Grand Canyon

Etching

850 x 600 mm

It was only just over 4 months ago that I sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon and made the sketch for this etching; more a process of attempting to make sense of what I was looking at than creating an instant artwork.

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And now here is the (very much not instant!) artwork, half of which I published on Facebook a few weeks ago. Since my trip to the US, the main instigator of our road trip, my dear friend Jaki Whitren, who INSISTED I came along when I almost baled out, has died, as has her partner, or rather, soul mate, John Cartwright, another of my dearest friends.

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So I dedicate this etching to the memory of John and Jaki with much love. And as, since my trip to the South West, America has been plunged into crisis and I want to express my support for the struggle ahead, I also dedicate this work to my American friends and friends in America; to all the people who smoothed our way for us on the road trip, both indigenous and immigrant (that’s all the rest); and to the Parks Department people, who protect this extraordinary canyon and who were the first to stand up to tyranny. I just hope we can all follow their lead.

song-6This is Jaki’s song which she started to teach us on the road. Lots more work to be done, but here are the words. It’s a waltz, so ONE two three TWO two three –

 

Up on the high plains it’s dry and it’s hot, and the wind it don’t stop for no one,

As the miles they roll by, see the earth touch the sky,

Up on the wide high Lonesome.

 

There’s a feelin’ of freedom that no man can reason,

A longin’ to reach for the sky

Where your spirit can wander way out over yonder

And wave to your troubles goodbye.

 

Well I do declare it’s a real fine affair, we’re floatin’ on air on the high plains,

My buddies and me, we’re footloose fancy free, and we’re feelin’ as high as the mountains.

 

Well there’s good ol’ Fiona and good ol’ Diana,

There’s good ol’ Di good ol’ Bron,

Good ol’ Freddie is here and we’re full of good cheer,

‘cos we’re sure glad that she came along.

And as we smoke our tobacci well there’s good ol’ Jaki

Who’s willing to lead us in song.

 

While the stars fill the night, such a beautiful sight,

And your heart it feels light as a feather,

Way up here all alone, all you want is to roam

For ever and ever and ever,

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For ever and ever and ever.

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Up in the morning early, packed and into town for breakfast and pawn shops. May sound alarming, but these shops are regarded as the Navajo ‘banks’ where they hand over their possessions in exchange for money, and if not collected within the year or whatever the agreement is, the goods are put on sale, far cheaper than anywhere else. All run by the Navajo themselves in this extraordinary town. So we did our Indian shopping and went on the road again, with a last stop in Nature at Church Rock just outside Gallup.

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Freddie, Di and I walked up the arroyo (dry river bed) till we reached the head of the river (a large, damp, red rock) and came slowly back, loving every minute of this mini trek with its side canyons and caves and aromatic flowers and bushes,

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then back down to join the others

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and back on the road again, the mountains and mesas of the Indian tribal lands on every side. A very last stop off road for fry bread at this little shack, which turned out to be closed. So we left our camping chairs there for the next visitors

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and with the setting sun in the West at our backs, drove down into Albuquerque for our last stop. For the keen eyed, here is Betsy reflected in a shiny truck (well, you can just about make out her headlights..

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So now I’ve come to that part of the gig where we say our thank yous: to you, our friends and relations, whose interest and appreciation has been wonderful for us; to all the friendly, helpful and courteous people we met on the way who smoothed the way for us so well, and to my fellow travellers of course – extraordinary artists all. Jaki – visionary and, well, reason for us all being here; Diana – driver, organiser and all round expert on this area; Di – organiser, photographer and enthusiast; Fiona – kitchen boss and healer with ever ready first aid bag; Freddie – naturalist, explorer, general fixer and co-driver; and me – documenter and diarist. What a team! Off to the airport in a couple of hours. See you all soon.

Part 1 being Sedona to Gallup, where we are now in a motel, and it feels more like America to me (highways, trucks, trains, billboards, parking lots, diners, drive ins, Edward Hopper in fact). The start of the journey was more red rocks, stunningly so but I think we’ve all seen enough red rocks so I’ll just post one because it’s a nice one of Diana:

r66-9And then it was onto Route 66 which was everything I’d imagined it to be (not enough Harley Davidsons though, but loads of great long trucks, and a railway line running beside, with endless freight trains nose to tail – these came to haunt us later…..

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After miles of desert, we turned off the road actually INTO the desert: the Painted Desert as it is known. Time for lunch and we tried in vain to find a spot out of the wind. “And the wind it don’t stop for no one” is one of the lines of Jaki’s song written especially for us to learn on this trip. She’s so right. So we nestled by the car

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while Fiona tried to sort out a plastic bag. She’s in pyjamas too. Seems to be becoming de rigueur for us Lonesomes (limited wardrobes here due to limited space in Betsy).

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As fascinating as we are for people we meet, we find equally fascinating and enigmatic people:

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And the painted desert was, well, lush

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And here’s my image of the day: Fiona in pursuit of a photo:

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Back on the road again, and quite soon we were in Gallup. On the real route 66 ( the other one is the new fast highway):

 

 

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Not our motel, fortunately. We were next door, but this was a better sign. And here is the sunset view from our rooms. Much more Edward Hopper.

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And ps, the trains kept us awake all night, rumbling past our motel and sounding their massive sirens for the benefit of the level crossing just opposite. I worked out that they were a diminished chord, sometimes Phrygian, never reticent, ALL NIGHT.

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Barely a day has passed, and here we are in Sedona, on the terrace of our rented house, and this is the view. Sunrise – or second sunrise in a way, as the first one just brushed the tips and disappeared. Last night, when we arrived, it was overcast and wet, so a trip to the local wholefood store (it’s very Glastonbury here) to stock up, and here are the green grocers:

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But the next day – yesterday actually – was bright and clear, and Di and I set off up the road to find some red rock to sit on and draw. Red Rocks everywhere, not just under our feet. This was one of the views:

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Here’s the hill we sat on to draw

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Exhausting drawing rocks! So many of them. But a great place to be. Then we realised that it was actually Autumn Equinox so we drove up to the local ‘vortex’ point to watch the sunset, and discovered the rest of Sedona had come too. Room for all, fortunately.

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Sunset and sunrise are the best times to watch the rocks, so it was up with the dawn this morning again (exhausting!), but I was rewarded with the sight of 5 wild boars running through the scrub below our house. And with this gorgeous blue bird – turns out to be a ‘scrub jay’:

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I was followed up the hill by Di in her pyjamas! (only in Glastonbury – I mean, Sedona…)

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and this was the sunrise. It lasted for ages: so many rocks to illuminate.

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So I’m writing this blog and have just become aware that all around me people are sanding sticks, winding string, painting – last evening in Sedona, and the sun has finally come out again.

 

The great Indian craft tradition of this area is clearly having an effect. Or maybe that’s why we are here in the first place. Whatever, I’m going to join them…

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Here’s how the day started. Sunrise over the San Francisco Peaks, where we were staying. And here’s our house: Morning Star.

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We’d already spent a day here, with no wifi, hence the gap in blogging and the reason why the posts are coming thick and fast. I’m trying to catch up! Here are some pictures of our first day:

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The ladder washing line (no actual washing lines in America it seems: just dryers…)

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Freddie’s juniper sticks

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Diana’s smudge sticks

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And a Mexican dinner that Freddie and Fiona rustled up from ‘bottom of the fridge’ ingredients (delicious). So, anyway, the next day we got into Betsy and drove to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Not sure how to present this. Everyone knows of the Grand Canyon, has seen the photos, and mine don’t help any better to give an idea of the sheer scale of the place. So I’m posting a couple of sketches first: this one was in the first flush of seeing the canyon – just what was near at hand: I couldn’t cope with the entirety of the view:

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And this one which was a mapping of what I could see, later on in the day when I had calmed down a bit.

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And here is Di’s lovely painting which really catches the subtle colours: it was somewhat overcast by the time we started drawing

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So now for some photos. In two of them you can see the turquoise coloured Colorado river. A mile wide. Gives some idea of the scale.

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