Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Run For Your Art!




No Walls Art Studio, Lobo Peak, NM

I love exercising outdoors and I love to paint, so I combined the two a few days ago when I ran-hiked the Manzanita Trail to Lobo Peak where I set up the easel at 12,115'. Packing and carrying 40 pounds of equipment was just half the challenge; choosing a subject to paint with 360 degree views was the other. Was it convenient? No, Beautiful? Yes. Life enhancing? Definitely.

Every time I complete a challenging hike or run I feel more confident which, carries over to other areas of my life. Somehow, that blank piece of paper or canvas becomes less intimating; a difficult ski run seems more manageable. Trail running, especially down hill requires focus; one wrong step could cause serious problems. Along with focusing on the ground under foot and scanning the forest for bears, the brain is making constant decisions and calculations on where to go and how to get there. Which rock or tree branch to avoid? How fast could I go without tumbling down that ravineCould I jump over that fallen tree without losing my manhood? For me, trail running and hiking is a meditation. It requires concentration while moving through each moment with complete awareness. 

This particular trail has steep inclines with grades up to 45% in some sections. (Think 90% and then back off from there.) From the parking area to the summit of Lobo Peak, the trail climbs 3,759'. The information I read listed the trail as 4.19 miles in length so, when I looked at my GPS watch and it read "5.01 miles" and the summit ridge was nowhere to be seen, I realized that either the watch was wrong or the listed trail length did not account for the distance from trail's end to the peak of the Peak. The total uphill mileage according to my watch was 5.35 miles. The reason I was concerned about the mileage was because there was only a certain amount of time to paint before the afternoon's lightening strikes began. A lot of panting and swearing took place before the summit came into view. I spent a couple of hours there painting, mediating, snapping pictures and talking to the chipmunks, bees and Big Horn Sheep. 

The trail down is just as hard as the way up, taxing different muscles and energy stores. The lungs hunger for more oxygen on the way up and the legs on the way down. Combine gravity, weight, mass, speed and force on the lower body and you end up with screaming thighs, buttocks, knees and ankles. I did make it a bit more difficult than necessary, as I found and carried down the perfect 12' tree branch that I'll be perching a handmade bird feeder.

I did manage to take time out to smell the flowers and marvel at the abundance of life that percolates in our National Forest. Northern New Mexico is home to hundreds of spices of plants and wildflowers and with no one on the trail that day I played botanist in training, studying and taking pictures of the abundant summertime bloom. (Truth be told, I didn't get much painting done, as there just too much of the "Wow!" effect to be seen everywhere I looked.) 

So, although I'd prefer to paint outdoors I'll have to finish this one inside looking at a digitized copy of the breathtaking views via a photograph. Eventually, I'd need to come inside for fresh water, more materials, food and rest and recuperation. There's always tomorrow. There will always be more trails to explore and endless running towards creating more Art. 

Hope you enjoy the below pictures of the trail and Peak.


Lush Forest
Wild Red Berries

Standing Tall

Steep Climb
One of Many Beautiful Crossings
Handsome Big Horn Sheep
Geranium Richardsonii

Hairy Clematis
Approx. 2 miles from Peak

Ridge Approach to Peak
Finally!
Old Cairn?
Taos Valley View

NW View
Lobo Peak, NM Looking SE












Sunday, August 3, 2014

Quit Your Job - Do What You Love - Act III Home


Taos, NM Sunset


Ancient author and naturalist, Gaius Plinius Secundus (GPS for short) wrote, "Home is where the heart is." He has also been quoted as saying, "Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man." So after after quitting my job it was with great hope that I arrived Home to Taos, NM.

Forty years ago famous ski videographer, Warren Miller came to the ski shop I was managing outside of Philadelphia and showed us his latest video of skiing in New Mexico. I remember thinking to myself that I have to go there one day. One day turned into years, desires, relationships, locales and jobs came and went and then came the time to make the big move.

So here we are in the great southwest where the cross roads of spirits and indigenous peoples converged and 300 days of sun supposedly per year prevail. There isn't a day that has gone by that I haven't stood in awe and wonder at the high dessert vistas, enchanted blue mountains and the plethora of flower and fauna. It's a magical place and it is no surprise that some of our Native American brothers and sisters where instructed by the Great Spirit to migrate to the area. Upon my first visit to New Mexico I fell to my knees and cried as I took in the great expanse of the basalt filled Rio Grande Gorge. 


After being assured no less than three times by the property manager that the house we were renting was completely ready to move into and that every item that needed to be repaired had been, we arrived to find that 90% of what was promised had nor been completed and that we had no hot water. "That's Taos," we were told. "The mountain either accepts you or tosses you out." If that's true then the "mountain" was certainly trying to kick us back to Chicago. "Would the Mountain kindly fix the hot water, clean the house, repair the adobe walls, fix the lights, pay my bills and put food on the table?" I replied. "Just look at the mountain and breathe," the plumber told us after one of his multiple visits. (It seems that Sages come in many different forms.) I don't know if Don the plumber was or is full of shit or not but he offered a reminder to accept what already is and then decide if you can do anything to change the situation. It took three weeks to get the hot water working properly and after close to three months there are still things that have yet to be repaired. I've been looking at the mountain and breathing. A lot. None of it really matters that much. Compared to the Middle East, slavery, cancer, inequality and a host of other miseries, I can't complain.



Slowly, the house is taking shape. Terry's studio is up and running, I'm outfitting the garage to accommodate painting, woodcarving and various other endeavors. Scaled grouses, finches, sparrows, hummingbirds, swallows, blue grosbeaks and jackrabbits visit our front yard. For the first time in thirty-five years I can sleep without ear plugs. I watch the sun carve its way through the mountain canyons each morning and then take its entrance in a stunning performance at night behind iridescent clouds. What else could I possibly need? The mountains, the desert, the people, and the culture are why so many came here before me and never left. Everything comes with a trade off or a price. There' one movie theatre in town and they show the worst of Hollywood's crap; the DOMV is run by egotistical queens where getting a driver's license is more difficult than going to Cuba; the Sunday NY Times cost six dollars; and getting anything done takes a cross-cultural quorum of five-hundred and just about as many days to make a decision. Still, for now, I wouldn't trade it for the Siskel movie theatre in Chicago or the NYC Subway. To be able to run up and down Mother Nature's spine everyday with bighorn sheep as onlookers is transcendent. 




People work very hard here. Some have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. It's tough to make a living in a state with a 6.5 unemployment rate. Tourism helps to drive the local economy but there isn't always enough steady work to keep the creditors at bay. That being said, many people here live comfortably by doing what they love and loving what they do. I promised myself a long time ago that I would never wait tables again but if it ever comes down to a choice of slinging hash or being homeless, I'd slap on a smile and say, "Can I take your order?"

It does takes a lot more discipline to get down to work everyday. It's too easy to just stare out the window at yet another set of spectacular rainbows. My old office cube offered no such panorama. Unlike the majority of my neighbors, I haven't retired and need a regular income. The pillar of hope that I'm standing on is for my art and teaching to pay the bills. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't miss the corporate paycheck but I don't miss the culture. Besides, I think that I can better help those that work in that environment from the outside in. So, I'll continue to coach and teach while writing, painting and carving and as GPS wrote, "hold up" my end of the world. You too can do this. Do what you love, love what you do.