Showing posts with label Art in Nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art in Nature. Show all posts

Sunday, April 29, 2012

We Have Each Other

To arrive at the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico is like landing on another planet. No paved roads, no trees or shrubs—only barren, rocky land for miles. What is attractive is the pristine space, carved by rock forms shaped by time, wind, gravity and the elements.

Heidi Of The Mountains and I take one day a week to relax and spend time together away from pressing cares. We usually choose an adventure to share, although one day, we did nothing but sleep, read, and do some gardening. We chose to visit Bisti, and arrived at the Badlands in the dark, after driving 3 ½ hours from Santa Fe. The last two miles were dirt road, with no light. I parked at the end of the road and we got out to walk with our puppy, Chamo. The air was warm and noiseless. We tried to stay on the road while walking beneath a half full moon. We could only barely make out the forms of the rocky hills nearby. Heidi said, “As long as we have each other, we don’t need anything else.”

Later that night, the temperatures dropped and I argued with Heidi who did not want me to put the dog, who is getting hefty in size, outside. We were crammed into the back of my van, sleeping on a foam pad. The dog went out, but soon was scratching to get back in. Once inside again, he fell asleep with his head on my chest and started dreaming, then twitching in his sleep. Eventually, I settled him next to Heidi who does not mind him lying next to her. We all slept together until I woke at dawn and saw a rosy sky outside. The air was cold, but I arose to go out for a walk and photograph. Chamo came with me and we explored the stunning landscape. Despite my frozen hands, I took some nice pictures.

I had walked around mesmerized by the scenery and light, still sleepy—and got lost. Chamo did not understand my entreaties to “find Heidi.” We found the road, but I began walking in the wrong direction until I decided to turn around. At last, we arrived back to the van, and Heidi was waiting, concerned we had been gone so long.

When the three of us set out walking together into the badlands, we felt free and happy to be in such unusual and intriguing surroundings. Nobody else was around, and Heidi modeled nude among the rocks, under the big sky.

I had intended to paint in the afternoon, but after lounging in the van for a nap, the sky grew cloudy and a wind picked up force. We began driving back to Santa Fe. Along the way, we occasionally noticed derelict homes dotting the landscape. Heidi said, “How can people live out here?” I reminded her what she had said earlier, that we had each other, and so could be anywhere. She said, “I could not live here.” Then I smiled and kept my mouth shut.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ghosts, Beauty, And Suicide

Yesterday I walked with a friend to a place where many suicides have occurred. It is near the rough and tumble old west town of Taos, at the foot of mountains where Taos Indians have lived in their pueblo village for many centuries, and close to where many people have sworn they have heard a mysterious sound called the Taos Hum, featured on the television program called Unsolved Mysteries.

We had to park our car and walk before setting foot on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a fantastic metal span, 650 feet above the river below. Narrow walkways allow pedestrians access on either side of the two lane highway that crosses over the gorge. The day was bright and balmy, but steady strong gusts of wind buffeted us, and almost immediately my friend complained she was dizzy. In fact, it is easy to get vertigo so high in the air above ground, but the view is breathtaking and so spectacular that the draw is almost irresistible. Standing in the middle of the span, visitors can lean against a railing that is chest high, then gaze out and down to the wild, relentless river far below. To stand there in the proud and primitive setting is to be inches away from certain death. I felt something primeval and compelling about looking closely into such a grand abyss—as if in one second I could disappear forever by crossing the thinnest of lines.

It is said that a ghost inhabits the bridge and has caused people to jump. She appears as a young Hispanic woman wearing jeans and a white T-shirt who is visible one moment, then suddenly disappears. I cannot say that I believe in ghosts like that, but I do say that people carry ghosts inside themselves and that these “demons” can do harm and even drive a person to suicide.

What is true is that invisible vestiges of doubt or fear can be lodged in a human psyche, and whatever a person does to root out this “ghost” can fail, so it lingers as if in a haunted house.

I knew the last person to be confirmed as having committed suicide off the bridge. The last time I saw her was when she modeled for a drawing group on a summer evening, and afterward we talked outside under the moonlight. She seemed very animated and also to be slipping into darkness and then scrambling out again. Her boyfriend had left her; she was plagued with self-doubt and had money problems. Her intelligence was astute enough that she had written, produced, and then performed in many one-woman theatrical productions that had been favorably received, and gained reviews in the local newspaper. In her productions, she tried exorcising her ghosts by making light of her personal problems and how she felt that she did not fit in the world. Shortly after our meeting, I learned that her car had been found by the bridge, and she was missing. About a week later, her body was found, miles down stream, caught in brush and partly submerged in the river. Had the ghost spoken a spell in her ears? For some, the peace of death, and the urge to control the pain of life by a "final solution" ultimately gets the better hand.

After my friend and I peered off the side of the bridge, we walked along the West Rim Trail amidst rugged, wide-open mesas and chiseled steep canyons.  The elevation along the river is 6,100 feet and rises 800 feet at the gorge rim. Along the way we often stopped to gaze from the mesa top above the river at stunning and breathtaking views of the Rio Grande Gorge and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Not once did I see a ghost.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What Poets Write About

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. ~Stanley Horowitz

I feel fortunate to live in a place with spectacular natural beauty, light that is sharp and clear, and seasons that change dramatically. Now, in the days of autumn, I have been working in my studio, getting ready for my upcoming mixed-media photo show October 16, called The World Is One Country. Yet the outdoors is so fantastic, I often leave to go hiking and painting.
A few days ago I hiked with a friend in the mountains. We parked by a stream and followed it down the mountain. The sun shone in a blue sky while the air felt brisk and chilly until we heated up from exercise and the extraordinary beauty all around us took our minds from any discomfort. The trail wound along beside the stream, sometimes forcing us to cross over by hopping on rocks or walking over fallen trees. There were obstacles in our path but as my friend said, “This is so much better than Disneyland!” The colors took my breath away more than the exertion of the hike. The evergreens had their usual deep hues, but the plants on the forest floor were all turning into blazing flames of yellows and reds. Perhaps most awesome are the aspen trees, sometimes called “quaking aspens” for the way their small, heart-shaped leaves quiver in the breeze. Now, the leaves are the color of gold, and when they quiver in the sunlight, they sparkle like gems—whole mountainsides of incandescent celebration.
Experience of nature in its pure state is what poets write about and artists try to capture. But the Creator of the universe is far ahead of our imaginings, and His work is testimony to His greatness which is well beyond human approach.
Once the last tree is cut and the last river poisoned, you will find you cannot eat your money -American Indian Proverb