between here and there


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Art for the Universe

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If you are driving between Island Park, ID and Ennis, MT keep a look out for art. This weekend I was in Jackson Hole to sketch . I made one small pastel on the trip.

The drive into Ennis was blustery and the landscape moody. I rolled down the passenger window to take a picture while driving (shhhh…) and that’s when I lost it. That pastel drawing was sucked right out the window !

A gift back to the landscape, I guess.

All that’s left of it is this one quick photo taken with my phone .

Honor the Universe.


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The Quick Practice

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Studying Teton Valley.

Sun comes. Clouds. Rain. A bit of snow. More clouds. Sun again, then gone.


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Coming Home

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I lived in Jackson Hole, almost full-time for a few years. Today I live most of the year in Bozeman, Montana. I’m still in between. It seems that in between is my life mantra. I am somewhere between feeling twenty-something somedays and the age I really am on other days. I am between figuring out who I am am what I really should be doing with my life. I am all days living an adventure between where I was yesterday and where I will be tomorrow. Being where I am today. I wrote this piece a little over a year ago. When I was mostly living in Jackson Hole,

It’s more than a little Intimidating if you want to be a writer and you live in the shadows of those who have inspired your life and your interest in writing. They, who have succeeded literary rapture and moved people to both action and tears. They who have inspired me along the path that has become my life.

So where does one start when it seems like all the most inspiring thoughts have been recorded? How could there be anything to add? Perhaps there is a little space to be found in the words that is simply a life more ordinary. A place with words carved out somewhere between the world class extreme athletes and the mega-rich who live in the town I almost accidentally find myself.

Depending on who meets me, and where they meet me, many comment that I am from some other place, not their place, but another place than where I am at the time. And that describes how I exist. Between places. I feel comfortable in most, but seem to make others feel uncomfortable because I am not living in their “place.”

This past year I adopted Ray La Montagne’s record, Til the Sun Turns Black, as my daily experiential sound track. Especially during those times when I am almost alone, and have time to feel around within myself, where it is that I have momentarily landed. There seems to be almost nothing else that grounds me. This ephemeral ground seems like gossamer lace instead of simple, solid, reliable dirt. Delicate to sight, feeling almost weightless.

I have dreamed of lives on sail boats, and in cabins that are not mine. I have spent nights at high mountain altitudes, on desert floors, along rushing, flooded rivers and creeks. I have awoke to snow on top of my tent fly so heavy it rested on top of my body like a winter blanket. I have slept through storms of wind and rain that raked my tent nearly flat to the ground.

I have endured my worst mosquito experience ever this last year during an overnight trip into the wind river range. An experience so heinous that afterwards I practically ran from the thought of Mosquitos and recoiled from the least notion of a mosquito landing on a my skin. The mosquitoes brought about the feeling of the need to flee that I have not felt since I was assaulted on the streets of new York city twenty plus years ago. All of these experiences are experiences of my home. That place that most of us spend our lives closing the doors and windows against.

Most recently the place where I have felt the earth lie still under me is a 19 foot Bambi airstream. I know, to most where I live must seem the opposite of “grounded.” how do we find stillness in something that is designed to move.

I think about my life along roads, trails, rivers, canyons, and ridges. Along levees and bayous. Along snow covered trails and salt crusted lakes. Along the remains of rivers, now lost to the final closing of the force of gravity and speed across the land. I hear the avalanches of spring give way from the icy cornice above, where thunder sounds like a rolling sound of a drum. Where birds call out to their lovers, their mates. And beavers slap the surface of still water and fish reach beyond the water’s surface in the chase for larvae on the way to becoming a fly. Where alligator’s tails remind me that the water in which they lie is their’s, not mine. Where ducks flying above water sound like jets racing across the open Sky. Where blue, red, and purple dragon flies land on rocks, lily pads and grass stems. Power blue moths in posse’s alight upon the puddled remains of a summer rain.

Here I sit in a cabin light on it’s feet over a lake in Louisiana that at one time was part of the Acahafalyaya river. Ray La Montagne’s “truly, madly, deeply” mirrors the loveliness and the deep sadness of life today. A box in shape, nicely accessorized to cook and sleep. But in the end, it is a box. The wall facing the water belongs to the long edge of the box. With windows and a door in the center. And though I know, I still ask myself, where does that door go to? Surely not the halting humid beauty that lies outside. Certainly no door, so thoughtlessly laid out when being framed, so banal and seemingly without true purpose, will lead me to a world that is rich beyond our ability to fully see and measure. A world that holds my passion, love and interest? How could we commit to such a shallow salutation to the beauty that is the world?

Years ago, when I led my first immersion education program to a group of willing college students I wanted to visit a place described in a Robert Earl Keen song. The question was if it was truly real, or just a fiction. Or if the place was real, but the experience described was fiction. I found the place he names on a map and decided that the opportunity to live the moment he describes in song could be real.

Off we go in two SUVs across the Texas wilderness of sand, rock, cactus, hot sun and washed out trails and arroyos. Warm earth colors bleached by the bright sunshine we head south to the border that separates Texas from Mexico. As we come close to where the Rio Grande runs the landscape changes to tall straight cane. A forest of vertical green. The air changes from arid to moisture filled. The ground is all a silty sand. Driving down a two-track path we arrive at a small beaten down clearing. Simply a hole carved in the cane to park a few cars. We leave the cars and hope they will still be in the clearing when we return. The humidity in the air is almost choking when combined with the heat. On the edge of the clearing is a small foot path heading south. It’s not far and we reach the waters edge. Even before seeing the water we can hear the voices of men calling out to us. Asking how many people we have. We emerge from the cane forest to see two men polling across the water using the beds of pickup trucks welded shut as their boats.

We tell them our count, they yell back “two dollars per person.” That is a round trip fee, paid up front in case we decide not to return to the U.S. I am wary, but also wondering. And we have just made a half day drive to find this place. I consider the fact that we can all swim, and that the current of the silty water of the Rio Grande seems slow. We pay the money and pile into the two truck beds. I watch the beds go lower into the water until the top edge of the beds are only about 2″ above the water surface. I don’t think I said a prayer, but It probably would have been a good idea.

In a few moments we were floating across the rio grande to Mexico. Once on the other side there were a few mexicans with donkeys waiting for us. For another few dollars we could have a donkey ride to the village. We preferred to walk and I asked the donkey guides if we simply needed to follow the path up to the village. They nodded their heads, yes.

Up the path we went to the village. The air changed again from hot and humid to hot and dry. By the time we made it to the little ridge above the river we were entering the village. Mostly enclosures that were open to the air. Worn and weathered the same color of the dirt. We turned a corner and there was the bar. The bar Keen sang of? Who could really know. But it was the only bar we saw, and we were thirsty. I did not realize when we left how truly thirsty we would be when we arrived at the bar. Water was not an option. So coke was the choice.

We sat at the old wooden tables keeping distance from each other so that our sweat would remain on our bodies and not drip on our neighbor’s. A young child came through selling art pieces she had made from garbage and discarded plastic. I think they were different shaped bugs. A man sat in the threshold of the back door smoking weed. This was the life on the other side of the river. The reality of the song Keen wrote about. We drank our coke and walked out of the bar, down the dusty road and back to the boats waiting to take us home. Home to the U.S. , home to the cars on the other side.

We drifted back across the silty river. We breathed the sun, heat, and humidity in. We smelled the cane as we came close to the river bank. The road goes on forever, as Keen sings….It’s always home.


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Exploring the Tetons

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I’ve always wondered what a real backcountry emergency would be like, and now I know. Summer Remote Studio had its first overnight backcountry trip in the Tetons this week. We followed a common route for us, up Philips Pass Trail. We ate lunch and proceeded to follow the trail through the Jedediah Wilderness and down another drainage into Idaho. Within minutes we were no longer on earth but hiking through snow. The snow grew deeper and we spent the next couple of hours searching for the trail that came and went like a true hide-and-seek game. The snow was knee to thigh deep. Downed trees made movement slow. But everyone remained in good spirits. We found our way old-school with compass, topo quad map and landmarks. We made it into the Mesquite drainage to spend the night.

I was exhausted. My pack was heavy. Not too many summer daylight hours before I was asleep in my tent. At 1 am I was woke by one of the students who told me his tent mate was not feeling well. It was at this point I wondered in the Wilderness First Aid training would pay off. I went through his symptoms. His current overall condition. He was not in Shock, but he was in severe pain. Too much to walk out. I thought about hiking out with headlamp down a trail i had never hiked….He calmed down about within the hour and we made it through the night.

The pain returned in the morning and I was faced with 1 sick student and 9 others waiting for direction. I knew we needed to get a 911 distress call out. And I knew we would need to find a higher elevation to find a signal. I thought that my sick student might be about the have a ruptured appendix. I took another student with me and left the others to break down camp. On the trail going out it was steep and there was more snow. After about two miles we reached the highest point of the trail and finally got a but of service. With the GPS coordinates we could tell them where camp was, we described symptoms, and asked for airlift evacuation .

I hiked back to camp to wait with my sick student and one more who could hike out with me after we sent the group out toward the trailhead. It didn’t take long for the helicopter to start circling and then land at the nearest meadow. A hike further down the drainage. A team of three arrived from Idaho search and rescue and they were great. They inserted an IV into the patient for pain killer, told him (and me) that he had a kidney stone and away they took him.

There were three of us to hike out together since the other students had gone ahead. It was a slow go in more snow fields and making the days mileage twice as long down the same trail. But it was great to reach the cars, and a huge relief to know that we all got out ok. But one of us had a great helicopter ride out over the Tetons into Jackson, safe and with great care.


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Moving Forward

winter from my house

winter from my house

It’s winter here in Montana. Drama in the sky. Snow falls and everyone moves into action, building a fire or digging out their skis.

For me, I have a break from teaching Remote Studio. I’m settling into Bozeman. Really , a new hometown for me after leaving Livingston and moving between Jackson Hole and Louisiana last year.

For 2013, after a 2 month disconnection by blog.com, I am back to posting. If you follow me, you will also notice the categories of the blog have expanded to include my paintings and other work.

Stay tuned …..


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The Magic Within Us

tetons

tetons

Remote studio starts tomorrow. I take a last summertime drive along the Tetons – a Sunday drive as a matter of fact. The pace is slower through Teton National Park than along the highways, purposefully slower for the wildlife. For our safety. Slower for our souls if we choose to let the pace seep into us. Parked along a Snake River overlook I watch the sun moving westerly across the blue sky. In a few hours the Tetons will be bathed in the pink light of sunset that I have grown to love. The seconds of magic light from day to night. We all have this magic within us if we choose to recognize it. To see the world in another way than we see most days. To gift ourselves the day. To hear the tires on asphalt as a type of music with pause created by the space between cars and the overtone of wind as it moves past ears. Magic music….

I am thinking about magic and the inner vision that the students bring with them when they come to Remote Studio. Their vision, their magic, is manifest in the things they create while here. Mostly we see the magic in the work that comes from their projects for the semester. These explicit creations mark the way they see the world, become the marks of their reality. These things they are asked to share with others, with the community. But for me, it is not only the vessels and the architecture they design and build that brings a smile to my face. It is that they share the magic of their vision in casual ways, little ways, that surprise me.

The Remote Studio “facility” is nothing grand. I can’t even refer to it as quaint. But the students bring magic to the place. And sometimes they even leave marks upon it in case we are a bit lost to find the magic ourselves. There are two written notes left by two different students that make me smile every time I think about them. One is on a utility closet door that springs open when you push it. Taped to the outside of the door are the words: Narnia in here. The other is more recent and serves as our address marker on the road. Written in orange marker on a small wood stake is our street address: 625. Following the numbers is the phrase: somewhere between here and there.

We choose to live by magic. We choose to see beyond the everyday. We choose to hold on to the magic within us. We choose how to live everyday.


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Fodder for Fire

whats left over

whats left over

 

The snow has melted in Jackson Hole. Debris from tearing down a structure and building two Remote Studio projects show us that even conscientious builders produce more waste than we would aspire to. Separating out materials again: plywood, larger nominal members, caustic materials, and finally everything that could transform into firewood for heat this fall and winter.

the work

the work

How many times can scraps from one project be re-purposed for a next use? The next use no less graceful than the previous if the material finally finds purpose.

ready for winter

ready for winter