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Refreshed by a dirt road

Going nuts with work. Grab sketch gear. Grab water. Drive to end of earth.

Okay, maybe not THE end, but close enough. I found a dirt road that was suitable only for my jeep:  Rocks, very narrow in places with occasional steep drop offs to one side of the jeep or the other. Cool. It’s been too long since my jeep and I have enjoyed the solitude of a remote trail. There were not any recent tire tracks from other vehicles. Nice. It was scenic, but not dramatically pretty. The road is used by the Forest Service to fight fires and by the power company to service large power transmission towers. There were also signs of bird hunting (spent shotgun shells). Still, it was quiet and off the beaten path. My jeep thanked me for getting it off pavement. I drew its portrait, then drove home, refreshed.

FYI:  That’s Superstition Mountains and Weaver’s Needle in the distance.

Happy Trails

My jeep along Fire Road 285 north of Phoenix (watercolor, 7x5in, 2011)
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Surrounded by coyotes

I have spent lots of days and nights (easily 200+) in the desert around this mountain when I worked as an undergraduate field assistant at the University of Arizona Mammal Museum. It is Ragged Top, at the northern end of the Silverbell Mountains, northwest of Tucson, Arizona. The desert here is very lush, with just about every plant and animal species in the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.

I assisted graduate students with live-trapping and measuring and then releasing wild desert mice to study their populations. On cold nights the mice would get torpid if they spent too much time above ground in a trap (torpid: a state of suspended/sluggish physical activity, like hibernation). We would carry them in our pockets until they warmed up, then put them back near where they came from. I could tell they were coming back to life when I felt them moving around in my shirt and pants pockets!

200+ traps were spread out in the square shape, which made about a 5 mile walk. I remember checking the traps one very dark night, alone. At one point I heard noises around me. My heart started beating a bit faster.  Then I heard a hushed “yip”, a sharp, high pitched bark. I was surrounded by coyotes. An unsettling, but not frightening situation once I realized they were coyotes; mountain lions live here, too. They became quiet. The “yip” probably came from an inexperienced youngster. I could hear them running around on both sides of me. They moved when I walked, and stopped when I stopped. I could only catch an occasional glimpse. They stayed just beyond the reach of my headlamp. How many? I didn’t know. At least 3 or 4 for sure. They were with me for a good distance. I think they were hoping that I would drop a mouse. Just in case, I carefully put each mouse near a hole. Oh, and then there were snakes …

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Edwin Dickinson – Cool Landscapes

I love Edwin Dickinson’s landscapes.  He ‘s categorized as an Early American modernist (with Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Cole, and others). …. their painting styles were different, but they were joined by a mental attitude towards their work… Each had a unique personal interpretation of the landscape… and believed in the value of direct observation from nature… feeling and method are intimately linked in their paintings.

Adapted from Mary Ellen Abell, Subjectivist Tendencies in Early Modernist American Art: The Case of Edwin Walter Dickinson

Edwin Dickinson
Born: Seneca Falls, New York 1891
Died: Orleans, Massachusetts 1978

Following Painting:
Tom Never’s Head, 1935, Oil on canvas
15 1/4 X 25 3/8 IN. (38.8 X 64.3 CM.)