These autumn days, wonderful colors, textures and temperatures beckon to be explored and enjoyed. For decades I have gone up into the mountains above Santa Fe to see the aspen trees during their ten days or so of shimmering golden vesture. This year I felt a tinge of bittersweetness as I drove upward with my art supplies and camera early in the morning on the winding ski road. Soon, Amy and I will be living in Oaxaca, Mexico. Might this be a last kiss goodbye to the place I have called home for over 40 years?
I carried my camera and hiked along a popular trail. Already folks were out enjoying nature. I passed a couple tents and came to a mountain stream, then chose to follow it up the slope. Now I was alone. The trees stood tall all around and the ferns were bursting with color. A small trail meandered nearby, but I chose to stay by the stream, stopping often to photograph the fallen leaves, mossy rocks and the gay stream with the play of light and shadow. My foot slipped into rushing water but I was so absorbed with dazzling nature I only laughed and kept climbing.
Occasionally I fell out of breath—the elevation is over 10,000 feet. But magnetized by beauty and the pure mountain experience, I felt jubilant. A few times, I spotted a landmark up ahead and said, ”that is where I will stop and turn around.” But the forest beckoned me onward. After awhile, I thought of my paints and canvas and went back. On the way, I found a site I thought would be pleasing for a painting composition.
Gathering my art supplies, I set up and began painting. After twenty minutes, while intently working, I felt something run up my back pant leg. Surprised, I turned to see a chipmunk scurry off. This little creature was a sign from spirit and I spoke to him. After a couple minutes it happened again, and when I looked, two chipmunks stood watching me. They stayed around and when a young man and his father hiked past, the boy stopped and pointed out that a chipmunk stood nearby. I said, “Yes, I know.”
The painting finished, I felt satisfied and drove the winding road back into town.
After posting the result online, the little aspen painting sold immediately—while still wet with paint.
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