Thursday, October 26, 2006

Clouds and Old Friends

From the Blue Lake Ranch outside of Durango, we watched a spectacular sunset each night this week. But the most dramatic clouds appeared before sunset yesterday, as a storm approached from the southwest. In this photo, it is eating up the distant view; thirty minutes later, we had lightening, wind, hail, and snow.
I've become more and more fascinated with clouds this past summer and fall. How could I be so fortunate as to reconnect with Ann, an old friend who now lives in Durango, and to pick up a friendship after thirty years and discover a shared passion for clouds! Ann sent us on my way with this book about clouds, which taught me that yesterday's cloud was a Cumulonimbus, or maybe even a Cumulonimbus incus. But that's nothing compared to the reminder of how wonderful it is to meet up with old friends!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Far Enough South

We are staying in Durango, Colorado for a few days, having traveled far enough south to encounter the brilliant blue sky and warm sunshine we were hoping for. Fishing and painting can be done in shirt sleeves today. We are staying in the valley of the La Plata River, a tributary of the Animas. There are lush vistas from every window – this watercolor sketch is looking to the south with the mesa lands of New Mexico in this distance.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The North Fork Valley

The North Fork of the Gunnison River cuts a wide valley, flowing west from McClure Pass and the mountains near Aspen and Carbondale. The valley is distinct from other Colorado places – intensely agricultural, long settled, and home to a host of small family farms and wineries. We learned so much more about the valley community this year.
Over the past ten days we have worked (or played) at picking grapes, winter greenhouse gardening, cooking, cleaning and repairing equipment, and making wine. We got very muddy and sticky with grape juice. We waited on the highway for a big herd of sheep to pass, and we rushed around picking the last tomatoes and putting away equipment before winter storms arrive. We met organic gardeners and winemakers, and felt like a part of the community as we listened to live music late at night in Paonia (particularly a live performance by singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkerson!)
We may be nomads and skeptics, but we can't help but be impressed by the optimism, energy, and enthusiasm of our friends Wink and Max and their neighbors in the North Fork Valley. (Visit their website at We applaud the generosity of spirit in the people, and admire the place they are inhabiting and creating.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Farm Work and Painting

Hotchkiss, Colorado
N 38°48.54
W 107°46.36
We are staying at the farm and organic orchard of our friends Wink and Max near Hotchkiss, Colorado. The farm is perched on Roger’s Mesa, and looks out over the North Fork of the Gunnison River. This North Fork Valley is mostly agricultural, but with high mountains on the horizon to the east. Our daily schedule here is made up of farm work, interspersed with wonderful meals. My work has mostly been in the large greenhouse, which is wonderfully warm and humid, even when storms blow through. The Captain has been doing a variety of jobs, including trying to figure out why Wink’s new well is gushing warm air. The photo is of Wink and the Captain.
When the weather is stormy, there has been time for painting, revising work begun in Montana. The oil sketch above was made in the Missouri River Canyon, but has been revised dramatically, and probably will be again tomorrow.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Muted Montana

Great Falls, Montana
After three days of brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures, the weather has turned gray, windy, and cold. We sample a few of the local attractions - the Great Falls of the Missouri River, the local Walmart. Painting has to be done from the car, parked in an overlook that commemorates the portage around the falls made by Lewis and Clark. The view extends for miles of valley, bench, and mountains, but it is all muted and subtle color. We are miles and many worlds removed from the watery world of the coast.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Yellow Line Tour

Great Falls, Montana
This is the second year that we have abandoned the boat to make a road trip through the Rocky Mountains in the fall. We are currently in Montana, and are already dazzled by the fall foliage color here – cottonwoods are turning a bright gold, highlights to the acres of pale yellow grasses.
When I travel by car, I am continually fascinated by the curves of the highway. In the fall, the yellow line down the middle of the road leads the eye into the distance where there are yellow and gold trees. That yellow line is persistent – it shows up in rainy weather and sunny, when it shows and when it is brilliant.
So I’ve decided to dub this the Second Annual Yellow Line Tour.