So this is from healthy pots of succulents and imagination… no ceramics were injured in the making of this painting. I have had an idea to paint a crushed terra cotta pot, but with its inhabitants finding a way to thrive in the new situation. I find that sometimes titles are hard to pin on a painting, but for this one the metaphors were waiting in line in my imagination as I laid down the paint. “Catastrophe and Opportunity,” “Fragile Planet,” “Microclimate,” “Heroic Voyage,” “Hatched,” “Branching Out.” You get the idea… I let “Looking on the Bright Side” rise to the top.
24×36″ oil on linen– It’s raining right now as I post this giving the promise of even more days this spring for rock hopping up our local creeks to find boulder falls and pools like this lit by sunlight filtered through the oak and bay laurel canopy… I threw some poison oak into this one. I’ve had it quite a bit this winter from mushroom hunting this winter. Although it would be nice to just walk cross country without having to always be mindful of what twigs you are touching, I’d never wish this plant not to be there. I think of it as kind of a protector in the forest, making us watch where we step and being sure there are places always for wildlife to hide and for people to not be. And besides– it adds to the fun challenge of a rock scramble obstacle course to have some poison oak “hot lava” spots…
12×16″ oil on canvas– Boulder Maze
9×12″ oil– Split Rock Frame
Here are a couple small paintings I made as we camped amongst the boulders at Jumbo Rocks last week. I love how the desert plays with your sense of scale, with rocks shaped like pebbles but four stories high in a vast flat expanse miles wide under an enormous sky. Huddled close to the ground you find wildflowers, horned lizards and a myriad of resourceful life forms– so much small detail and so much space. The Joshua Trees in these paintings give them their scale– without them, these might just be sand castles.
Our family was so fortunate to get the opportunity to explore Costa Rica this summer. We saw incredible lush scenery (it is the rainy season), met beautiful down-to-earth people, and encountered a long list of rainforest creatures… quetzals, coatis, agoutis, monkeys and iguanas. So nice to see such pristine habitat— (but don’t buy palm oil, which is the only monoculture we saw trampling the rainforest) Pura Vida!
Arenal 8×10″ Casein on Paper
Nuayaca Falls 8×10″ Casein on Paper
Salto en Arenal 8×10″ Casein on Paper
The overcast afternoon under these dark live oaks on the Jesusita trail made the reds in the poison oak just glow. I have to confess that I’m coming to love this plant. I think of it like a protector of patches of the landscape where wild creatures can hide from people in hidden glens like this one. Thinking from this point of view makes the spots on my leg itch a little less. Casein on Birch Panel 9×12″ Click to Bid
I decided not to include the crews of guys in hazmat suits cleaning up tar balls riding the currents south on the currents from the Refugio oil spill. It is a shame that such a beautiful landscape is tainted by accidents like this and the huge offshore platforms on the horizon. I hope some day we’ll switch to more sustainable energy sources and pipelines will be a thing of the past. Casein on Birch Panel 8×10″
(I haven't posted a poem in a while... This one came to me while backpacking in the Thousand Lakes basin over a year ago.)
These tall granite peaks (the ones sitting in a magnificent circle here with a basin of mirrored lakes at their toes. which are creating rock and pine tree Rorschach tests on their distant shorelines for the deer to contemplate)…
These immense castle walls (with the hollow bone-like echoes of the last of this years snowmelt channeling through their crevices and caverns and then springing to the surface to be filtered by spongy wildflower gardens)…
These eroding ancient pyramids (falling apart as boulders, pebbles, and sand slowly disassembling into the most complex jigsaw puzzle on the planet)…
Yes, these very mountains are breathing.
I heard them myself, inhaling a breeze up this warm moist valley up up up to their snowy tops, where they are exhaling it, right now as puffy white cumulonimbus outbreaths.
So strong, when the mountains breathe, that I can help but feel the wind sucked from my own lungs as it joins the flow to the peaks.
Gardeners of the world unite! Let’s slip out in the full moonlight with seeds in hands and watering cans And garden spades stashed out of sight!
For our first organic plot, lets sneak into a parking lot and plant fruit seeds so folks won’t need To go indoors for apricots.
Street medians we will reclaim, This public land won’t look the same, We’ll line each route with herbs and fruit Overflowing into the lanes.
Three sisters: corn and squash and beans, Are now sprouting outside Dairy Queen, They have no clue, that it was you, And nice touch with those collard greens.
And if we have any luck, Children will soon learn to pluck free string beens, climbing the swings, And extend recess and save a buck.
Once we’ve pulled out all the stops, Who’ll want those corporate monocrops? No genetics here, And we’ve got beer- Once we harvest that creekside hops.
We’ll pry concrete with fig tree roots, We’ll enlist scrubjays as recruits to plant an oak at every stroke, And give new meaning to “grassroots.”
Let’s plant city parks and vacant land, With a living, humming garden stand, Let’s teach the youth with food and truth, That what sustains them is in their hands.
Let “Compost! Compost!” be our cry, It’s a freedom none can be denied, To love the ground, and help it rebound, Gardeners of the world, unite!
You can tell by the gathering thunderheads that enough modern day shamans must have performed today’s most effective rain dance rituals— either by washing their cars or planning outdoor weddings in the spring. Not to be superstitious, but let us not jinx this by looking at the weather channel rather than stepping outdoors to feel the air. And quick, before the sky opens, let us reroute these aluminum gutters, street side gullies, concrete culverts, dikes, ducts and drains designed to protect us from flood by dehydrating the landscape. With some reverse engineering, backwards pioneering, and a handy undo-it-yourself mentality we can turn convention on its head like an upside-down umbrella and slow, spread, and sink this sweet rainfall. Let’s dig us some swales swollen with saturated sponges of punky wood and mushroom mycelium and strengthened with the rebar-like roots of resilient plants. Watch as these drops filter through the earth to fill our emptied aquifers, those underground rivers thirsty too long now under impervious parasols of parching pavement. Shakened and awakened by the thunder on the horizon now, why not go out barefoot in these cold showers, quench our skin, celebrate and sing our appreciation with the frogs?
Cul de Sac Here you see a fifth acre of desert scrub. A black plastic weed barrier buried under decomposed granite with soggy cactus, overwatered mesquite, and Mojave natives poking their heads through circular holes. A tall century bloom swarms with hummingbirds. Next door, you find a formal lot imported from colonial England, with gingerbread epoxied to the stucco. A trimmed lawn with an ornamental plum sprouts bushes and hedges trimmed like lollipops. A red-brick walkway sways pleasantly to the red front door. Apparently, a fifth acre chunk of Hawaii has been excavated shipped overseas, and dropped into the plot next door... Plop! Bermuda grass, palm trees, ginger flowers and trailing bamboo... (the curse of colonial England next door) all flank a pink mailbox in a pad of black lava rock. Down the street, an awkward crispy orange pine tree and some ceramic squirrels create the high mountain ambiance of a Swiss glen. The Dutch annuals explode along the sidewalk like red, yellow, blue and green fireworks (miracle-y growing so far from their Nordic relatives) with their plastic name and care tags sprouting from the salt-and-pepper soil like fuses. The Hawaiians, Mexicans, English and Swiss gossip in their driveways, rolling eyes and cursing the house at the end of the block, so flagrantly violating the HOA... Just look at its weedy, unwatered yard going to seed: an unpruned wild oak planted by jays, dandelions, chickweed, lambs quarters, Red Maids and coastal sage overflowing the mowing strip... No gardeners here but the wild birds. Look at them munching wild seeds, checking their migration maps, and wondering “where on earth are we, anyway?”