Hidden Valley, Looking South
Watercolor, 12" X 9"
Life can change in an instant. And so it did for me last August, when I got a new job—one I'd wanted for more than 8 months—because it was perfect for me.
I'm working for my mom now, Mom Earth, that is. Somehow, the stars aligned and now I work for a non-profit conservation organization in Durango, Colorado. I left California in November, moving to a funk-aliciously awesome mountain community.
I fell in love with the southwest when we came here on a belated honeymoon just over four years ago. I knew I had come home even before I got here. Actually, I knew I was on my way home when we stopped in Wupatki and the breath of my Mother blew my hair back from my face. I knew I was almost home when I saw the distant coral and purple cliffs as we crossed the Navaho Reservation the next morning. And I knew I was really home when we drove down into a belly-button valley during a butt-puckering snowstorm that November night. I felt it in my heart and soul. When we left, all I could think about was coming back to this beautiful place infused with ancient spirits.
Big change like this comes with a price. Suddenly, I wasn't painting recycled cabinet doors and dreaming of my next painting. My spare time was filled with sorting and packing. The stress level skyrocketed as I opened this door to something very new: a new job, a new home in a new place—yet I was thrilled because it was taking us to Durango. This pre-empted my art for a long time.
I’d been dreaming of shapes and colors for a while—clouds of bare trees lit by the sun and glowing against the dark and dramatic blue-gray sky. Other times, the trees were dun smudges against the bright and brilliant blue. I would gasp as the snow changed from cream to pink to periwinkle, then cobalt as the sun dropped, sable silhouettes of deer scattered across the landscape. From the door of the mobile home where we’ve hung our hats, we watch the sun paint the ridges to the east gold and orange as the day fades. In the mornings, the trip west gives me a daily dose of awe as I watch the sun rising on the La Plata Mountains.
Finally, I found a day to pack up my kit and go paint. I drove out to Hidden Valley, which we’d discovered early one Sunday morning while out exploring our new world. It was enchanting, draped in taupe, ochre, and brown, the sky a bowl swirling with playful clouds. The soft colors of winter in Colorado—the time of year I've seen it most, ironically. I fell in love with this place during the season nature sleeps.
I couldn't wait to get back to this valley with my watercolors. This time, a light blanket of snow covered the ground; the cool shadows accentuated the sun-warmed rocks. Gold and green trees sprinkled across the valley, thickening on the ridges.
Quieter than quiet. Not a bird, not a breeze, the sun warm on my face. I laid out my palette and settled on which direction I’d face for the first loving brushstroke of the day in my new world. It. Was. Heaven.