Playa, September 20 & 21, 2013

Saturday, September 20, 2013

I’m feeling that winding down sensation. The last weekend, then Monday, and then Jer arrives on Tuesday, we pack, and head out early on Wednesday, back to the land of trees and low hovering clouds.

At Summer Lake it rained, stormed, stopped, and rained again. I snuck in a trip up the hill which was awesome, windy, and didn’t feel like it got me much further along in my painting project. However, I took more photos of the wood rat’s nest and some of the juniper trees in the cluster that feels so sheltering. Wood rats’ nests (they are a kind of pack rat) can go back as far as 50,000 years because of their habits and the dry climates and shelters that they inhabit. They are treasures to paleobotanists. This tree has been recently trimmed, but the nest was carefully preserved. Most likely the animals had moved on, hopefully not to any human habitats, like the airstream trailer nearby.

TreeAndNestWLNestCloseUpWLCedarBranchesWLAfter I came back down, I puddled around in the studio, dabbling at paintings, feeling a bit desultory.

The big event of the day came in the afternoon..

We took Rachel’s van to a neighbor’s house, directly across from where I’ve been photographing the panorama, so she could walk the dogs and I could do more sketching of the playa. The neighbor lives at just about the level of my grove of trees and panoramic view.

The wind was blowing so hard up there that it was difficult to stand up. The dogs loved it, of course. They frolicked around and came over to say hello and see if I would play too. Not me – I huddled on the porch with my sketch book.

I was sitting in the protection of the porch when Rachel called and said to come out — you’ve got to see this. Across the bed of the playa (not in the air), about a mile or more wide, spread a perfect rainbow. It formed that perfect rainbow arch, but was flat on the whitish sand, with the purples and greens on the inside, the red on the outside. As we watched, this light show seemed to slide away up the far eastern hills, changing their colors sequentially, red through orange-yellow, through yellow and green then blue and purple. It was like a great light show except that the colors were more earthen, more “grounded” than any I’ve ever seen projected artificially.

Neither Rachel nor I had ever seen anything like it. If it had been only one of us seeing it, we would have imagined we were hallucinating or imagining it.

Back at the compound, the dust blew across the neutral colors of the playa, a rain storm pounded the west ridge, and Playa, the residency, while wet and cool, was an oasis of calm.

StepsInRain2wlSeptember 22, Sunday

I went outside and painted this morning. I didn’t get up until 6:30 when the sun came up — the nights are getting longer. I had some coffee and stood on the front porch where it felt warm. Then, about 7 or so, I decided that I should paint outside while it was warm and dry. It was too early to haul stuff too far away, and I had that big painting that needed more work on site, so I checked out the back deck.  When I went around to the side of Cabin 10, the wind seemed stronger; when I went on around to the back, facing the pond, whoosh. But the back deck was definitely the place. If it was windy there, there was a hurricane in the lawn. And a category 3 up the hill.

I took the big easel from the studio out there because it’s heavy, and the wind ( I hoped) wouldn’t carry it into the pond. Then I carted all the other stuff out and painted until ten, when my fingers (in gloves this time) stopped working. The wind had died down some but it wasn’t any warmer. I cleaned up and ate breakfast and sat down in a chair to read where I fell asleep. I’m loving falling asleep after I’ve been up a few hours. I do miss our couch at home but the chairs are pretty soft and I can put up my feet on the footstool.

LivingRoomCabin10WLI invited Rachel over for a stew this evening (imagine, me cooking!). I have a bunch of stuff that I can use up and I’ll borrow some oregano from the kitchen here in the commons. Lots of potatoes and onions and even some leftover black beans. And the big slab of beef, of course, which I have scarcely made a dent in. Rachel said she’d bring a pear/ginger tart and some butter. And some beer. So that should while away half the afternoon and the evening.

KitchenCabin10WLI’m anxious to get back up the hill, but that’s not going to happen while the wind is so fierce. I think I’ll spend the other half of this afternoon working on the computer to see if I can solve some of my panorama problems using the photos I have. Or at least see where I haven’t solved them. I’m feeling quite stubborn about this project, having taken it on. It should keep me busy for the Portland fall, at the very least.

The wind is quite fierce right now and it’s cold enough that I have four layers on and am still a bit cold. I turned up the heat in the cabin, but am reluctant to turn it up further. It’s a bit warmer in here. Rachel offered to let me into another cabin to use the hot tub, but I thought that was going too far. I noticed today that there are thermostats in every room in the cabin. That’s why the bedroom is cooler than the downstairs. I like that, although last night I wore a t-shirt over my nightgown. And pulled up the extra cover.

So that’s the news from Lake Summer, where it’s definitely taken a turn toward that other season. The wind still seems to be coming from the south. I saw the golden moon again last night, but it’s waning pretty fast. Must be time to go home.

Here’s a couple of photos from the studio, where I’m spending a lot more time these days.

StudioFullwlStudioWallwlI found this wall of the studio quite charming. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but still, the grids made by the painters left their traces behind. I’m in good company.


I just finished examining my photos closely and I’m excited again about the pano project. When I blow them up to 100% I can see the old evaporated lake bed lines as well as a lot of definition in the far hills, even within 10 mile butte. I think I can do this.

I could use a better sense of the far lake bed edge. The photos are a bit wonky keeping it in line because I was hand-holding the camera.  I think the playa bed is the horizon line, which means that to the north and south the sky perhaps gets bigger because the land forms appear smaller. But that’s not always the case because the Diablo Mts to the north are higher than 10 mile Butte which lines the south end. I couldn’t do any panoramic stitching using Photoshop: it’s too crazy-making. But the individual “stitch-enhanced” photos on my camera are pretty good anyway. When I get back to where I can download one of those easy-to-use free programs to stitch these into a full panorama.  I’ll use my desktop and play with ways to pull the photos together.


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