Playa: September 19 & 20, 2013

Thursday Sept 19

As I walked back from the Commons last night, I saw the moon rising in the east over the playa. It was not a huge moon like one sometimes sees but it illuminated the entire lake bed. More stunningly, it was golden, so bright that I didn’t need a flashlight. I was awe-struck, but grabbed my camera to attempt photos. The photos can only approximate what I was seeing. But they do give some sense of it.

MoonGold1The rising moon reflected in the pond, about 8 p.m.

MoonReflectionWLReflection in the south pond

MoongoldVerticalwlAs the moon rose higher, the playa came more clearly into view.

Then early this morning, on the way over to the Commons, I saw the moon setting over Winter Ridge to the west.  The color was much cooler this morning, which, I suspect, has to do with the dust in the atmosphere that settles during the night.

MoonAMwlThe moon over Winter Ridge in the morning; the windows in the cabin are facing east, where the hint of the rising sun can be found.

I have decided I’m a diurnal person, if there is such a thing. I wake when the sun appears (this puts the sun – or me – at a disadvantage in Portland, where the sky gets lighter but the sun doesn’t actually seem to rise.) So at Playa I find myself up and about at unseemly hours, wondering what I’m to do.

I have been thinking about the steps I need to take in order to retain my vision of the Hill after I return to Portland. I’m going to concoct a scroll from my notebook papers (stapling papers together) to make a small mockup. I’ll then go up the hill and try sketching.

Friday, Sept 20, 2013

Somehow I missed journaling the rest of the day.

So, yesterday after doing the short journal entry, I went back to the cabin and made that very long scroll, stapling together sheets from my sketch book. These I hope to turn into something on which I can sketch to see what I need to know of the playa, all 210 degrees of it.

ScrollThe Scroll (photo taken upon return to Portland. The only purpose of the photo is to show how awesomely long that thing was. And how crude.)

I looked at all the photos I’ve taken up on the hill and I see that I may have, or may be able to take, ones that I can use for painting back in Pdx.


I will have to crop the photos to the right scale: The board sizes are 12 x 24, ie 1/ 2. The photos probably are about 8 x 10 or 2/3 (that’s what they seem to print as, anyway). So I’ll have to crop the onscreen version from those ratios to 1×2 or perhaps print them out and do the cropping manually. But that’s for a later day.

I climbed the hill, photographed a lot, doodled on my stapled scroll, and tried to figure out where the center of the playa was located because I’ll paint out from the center. The center looked rather monolithic – mostly a violet shadow against the sky, with other violet shadows stretching right and left.  And using my outspread fingers to measure the spaces could only approximate where that center might be — in one of the dips that indicate another ridge slipping behind the first? Or maybe another ridge slipping in front of the first? The details are difficult to see. And then, suddenly, the wind came up, blowing sand across the way, obscuring the distant ridges. It became clear that trying to hold the scroll and do anything like sketching was impossible.

DustStormfromRidgeI trotted down the hill as fast as I could, as the wind was unpleasant. The dust is covering more of the playa today, but doesn’t quite come up to the compound of Winter Ridge. I can taste it in the air. It’s blotted out almost the whole of the lake bed. I asked if it did this in winter and Barb said no, by winter the lake filled from the opened irrigation ditches and the winter rain. Barb also said it was getting colder outside. I don’t want it to get too cold, ’cause I can’t wear my only long-sleeved, mucked-up shirt outside the privacy of my own quarters. It’s truly embarrassing to be seen in, like an old guy who walks around with food stains on his tie.

I started another small painting in the studio after I came down the hill.

It’s supposed to rain (80%) tomorrow, so I won’t be going up on the hill. A 4-foot ditch runs across the track — could be slippery. I am lucky to have made the change in my plans since neither today nor tomorrow would be good for painting up the hill.

Tonight is a big outing to the Cowboy Dinner Tree Restaurant at Silver Lake, about forty miles north of here. I’m told I will be able to eat on the leftovers for the remainder of my stay. Apparently the portions are huge.


I am now back from a most charming social evening with Barb, Rachel, and Bill at a very crowded, very much eastern Oregon, dinner place.

The Cowboy Dinner Tree Restaurant is about as rustic a building as you can imagine, and really in the middle of nowhere (on a side road off route 31 that begins with a sign saying “this goes nowhere”.

The meal was what I expected, only better (I have been around the desert/cowboy hangouts a bit), and I do have an enormous doggie bag that I’m hoping Pepper will enjoy. Bill and I ordered beef. I knew the slice might be big but didn’t know it would be half a (small) cow. Barb and Rachel both got whole chickens (I mean “whole”, limbs and all). This in addition to fresh-baked rolls, a big green salad, bean soup, baked potatoes, and dessert. You get hungry working the range; not so much so working in the studio.

The company was excellent. Bill was originally from Pendleton so that explains his love of this land. And he knows a lot about the area around Summer Lake

CowboyTreeRestaurantPhoto taken on June 22, 2013 by walkaboutmax, made available on FlickR under a limited Creative Commons license. Some Rights Reserved by original photographer. 

Bill talked about “Carlin Village” and “Boulder Village”, archaeological sites on the west side, north of Summer Lake. The Paisley Caves (east of the Lake), where a big coprolite was found, is famous for having the oldest evidence of humans on the continent, 14,000 years ago, with hints that they may have been there as long ago as 16,000 years before the present.

OregonArcheologyCoverwlBefore we left Playa, I bought this book from the Paisley Mercantile.  It filled in some of my ignorance about southeast Oregon’s archaeological heritage. It covers all of Oregon. It was published in 2011 and is the first survey published since 1993.

As we drove back to Playa the dust storm still raged, but the moon showed it clearly from the cloudless sky above.  Bill said many springs and artesian water sources feed into the playa from Winter Ridge. They have now opened irrigation ditches from the fields, so water is flowing into the Ana Reservoir, and out of that into the Ana River which flows into the Summer Lake playa. We saw a lot of edge water and reeds along Route 31.

Another exciting day in the desert,  what with socializing, dust storms, ambitious plans for art, and sightings of the moon before I even had my eyes totally open. –June

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