Graphic Arts and Celtic DNA

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth

The wind  is ever-present along the headlands of our northern California coast, and while a brisk walk along a sandy beach will do wonders for clearing the mind, one may soon think about finding a few minutes of shelter.  The most available is usually some large driftwood log lying half buried in the sand, with a south-facing side.  Sitting with your back to the log, soaking in the warmth of the sun’s rays, your stresses fade and new possibilities surface in your thoughts.

Some days, however, the coastal furniture has been almost completely scoured by earlier storms, and those large tree trunks are nowhere to be found.  However, as often happens, some  industrious sojourners may have visited your beach earlier, and  rounded up various smaller trunks and branches and jettisoned planks of fishing boats, and worked to fashion the most intriguing beach architecture.  Creeping inside an empty structure–not only does one escape the blustering wind–but an ancient perception, perhaps one imprinted on our DNA in a distant Stone Age, begins to inhabit a sense of being. Once, perhaps, indigenous people did indeed dwell in such primitive structures on these very same beaches, seeking a little warmth.  But probably a little further up on the adjacent sand dunes!

Here are a couple of very temporary, warming shelters, protecting a needy beachcomber for a brief pause in walking:



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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Yellow.”

Thinking about our theme, I remembered a mood of festivities and music with a vibrant, orangey yellow, like the Naples Yellow  in a litho-print I did of a French country music duo playing at a California north coast Abalone Festival some years ago.  I designed the block print from some pencil sketches I did at the festival.  It was a wonderful, music-filled afternoon on a grassy meadow near the oceanfront.  For those of you who don’t know what an abalone is, the second image will give you some idea.  The abalone uses its massive foot muscle to lock onto an underwater rock surface, where it spends its life feeding on marine plants.  Snorkel divers use a metal bar to pry the abalone loose.  The abalone must measure at least seven inches across to be a legal catch.  The foot muscle is sliced into steaks, and needs to be pounded to relax the tissue before sauteing, which includes searing them only a few seconds on a side.  The result is a fantastically delicious delicacy.  At the festival, up to a dozen cooks compete at various food stands to produce prize-winning abalone dishes in several categories.  Bon appetite!



My blogging partner has been called away on family care service, and so our blog could be a little erratic in coming weeks.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone, But Not Forgotten

A long time ago–about twenty years past–I went on the last of three separate wilderness trips, patterned loosely on the Vision Quest model of the Native American people. It involves going into a national wilderness area as a small group, and then splitting off solo to seek out an area to do your own four-day fast and meditation. No food at all, but carrying a supply of water. It’s an awesome and memorable experience.

This trip was into the Inyo Mountains, in the eastern Sierra Mountains of California. The first photo is of our small group, led by a well-experienced guide. The second shot is of me on the day that we all split up to go to our earlier selected fasting site well away from any of the others, but with a pre-agreed boundary post that we would leave a marker each day to let our ‘buddy’ know we were alright.

VQ Group

VQ Solo

The next photo was a sketch I did of a lone Bishop Pine tree that grew on the crest of the hilltop I was camped on. I’d noticed it each day that I wandered the hillside and surroundings. On this third day of fasting, I spotted a flutter of white cloth in the tree. I went to investigate, and found a tied white bundle buried in the crotch of the tree. I undid the bundle and found a two-part smoking pipe, four small sealed cloth medicine pouches, sprigs of sage, and large eagle? feathers. Of course I wondered how they’d come to be there, and what was the right thing to do about this find? That night was a weird one of troubled dreams, one of which was very unsettling. I decided to take the pouch down to our final group assembly where we typically discuss our reflections of our solo days of fasting. The next photos show a couple of details of the medicine bundle that I unfurled to show the group. Some thought I could keep the bundle, a couple thought I shouldn’t. In the end, I elected to return to my site and replace the bundle. The guide learned later that a local chief had died in the recent past and it was conjectured that perhaps it had to do with that event. Later on, I conferred with a friend who was a Native American spiritual leader, from the Pitt River band, who visited prisons around California to conduct spiritual ceremonies for incarcerated Indians. He said I could have kept the medicine bundle, as I had come into it in a valid manner. In fact, it would have probably been the only way I could have properly claimed it.

VQ Tree

VQ Medicine Bag

VQ Medicine Bag 2

I’ve thought about this event many times, and wonder again what I should have done.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Convergence

The aspect of the convergence theme that we’d like to dwell on is the journey of earth’s water, falling from the moisture laden atmosphere, onto the connecting creeks, streams, and rivers coursing over the planet’s land masses, and converging once again into the primal source of all water: the vast and boundless oceans.  There, with an assist of energy from the sun, the mists of water vapor will rise again into the atmosphere to renew the ceaseless cycle.

We were reminded of this as the local community watched the rising pool of water within the dammed estuary of the Gualala River, prevented from flowing directly into the ocean by the annual sand bar that builds up during low flows in the dry spring and summer months, from silt and sands deposited out of the slow moving river.  Then, after the rains return in late fall, the pool level rises again, until, with a thunderous roar, it bursts through the sand bar and reenters the source of its being.

The breakthrough occurred last Sunday during a rain storm.  We took these photographs yesterday and you can notice the strong currents still sweeping through the gap in the sandbar.  Occasionally, huge trees will be swept down the river and through the gap.  Large schools of steelhead trout have been waiting offshore for the breakthrough, and will now migrate up the Gualala River to their ancient spawning grounds.  The endless cycles of life continue.

Gualala River in foreground, sandbar breach and ocean beyond

Gualala River in foreground, sandbar breach and ocean beyond

Sandbar breach in foreground, ocean beyond.

Sandbar breach in foreground, ocean beyond.