening – coupled with the magnificence and colors of the canyon was exhilarating and we left when the sprinkles got a bit more intense and the wind was too strong.

A few more overlook stop and we spotted a dirt road off to our left into a wide open meadow. Why not? We’ve been driving a Toyota Sequoia, a big powerful SUV loaded with all of our stuff – from camping supplies, luggage, to our Bonnaroo art/vending stuff – so we had no concerns about the road. We sped down the orange/red dirt road, listening to some kind Brazilian samba music, across the open meadow, hoping to end up at the bottom of some canyon. The sun came out and the greens popped against the reddish stone backdrops.

Eventually the road twisted, turned, and popped us out at the top of a canyon that was painted with the most intense of colors – a bright turquoise green, deep lines of black, red and purples… the bottom, where a stream trickled, was the same bright turquoise green. We threw a stone in and counted how long til it landed and counted 150 feet to the first ledge before the bottom. We chilled there for a bit – dazzled by the colors of the canyons, made brighter even and more intense by the recent rain storm that had just passed through. As we drove out, we were sent off by a magic sunset over the bright green meadows, wet and sparkling in the sun, and the red rock canyons and spires that spread out to our right.

There is something magical about exploration and finding some unexpected treasure – inspiring beauty, a teaching, love, openness – at the end of that journey.

The next day, when we left the bluffs we’d driven out to in Arches our trail of dust along the dirt road shone gold in in the evening light and the rounded rocky bluffs we left stood tall, silent, and dark, as silent sentinels in the setting sun.

Later, after dinner, the star circled overhead and the fire case and orange glow over us and the rocks surrounding our campsite.

Now we’ve left the tall red sandy spires of Bryce Canyon – looking like drip sand castles on the beach – and are on our way to the Grand Canyon, somewhere I’ve never been and while these kind of places become icons in our minds, sometimes mocked, sometimes poked at, usually known at least in name by all, to stand in their presence, to soak in their memories and color palates, to be inspired by their beauty and grandeur, is as unique an experience as any.

The Colorado Rockies and Some Other Stops

Colorado Rockies

Giant raindrops intermittently pelt our windshield while the sun still streams through the clouds, casting rays of lights through long cracks in the cloud cover revealing a blue sky beyond. We are driving through the western foothills of the Colorado Rockies. From Boulder the highway crested up and over hills into mountains passing Loveland and Vail and various other ski mountains with still snowy peaks and multi-million dollar condos butting up against their feet, occasionally a mine along the river mining gold or copper leaving obscene scars long the hillsides. The aspen and pine intermingling til the pine leaves it for the higher elevations. The mountains just as quickly turn into shear cliffs along the Colorado River – the cliff faces jutting out at odd angles and millions of right angles of every size. Now the cliffs have turned to arid woods, chaparral and tall wide mountains that will soon again change to something else- Arches and Canyonlands Parks, our next destinations.

 

We left Boulder after a hike in Gregory Canyon and a breakfast of mimosas and eggs benedict at the Chataqua Gathering Place, a lodge built in the late 1800’s for the advancement of education and the arts. Their wide green lawn and the copper red Flatiron Mountains as a backdrop made for a lovely parting meal. The day before we’d woken at the Alps Inn, a bed and breakfast lodge up a different canyon outside of Boulder where we’d spent the night of our first anniversary as a wedded couple.

These trips we make around the sun leave markers in our minds and it’s nice to focus our selves and reflect for a moment and consider what comes next. It was both our anniversary and the Summer Solstice – something of a natural anniversary – the longest day of the year. A year isn’t a long time in retrospect but, then, in the middle of it, it can seem to stretch forever. There aren’t always agreements and sometimes there can be a fierce disagreement. But then – the agreements, the love, and the dance that we do through the nuts and bolts of our lives, is lovely and wonderful.

For our first year anniversary, we timed this trip to land us in Boulder and the Rockies. We’d gathered together a picnic lunch of cheese (a nice variety: a porter cheddar, triple cream brie, a sheep’s milk gouda, a red pepper havarti, and, our favorite, the Humboldt Fog chevre – a deliciously potent and creamy cheese.), wine, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, a sourdough bread, and other assorted tasty treats and hiked it up to the top of Alberta Falls, a fairly short hike to be certain, where we enjoyed the roaring river, the tasty lunch, the wine, the sun, and each other’s presence. The light green leaves of the aspen trees fluttered in the sunlight and cast dappled shadows over the rock strewn ground. Little wild flowers poked up here and there and the entire thing was such a lovely experience of sensations: flavors – the food, the wine, the taste of the breeze; sounds – the river, laughter, birds; scents – mountain air, pine, the cold water; textures of cheese and water, rock and leaves; amd sights – the colors of the rocks and the sun glinting off the endless river ripples.

We left the park early-ish and, on our way to the inn, stopped at a winery tasting room and picked up a bottle of a locally made Syrah along with some smoked trout, said hi to the geese along side the pond and then wound our way down the mountain highway to the inn where we enjoyed the wine, the trout, the hot tub in our room, the pipe in low volume Billie Holiday and other old time jazz and blues, and then, come morning, a delicious breakfast of quiche, coffee and scones.

That morning, leaving the inn, we drove to Twin Sisters Peaks with Violet eyeing the gathering clouds.

Looks like rain, she said. And then again. And then again, reminding me that she was not going to be stoked if she was hiking in the rain.

Yes dear, i replied.

And so we hiked up and up and up: the tumbled and strewn rocks and dotted with moss, the birds that darted through the tall pine that waved and sighed in the breeze, whispering pine secrets amongst each other. A few drops started to come down so we scrambled up to the top of a tall rocky promontory where we had an incredible view of the flat stone face of Long’s Peak in the distance with it’s snowy glaciers and years of compounded snow, and then further down – the valley the river, and other rocky outcroppings and the, from there, seemingly endless sea of pine.

After a quick hike down we decided to drive up further into the park and see what we might find. We took the 34 through the northern edge of the park and along the way:

  • saw half a dozen bighorn sheep alongside a river where they congregate and eat mud for it’s mineral content
  • were awed by the wide grassy meadows with the slowly curving river and fields of wild flowers and massive mountains that sloped down from either side
  • stopped to hang out with a couple of really large male deer with furry antlers, grazing on grass and flowers.
  • and on and on and on….

…til we drove up a random road that dead-ended in a valley at the aptly named Endovalley picnic area. We parked and then hiked up a road for a ways til we reached Chasm Falls, a lovely roaring falls in the woods surrounded by rocks, no one around, the sun shining on us from the now bright blue sky and a lovely afternoon. We hiked back to the car, had some cheese, olives, wine, and then drove onwards through the park, stopping at a wide open meadow speckled with yellow, purple, and white wild flowers and ending in tall pine framing a panoramic view of the mountains with myself allowing promises to return for a longer multi-day hike. From there we drove back down through the park to my aunt and uncles house just south of Boulder where we had a delicious dinner, some wine, nice conversation and finally went to bed early so we could wake early and get to hiking in the morning.

 

Now, after all that we round the highway into a valley ringed by mountains to one side and lush fertile vineyards and farmlands and golden tinged mesas in the evening sun setting over the last stretches of Colorado, hoping to make it to Arches National Park before too late.

Kentucky Rivers and the Mid-West

Driving through the mid west there isn’t much to look at. curving sloping fields segmented by barbed wire fences and oaks give way to neighborhoods, shops warehouses and billboards advertising Nostalgia-ville with it’s 50’s and 60’s icons – Elvis, I love lucy, Betty Boop and Scooby Doo – a time they hope to remember as simpler and more innocent. It’s never simpler and innocent. Only different. There were wars and torture and drugs and sex and crime and corporations bent on poisoning the populace in exchange for a hard-earned dollar from father knows best. After Nostalgia-ville, Winery billboards pop up, maybe every tenth billboard, advertising wines – non-organic and not too special. Then we end up back with green wooded areas and cornfields. Endless cornfields. Soon, in the distance, we’ll be in Kansas with it’s own endless horizon of green. For now, wherever we are – Illinois? Indiana? – has become nothing but woods surrounding us.

"The Move Over Law" – a rule we don’t have out in California but I can see the use for. However, I didn’t know about it until a police officer kindly chose to inform us of it on our way from Nashville, TN to Bonnaroo. I’d made it a long ways at that point – all the way from San Diego – without any hassles. Safe driving, usually over the speed limit (except in Arizona where the red light camera are waiting at, seemingly, every curve to pop you and send a ticket your way). In Little Rock, AR I picked up Violet perfectly on time, right as she landed at the airport. She’d had final exams to finish, was without much sleep and I drove us to Nashville where we found a hotel. The next day, after going grocery shopping at the Whole Foods and breakfast at the Waffle House (not an ideal choice) we were on our way to Bonnaroo, early Wednesday afternoon, perfectly according to plan.

I started noticing unmarked SUVs sitting every mile or so as we got closer to Manchester and we knew they were keeping an eye on all traffic. One pulled out as I passed him and I could feel him waiting for me to do something, anything. With out packed vehicle and California plates, we were a prime target. So we pass a pulled over police car searching someone and the lights go on. WTF? I say. I’d had the cruise control set to the speed limit so I wasn’t even a mile over.

The cop sidles up to the passenger door, tells us about the move over law and asks for some papers… So next thing I’m in back talking to the cop about how we don’t have that in CA and he’s asking about our business here – vending, art, etc – and what that’s all about.

No drugs? Guns? You’re not on probation?

No sir. (Of course not)

And if I brought the dogs around they wouldn’t get anything?

No sir. (yeesh!)

Well, see we don’t mind if people smoke for personal use but we are looking for quantity – weight. People coming out as "vendors" and then selling drugs.

I don’t even smoke pot (which is true!)

Can you open the back of your vehicle?

So i pop open the back and he can see that it is packed full tight. Who the hell would want to search that? I happen to have some small prints accessible and show him. I’m sure his mind goes to some interesting places but we check out so he sends us off with a warming ticket. Cool. Nice. Very little hassle.

So that was a new law and we were sure to tell some of our friends who were on their way. And now, with this long drive homewards, we see the "move-over" sign often when entering a new state and we’re sure to get over.

When we left Bonnaroo there were no SUVs looking for anyone (tho we did see a few people getting heavily patted down) and we collapsed at a Comfort Inn just north of Nashville. The next morning (because bedtime was 6pm or something) we went downtown to get some work done. Downtown Nashville isn’t, in my humble opinion, much to speak about. It was also mad packed with the Country Music Awards which we didn’t [plan to stick around for. Good stuff for those who like it. Anyways, we both had some things to finish – me entering data and emails from Bonnaroo and Violet still had a lingering paper to finish. We sat at a Panera Cafe, had some lunch (salad) some green tea and worked.

Outside the sunny day quickly turned dark. We heard talk of tornado warnings. The dark sky turned a deep charcoal grey and rain came down in sheets. We decided that leaving soon wasn’t an option and waited it out. Waited a little longer and the whole thing passed by – no tornado in downtown Nashville that day but it was quite a storm. We got back on the road as soon as possible, heading north east to Campbellsville, KY, a little town in the middle of not a whole lot and home of Violet’s Dad and (somewhat) younger brother.

We spent the next few days canoeing, kayaking and watching movies. The first night we went out for some decent Mexican food and then spent the night (and the next few) at a (very) nearby motel. "Lucky Vista" motel. The vista however was warehouses that cut the view between the hills and the observer and the subtitle sign to the main sign said "American Owned" " Country Charm". As if being American Owned makes a difference. I don’t care much one way or another who owns a place – if the person is compassionate, kind, caring, generous and patient (and at least semi-intelligent), then they get my business. The Comfort Inn we’d just stayed at was run by a couple who was of Middle Eastern descent. The woman told us she was from Riverside, CA and had lived in Nashville for 6 years and her daughter loved it. They were as American as anyone else I’ve met. Just because homeboy has a southern drawl, a pick up truck, and a shock of blond hair that doesn’t make him any more or less American than so many others.

And I could never judge someone on their race – whether running a hotel or not. Like I said, their compassion outweighs their skin color by infinite amounts considering that skin color amounts to zero in my book and compassion and wisdom are just about everything. Las night we spent the night at a Best Western. It was the last choice since everywhere else was full. We’d ended up in southern Illinois looking for a place to spend the night. Everywhere we went – right off the highway anyhow – was full. Turns out there was a giant amusement park right there. Holiday World. For people who it doesn’t take much to entertain. Anyhow, we get there at like 12:30am and finally get a room (last one and this is the third hotel tried) and we get to our room (pretty comfy) and the neighboring room to our right is a family that is arguing itself to hell. CRAZY! So a phone call to the front desk and it doesn’t end. That’s what you get amping kids up on caffeine and sugar water – i mean – soda. It’s nuts but we wear earplugs. We wake to the same thing. NUTS! So As I’m checking out I’m sort of filing a complaint with the front desk. It’s two older ladies and they say they’ll need to talk to the manager.

The point of this story is that his skin is just as dark as the extremely nice couple who ran the Comfort Inn but he is telling me "What can you do?". But we all know that if it were a bunch of partying kids, they would have been booted. But an arguing family? They should be booted too. Society shouldn’t be so accepting of such crude behavior. After some discussing and seeing that we won’t leave him alone, he tells the computer-inept front desk woman to give us a 10% discount. The point of this story is that, had he some compassion, he would have acted differently. Compassion is as non-skin color specific as being American or Indian or French.

That sense of compassion extends to Jarrod, Violet’s brother, recusing the dragon fly that had found itself drowning in the wide flowing river as we canoed downstream it. It’s wings fluttering, slowly drowning. We were in a canoe and a fair bit less maneuverable – at least for ourselves who aren’t super adept at watercraft. Jarrod, in his Kayak, paddled over and rescued the guy from the water. It was about 6 inches long and a beautiful yellow and black. Dragonflies had been landing on us and around us all day – buzzing through the air and tracing arcs and curves along the snaking Green River.

The river was pretty high for the time of the year but rain had been coming down off an on for days and now it’d cleared and the bright sunny day, big lazy clouds drifting overhead, and the multi-colored temperate rainforest of the Kentucky woodlands on either side of us. Occasionally we’d pass farmland or cows grazing or pass under some old rickety bridge but for the most part it was just us, gently avoiding the trees hanging over the water or the logs sticking up from below, startling great blue herons who would come swooping out of the trees and soar further upstream and hawks who would pass overhead. Dozens of little birds of various shades of brown and black, variously striped and the occasional cardinal would dart out over the churning water.

We came upon a thirty foot waterfall stretching along about twenty feet – in alternating sections of water, moss, and dangling vines dotted with pink and white flowers. We passed it by, a memory of the river. There wasn’t really stopping and once you’d passed it, on the river, there was no going back. The river flowed at a fair clip and it took a bit of effort to travel upstream.

Eventually, sun-kissed and satisfied, we reached our stopping point, where we’d left one car to shuttle us back to the beginning. The big oaks and sycamore dappled in sunlight – golden green and glowing – fluttered in the evening breeze and we drove back to the beginning, passing rolling Kentucky farmland, little houses and weathered red barns.

Driving to Bonnaroo

I’m on my way to the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN where we are doing our tenthousandvisions-once-a-year-giant-festival-vending-experience. We went three years ago, had a great time, and now are doing it again with a lot more experience under our belts and a far more solid plan of attach. When we’re finished, Violet and I will make our way back home via Kentucky (visit her dad), then Colorado (visit the mountains) and finally to Utah and Arizona (visit the canyons). It’s work. It’s vacation. it’s a summer roadtrip.

I’m driving a giant SUV packed with all the necessary things for three or four weeks of travel- the camping/play time stuff and the vending/festival/art stuff. So much stuff! Some people continue on – festival after festival – but we have neither the time nor the energy for that. I don’t want to become a fixture anywhere, preferring the magic of a one-time meeting rather than becoming something that is expected.

I’ve written before tho about bringing art to the masses and Bonnaroo is exactly that. I find that the events that tend towards my own community of people out here tend to feel a little like preaching to the choir sometimes. It’s cool and fun and all – but it’s not different and that "different" feeling – that experience of encountering something entirely "other" and yet, very much reflective of yourself, is really where an energetic opening happens. I like that and I like being able to be that sort of catalyst.

Anyhow, I’m driving alone right now, an empty passenger seat beside me. But i’m not taking other passengers! Violet holds that reservation and I’m picking her up at the airport in Little Rock, AR on Tuesday afternoon because she has finals to finish and then is graduated, done with undergrad work at last! She’s worked hard at it for a long time now and I’m proud of her for getting through. But that leaves me on my own for now. However, while I do love the company – she is my wife and best friend after all – a little alone time, time to totally chill is nice. There’s no rush and I can actually relax for a bit til I have to kick back into gear in a few days for festival-public-relations mode. There will be plenty of talking!

So, last night, I finally got out of San Diego at 8:30 after stopping at Whole Foods and Kinkos and did about four hours of driving til fatigue started to set in. 6 hours sleep a night for the past week while busting my ass each day has left me a bit weary. But no rest for the weary, we say!

The humble little town of Blythe, on the CA/AZ border, was the spot on the map for me and I pulled into a motel. The woman at the window of the motel wore pants that could have fit ten of me. When she waddled over to the register, granting me a view of her rolls from the side and, with her thighs busting the seams of even those pants, I wondered if the slave labor in some third world country where those plus plus plus size dollar bin pants are made wonder just what type of creature wears those things.

Now I’m on my way to Phoenix (a city I vowed never to return to 10 years ago) and then north to Flagstaff and onto a campground in the CIbola National Forest east of Albuquerque where I can pitch tent under tall watchful Ponderosa pine.

Pausing @ Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach

Pausing, resting, stopping for a moment is when I have a chance to notice the silhouette of the sandpiper standing on a rock, dark against the blue of the sky reflected in the tide pool. It is when I see the glowingly green stone almost hidden by the ripples of the water and catch a glimpse of a magenta bodied starfish  – its white dots like rows of little stars – clustered with three other starfish under an overhanging ledge of rock, peppered with barnacles. Some barnacles are the size of my big toe, others more the size of the nail of my little toe and the cliff hanging living – compact and confined, clustered tightly – blue lips of thousands of mussels. In the watery pools the anemone softly wave their blue green tendrils – a sort of fluorescent flower under the sea. Above the water, they have turned to gloppy blob like things speckled with the bits and pieces of broken shells and sand all clinging to them. When you see rocks stretching out in front of you with this blanket of shell particles it is not to be stepped upon. This is merely the pieced together shell of dozens of anemone, all clustered together, one after the other, in sprawling communities. Who am I to not want to also live in the sprawl? Perhaps sprawl is a natural occurrence. The only difference between the vast sprawling wasteland – I mean Irvine and Orange County – just northeast of me – and this is that this plays an integral part in the workings of a healthy ecosystem. Conversely, that spreading cancerous growth that is modern day living consumes and consumes and consumes in a seemingly never-ending power struggle and the waste? Plastic, toxins, runoff, etc… Garbage and poison. So. It’s the toxic nature of that sprawl that doesn’t excite me, the part that isn’t much like these rocks and pools and communities of sea life spreading out in front of me.

So I wander further down the beach, [picking up a shell and marveling at the intricate complexity of the lines of the rocks like giant shards poking up through the sand, rubbed and caressed into sinewy lines by years of ocean currents. Blues that merge into green that follow a line into a pool. In the pool is a rock with an orange glow and speckled with a pink coral sort of growth. The pink only glows when it is wet. If I take the rock home to admire it on my mantel, the pink will fade and I’ll be left with an orange rock and memory. So after admiring it for a while, turning it over in my hand and loving the way the sun through the water through the rock creates this glow in my hand, I place it back into the pool, where it settles in amongst the snails and seaweed.

The seaweed lines every pool and there are several main types – some grassy hair like stuff, a sort of red lacey type that lines the edges of many of the pools and some others of various sizes. The way the water magnifies the lacey one – calling to attention each little fold and fleck – is lovely. Lovely.

Waves crash on the rocks in front of me and I step back so the water that comes in with that wave doesn’t wash over my feet. The sun sparkles over the surface of the water in front of me and I stretch my arms wide to feel the wind that comes in from that vast unknown world – the above and below – the wind and sea- the salt on the air and the sun in my eyes, warming my bare arms.
 

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

Late last night we returned from perusing the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. I’d never been there, tho I’ve heard plenty about it, and at first had a difficult time taking it in. Such a diverse and interesting sub-culture! Part old grizzled sort of miner guys, part Middle Eastern L.A-Fabric-District type salesmen and nationalities, part hippie-Grateful-Dead-Shakedown-Street, part new age cahkra-auric-healer-type, part just-some-folks-who-like-shiny-baubles… And dozens of other sorts spread out all over the place. Giant stones and ginormous crystals and semi-precious pieces of all kinds – huge quartz crystals and massive amethyst geodes twice as tall as Violet, gorgeously green polished chunks of malachite and deeply lustrous slices of labradorite. It all seemed sort of never-ending.

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We went for a few reasons. It was nice to get out and we both like crystals. It seemed a good way to spend a long Valentine’s. Primarily, though, we went to pick up some pieces to make jewelry with as we’ve been getting ready to start adding one-of-a-kind pieces to the website as well as sell in a few really unique locations; and to pick up some rocks for some friends. it’s amazing walking around and seeing all these different pieces of the planet in all of it’s stunning color and reflections, Of course, it was nice finding the occasionally amazing deal like the one dollar a pound chunks of rose quartz, that, for under $20, let us walk away with a couple of serious pieces of it. Then, a little bit later, we stumble on another fellow selling rose quartz and it’s $10/lb. He’s probably buying it from the first guy. What a mark-up! What a racket!

At Burning Man last year we’d been talking to the dude who ran the jewelry camp (which, I hear, is no more). They would acquire several thousand dollars worth of gemstones from Tucson and let people make necklaces, bracelets, etc, with them in their tent. There was always a long line to get in and, tho it was hot in there, it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Anyhow, he remarked to us that, though he’s traveled the world and been to the actual mines, frequently he found the same pieces to be cheaper in Tucson than anywhere else. This was proven to us when we bought a sweet piece of amber for $5/lb versus the $7/lb we paid in Mexico where it is found.

We met some sweet people – a guy selling amber gave Violet some good tips on how to shape it and drill it. The girl selling coffee whom we talked with for a bit probably did better – investment vs. ROI – than most people did there. Many folks said it was the slowest season in all the years they’d been. When people are having trouble paying the mortgage, buying a giant rock seems sort of a distant thought. But the girl selling coffee and tea: everyone wants their fix and, when the economy is tanking, it seems like the people who sell vices sometimes do pretty well. Our culture breeds a type of mentality that would rather drown it’s sorrows than pull itself together. But that is another story.

The following posts…

… are from our honeymoon, Violet and I.

I wrote the entries in a word document but not all at once. The tense changes terribly throughout and it is poorly edited. But i posted it here because it is like the raw footage. There are gems of insight. And some mud of grammar here and there. So enjoy! I’ll post some pictures sooner than later but life has us busy, as it chomps at our heels and it joyful to have us back in the normal flow of things. It was a summer of big projects, lots of planning, serious commitments and too much packing and unpacking. As we sort out all the piece that are left, and put things back in order we are so grateful for all the people we met, interacted with, played with, laughed with, and shared stories with along these journeys. I’ll be posting some stuff about McLightenment sooner than later…

Barcelona, Amsterdam, NYC, and, at last, home

We slept deeply and packed our things in the morning, purchased a few more bottles of wine and checked out of the hotel after breakfast and a walk and drove up up up out of town and then down down down back into the flat landscape of Catalonia. Violet was tired of driving. It had seemed inefficient to have me drive, since I didn’t drive stick and it would take a while to learn and we couldn’t get to where we were going as quickly. “Are we there yet?” she asked.

We tried to go check out Colonia Guell outside of Barcelona- a chapel that Gaudi designed. It was unfortunately closed but we could admire it’s seemingly random curves from afar. So we had lunch and then were on the road, into Barcelona, as I did my best to navigate, and got to the parking garage outside of Jami’s place without much consequence. There were crowds of people and, when we got up to her fifth floor apartment, she was excited to have us back. There was some kind of festival going on, that had been going on for a few days and there was music tonight,  fireworks, who knows what. So we quickly cleaned up, grabbed a few things an headed out with her towards the harbor where we would see a performance of some sort of circus thing.

We met up with her friends Rachel and Diana there and then quickly got sidetracked by the rows of tents offering wine-tasting. We love tasting wine! But we miss the performance. We decide we are all hungry and take off for tapas at a crowded little place and eat a huge selection of dishes, with two other fellows joining us as we drink more wine from little glasses, laughing, talking, enjoying. We head to Dianas place where we get a wonderful view of the city rooftops from her rooftop apartment, the cathedral next door with it’s stained glass windows lit up, the distant fireworks going off signaling the beginning of the fireworks show. Like little kids we gather ourselves up and  head to the harbor again to see the fireworks show that is being put on by Uruguay. It huge. It’s loud. It’s fireworks and it seems fitting for our last night. We wander home through the darkened streets to a bed that welcomes us.

The next morning, with too little sleep, we are up early, pack up our things quickly, trying to pack our five bottles of wine as carefully as possible and then are on our way to the airport, returning the car, picking up our tickets, standing in a line, getting on a plane to Amsterdam, being served breakfast and getting off plane. We have a six hour layover so we grab our things and get on a train to the Van Gogh museum. Seems everyone in Amsterdam speaks pretty good English. The Van Gogh museum is a wonderful treat with it’s several hundred Van Gogh’s – his signature gloppy brushstrokes, thick in consistency, little over painting but… so right each time. We purchase a poster and some postcards on our way out, try to get into the Rijk Museum nearby but find we have no more time, with we had more time for the rest of the city and then are on our way back to the airport.
The plane ride is pleasant enough… dinner… wine… movies… land in JFK, get a hotel with the most comfortable bed yet, some Italian delivery dinner, a night sleep… on the plane to San Diego, are reminded what American airlines are like (Jet Blue) – with their meager snacks and $5 movies per person(!) and finally arrive home in San Diego. And that is when the Honeymoon is over.
But good things like this… they last a long long time… new adventures… new projects… inspirations… unfolding…

Port Ligat and the sea

When we are complete with Dali, it is onwards and upwards out of the city. I found on the map the Monastery of Santa Maria, located high up in the mountains between Figueres and Cadaques. The road takes us up into the blue sky and with the windows down, the sun shining majestically and the world stretching out before us with welcoming arms, it feels like a return into the light; Dali was sort of a dark fellow. We stop at an old stone dolmen, a burial arrangement of stones that is, what?, ten thousand years old? Ancient!

We come around a bend, through a couple of roundabouts and into the access road to the Monastery. The first stones of the Monastery were laid in the 6th century – 1500 years ago! – later it was built up in the 10th and 11th centuries and went through various times of abundance and poverty, expanding itself as was fit. The tall stone towers, the vast echoing chapel with it’s filigreed columns sculpted by hands centuries old with golden light cast into it from the afternoon sun was an inspiration. Ancient remnants of frescos still on the walls in some places, other little corners and nuances… it was a gorgeous and inspiring experience, right down to the flan and cappuccinos we  had on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean below.

At last we got back into our little Naranjazul and made our way back down the mountain towards Cadaques. After a shower and a snack, we prepared to go have dinner. A nice restaurant, wine, fish in a delicious sauce, a walk along the waters edge, a softly lit evening…
The next day, after rising and having croissants and café con leche on the sun porch of the hotel we wandered through the little art market taking place in the town square then took a picnic lunch over the hill to the Dali house-now-museum in Port Ligat, a fifteen minute walk away. We were fortunate to be able to get a couple of tickets for a tour since they have to be bought in advance and were inspired by his imagination – the house slowly built over time, fishing shacks converted to house, office, connected with strange passageways and nuances around every corner…. We took our lunch later along a steep Cliffside of shale and then walked around the bay for a while til our hopes of finding the beach were dashed and Violet got quieter and quieter, a bad sign. So we walked back to town where we decided we’d just drive to a beach but we fell asleep for a while instead. I get up after a while and go for a walk. I don’t remember where.

Later I return, wake Violet for dinner, get ready and leave her to get ready while I go and sit at a tapas bar on the water, draw in my sketchbook,  drink an espresso and try not to get tired of waiting for Violet to get ready. The sky grows dusty blue and pink as the sun sets behind us and people show up, taking tables around me, eating, drinking. It is nice to not be rushed by impatient American waiters and instead have a waiter who is ok with letting me sit and draw at my table on the edge of the beach. The table next to me is a French family  of five, with two children maybe 8 and 9 and a little one in a stroller; reminds me of my family on vacation. The children are bouncing off the walls and finally go down to the water to check stones into the sea. It seems at that point like the parents breath a sigh of relief.  Eventually, Violet joins me and we walk off into the evening, finding a warmly lit Moroccan restaurant where we eat some truly delicious food, have more wine and wander home, our bellies full, our minds at ease, and loving each other and the world. This is our second to last night. The next night would find us back in Barcelona and then, come morning, on a plane home. We tried not to think about it.

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