Climbing up mountains with boxes of colors…(to be sung to the tune of “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on Kittens…”)
We have been blessed in this part of the world with a gorgeous clear-skied crisp autumn. It seems more precious than usual with such weather chaos on the east coast. One of my very favorite things is to hike into the Utah high desert with my dog Sophy and set up my easel and draw.The silence,a good hike away from the road, is unlike the silence nearer to civilization; it’s heavy with potential.It is wonderful to be able to saturate oneself in that silence, surrounded by huge clear space. What with heat, wind, and cold, the time available to do this is limited, and to have many consecutive days of benign weather is rare. So I feel fairly quixotic to be starting a three foot drawing this late in October. Nevertheless I am unable to resist a magnificent site which made me drool with the desire to render it on a hike a few weeks ago. I set off with Sophy and my large foamcore drawing board, folding easel, a knapsack filled with pastels and a water bottle.We wander up along slickrock waves and a few sandy hills dotted with sage, dried brush, and rings of brown gramma grass.
The northern view of the mountain alongside the one were climbing gets steadily more and more amazing. At last we’re at a good overlook spot of flat sand shaded by a lovely wide branched juniper. I use the branches as shelves and hangers and will leave my easel in its crotch for days. A drawing as big as this on a light drawing board requires stillness. Anything more than a light breeze will make the drawing board shake,rattle, and rock and, given a gust, blow down my easel.I unfold my easel in front of this gorgeous golden slickrock mountain which tumbles down into the drainage below. The shadows of rock outcrops lengthen in the afternoon sun, making wondrous patterns. As evening nears, my peaceful spot seems to get even more quiet and I get the slightly creepy feeling that I’m being watched. It’s time to head back down.
The evening light makes the slickrock glow an unearthly yellow orange, which deepens as I descend looking outrageously neon just before if utterly fades. The small circles of dried gramma grass have little shoots, unremarkable on the hike up, but which in the low light hiking back down are a striking magenta. There are some magnificent old weathered junipers along the way too, and wonderfully mottled slickrock, textured with spots and splotches, mostly a wide range of grays, but then an occasional lime or vivid orange will surprise (and delight).
The last afternoon I’m there I feel very lucky that I had enough sunny windless days to finish my drawing and so not have to wait for next October for completion.I am feeling sad sad to leave this wonderful spot that has nurtured me. Snow has been forecast. I won’t be back up here for months. I thank the junipers and the silence and the slickrock glow. As a parting gift, a raven soaring between the rocks closes his wings and rolls over, and as I gaze speechless he does it again.