Saturday, April 8, 2017

Highs and Lows of the Road

     Traveling around the US with an RV brought to imagination wild places, freedom and meeting people who like to explore. The reality is a little different. There is the learning curve, the inability to turn around easily, gravel RV parks, big trucks, construction zones and road burn. A third of the way through the trip and I just want to get there and hug a tree. 

     We left the green hills of Northern California and stopped to see friends in Bakersfield who heroically showed me how to dump the sewage tank on the trailer. It was gross, but doing it alone would have been super shitty. Thank you Scott! The truck climbs hills with much less engine howling. 


     My sister and I talked about traveling different routes. She preferred the northern route that would be colder with higher elevations, but shorter. I wanted to go the southern route that is warmer, flatter and a little longer. The day before we left I threw a fit about going alone and said I would not do it. My lack of adventurousness surprised her, but I'm glad she decided to come with me. We problem solve well together. Sharing the hard parts is certainly helpful, but precious moments of joy and folly are astronomically better with a friend.

     Sadly Mernie fell two days in a row hurting her knee and wrenching her back. We arrived in Williams late in the day in cold too bitter to heat the trailer floor. She had always wanted to visit Sedona and a restorative break seemed like a darned good idea. Luckily it was a short drive from Williams. She found a dog friendly resort to commune with nature and visit chiropractors. I went ahead to visit friends near Santa Fe and sleep late. She found help and is doing fine. In a few days we’ll be ready to move on. 

     On Highway 40, as most thruways in America, semi-trucks full of goods roll nonstop. They pass going 20 mph faster creating a wind wave that rocks my world. The trailer sways like a boat on the ocean. I wore my hands out gripping the steering wheel in fear until I learn to take it stride. The slow lane is my domain. The giants roar into view in the rear view mirror on the left and I remind myself to breath and relax. Nelson (my truck) weaves a little and then it’s over until the next roars by minutes later.

Nelson likes to park with the big boys

We still have a long way to go, but love and friendship make any journey less daunting and more promising. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

About the Artwork at the Ho'olehua Airport on Molokai

     The paintings at the Ho’olehua Airport represent the wild places, flora and fauna on this incredible, yet fragile island.  

     They are the result of years spent hiking the remote valleys, misty mountains and rugged coastlines. I’ve become more adept at slow walking, a benefit of age, but the Kalaupapa trail will literally take your breath away. 
     Molokai does not readily share her majesty. Few roads insure that wild places remain mysterious and undisturbed. Swimming ashore from a boat or permission to cross private land may be required. Locked gates and vague information help keep Molokai’s secrets.

     I have climbed to the top of the Kalaupapa lighthouse, boulder hopped to the back of Wailau Valley and walked from Ono Alii Park to the lookout on Kamakou. I have been covered with red mud countless times from being caught in the rain. Many generous souls have lead the way and I have also learned when it is best to quietly walk away. Climbing on the cliffs of Mokio in a strong wind far above the crashing waves, the explosive sound of whales spouting nearby and camping on the beach
are wonderful memories.  It takes patience to appreciate the magic of this island. I sat motionless until shy monk seals became comfortable with my presence, but on Molokai there is that kind of time.  

     Most often I paint from photographs in the studio. The Executive Director of the Molokai Land Trust, conservationist and native flora expert Butch Haase, collaborated on recent paintings. His expertise and several of his photographs insure the accuracy of the rare plants in the paintings. Many are on preserved land that is being restored by the trust with a small army of volunteers. I paint with a deep appreciation for the beauty of Molokai and I loan the paintings to the airport to support conservation. The artwork eventually acquires a patina of red dust, gecko leavings and bug carcasses, but the paintings were created to be shared even as hiding places for local fauna. 

Many thanks to Moki for looking after them:

The names of places on Molokai that are preserved for future generations are shown above the paintings. Pelekunu, Kawaikapu, Mo’omomi, Mokio, Kamakou, Kalaupapa, Papohaku. Kapuaiwa, Halawa, Palaau, Kiowea, Wailau and more.

Pelekunu Valley from the end of the boardwalk trail in Kamakou Nature Preserve. Both remarkable, remote tracts of land are protected by the Nature Conservancy. I took the two photographs that I used to paint from at the same time, although I did the paintings five years apart without realizing that they went together. One shows an Apapane up close, the other a flock of the rare native birds in flight. A small example of the magic that happens on Molokai :)
Bill, Mickey, Moki and I at the airport. Thank you so much for your help and support! Photographs of the paintings are encouraged. Lower right are edge-tailed Shearwater chicks in the Mo'omomi dunes. Through diligent conservation efforts the numbers of nesting pairs are increasing yearly.
Mo'oula Falls in Halawa Valley, Auntie Gertrude's Beach House in Kalaupapa and Ka Hula Piko Prayer Circle at Papokau Beach Park

Leaping Pacific dolphins at Mo'omomi & a first year Monk seal near La'au Point

Mokio Rainbow, from a photograph by Butch Haase

'Ena'ena on the Mo'omomi dunes (courtesy the Molokai Land Trust)
Ohelo, a tiny flower in the rain forest

Rain Forest Tapestry  The highest point on Molokai is Kamakou, a misty bog with such a tangle of plants that a narrow boardwalk must be maintained to make it accessible. Of 249 species of plants in the unique, swampy environment 219 grow nowhere else on earth.

The first paintings of animals for the airport showed the creatures life-sized. It was meant to be an educational component for people who do not have the chance to see them up close. I wanted to include a full size whale, but would have had to paint it on the runway as space is limited. Understandably I could not get permission. My friend Paddy asked me to take a pile of wood to the dump and I didn't want to throw it away so the life-sized tail resulted. Molokai Fish and Dive gave the sculpture a home. I took the photograph to get the markings accurate while out on their whale watch boat so it was a perfect fit.