Monday, April 18, 2011

The Washington Project - Day Three

Day Three
12:04 pm, Soda Spring, just east of Rimrock Lake and at the southern foot of Goose Egg Mountain. There is a throng of sound from the frogs’ chorus; of course not one is visible. The winter cattails are silver beige in the middle of the spring, amazing clear water reflecting everything. This is the B-side of the view from Reflection Lake, a view we will probably not see. This makes me think about one of the main questions of this series: if and when to look at iconic views. Our sense of the landscape of Washington is replete with our pride of these views. What to do with them? They are really undeniably commanding of our attention. It seems stupid to ignore them, the way a teenager’s affected disregard is for something that is so clearly amazing. Do we go to Paradise, to Chinook Pass, to the Columbia Gorge? (I already know we will do this today.) [P.S. 7:15 pm and no, we will not make it to the Gorge; keep reading.] and where on the Gorge? Do we look for the ‘most Washington’ Washington? Yes, we will do some of this probably, though it's a walk on a tight rope of potential clich├ęs. So far though, we are going to places like Little Soap Lake and Soda Spring. There is an essential Washington in these places too. And interestingly, Eva is not always aware of what in the landscape is the essential Washington, rather it all seems essential to her. How much of my native sense of the State do I divulge? Is that helpful information?

Before Eva decided that we would stop and sketch here, we talked about lodgepole and Ponderosa pines vs. Douglas fir trees. Why one grows largely on one side of the state, the other on the other side - and the dividing line you could almost walk at the top of the passes. As a kid of the West Side, I know the Doug firs too well. The pines seemed like Martian trees on the rare visits we made to the tinder-dry side of the state. After two days of wide spaces and big rock, today, I was looking to show Eva the transitional places between the basalt and shrub-steepe and the forest. I didn’t think we’d find it at a marshy spring.

It is now 1:10 pm. Soda Spring looks like a sheet of mica you peel with your fingernail. The clouds are quintessential cotton puffs against a cornflower blue sky. The breeze that has not stopped since we arrived is blowing the 5-inch pine needles on this stand then this one. This feels like an iconic view. I don’t think it's the wrong thing to train a gaze upon. Reminds me of a conversation I listened in on last month between Deborah Paine (Curator, Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs) and Seattle art critic, Suzanne Beal, as they traded opinions about the existence of a Northwest aesthetic. Suzanne said undeniably there is one. Deborah wasn’t so sure. Suzanne sited instances of artists who had focused on various subjects prior to relocating to the Northwest, and who after a few years here, began to all incorporate the land somehow into their work. Is this self-important talk? Do all artists who live in a particular location train their eyes on the land around them? How does the location affect the art? What is Eva – German born, living in Berlin – seeing here? Will she, as I hope she will, show us a new vision of our state, or is that too much to ask of someone only beginning to look. Or do the first impressions give us something that cuts to the essence?

2:08, still Soda Spring. Sun changed to cold and clouds and it just snowed briefly. Eva is still sketching. Now the sun is back full. I am listening to Glen Gould in the car, clearly not made of the same metal as Eva. It is so cold outside that the pavement, which has absorbed some small amount of energy from the bright sun, is sending up head ripples, when it meets the 30 -something degree air. Never have seen this.

6:50 pm, Hause Creek Campground. The Japanese phrase, “it was all Yaji and Kita” was true for Eva and me this afternoon, again. We busted it up to this spot, late in the day after naps for both of us at Tieton, got turned around leaving Tieton (I know. How do you get turned around in Tieton?) then after not quite remembering the place we’d scouted out this morning, finally found our way here. The late afternoon/early evening light looked so different that we spent 45 minutes stumbling around with our heads pointed up, looking for The Pine Tree from this morning. Eva is now lying on her back, her sketching board raised over her chest. The sun is going down and she has many, many pine needles to figure out. The creek is saying its never-ending prayer. Otherwise it is very still. Reminds me of childhood days camping. The end of the day, the smell of dinner cooking and the promise of its warmth, and the promise of more warmth when we crawled into sleeping bags in the dark, to listen to the murmur of our parents voices barely audible over the texture of the creek, and then to fall asleep to inner visions of the majesty of the land we had witnessed.

7:15 pm. Eva just got up, thinks it won’t work. I ask if she can still try. This will be the last sketch of this leg of the Project. Maybe it will bomb and she will have spent some serious energy, mental and muscular on a failure. But maybe it will be a new design, an unusual iconic tree. I hope she can go for it and not be steamed at me for asking her to keep going. This will be touch and go. Another hour I’d say at least. She may be really mad and exhausted at the end.

Six minutes later, 7:21. Eva says, “I stop.” No more video clips, no questions from me. I think we are going. Yes, we’re going.

Soda Spring, WA
Eva Pietzcker at Soda Spring, WA
Eva preparing  to sketch The Pine Tree
The Pine Tree (that was not to be), Hause Creek, WA

1 comment:

  1. A brave and interesting journey. Sounds like neither of you will know the outcome for quite some time.

    Thanks for the introduction to Yaji and Kita :)