Thursday, July 17, 2008

Delayed Post #1

We’re here; Prattville on the south shore of Lake Almanor, formerly known as Big Meadow before they flooded the place to create a vacation spot for the wealthy folks in the Bay area. The water in the lake is really just an illusion, as it belongs to PG&E and can be disposed of by them at any time. But in the meantime, it’s a delight!

It was a depressing ride on Highway 32, the Deer Creek Canyon route. What was once one of the most charming landscapes in Northern California was reduced to ashes and blackened trees. The roadway itself was scarred by the bulldozers that had been dragging trees and brush out of the fire to be piled up along the side of the road. It was hard to take it all in; a 2 to 3 mile stretch of the canyon that had been the most luxurious in ferns and dogwood beneath tall cedars was scorched and ruined. I guess I’m repeating myself. But it was very sad, especially when you think of how long it will take to replace what was lost. Generations. And then there is winter to think about and the steep hillsides of that canyon that are now absent any water holding ability.

Once we arrived, it became apparent that the smoke had followed us up the hill from Chico. And during the afternoon, our view across the lake became more and more restricted. Mount Lassen disappeared. Then Chester. Finally, all we could see was a wall of gray that rose up to about 5,000 feet above us. Socked in, we closed the doors and windows.

It’s 5 in the morning and I, being the first one up, have opened the windows and door once again and started the fans, hoping to draw in some cool morning air. I stood outside on the deck and I smelled the incense cedar and not a lot of smoke. A good sign? Or could it be that I’ve been smelling smoke for so long that I no longer recognize it? And looking straight up, I did see a few stars, but nowhere near as many as you should see at this hour.

5:30 and now the sky is gray tinged with coral as the sun over Nevada begins to rise behind Dyer Mountain. The breeze is erratic, moving over all the points of the compass and that doesn’t promise a lot of relief for us.

As I mentioned before, there is no internet access here and so I have idea as to what is happening in the world. I brought along my scanner and it has been silent for the past hour that I have been awake. What’s with that? I would have heard something at home, even if it was just a ‘barking dog’ complaint.

Apparently I’m not the only one that would like internet access and there is a plan to have it installed here sometime during the summer. It wasn’t that long ago that spending money for internet access at a vacation home was considered frivolous. Now it’s at the same level as light and heat. Gotta have it!

I’m still hoping to get in some quality painting time while I’m here, but the sky is so gray; I’m not sure that I will be inspired. I’ve been painting with Karlee and Kyle, but it’s not quite the same thing, though I certainly enjoy watching them be creative. I get a lot of requests to draw something for them, but I just give them a rough sketch and tell them to use their imaginations to fill in the details while I give them tips. At their age, realism is what they are looking for in the final product and my statement that their trees don’t have to look like real trees is met with a blank look. ‘What? Are you crazy, grandpa?’ Maybe I can get them hooked on surrealism. I must try.

Personality types and art. Wow! What a loaded subject that is. Everyone ‘likes what they like’ and most cannot be moved from their fixed position on it. And to hear some people discuss art, you would think they were discussing religion or politics. They get all up in arms over it. I guess it’s simply human nature that makes us want to rigidly classify and clarify our environment. This is real and that isn’t. But isn’t art a feeling? Something that touches our soul? Art is that bridge between what is real and what is not. How do you put that in a rigidly defined box? Maybe that’s why I enjoy Primitive and Folk art. The creators of that kind of art were close to their subject, it was personal, right down to their cores.

Speaking of art, Karlee has just joined me. She’s the only other one that’s up at this hour and she has grabbed the sketch pad and the watercolor pencils and is sitting here at the table, engrossed in the ‘art’ she was working on last night before it got too dark to see. I have a feeling that Karlee will be one that can see and express ‘what isn’t there’ in her art. She has always had a desire to be creative.

And I was just thinking about how dangerous it is for us to reveal ourselves in our art. We really open ourselves to criticism when we allow others to see what we have created. It’s really a baring of our souls and it’s filled with danger. Artists need to be brave.

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