Thursday, May 26, 2011

to be high

Way up & out in the middle of the desert, I had no internet for a couple days, and then it took some time to process this experience- although I'd done some writing the old-fashioned way, in my journal, surrounded by huge rocks and utter quiet. On Monday we'd driven to Ghost Ranch, in Abiquiu, from Santa Fe. Georgia O'Keeffe had first stayed here in 1934 and, finding boundless inspiration and peace in this landscape, continued to return regularly until 1946 when Stieglitz died & she moved here, to a house on the ranch and later procuring a house in the nearby village as well. By the time I'd hiked up to Chimney Rock and surveyed the desert spread all around me far below and stretching out in all directions to the horizon (I must be repeating myself in these posts, in my attempts to describe these places), my mind was thoroughly blown, scattered to pieces. Was that the cause of my lightheadedness? It was probably the thinner air I wasn't used to breathing, but I felt free and elated and high. The red and yellow rocks, their surface afire in the sun, I watched the light move across the cliffs over the afternoon until dusk. You slip easily into a meditative state, the quiet, except for birds, all around you.
We'd arranged to stay overnight in lodgings at the top of a mesa, nobody else around. I woke at 2 am and crept outside. The moon shone brightly behind some wispy clouds, the sky really did look like a massive dome arching overhead and, at 8000 ft above sea level, I actually did feel closer to the stars. The Big Dipper seemed so absurdly large to me, as if there was a 3rd one called the Humongous Dipper. The morning dawned gray and windy, and as I turned around from making coffee, there was a sudden rainbow arching through the dark clouds and appearing to end near the pale gold Chimney Rock, lit up by early sunlight. A nice touch.
Later, after another hike through Box Canyon, I walked a labyrinth nestled near the canyon (something I haven't done before) and observed that one can't comprehend the potential effect of a labyrinth until one walks it. You are walking towards the center, slowly and mindfully, without having to decide where you're going, just following the path and trusting it'll lead you gradually within to the place you want to be. In the middle I lay on my back for a moment and closed my eyes, the warm sun on my face. A few minutes after I exited the labyrinth, the wind kicked up, clouds obscured the sky again and a there was a brief spatter of rain. Driving through the village of Abiquiu, I stopped & talked to a resident who, as a young man, had assisted O'Keeffe with her house and garden. He had a lot to say, and most of it was probably true.
I only have 3 days left, I admittedly haven't made much besides some Santa Fe watercolors & a small White Sands painting, but I have a lot of new ideas floating around (whatever I managed to gather up after my mind got blown away), both from my journey and as a result of that museum show & all that photo/painting stuff. In addition to communicating through my representation of objects, I'm considering an attempt to include mySELF in these environments/ landscapes I've experienced, maybe more of a "self-image" (I got this phrase from Robert Bechtle, an artist I learned of last year and who had work in the show) than a self-portrait. For now, I'm happy to have photos; here is a small selection.

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