Saturday, June 09, 2007


Today was one of the strangest, most absurd days I have had in a long was one of those days in which the universe seems to be trying to communicate. We drove almost an hour to pick up our Landcruiser (which has been in the shop for six weeks) and were informed that, despite making firm arrangements, it was not ready. Then, disappointed (and late), we rushed to an appointment (or so we thought) only to find that we were a week early. The day pretty much continued that way, from terrible service at lunch, to striking out at finding Derek's long-awaited birthday gift, to the dog greeting us with a room full of destruction when we arrived home. None of these things were catastrophic by any means, just mildly annoying; but taken all together, we began to feel like the day was cursed. We actually talked about how we had both been feeling extremely blessed lately-- beyond what either of us felt we deserved; perhaps we'd been feeling a little too good about life and needed to be taken down a notch. I decided that this would be a good time to go to to my "happy place" in paint...a little island we nicknamed "wabi-sabi island" when we were in the Boundary Waters, named after the Japanese word indicative of the perfection of imperfection. It is the belief that everything changes, and there is an elegance in the incompleteness, a melancholy in the longing for perfection. As I painted it, I realized that it was the perfect metaphor for the imperfect day...we found beauty in living it together and laughing often.

Friday, June 08, 2007

river daydream

Lately I have been getting interested in learning more about fly fishing. My father has been an avid flyfisherman for years, but my only firsthand experience has been a few outings with him and my brother, mostly clumsy casting and very few catches. I signed up for a class a few weeks from now, and decided to go look at some rods today. Although it is very unlike me, I did not just buy the first one I liked, but instead decided to do a little more research. I found myself surrounded by thousands of dollars' worth of "stuff" in the store, wishing I could already be outfitted and on the river. Sometimes I would just like to skip over all the material necessities of life and get right down to the experiences.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

trees edge

This row of trees caught my eye as we were driving by. I liked the way the trunks stood out from the shadows and the overall density of the grouping of them. Plus, a rain-heavy sky never hurts the mood.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

open land

Back in the studio after my nice, long break, I have been enjoying sifting through the hundreds of photos I took on the great Midwest Road Trip of '07. This image was from a field in Iowa, newly planted corn waiting for rain showers. I feel like a child on Christmas with all the juicy new images to work with...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

iowa storm

On the way home, we drove through one of the most frightening storms I have ever driven (or ridden) through. The sky was pitch-black and there was lightning all around. Luckily, Derek was driving! (Not that he didn't have to talk me back to sanity a few times!). My dad told me later that as he was driving through on his way home, he heard on the radio that a tornado had passed through Muscatine, Iowa mintues before did.

missouri sunset

One of the biggest surprises to me on the trip was the astounding beauty of the Missouri farmland along the Mississippi. We made a point to take the long way home so that I could shoot some images in the heartland. We stayed the night on the way home in Hannibal, home of Mark Twain. They certainly don't let you forget it! I think I even saw a road paving company named after him. The highlight for us was the "big butter" statue of Mark Twain near a campground (actually a 20-something foot folk art sculpture made of concrete that only resembled butter). On our neverending quest for the eccentric, we simply had to stop and photograph the dogs in front of it.

gooseberry falls

We stopped at Gooseberry Falls on our way back home. I admit it was a little weird walking on paved trails after living in such a remote area for the previous several days, but the scenery was amazing. We walked all around the falls, and I even saw a beaver slinking into the water downstream.

sunset from the rock

There was an amazing smooth boulder reaching down to the water at the edge of our campsite. One warm afternoon Nicole, Brian, and I took a dip in the water at the edge of it, but it was only a "dip," since ice-out couldn't have been more than a few weeks earlier and the water was frigid. This was the evening view from the rock, where Derek caught his first smallmouth and our clothes dried in the sun after the downpour.

meg junior

This was my first ever Northern Pike catch. They have teeth. Big teeth. And they are tasty. (But difficult to took my father the better part of an hour to do the job.) I named it Meg Junior. And then I had it for dinner. I did learn the main thing I wanted to learn on this trip, which was how to clean a fish. Although I didn't clean my own, I did clean both Dad's and Derek's smallmouth catches (and did a great job, if I do say so myself!). Turns out that bass are much easier to clean (and better tasting), but all I landed was a Northern, so I took what I could get.

paper birch

At the top of the hill overlooking our campsite was a gorgeous stand of birch. I am unaccustomed to seeing these incredible trees. To a native of the northern woods they must seem commonplace, but to me they were a miracle. The "paper" peels off at will, looking like refuse on the ground. This particular hillside also overlooked a lagoon where a dozen or so beaver had built a lodge. The first evening we were treated to a show as they slapped their tails on the water, attempting to scare us away.

after the rain

Our outfitter Doug Jordan (who I VERY highly recommend to anyone considering a BWCA trip) told us a story before we set out about a time he had guided a couple on a short fishing outing. They scoffed when he grabbed his rain gear for an afternoon of fishing on a sunny day. They were not laughing, though, after they were drenched by a sudden storm typical of this northern Minnesota region! Of course, we thought we were immune from this pattern, so one afternoon when my father and I headed out for some fishing, I left my gear at camp, preferring the minimal approach. After snagging (and losing) my first northern pike, the sky suddenly opened up, dropping fat raindrops and scattering lightning all around. After a very scary fast paddle back to camp, the rain cleared, leaving a lovely fog in its wake. As we dried out, we shot some great images from the shore.

lake sunset

When we weren't preparing dinner, Nicole and I managed to sneak away to shoot a sunset here and there. That is one of my favorite things about being on vacation in a nautral environment-- I am more likely to take in a sunrise or sunset (although I only observed the former on the last day due to laziness). Being in the city, I cannot get the best view everyday, nor do I take the precious minutes out of the day to reflect; but living in the woods, even if only temporarily, gives one an instant new set of priorities.

campsite landing

We found the best campsite I have ever had the privilege of occupying (with the possible exception of the Sahara site in February). Derek and I barely made it into the landing on the first day, what with exhaustion and choppy water (and arguing over who was steering improperly). Throughout the week we quickly adjusted to the delicate arrangement of boulders and the best route for landing the canoe on the sandy beach. It is amazing how quickly a grouping of trees and boulders can become "home."

entry point

We put in our canoes on Lake One (not very creatively named, but when you claim 10,000 lakes I suppose you run out of options) and almost immediately passed through this river-like channel. We went on to paddle many more miles until we reached our campsite. The Boundary Waters is a protected designated wilderness, and there is no motor traffic allowed (i.e. no motorboats....canoes only). Not even airplanes are permitted to fly overhead. This means that the Boundary Waters experience is similar to what the 18th and 19th century trappers would have experienced. Only with Gore-tex and backpacking stoves.

duluth waters

We passed through Duluth on the way north to see the waters as a storm rolled through. It was a great city with a great energy. My favorite part was the visit to the Duluth Pack store, a little "spendy" as they say in Minnesota, but I acquired a #4 deluxe waxed Duluth Pack as a souvenir/birthday gift. It worked great in the boundary waters, although I found myself making room for "just one more thing" in my huge roomy new pack. At least I felt like a pro!

austin, minnesota

We had one of the most amazing camping trips this week...far surpassing my expectations. The first night we stayed with my friend Nicole's parents, who had a comfortable bed and home cooked meal waiting for us after our very long drive. This tree grows in the field across from their house, and Nicole says she has always wanted me to paint it, so here it is. I was amazed at the beauty of the area, gentle farmland and open spaces.