Back in SB

Fizzy water maker found right on the beach! Still filled with water. Perhaps I could do something WITH the water inside the bottle.

Fizzy water maker found right on the beach! Still filled with water. Perhaps I could do something WITH the water inside the bottle.

The guy on the Evian bottle is equally appalled at the misuse of plastic water bottles! 

The guy on the Evian bottle is equally appalled at the misuse of plastic water bottles! 

It was a somewhat rocky return to Santa Barbara after the most incredible summer of my life. The hardest thing I found was leaving behind a place I felt was home in order to be in a place that just did not fuel my soul. But I've been working on changing my perspective. Santa Barbara is so beautiful and has so much to offer. My goal is to make the most of this year and the unique part of the world I am in, even if I know it is temporary. 

In order to do that I have been hiking, beaching, and camping a lot more frequently than I did last year. So far it has helped!! One of the first paintings I did was on a water bottle (JEEZE HOW MANY WATER BOTTLES ARE JUST FLOATING AROUND OUT THERE!?) I've been doing a lot of plein air painting, which rocks, but I am trying to remind myself that plein air paintings are different from studio paintings with source images. The process is different, the point is different, and the result is different. And that's OK! It's okay if my plein air paintings aren't as realistic as I want them to be because the sun is constantly moving, the wind is blowing, the ocean is ebbing and flowing! Plein air has another dimension of MOVEMENT, which hopefully can be seen through more gestural and chunky paint strokes. 

Anyways, I've found a lot of trash so far in SB. Most (of course!) have been plastic water containers! Almost lost my phone to the sea attempting to grab this soda maker(??) bottle in between a few rocks on the shore and had to bushwhack a bit to grab this Evian bottle on one of my favorite trails. They are screaming to be painted on!

Plein air water bottle painting. This one was especially fun (but difficult) to capture because of the setting sun and therefore rapidly changing shadows and colors. 

Plein air water bottle painting. This one was especially fun (but difficult) to capture because of the setting sun and therefore rapidly changing shadows and colors. 

Grand Canyon, North Rim

I gathered this trash on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon during the summer of 2016. It was one of the last pieces I made before leaving for Texas, but I still had a few finishing details to make that I did not want to rush. This was the first piece that I attempted to add a figure to and I feel that it was semi-successful! I think humans can play an important role in introducing scale to incredibly vast landscapes and I'm excited to continue to dabble. It was funny to return from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at the end of the summer with fresh new trash and finalize this piece, almost as if the two ends of the canyon were in dialogue with each other. 

Acrylic on Grand Canyon lodge menu, plastic water bottles, plastic cups, Teddy Grahams container, hair tie. 2017

Acrylic on Grand Canyon lodge menu, plastic water bottles, plastic cups, Teddy Grahams container, hair tie. 2017

Coast to Coast in Pieces

When I packed my car up for GUMO I thought I'd cram in a few of my older pieces so that I could reference them/ introduce my work to the public through them. What I did not account for was the heat. Poor ole Berta is a tank but when it comes to proper chilled air-flow, she's lacking. Unfortunately, a combo of heat and instability in a bumpy car was somewhat deadly to my "Coast to Coast" piece. But this result made me think even more about trash, nature, and decomposition. When I returned back to SB, I immediately glued the pieces back together again, but not before snapping this "in process" photo. I still haven't settled on what I think this broken art means and how it possibly could relate to the grand idea of protecting landscapes from litter but I thought the idea was poetic nonetheless. 

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Grand Canyon, South Rim

From the Petrified Forest we went to Page, AZ to see Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and camp at Lake Powell. Antelope Canyon might have been the most surreal landscape I've ever experienced- and to think we almost MISSED OUR TOUR! Swimming in Lake Powell was the first time I had been swimming all summer! 

The grandest of canyons with the greatest friend!

The grandest of canyons with the greatest friend!

From there we drove to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon! Last summer I went to the North Rim with my dad so I was excited to see a different part of the park with Allie. The first stop in the park was the Desert View Watchtower/ VC. AHHH!! Both of us freaked out at the vast expanse of canyon!!! Once we settled down, I noticed this red pair of sunglasses lying under a bush: PRIME TRASH FIND!

We entered the watchtower and talked to a ranger to get advice on what hikes to do for the rest of the day. She basically said the only option was to do the Rim Trail that follows along the rim and has all these beautiful lookout points, but also a lot of people... SWARMS AND SWARMS OF THEM. We tried our best to dodge the extended family reunions and found TONS of trash on the way. Back to the ranger though! We got talking and found out that Ranger Chelsey had just come from Hot Springs NP in Arkansas where Ranger Brian at GUMO had come from!!! What a cool small world thing! Allie got a photo of us together to send to Brian. It felt really cool to be a somewhat insider with the amazing, knowledgable, and dedicated rangers!

After that we went to set up our tent at the Mather Campground. It felt nice to set up so early in the day and not be rushed by the setting sun. As we were setting up a middle aged woman ran by and came over to talk to us. She was training to complete her personal goal of running rim to rim to rim in one day (!!!) and asked if she could use a corner of our campsite to camp on. It was actually kinda nice having a neighbor around, especially one that was so badass. 

Allie perched and painting

Allie perched and painting

After settling in we ventured out to do part of the rim trail. By the end of our hike we were both getting a little snippy/ hangry. We decided it was necessary to sit down and paint! IMMEDIATELY the tension melted away. I just laughed thinking, "this is LITERALLY what I try to promote and sure enough I'M the one who hasn't taken enough time to sit and reflect!!" Allie worked on a watercolor closer to the edge and I decided to paint on the sunglasses I had found earlier! We probably sat for around an hour and a half. 

Similar view, completely different art!

Similar view, completely different art!

From there, we caught the shuttle to Mohave Point to watch the sunset. It was OBVIOUSLY STUNNING! I was able to paint another little altoids painting as the sun descended below the horizon. Once the sun set we caught the shuttle back to the village. It was scary how quickly it got so dark. When we made it back to the village we were super disoriented but thankfully were able to find food and find our campsite. Immediately, we passed out because the next day was gonna be a big one!

Unfortunately, both of us barely slept a wink because there were FLIPPING coyotes howling RIGHT OUTSIDE our tent. YIKES! We were still able to rise at 4AM to get to the Bright Angel Trailhead!! I was so excited! As we started walking down into the canyon, the sun was just beginning to rise. I cannot even describe the intense warm color that lit the faces of the canyon. And to make this whole experience even MORE beautiful, there was a high school kid playing his trumpet, almost to salute the sun like the roosters! Pretty surreal. 

Sunset trash collection

Sunset trash collection

Our goal for the day was to go out to the Plateau Point lookout! Along the way we met up with a friendly man named Tyler who ended up being our hiking buddy for the day! What an unbelievable experience to get to walk straight down into the canyon and experience the vastness of it all. I was so fascinated by how striking the perspective shift was- it appeared to be a whole different landscape from below! And we weren't even at the very bottom! When we reached the end of the Plateau Point we snacked on some prickly pear and tried to take it all in. In the meantime, Allie got her cheez-its stolen by a resourceful squirrel! Before too much time passed we turned it around because we knew the way back would be a challenge, not only because of the constant switch-backs but because now the sun was high and strong. JEESH it was a rough go! We had to take some serious snack and water breaks to recover, which I'm not particularly fond of/ used to! But man, were they necessary! To help our moral, Tyler started high fiving people as we passed them. Sounds pretty simple but it actually helped a lot! Finally we made it back to the top of the canyon and parted ways with our new friend Tyler. Allie and I immediately b-lined it to the lodge for a well deserved lunch of burgers and beer in the Arizona room. 

We showered off the coral dust that had caked itself to our bodies and napped beneath the trees. For dinner we made some beautiful nachos underneath a double rainbow. COULD U ASK FOR A MORE PERFECT DAY!?

Final sunrise trash collection

Final sunrise trash collection

The next morning we got up to watch our final sunrise over the canyon and then headed out and off to see the Pacific Ocean!! That day was probably the longest day on the road. It was a rough stretch of desert and we even got stuck in traffic for close to an hour in the middle of nowhere! I was worried Berta might breakdown but she held up valiantly!! I remember specifically pulling over for our last gas stop in Ventura county and SMELLING the salt ocean. I hadn't really been craving the ocean before today- I think driving through the desolate 110 degree desert really helped with that transition. The most amazing thing in my mind was that we were able to park along Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara and see the sun set over the Pacific Ocean on the same day we saw it rise over the Grand Freaking Canyon! How cool is that?!?! PLUS we casually ran into my new roommate, Sarah, and her parents at the beach too! Small world, beautiful sights, amazing/ supportive company. We were back.

 

Untouched glasses

Untouched glasses

Gessoed lenses

Gessoed lenses

Decided to just gesso it all!

Decided to just gesso it all!

Final product!

Final product!

Petrified Forest National Park

Leaving GUMO was one of the saddest mornings ever. Allie and I woke up super early to catch the sunrise glow on the mountains. As we pulled out of the park a steady stream of warm tears rolled down my cheeks. Thank God for Allie for being the best friend and holding my hand in support the whole way. 

Our first stop was Santa Fe, which I fell in love with!! We visited the Georgia O'Keefe house and museum and got to explore the city. I was on a mission to find a sweet cowboy hat and found the perfect one at a store downtown! The cashier was so bubbly and had a Boston accent, so naturally we bonded, took a photo, and shared contact information. Honestly considering moving to Santa Fe just because that interaction was so beautiful.

After Santa Fe we drove to the Petrified Forest NP. It's one of those parks that has a gate that opens and closes at a certain time every day- so we were on a time crunch. By the time we got there we only had a few hours to explore. Luckily, the park isn't too large, and most of the hikes were small paved nature loops. What an interesting and unique freaking place! We both really felt the presence of dinosaurs and the impact of time. 

As for trash, we really didn't find too much! There was this one pile of cardboard next to an open minivan with a family in it. I was confused if it was their trash or if they were just appreciating it as a part of the landscape. Either way, I interrupted their family gathering to snag it. But other than that it was a SPARKLING PARK!

Painted desert!

Painted desert!

Tiny trash, happy girl

Tiny trash, happy girl

Mitten Mountain

El Capitan of GUMO will always look like a mitten from above to me. This piece was made from a large handful of the trash I found over the summer which was mostly plastic products that COULD have originally been recycled!!

As stated earlier, this was the second piece I decided to donate to the park. It was actually crazy getting it from my apartment to the Visitor's Center. My apartment was (thankfully) climate controlled so I never worried about the heat. But the day I decided to transport this piece was HOT. In the few minutes it took to drive from my apartment to the VC a portion of the painting had MELTED OFF (because cha girl does not have AC)!!!!! In order to remedy the situation, I had to set up shop in the VC break room with my travel-sized hot glue gun. Funny sight that must have been to see. Thankfully it all came together!

I'm in love with the photos Ranger Michael took on the black background below! Really appreciate the flip side view of the untouched trash. Hoping the park can find a way to display the piece so both sides are visible. 

First, and probably hardest step is to organize the trash in an aesthetically pleasing manner. I wanted the trash to build up and get more and more 3D as it came into the foreground. That's why I chose mostly paper products for the sky and tilted bottles for the foreground.

First, and probably hardest step is to organize the trash in an aesthetically pleasing manner. I wanted the trash to build up and get more and more 3D as it came into the foreground. That's why I chose mostly paper products for the sky and tilted bottles for the foreground.

Prime the piece first with white and then add large color blocks. Notice how I work from background to foreground. This way, the mountains are painted on top of the sky, as it would appear in real life. 

Prime the piece first with white and then add large color blocks. Notice how I work from background to foreground. This way, the mountains are painted on top of the sky, as it would appear in real life. 

Process detail shot. Flippy flop!

Process detail shot. Flippy flop!

Final product!

Final product!

Final FINAL product

Final FINAL product

Untouched trash on the reverse side of the finished painting.

Untouched trash on the reverse side of the finished painting.

Final Trash Count

This summer was a wakeup call for me and the amount of waste ONE HUMAN can produce. 

Below is the count for final numbers of recyclables. Keep in mind these are the ones I collected in my apartment over the summer- there are definitely a few more that I forgot to account for when I was on the road. Thankfully, a lot of what I produced could (and WAS) recycled! But it's pretty shocking to see it all here laid out... and funny to see my weird eating habits. 

If I wasn't on board with becoming less wasteful before I DEFF AM NOW! I've been talking with one of my friends friends who is living a zero waste life and trying to apply what she does to my artistic practice. I've been taking baby steps- like I just bought washable ziplock bags and have been cutting paper towels out. EVERYTHING COUNTS AND WE CAN ALWAYS BE IMPROVING!

CANS: 105

Hoarding cans, what else is new!??!

Hoarding cans, what else is new!??!

GLASS:

     -BEER BOTTLES: 26

     -WINE BOTTLES: 11

     -SALSA/ COFFEE/ ICED TEA: 15

CARDBOARD:

     -BOXES: 45 (La Croix, mac n cheese, pizza, beer, granola bars, chocolate, gold fish)

Salty snacks are important! 

Salty snacks are important! 

          -La Croix boxes specifically: 9

     -ROLLS: 9

PLASTIC:

     -SOFT PLASTIC (BAGS): 36

     -BOXES: 7 (spinach, basil, arugula)

     -CUPS: 6 (yogurt and pesto)

     -TIDE PODS: 1

TRASH: 3 full bags

No coffee machine meant I HAD to get coffee in can/ glass container/ plastic bottle like a FREAK... but it got the job done.

No coffee machine meant I HAD to get coffee in can/ glass container/ plastic bottle like a FREAK... but it got the job done.

Posing with trash for the 343029840328th time

Posing with trash for the 343029840328th time

Farewell GUMO <3

What a magical summer it was! I was the happiest I had ever been in those West Texas mountains. Who would have suspected? Although it was painful to leave, I know I'll be back visiting soon. My last night in the park the rangers threw me an impromptu BBQ and my heart (and tummy) just about exploded from being so full. What a warm sendoff. I guess it's a beautiful thing to be sad to leave somewhere because you realize how important it was to you and the course of your life. I was lucky to have met such passionate rangers and visitors during my GUMO. Thank you for everything.

Posing with the other piece I decided to donate to GUMO next to the park sign by the visitor's center. 

Posing with the other piece I decided to donate to GUMO next to the park sign by the visitor's center. 

All of the finished pieces I created over my 6 weeks in the park.

All of the finished pieces I created over my 6 weeks in the park.

The view from where I lived. LOOK AT THAT SKY! ARE YOU KIDDING GUMO!?!?

The view from where I lived. LOOK AT THAT SKY! ARE YOU KIDDING GUMO!?!?

I've never been more proud to wear all beige all summer. 

I've never been more proud to wear all beige all summer. 

My friend Allie flew all the way from Boston to see me and journey back to CA! Honestly would have been an even crazier hot mess without her unconditional love and support. This is us on the west end of the park by the sand dunes.

My friend Allie flew all the way from Boston to see me and journey back to CA! Honestly would have been an even crazier hot mess without her unconditional love and support. This is us on the west end of the park by the sand dunes.

Ranger Max with his cool new hat!

Ranger Max with his cool new hat!

Map of my favorite place.

Map of my favorite place.

MY PEOPLE!!! Ranger Jen and Ranger Max!

MY PEOPLE!!! Ranger Jen and Ranger Max!

Hugs on hugs on hugs. It's not goodbye- it's see ya later!

Hugs on hugs on hugs. It's not goodbye- it's see ya later!

Devil's Boot

One of my favorite pieces I made this summer was on a steel-toed boot. I remember the boot catching my eye off the side of the highway as I returned from getting groceries in Carlsbad. But by the time I registered what I had seen, my car had already sped past and an abrupt U-turn seemed a little sketch last min on the highway. So I kept a mental note of the general spot so I could return later- and a few weeks later, I did! There happened to even be a little pull out right before the placement of the boot so I wasn't in TOO much danger retrieving it!

Once washing the boot off, the next step was to prime and lay an orange ground as a base. I was immediately struck by the shape of the shoe and loved how the tongue of the boot tucked behind  the tall sides... almost like a MOUNTAIN peeking through a CANYON... The object itself had such incredible depth and offered similar shapes of one of my favorite hikes in the park- Devil's Hall! 

Once the painting was completed I took my boot on a little hike up Devil's Hall. It was a little extra weight, but the hike is relatively flat so it wasn't too much of a challenge. However, this was my first painting photo shoot that included a hike as opposed to a walk. I enjoyed this extra final step of the process. My own hiking boots on my feet were able to mobilize this once forgotten boot, and it directly commented on our human footprint. I'm hoping to continue this idea and perhaps revisit even longer hikes in order to connect the art to the landscape!

Original dirty boot, fresh off the highway.

Original dirty boot, fresh off the highway.

Some of the first few layers of paint. Loved working with the boot oriented forward- as if it is stepping right into the landscape!

Some of the first few layers of paint. Loved working with the boot oriented forward- as if it is stepping right into the landscape!

Super fun hike with the company of the finished product! Notice the rocks of the natural staircase directly behind the boot and how it aligned with the boot! Awesome when things like that just work out.

Super fun hike with the company of the finished product! Notice the rocks of the natural staircase directly behind the boot and how it aligned with the boot! Awesome when things like that just work out.

Final image alignment. My favorite part of this photo is how the colors of the rocks on the lower right completely coordinate with the painting. I never know how the colors I paint in my studio will compare to the colors of the landscape- it is so dependent on the weather, time of day, shadows, and season!

Final image alignment. My favorite part of this photo is how the colors of the rocks on the lower right completely coordinate with the painting. I never know how the colors I paint in my studio will compare to the colors of the landscape- it is so dependent on the weather, time of day, shadows, and season!

This was one of the pieces I decided to donate to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park as a thank you for the incredible experience of the summer. Here is a final photo the park was kind enough to take and send to me! It looks so snazzy!

This was one of the pieces I decided to donate to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park as a thank you for the incredible experience of the summer. Here is a final photo the park was kind enough to take and send to me! It looks so snazzy!

Eco Art Session 8/12/17

Soaking up the morning glow/ fog

Soaking up the morning glow/ fog

Destiny focusing on getting her purple hat skies just right

Destiny focusing on getting her purple hat skies just right

UGH the 6th and final eco art session really snuck up fast! We decided to schedule it at McKittrick again because it had been such a success the week before. Unfortunately NO ONE SHOWED UP! :( NOT A SINGLE PERSON! But I guess that's the name of the game sometimes... A few visitors passed by but no one wanted to paint. Kind of a blow for my last day of official volunteering, but luckily Destiny was there to keep the spirit alive! We made the most of the situation and each got to finish our own paintings while embracing the beautiful glow of the canyon. Up at the VC the weather was CRAZY cloudy, but only a few miles down the road the skies were blue and brilliant, perfect weather for some art-making. 

As you can see, Destiny was continuing her amazing painted hat project! She ended up painting some little mermaids in there to enjoy the lagoon she created. I was happy to get to finish my boot painting too! 

Around 3:00PM we decided to pick up and check out Ship on the Desert nearby, which I had never been to! Wallace Pratt built this structure for his family back in the 1940s but it has since been converted into a research station. It's called "Ship on the Desert" because it kind of looks like an oil rigger in the middle of the Texas desert. It was cool to see but kind of creeeeeepy due to it being somewhat abandoned AND in the middle of nowhere. Before visiting this time I had only seen it from the top of the Permian Reef trail looking down towards El Cap. Despite its haunted vibe, it offered a beautiful new perspective of the park that I was so glad to share with Destiny! 

The Final Week

What a bittersweet week. The thought of leaving such a beautiful place made me break down a few times but that's a beautiful thing right?? That a place has so deeply affected me in such a positive way. That's what I kept telling myself at least... My goal for the week was to do all of the things that I couldn't do as just a visitor but could as a volunteer with ranger buddies who had the inside scoop! I KNOW I'll be back to this park, but WHO knows if I'll have the magic buildings and doors key ever again??

IT'S OFFICIAL

IT'S OFFICIAL

Cabin in the woods!

Cabin in the woods!

So first thing's first: I had to *officially* become a GUMO Jr Ranger. I got to fill out a fun handbook and answer questions about the history and ecology of the park! EVERYONE IS WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE! Even if you're not TECHNICALLY a kid! I was lucky enough to get Ranger Max to swear me in as I vowed to preserve and protect. I received a cool badge AND patch! It was the first National Park I had ever became a Jr Ranger at, actually! So basically it was a landmark accomplishment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Max searching for this freaking plane through the bushes n brambles!

Max searching for this freaking plane through the bushes n brambles!

Next on the docket was finding the mysterious cabin deep in the woods- which I almost completely missed! But eventually I found it on the day I got to solo rove up bear canyon! What a cool and surreal site to see after hiking for hours and not seeing ANYONE.

 

Later that week Ranger Max and I attempted to find an old plane crash. We went into the day pretty confident that we would just happen upon the ruins without a GPS because we knew the general area of it on the topo map. But of course much of the foliage had grown in super thick so at a point we were just blindly bushwhacking. A few times I yelled in excitement believing a smooth fallen tree in the distance to be a piece of scrap metal from the crash. BUT NO. At one point when we were deep in the depths of uncharted wilderness and Max throws out the comment, "hopefully a mountain lion isn't stalking us right now or else one of us is dead for sure." SOS GR8 THANKS FOR THAT. I basically freaked out and was like, "MAX LET'S GTFO!!!" But hey, we tried!

Another day Ranger Max, Ranger Nick, Ranger Nick's friend, and I got to go out to William's Ranch, which is only accessible by a 4x4. One of the volunteers, Art, was kind enough to drive us in his truck out there. Its about 8 miles into the park on a ratchet dirt road and took about an hour! Part of the dirt road was a section of the actual Butterfield Stage Coach line, so that was cool. UGH THO! When we finally reached William's Ranch it made that rough road so freaking worth it! Such a neat structure. I loved how there were bright blue accents all around the trim of the house that kind of matched the color of the mountains and sky. LIKE LOOK HOW STUNNING THAT HOUSE IS! We were lucky because our key gave us access to the inside of the house so we got to peak inside and explore! There were all these old newspaper clippings pasted to the walls and broken furniture strewn about. Really creepy but interesting stuff. After locking up the house we roved for the rest of the day up and around El Cap which was a new and breathtaking perspective. Probably one of my most favorite hikes and most favorite days.

CAN U BELIEVE THOSE BLUES!??!

CAN U BELIEVE THOSE BLUES!??!

All the cans I found on my 20 min walk

All the cans I found on my 20 min walk

The rest of the week I frantically was finishing up some of my work and seeing all the most beautiful sights. Here, I went for a walk to the stage coach ruin where there's a parking lotish area. LOOK AT ALL THE CANS I FOUND. I could barely carry them all back to my appt.

La dee da.. wait what's that on the ground!?

La dee da.. wait what's that on the ground!?

On one of my final days I hiked up to the notch down at McKittrick for the first time! I had only gone as far as the Grotto before. On the way up, before Pratt Cabin, I passed up these three FULL water bottles and was so struck by the fact that they were full and seemed to be purposefully placed in front of a rock. Sometimes, it is hard for me to pick up trash that seems intentional? Maybe there were backpackers that placed those water bottles there for their return hike? IDK but I left them. Someone would surely use them, right?!?

Holy moly, it's THREE FILLED water bottles!

Holy moly, it's THREE FILLED water bottles!

Another beautiful moment happened when I was driving back from grocery shopping in Carlsbad and hit GUMO just as the sun was setting AND it started to rain. So there were these fuzzy magenta storm clouds over to one side, the most STUNNING rainbow to another, and then THIS ORANGE DREAM SKY (see below) over the mountains! Like how does this place exist!? I think I started crying (again) because I was so overcome with the amount of beauty.

I remember passing by this rectangular rock that looked like a lithography printmaking block of a mountain range! See it?!? ART IS EVERYWHERE! Then of course there was the gorilla face that is a part of the Tejas trail. Notice how the ridge of the mountain is all jagged and looks like the brow, nose, and lip of a gorilla profile! Again, ART IS EVERYWHERE AND THAT CANNOT BE DENIED!!!!

Sorry for this post being frantic and all over the place! But that's precisely how I was feeling this particular week so I'm leaving it because it's perfectly fitting albeit disorienting.

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Rock that looks like art

Rock that looks like art

Mountain that looks like gorilla

Mountain that looks like gorilla

Carlsbad Caverns Round 2

Selfie by the natural entrance

Selfie by the natural entrance

Lucky enough to get to spend an afternoon at Carlsbad Caverns with my gurl Han before she had to go back to the real world. We timed it perfectly so that we got to hike down the natural entrance, around the big room, and then back up in time to see the bat exit! The caves were beautiful and dark as always. Again, most of the trash we found was at the concession stand/ bathroom area and again, most of it were plastic water bottles.

Look at all dat plastic!

Look at all dat plastic!

Natural entrance on our way back up

Natural entrance on our way back up

Earlier that day we had hiked the Guadalupe Peak so our plan had been to feel it out and maybe take the elevator up. But given that it was the end of the day the line was ~HELLA LONG~. So we just said eff that and booked it up. Honestly, I kind of love walking up because everyone who is walking down is super impressed. PLUS it really doesn't take that long. We did it in 23 min! Which was probably less than half the time we would have been waiting in that GD line. 

When we reached the sky we struck up a conversation with the ranger stationed there. GUESS WHERE HE WENT TO SCHOOL!??! The University of FRIGGIN MAINE!!! AKA the school that is 20 mins away from my home, where my younger brother attends, and where my mother works!! I flipped out even more when I found out he was studying communication AND THAT'S WHAT MY MAMMA TEACHES!! WHAT a SMALL WORLD! I was actually just talking with my mom and she said she ran into him at the UMaine job fair!!! Gah how crazy. I think I was more excited about it than he was but JESUS us Mainers in Texas gotta stick together!!

After that joyous interaction we had about two hours until the bat flight program so we decided to hit up the Visitors Center. While up there we ran into my ranger friend Aubrey who happened to be leading a program about cave paintings!! So we attended that and then scooted down to the amphitheater facing the natural entrance and waited for the bats! Everyone had to turn their phones off so as to not disturb the lil bats so I only got a photo pre flight but HOLY FREAKING MOLY! I'm so glad we stayed to see the exit! It was a magical experience to see the bats emerge from the depths of the cave in swarms and spiral together against the setting sun. They looked like puffs from a smoke stack as they flew towards the rivers on the horizon to feed. They just kept coming and coming! Like we were there for 45 mins and we didn't even see them all leave the cave! SO COOL. ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE BOOKS. 

Not a bad place to live, bats. 

Not a bad place to live, bats. 

Eco Art Session 8/5/17

It's a party!!

It's a party!!

LOVE this view through the deck. Could you ASK for a more beautiful scene to paint??

LOVE this view through the deck. Could you ASK for a more beautiful scene to paint??

This was THE BEST SESSION! I usually had theses workshops at Frijole, but we decided to mix it up and have the last couple at McKittrick. I rolled up around 8:00 AM and the place was already SWARMING with kids. A group of churches from El Paso got together to bring some young boys camping, so they were all having breakfast right where I was planning to paint. It didn't take much for me to reel them in. There were about 17 younger boys and their chaperones waiting for the 17 older boys to get back from the backcountry (AKA if they didn't paint they would just be sitting around.. but still). After giving them a brief shpeel about what I do as an eco artist I handed out old 2014 maps, made up some palates, and the boys went for it. I was so impressed with the colors and textures they were able to come up with. Some of the younger boys mentioned how they did not have art class in their schools so it just made my heart swell to know they were getting a chance to make art here! This morning might have been one of the highlights of the year for me. 

Who needs an easel when you have the ground!!?

Who needs an easel when you have the ground!!?

We started the day by painting on old maps but the boys were so eager to continue I grabbed some of the cans and bottles and let them paint on those too. *ON HIS OWN* one boy even used an old paint palate AS A CANVAS to paint on!! I was blown away. 

To make this day even better Ranger Destiny was stationed down at McKittrick too! So we got to hang and paint together. She took an old hat that had been in the lost and found for years and started to paint this beautiful night sky and lagoon on top of it ALL FROM MEMORY! I always need some sort of reference when I'm painting so it amazes me when people can just go for it! 

Love his work! He is a true artist and true talker! After painting we spent the afternoon chatting about our favorite movies. 

Love his work! He is a true artist and true talker! After painting we spent the afternoon chatting about our favorite movies. 

Around noon half of the boys decided to head back to El Paso and the other half would wait for the older boys. They were all the way up at McKittrick Ridge campsite, which is a WAYS AWAY. The chaperones were getting nervous because they older boys said they would be back in the morning. But Ranger Destiny expected them to get back around 2PM because it is close to a 6 hour hike back. 

Love Kevin's addition of trees here! It totally places the viewer in the monsoon season of the summer and how it greens up the desert.

Love Kevin's addition of trees here! It totally places the viewer in the monsoon season of the summer and how it greens up the desert.

As 2:00 rolled around the chaperones were starting to get seriously antsy. We suggested that maybe they take the littler ones to the Visitors Center so they could do the nature walk and explore the museum inside. In typical fashion, just as they packed up and headed over to their cars, Destiny and I spotted the lead boy running towards us! THEY HAD MADE IT. But apparently run out of water. YIKES! ONE GALLON PER PERSON PER DAY!!! Whew! About 45 minutes later all of the boys and their chaperones had made it back and refueled on water. 

Crazy beautiful day!

Cannot get over those COLORS and TEXTURES! and his beautiful signature because he knows NO NAME NO FAME :)

Cannot get over those COLORS and TEXTURES! and his beautiful signature because he knows NO NAME NO FAME :)

Paint palate art!

Paint palate art!

He made a minion on an old water bottle!

He made a minion on an old water bottle!

Love the neutrals he was able to create. 

Love the neutrals he was able to create. 

Notice the ocean in the bottom left corner BECAUSE IT USED TO BE AN OCEAN HERE. So so great.

Notice the ocean in the bottom left corner BECAUSE IT USED TO BE AN OCEAN HERE. So so great.

Took some wrangling to get him to paint- but look at this beautiful mountain range he was able to create!!!!!!!!!

Took some wrangling to get him to paint- but look at this beautiful mountain range he was able to create!!!!!!!!!

Eco Art Session 7/29/17

Not the worst setup :)

Not the worst setup :)

This was an interesting Arts in the Parks session. Most of the morning was quiet. Hannah was my only taker for a while but it's about quality not quantity and LOOK AT HER QUALITY PAINTING! I'm so proud. At the end of the day she realized that if she opened the map up her painting exactly matched up to the original mountain line of the old map we were using as canvases! So exciting to see how things can align like that in art and in life. 

Hannah painted Big Bend on a GUMO map to display the road trip from park to park!

Hannah painted Big Bend on a GUMO map to display the road trip from park to park!

THAT ALIGNMENT!!

THAT ALIGNMENT!!

Ya know, painting a shoe.

Ya know, painting a shoe.

I spent my morning continuing to paint on an old Adidas shoe that had been left behind at the Pine Springs Campground trailhead. I was so inspired by the sky on the night of Jenny's poetry reading that I decided to paint it! Just something about that dusty periwinkle!

The focus!

The focus!

Throughout the morning I attempted to encourage visitors to sit down and paint, but there was a weird vibe in the air. Nobody was even biting or curious about the idea of eco art. I hope to always be encouraging but I totally understand that art can be intimidating. It just makes me so sad when people are physically afraid to even try. You've got nothing to lose! There is more to art than realistic painting!

There was actually one point in the day around noon (when I usually pick up) where this large group of hikers physically sat away from the picnic tables (you can kind of see in the photo to the right) to avoid making art. WAH. But I finally reeled one man in who was inspired by his alma mater to make some hook em' horns over an old map. 

Finished product!

Finished product!

My painting KWEEN

My painting KWEEN

Hannah later noticed how beautiful her palate was when she held it up against the foliage and the light shone through. THAT IS THE EYE OF AN ECO ARTIST! Also, I loved how she said hell to the paint brushes and used her fingers to get the smoothness she wanted when she was painting! YAS KWEEN ----->

We ended up striking a conversation with a few of the members of the large group, one of which used to be the Superintendent of the Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns! We were painting amongst royalty! Eventually the group got up to head back with the older Superintendent trailing behind. A few minutes later we hear him holler to us, "girls, I need a hand." So I walk up to him thinking he needed assistance getting to the parking lot, but instead I find him keeled over requesting an EMT!! So I grab the radio (thank god I had one!!) and call the visitors center to get the law enforcement rangers over here. JESUS I was shaking but trying my hardest to remain calm. Luckily Eli (the ranger) was able to come to the scene in minutes and they took the man off in a stretcher to Carlsbad. About an hour later Eli came by to pick up his stuff and told Hannah and I that we had saved a life. HOW lucky there was someone at Frijole that day AND that he didn't have a heart attack on the trail. THANK GOODNESS he was okay! Feeling super motivated to get my Wilderness First Responder re-certification. I need to better prepare myself for situations like this! 

The process of making art can be the art itself :)

The process of making art can be the art itself :)

Shoe Fly Don't Bother Me

I first heard about this shoe from two of the law enforcement rangers, Nick and Jen, who said it had been lying at the trailhead for weeks and weeks and at this point it was up for grabs. So obviously I GRABBED IT. I wanted to really show the process behind turning these everyday objects into my work!! So here are some of the basic steps I take!

Step 1: Clean shoe

Step 1: Clean shoe

Step 2: Prime shoe with gesso. This not only makes it an easier surface to paint on, but for tricky areas like the laces it kind of acts like a glue. 

Step 2: Prime shoe with gesso. This not only makes it an easier surface to paint on, but for tricky areas like the laces it kind of acts like a glue. 

Step 3: Lay a ground color down. I usually look at the landscape I'm about to paint and figure out what the main colors are. There were lots of greens and purples in my scene, so I used the complimentary color of green (red) as a base layer. This way, if my paint is less opaque in areas the red will peak through and activate the painting! 

Step 3: Lay a ground color down. I usually look at the landscape I'm about to paint and figure out what the main colors are. There were lots of greens and purples in my scene, so I used the complimentary color of green (red) as a base layer. This way, if my paint is less opaque in areas the red will peak through and activate the painting! 

Step 4: Work back to front, or background to foreground. So it looks like the sky is actually behind the mountains and the mountains are behind the grass and rocks (because they ARE in real life)

Step 4: Work back to front, or background to foreground. So it looks like the sky is actually behind the mountains and the mountains are behind the grass and rocks (because they ARE in real life)

Step 5: Paint all surfaces! I wanted to make this piece kind of like an oval panorama, so you have to turn the shoe around in order to see the entire horizon. I enjoy finding the unique shapes and lines of the object I'm painting and using that to work WITH the landscape I'm painting. Here, you can see I followed the different structural parts of the shoe, like where the sole met the base, and highlighting those moments with different colors. Make the shoe work for you!!

Step 5: Paint all surfaces! I wanted to make this piece kind of like an oval panorama, so you have to turn the shoe around in order to see the entire horizon. I enjoy finding the unique shapes and lines of the object I'm painting and using that to work WITH the landscape I'm painting. Here, you can see I followed the different structural parts of the shoe, like where the sole met the base, and highlighting those moments with different colors. Make the shoe work for you!!

Step 6: Finished product! You can kind of see how the green of the mountain wraps around the entire shoe. And look at that orange ground peeking through!

Step 6: Finished product! You can kind of see how the green of the mountain wraps around the entire shoe. And look at that orange ground peeking through!

Step 6.1: View from the "backside" of the shoe (even though there really isn't one way to orient it)

Step 6.1: View from the "backside" of the shoe (even though there really isn't one way to orient it)

Step 6.2: View from another angle! I took the last three photos around 4PM so the sun and lighting were not exactly where I wanted them to be to match up with the actual scene I painted. Usually for a painting I "take it for a walk" 2-3 times before matching up the lighting. 

Step 6.2: View from another angle! I took the last three photos around 4PM so the sun and lighting were not exactly where I wanted them to be to match up with the actual scene I painted. Usually for a painting I "take it for a walk" 2-3 times before matching up the lighting. 

Step 7: Get the alignment right! The lighting and clouds were just about perfect this night. I had just gone to a program that Ranger Sherri lead about the Butterfield Stagecoach at the Pine Springs Amphitheater and figured that was the perfect opportunity to document the shoe because that was the same place where my source image had come from a few weeks earlier! I loved how in this photo the line of the mountain just continued right onto the shoe. 

Step 7: Get the alignment right! The lighting and clouds were just about perfect this night. I had just gone to a program that Ranger Sherri lead about the Butterfield Stagecoach at the Pine Springs Amphitheater and figured that was the perfect opportunity to document the shoe because that was the same place where my source image had come from a few weeks earlier! I loved how in this photo the line of the mountain just continued right onto the shoe. 

Step 8: Have options! I loved the last photo, but the sky here was just too breathtaking to pass up. At this point I had to weigh what was more important: the alignment or the sky. I went with the latter because LOOK AT THAT SUNSET! But also because I got the lil moon in there.

Step 8: Have options! I loved the last photo, but the sky here was just too breathtaking to pass up. At this point I had to weigh what was more important: the alignment or the sky. I went with the latter because LOOK AT THAT SUNSET! But also because I got the lil moon in there.

Guadalupe Peak

On our second full day of being together in GUMO we got a move on in the morning in order to conquer the tallest peak in TX. Although its about 3 miles shorter than Emory Peak, Guadalupe Peak feels like it's about 3x as long. WOOF. I think I was in the best hiking shape of my life this summer and it was still ROUGH getting through that first mile and a half of switchbacks in the direct sun with no tree coverage. But WHATEVER because it's beautiful and exciting.

WHO NEEDS 7 TUBS OF HOT SAUCE

WHO NEEDS 7 TUBS OF HOT SAUCE

We got to the peak around 9:30AM and the FIRST THING WE SAW were *literally* SEVEN hot sauce TUBS right beside the freaking monument. Also, a tortilla wrapper and brown paper bag. We could only hope that someone had left the remnants of a burrito at their campsite and one of the 3-6 black bears/ mountain lions within the ENTIRE park found the trash and dragged it to the top of Guad Peak?? That sounds reasonable, right? 

Both of us were in shambles picking up the trash when along came this nice man who was equally distraught with the amount of litter. He even said he had been collecting trash he found on the way up! Yay to trash collectors! We ended up salty snacking and electrolyting with a view over El Capitan when all of a sudden an hour had passed! As we packed up our things we got distracted looking for ladybugs! There were tons of little clusters of red bugs under the low shrubs so naturally we took multiple selfies with them in order to get a "Ladybug Social" pin at the Visitor's Center. 

Celebrating the peak bagged!

Celebrating the peak bagged!

Colorful graffiti on the trail :/

Colorful graffiti on the trail :/

When descending we actually met up with the trash-collecting man and made him our hiking buddy! I'll never get over how wonderful, easy, and fun it is to meet people on the trail. On the way down we actually ran into a few problematic things. One of which was freaking graffiti! We found this colorful piece about halfway up the mountain! The next thing was a few rogue water bottles that had clearly fallen out of reach of the average (sane) person. I apparently was feeling supported and decided it was smart to shimmy on down the steep slope to grab the water bottle. Thank goodness it all was okay- but that is a fine line that I try to ride well. Is it worth picking up trash if it is placed in a dangerous position? Also, is it okay to go off-trail in order to pick up trash or is that act in itself harming the wilderness. ALL THINGS TO THINK ABOUT. 

Using the tree as a support in order to grab the plastic water bottle 

Using the tree as a support in order to grab the plastic water bottle 

Big Bend National Park

LOOK AT THAT PRISTINE PARK. Just one bottle!

LOOK AT THAT PRISTINE PARK. Just one bottle!

Big Bend has got to be one of the cleanest parks I've ever visited! Wow! Both Hannah and I were completely blown away by how well taken care of this park was! Usually when entering a park, right off the bat I see litter next to the entrance booths/ pull outs/ visitor centers. BUT NOT UP IN HERE! We literally had to drive STRAIGHT THROUGH for MILES ON MILES until I spotted ONE lonely Mtn Dew bottle. ONE!

My trusty Subaru steed, Berta <3

My trusty Subaru steed, Berta <3

After being blown away at the cleanliness of this beautiful place, we set up a picnic overlooking the sunset over the Rio Grande! I guess we enjoyed this park during the off-season (in the summer when it is sweltering hot derp da derp) but nonetheless we were blown away by how little traffic there was. Our first night in the park we saw about 3 cars total! 

After our picnic we drove to the campsite and prepped for the next day. The stars were UNBELIEVABLY bright, like the Milky way was OUT TO PLAY. Sleeping was difficult because our campsite was super windy and close to 90 degrees but that didn't stop us from rising at the crack of dawn to head on over to the Emory Peak Trailhead (tallest peak in Big Bend). We got there just as the sun was peeking over the mountains. MAN what a beautiful hike. The incline was gradual and honestly unnoticeable at times, the sun was shaded behind the Chisos mountains for most of the way up, AND being in the Chisos Basin we were almost 2,000 feet above other areas of the park. So basically the 5.5 miles to the peak was just SO enjoyable (besides seeing a freaking tarantula !!!). PLUS we didn't see a soul until our way down! It's funny because the trail is relatively easy for 99.99% of the way, but the last few yards of it is COMPLETE scrambling. We accidentally scrambled up the false peak only to realize the actual peak was sitting next to us... Both peaks had these large radio towers on the very tippy top. Still trying to wrap my head around the experience of climbing up a mountain without running into any other humans only to be rewarded with a huge hunk of metal and wires... Food for thought.

Scrambling down from Emory Peak. BEAUTIFUL CHISOS I'LL BE BACK.

Scrambling down from Emory Peak. BEAUTIFUL CHISOS I'LL BE BACK.

ARTS IN THE PARKS!!!!!!!

ARTS IN THE PARKS!!!!!!!

Proudly displaying our Altoids paintings

Proudly displaying our Altoids paintings

On our way down the trail we took a wrong turn and almost ended up hiking an extra casual 14 miles along the South Rim... Just goes to show ya that even somewhat experienced hikers can get turned around! We made it down to the trailhead around 1pm and immediately got ice and ice cream. We then left the Chisos Basin to explore the hotter areas of the park AKA Santa Elena Canyon! This was the landscape I sort of expected Big Bend to be, large canyon walls with a river cutting through it. Landscapes you'd expect dinosaurs to be roaming through (because they DID!) We attempted to beat the 114 degree heat in a car with no A/C but instead the sunscreen wouldn't rub into my skin because I was just sweating so much. YUM. However, we did find a little bit of shade and set up a picnic and ARTS IN THE PARKS session! It was soooooo nice just to sit and breath for a second and take in the unreal place we were in. Plus I felt really lucky to get to share this with Hannah. LOOK at the vibrant colors she picked up on!!! WOW painting en plein air in a beautiful place just never freaking gets old and always cures the soul even when you're sweating buckets. 

This was the view we had to work with!

This was the view we had to work with!

After painting for a while we decided to call it and drive back to our campsite. When we rolled up our tent was NOWHERE TO BE SEEN. A million thoughts raced through my mind when Hannah spotted a teal pop of color peeping out behind a ditch all the way across the campground. OUR TENT HAD BEEN COMPLETELY UPLIFTED FROM THE WIND AND BLOWN AWAY WITH ALL OF OUR STUFF IN IT. It was basically the most hilarious series of events. We were just so sweaty and ready to sit in the shade and crack open a delicious beverage so this was the last thing we expected! Luckily, EVERYTHING WAS ACCOUNTED FOR! Not even one single stake was lost! And only minimal scratches on the rainfly. All in all, kind of a miracle- and made the beverage that much more delicious.

RIVERS AND ROADS! RIVERS TILL I REACH YOU!

RIVERS AND ROADS! RIVERS TILL I REACH YOU!

The next morning we woke up to try and take full advantage of everything before heading back to the Guadalupe Mountains. We saw an incredible sunrise over the mountains next to the Rio Grand. One of the songs that had been playing as the soundtrack to this trip was "Rivers and Roads" by the Head and the Heart and it felt as if that morning had inspired that song. Both Hannah and I are going through pretty tumultuous chapters of our lives, but still finding beauties around us and getting to share them with each other despite the fact that we live thousands of miles apart. Tearing up just writing about it. 

Look at our sweet friends!

Look at our sweet friends!

To say goodbye to Big Bend we spent one more morning in the Chisos because it's just the best up there. We had gotten a few recommendations that the Lost Mine trail was a MUST DO so we did it! Man, we TRUCKED up and passed this family visiting from England who asked us what kind of furry animal was perched on a rock. After that the two kids just kind of became our hiking buddies, asking if Hannah and I were sisters (because we were both wearing hats, all black, and braids *see below*), what cool things we had seen, and just being amazing. It was a highlight to get to share that hike with them!

NEXT STOP was Carlsbad, NM. But by the time we got there the last round of tours had already gone in the cave so we ended up postponing and heading back to GUMO for a delicious dinner/ relaxing evening. To make it an even more spectacular day we realized we had visited THREE NATIONAL PARKS IN ONE DAY!!!! New record. How FREAKING cool. 

Just some sisters hiking, making art, making friends 

Just some sisters hiking, making art, making friends 

White Sands National Monument

Me and Hannah laughing with joy to be in such a stunning environment

Me and Hannah laughing with joy to be in such a stunning environment

The week of the 24th-31st of July was probably one of the best weeks of my life. My GURL Hannah came to visit from NYC and we just did ALL of the most beautiful things. Her flight was supposed to come in to El Paso around 6:30PM but got delayed till 10:30PM so I ended up driving from El Paso to the campsite in Alamogordo in order to set up camp in daylight and then hauling it back to the airport to pick her up. We got up in the morning to catch the sunrise over the White Sands National Monument but unfortunately the gate was closed until 7:00AM... So we just drove a little down the road and sipped on our coffee/ munched on our gas station breakfast sandwiches until finally it was 7:00.

Sledding in July!

Sledding in July!

Right when we parked we found two abandoned saucer sleds with wax left behind that we promptly snagged! The monument was a driving monument so we took ole' Berta down the sandy drive and pulled over at multiple stops. HOLY MOLY this monument was surreal. The lighting in the early morning was unbelievably stunning. I had never been to full on sand dunes before and it sure was an otherworldly experience! We attempted to sled down the dunes with not the best success... but it was still worth it! Definitely remember that part of sledding is trudging back up the dune. WOOF! Despite the fact that we were out and about pretty early we were STILL sweating up a storm. Dat desert sun is no joke. Definitely drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen often when visiting! 

As we made our way back to the visitor center a few turn-outs caught our eye. Basically any of the trash in the park stuck out like a sore thumb against the pearly white shiny sand. In one pullout in particular I found about 10 water bottles that had been left behind and filled with sand from the blowing wind over dunes (I can only imagine)?? THEN in the pullout below I found TWO Little Caesar's cardboard pizza boxes and this weird plastic kite. JUST LYING THERE! Maybe the visitors wanted to enjoy a hot pizza in the hot desert sun and then were like "oh! These greasy boxes would be perfect sleds for the sand??"... and then not feel the need to recycle those boxes after they were used??

All in all, beautiful park, but a lot of trash for it's relatively small size. At the end of the day we returned the sleds we had found to where we had found them. HOPEFULLY another group of visitors will take them for their own enjoyment and we didn't just contribute more trash left behind in the park. Inside the gift shop you can buy/ rent these sleds for $15/ $5 respectfully. BUT WHY PAY FOR A SAUCER YOU'RE GONNA USE ONCE IF YOU CAN SPREAD THE LUV AND SHARE!!

Posing with kite/ pizza box trash

Posing with kite/ pizza box trash

Eco Poet

The artist in residence for the month of July was the Texas poet Laureate Jenny Browne. She is truly a badass and I feel so fortunate to have gotten to spend time talking and creating with her. As you know, I call myself a landscape painter/ eco artist, so when I heard her refer to herself as an eco poet I flipped out! 

The beautiful Smith Springs! 

The beautiful Smith Springs! 

Notes from the hike

Notes from the hike

One of her programs early in July was a Hike and Haiku session on the Smith Springs loop. Truthfully, I've been self conscious about my writing for quite some time. It's funny because looking back it was my 7th grade language arts teacher that brought me out of my shell and gave me the courage to become an extroverted introvert when before I was as introverted as they come. I guess I've never really seen myself as an intellectual, so I'm intimidated by writing as some are probably intimidated by art. My fear was so strong that I never even took one english class in college despite the fact that my high school creative writing class was my favorite class! Jeesh, Mariah!

So anyways, it wasn't until senior year of college that my Professor explained to me why writing had been so difficult for me (and apparently other artists). I had been feeling stressed about writing a measly two paragraph artists statement as my friends were scrambling to finish up their 100 page Honors projects... She said artists do what they do in order to explain things that cannot be explained through words. ART AND ENGLISH ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LANGUAGES! Hearing that opened my eyes and blew my mind at the same freaking time. 

Moral of the story: writing is hard but important! I decided it would be a good idea to grill Jenny about these questions that had been rattling inside my brain. Basically, "How do I become as successful and badass as you???" Cuz there's an exact answer for that, right?? What she said, which was SO beautiful and poetic OF COUSE, is "everything leads to something." Jesus, she hit it the nail on the head or whatever the term is. I *literally* had not heard of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park before coming here to spend the summer. And now, for the first time in a long time, I feel as though my life has purpose and direction. I now want to be a park ranger, I've met MY PEOPLE here, and I've fallen in love with a landscape that has no relatively large bodies of water as far as the eye can see. This experience of being here HAS lead to something completely beautiful and unexpected, and so will the next step and the one after that.

Back to the hike and haiku. We started off at the picnic tables at the head of the trail and Jenny passed out some notecards with some of her favorite haikus on them. One that really resonated with me was: "Even in Kyoto--/ hearing the cuckoo's cry/ I long for Kyoto" by BASHO. That poem is the exact feeling I've been having about the Guadalupe Mountains. In a short time I will have to return to Southern California where I know I am not as happy as I am here. I'm here now, but already missing being here! 

We started the Hike and Haiku around 9AM and slowly meandered our way to Smith Springs, stopping to notice and take notes. The week had been particularly cloudy so I wanted to grasp onto the idea of the mountains pulling up the covers around them and peeking through, just as I sometimes do in the mornings. We stopped for a while once getting to the tree coverage and trickling water of the springs to form some short poems. Jenny had us share (if we felt comfortable) and I ended up with, "She opens one eye/ Pulling the blanket tighter/ A mountain peeks through."

Look at them clouds BLANKETING the mountains!

Look at them clouds BLANKETING the mountains!

On the hike back to Frijole, we discussed the potential to collaborate or do an art exchange with each other! It is just the best feeling to talk art with another artist who gets it. We were both finding this place of trying to articulate something so grand and vast as the Guadalupe Mountains on an intimate scale. For her, the limited syllables of haikus and for me on cans or the inside of an Altoids box. So in the next week Jenny chipped away at a poem and I chipped away at a painting. 

Jenny had mentioned her love for the Devil's Hall trail and how she had done it to unwind after long days of writing. So on my next rove day I hit the trail, brought a few Altoids cans, and tried to channel her energy. Later that week, Jenny had a sunset poetry reading at the amphitheater where she shared the freaking poem she wrote for me! I actually don't know if I've ever been more honored. The poem was titled "Gray Wolf, Grizzly Bear, White-tailed Deer" and after the reading she handed me her handwritten copy!!! I was on the verge of tears! In return I gave her the Altoids art of Devil's Hall. The last thing she did was pass around postcards addressed to St. Anthony (the Saint of lost things). She is doing an amazing poetry exchange for San Antonio. We all wrote down a few reflection words on the postcards and returned them to Jenny to become part of a larger installation where visitors take a poem and leave a poem! I also freaked out at this because a huge part of my senior year was a project I started called "postcards to myself." It makes me so happy/ freaks me out how in sync (NSYNC?) we were. GOSH. EVERYTHING leads to something and this volunteer position lead me to her! I feel so fortunate.

Me and Jenny Browne after her sunset poetry reading! That sky KNEW it was a beautiful moment

Me and Jenny Browne after her sunset poetry reading! That sky KNEW it was a beautiful moment

Devil's Hall Altoids painting for Jenny

Devil's Hall Altoids painting for Jenny

Handwritten poem Jenny gave to me!!!! (Still can't get over it!)

Handwritten poem Jenny gave to me!!!! (Still can't get over it!)

Can You Do the Can-Can?

Seltzer that I drank for lunch when working at Pratt Cabin. This is the view from the back porch while sitting on the rocking chairs!

Seltzer that I drank for lunch when working at Pratt Cabin. This is the view from the back porch while sitting on the rocking chairs!

Most of what I find littered throughout parks are plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. Because recycling is complicated and expensive here, I've been trying to paint little mini scenes on the cans I find on the trails AND produce myself. Sometimes, when I'm roving, I take a can of seltzer with me for lunch on my hike. Once I make it to a nice picnic spot, I get to enjoy the seltzer and then flatten it to paint on (see pic on right)! I really love how painting on these cans and just on found objects in general tells more about the journey that lead the hiker to that place. What was the scenario? Did they victoriously make it to a peak and throw their hands up in the triumph of the moment only to realize they were loosely holding their water bottle when all of a sudden a huge gust of winds knocks it out of their hands and their heart breaks as they watch it float like a feather down the cliffside, completely out of reach!?!?? Maybe. The water bottle pictured directly below was found about 20 feet away from the trailhead out of Pine Springs Campground. TWENTY FEET! You just hiked 8+ miles and you can't walk a few more steps to the recycling bin??? APPARENTLY NOT! That's okay though (but not really) because I got to make a sweet painting on it.

Water bottle left behind on the Pine Springs Campground trailhead 20 feet from a recycling bin. NOW depicting Hunter's peak

Water bottle left behind on the Pine Springs Campground trailhead 20 feet from a recycling bin. NOW depicting Hunter's peak

Seltzer can that I drank while working at the McKittrick contact station. This is the view that I had while guzzling down that refreshing beverage!

Seltzer can that I drank while working at the McKittrick contact station. This is the view that I had while guzzling down that refreshing beverage!

The open skies here have my heart forever and ever.

The open skies here have my heart forever and ever.