I arrived a week ago today. It takes about this long to mentally ‘settle’ in. To take in ones surroundings, the new environment, the new people and new daily habits. My mind has begun to let go of what was and be in what is – my reality of exploring, observing, making and interacting with this place. It feels unbelievably good to be surrounded by nature, to be a part of nature. The heavy rain pounding on my cabin roof the other night lulled me into a blissful sleep in part because it’s been over two years since I’ve had a direct roof over my head to enjoy such a sound. This place has reminded me of my deep need to be immersed in nature to feel whole, to be connected to not only to myself but the world around me in an honest way.
The last few days have been mostly damp. I’ve still been out exploring, mostly collecting and finding spots to return when the sun reappears for an extended time (tomorrow!). I drove about 20 minutes into Sisters, the closest town and stocked up on provisions – groceries, a pair of fleece pants from the thrift store, scraps of muslin, sandpaper and a nice bottle of Oregon pinot noir. Sisters is decidedly trying to be like the old ‘wild west’. The facades of each building are structured from that time era and even the fonts of store names follow suit. It is a sweet square mile downtown and the bustle for a Monday morning was surprising, even at a bakery that primarily sells gluten-free pastries and six tantalizing types of yerba mate.
Driving back the sunny weather and blue skies turned quickly into an engulfing snow storm! The artists from warmer climates are very excited to see snow- so there has been a stir of kid-like energy as it’s been intermittently falling the last couple days. I myself just can’t get over the shifts in weather. It will be overcast, downpouring and windy and the next minute the sun is shining through creating beautiful soft sunshowers cascading through the trees.
Yesterday Diana and I were determined to make it to the Pacific Crest Trail for a short hike. Within driving 10 minutes higher in elevation there was snow pack on the sides of the highway and even with snow treads on the wheels we got stuck in the unplowed road leading to our trailhead. Needless to say, I was ok with missing that hike, although it amazed me how quickly the climate changed… there isn’t one patch of snow around Caldera. When we returned the sun was shining and what felt like mini-hail began to fall for about five mi
nutes. Folowale, a dancer has become our resident ‘rainbow chaser’ and with weather like this he reports that he’s constantly on the hunt!
I’m making, I’m creating, I’m experimenting, I’m engaging in the creative process beyond just enjoying the beauty of the area which would be so
easy to do. The wood-borer trails, lines ‘drawn’ by beetles in trees are fascinating. These intricate, organic marks in the wood beg to be noticed, beg to be traced and captured in some way. They in itself are a writing of place. They remind me of little maps, recordings of an insects existence; or a secret language, symbols of a dialect I cannot understand but want to decipher. I have spent countless hours searching and finding these intricate abstract patterns, collecting large shards of bark from the forest, sitting by the fire patiently as they dry so I can try to translate these marks into a visual language to share with others. I have documented the various patterns through sketches and photographs like a scientist trying to understand ancient tribal markings. I have researched their implications and discovered these enigmatic lines have deadly results. In multitude they can kill a tree, many trees and have destroyed forests. At least 80% of the trees on the ground here have evidence of these beetles. It feels like an anomaly yet is so natural, the cycles of life and death, how one thing destroys another to live. How can I be so taken with an insect that literally fells forests? Yet like the forest fire it is natural and something humans can’t seem to quite understand or accept is this natural destruction.
I discovered a way to record these markings. I outlined them with charcoal from the burnt forest and took photographs with average results. Then I tried rubbings, but the paper needed to be thin, not something I brought with me. Yet in the process of doing the rubbings on-site I noticed something by accident – the lines I had traced were being transferred on the back side of the paper. From years of doing graphite transfers, I immediately became excited at my discovery and tried it out on a good piece of paper. I was surprisingly impressed by the results.
Notes from my sketchbook: “So I used charcoal to re-outline my previous markings of the insects trail. Then use my good paper, large graphite stick (wrapped in it’s sleeve) to press and rub on the back. I can see the imprint coming through… I flip the paper over and am immediately excited- stunned at the beauty of line and texture process captured… like a wood block print… yes. I then tried it again… and again with black paper and white conte. Gorgeous. I can repeat overlay, the process/possibilities seem endless. ‘I’m so stoked’ is not only for surfers.”
Yesterday I spent a large portion of my day experimenting with the wood pieces I’ve collected- using repetition, collage, mixed media and re-learning my printmaking skills to develop these pieces. By the end of the evening my mind was in overstimulation with the limitations, the possibilities and the effect these strong black and white visuals have on me.
I can’t wait until the sun peaks out again to dry up these trees so I can once again source directly from the forest. Until then my studio is looking more and more like the forest floor!