Sunday, December 23, 2012

Early Winter Paintings

Short cold days bring wastrels to bundle indoors with heaters, toast and teapots, if they've got 'em, which I do, and am grateful for these comforts. The creek, or Bishop ditch, that runs through the trailer park is frozen over, and its mallards have not migrated to warmer waters but huddle in plump feather-loafs in the frosted, tawny dry grass along its banks.

I scratch out my paintings/drawings, using my photographs of Owens Valley as sources. I miss being outdoors, wandering around exploring, taking photographs and finding fishing spots. Winter enclosure seems to open an interior eye that rummages through the photos and chooses those most congenial to its introspective mood: watery grottoes and vanishing points on winter horizons. Summer sojourns are usually busy and pleasurable, but finite; winter brings me to the threshold of journeys that promise neither destination nor return, yet my mind continually returns to these still points of departure, as if renewing a promise again and again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Final Fishing Frenzy

Thursday November 15th was the last day of fishing season in the Eastern Sierra. Wednesday the 14th, Winford and I spent the day driving from fishing hole to fishing hole, catching not much. I hooked and landed the first trout from a grassy bank at Warm Springs Road bridge over the Owens River, then no more bites. We drove on to the Missing Harmonica site, where I always score, but we zilched this time. Winford getting pouty. We then took the canal road north from Warm Springs, he's looking for a "pool," he says. Well, there's only one "pool" I know of, at a small weir, or dam, where I stop, get out and spy fish, but "NO!" he says, vehemently, "that's not the pool I mean!"  I shrug and we trundle on down the dirt road until he stops us at a small bridge where we cross the canal and get out to fish. Immediately I cast my hook into the opposite bank's bushes and snag. I re-cross the bridge, intent on salvaging my tackle instead of just breaking the line. I think I can do it, I'm sure I can do it, I creep down the bank, and landslide into the water. "Help! Help!" I cry to Winford, who comes to my aid, chuckling because I have just fallen into the water again. He tries to pull me out, but the bank crumbles under my feet. Finally I crawl up the bank on my knees, hanging onto his hands. My jeans, soaked to my thighs, get coated with mud. He's giggling, which erases some of his grouch over not catching a fish yet. Because I am so smart, I had dry jeans and flip flops in my truck and changed my clothes, and fortunately, it is midday by now, warm and sunny. Up and down the bank I chase a school of fish that darts forever away from the thumping of my feet and the "plock" of my bait. I see a very large carp, bright orange, obviously someone's previous pet goldfish, replacing the old idiom: "sticks out like a sore thumb" with the new phrase "sticks out like a goldfish in an Eastern Sierra canal." But no bites. We drive on and stop where a ditch/creek pours into the canal from a marshy pasture. It's a "secret site," Winford says, "you can get Browns here in Spring!  Don't ever tell anyone!" .He casts into the turbulence and gets a nice big rainbow. I cast into the turbulence and get myself a nice big rainbow. Then for another forty-five minutes we cast into the pool -- and get nothing -- we can see them but they ain't  bitin'. He's grumpy again, sits on the bank and smokes a cigarette. He wants to go park by the East Line Street canal bridge and have an easy debauch at the site of The Fish Truck plant there the day before. We arrive, see about 75 trout schooling in the water below and shout yippee. But they just fondle our baits, spit everything out, ignore Winford's lures, and then Fish and Game drives up. First time I have ever had my license checked -- I was about to dig it out of my tackle box when the warden said, "you've got a bite!" My pole in its holder was jerking so I pulled in a fish and forgot about showing my license. Winford had to remind me "he's waiting to see your license, dear."  I felt foolish. And that was the only fish I caught in that pool. I'd been asking Winford: "aren't you hungry? don't you want some lunch?" but he is dead set on getting his limit, he is looking grim. So we give up on that pool and roll over to the Wye Street Bridge, another plant site, where we find an old bearded coot quietly pulling one big trout after another out of a very murky stream. Winford casts into the same place by the bridge and gets -- nothing. Downstream I get a bite, but no fish. The coot has sympathy and offers a couple fish to Winford, who takes 'em. Then the coot stops catching 'em, says "oh, they've stopped biting" wishes us luck, collects his little doggies and drives off. The murky stream clears, and we can see lots of fish, some very large. I manage to hook one, and finally Winford catches his limit!  It is after 3 o'clock, we started at 8 am. I caught one fish each in 4 of the 6 places we fished. I had a great day, but tired Winford went home feeling chagrined and humiliated by all those finicky fish. The day's experience confirms my growing awareness that even a good fisherman catches fish only when the fish are biting.

Not eating all day had a consequence, I woke up a 4 am with a migraine starting up, took some ibuprofen, ate some crackers, and went back to sleep. Mercifully, woke up without the pain, dizziness and nausea that can, if not nipped in the bud, destroy my entire day. I mustn't let Winford's even-worse-than-mine fishing addiction upset my equilibrium -- usually I take snacks, but forgot this time.

So that was the end of my summer of fishing the lakes, creeks and canals in the Eastern Sierra until next May. I am already missing being outdoors by the water most of the day. Of course, we can fish the River and the Reservoir all winter -- whenever the wind isn't howling freezing cold down the gorge. Now it is time for painting, reading, and a trip to Pomona for Thanksgiving -- next blog.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Buckley Ponds

The Buckley Ponds

On a Monday morning, allured by the legend of secret waters full of strange fish to catch, I took an exploratory drive into the middle of the valley east of Bishop to check out a rumor of old reed-choked ponds being restored. The Buckley Ponds are a string of four small ponds/lakes parallel to a stretch of Owens River east of Bishop between Line Street and Warm Springs Road (you can see them on Google Maps satellite view). They are slated for restoration, a successful joint effort of the LADWP and volunteers from the community. They had to drain the first lake, burn the tules, then dig up the tule/reeds "mat", several feet thick, dry it out so it would burn some more. Then they bulldozed it. Then they let it refill with water and restocked it with non-trout fishes such as croppie, blue gill and fresh water bass. Now coots splash around in its fresh blue beauty. Signs beg fisherman to not fish or at least to throw it back for another year until the fish population rebounds. The other ponds are still impenetrable marshes, now flaming all shades of gold and ruddy colors for autumn. I can find very little information about these ponds--I will go to the library and verify if they are storage/purification pits for DWP (one story) or artesian spring-fed clean already (another). I stopped at the last, dinky pond on the way out (#5?) where an old handicapped fishing ramp has been built at the side of the dirt road. I looked over the rail into the water and saw lots of fish lazing around--most of them NOT trout. I tried to catch one--zip, not even curious. When I showed this place to Kristie, she said the water is too cold to be late summer standing pond water and probably is artesian. She proposed that next spring we could go to Big Five and get some kind of cheap inflatable "craft" and paddle slowly around through the reeds and water plants, like kids. 

The River

All rambles through the valley eventually find the Owens River, and once there I just had to drop a line. While I was tying a hook, two noisy guys in a drift boat pulled up to where they had stashed the boat trailer, "The Trout Dude" painted on its high prow. The Trout Dude hires out himself as guide and his boat to fly fisherman. He asked me to move my truck so he could pull-out his boat. I moved on down the road to another site, where I parked by a memorial tree planted and hung with a rosary, many little faded American flags, and an empty box that had held a Harmonica (contents probably filched by an irreverant opportunist). The little tree had died, since the soil is saline and it had been planted in the shade. This is one of several memorials I have come across out here by the waters; one in Baker Creek informed me that this spot was where Sam had loved to fish. I caught a large trout at the Un-named Soldier's favorite site, probably an "Alpers Trout", since the flesh was orange popsicle orange and it cooked to a pastel salmon pink. A gentleman at the Senior Center told  me: "that kind of trout's a cantaloupe, they call that a cantaloupe." Whenever I fish the River, I think of Bruce Springsteen's song, it's that kind of place for the locals. In the summer folks get old semi-trailer-tire inner tubes and do "floats" down the river -- put in together at point A, and get picked up by friends at point B. Sounds like fun, but that water is always cold enough for trout and moving fast in a deep central channel.

The Big Ones, Update on the Canal

Brenda showed up early and we drove down and unloaded our tackle beside the canal and dropped our baits in the stream. Nothing. And no fishes jumping--usually they jump for bugs morning and evening. Brenda was patient and still, calling me "Busy, Busy..." because I kept restlessly walking up and down the canal path and casting. Then I saw them again, the Big Ones. I don't think Brenda had believed me about "really big fish in the canal!" until she saw one. She grabbed my arm and shook me and squealed--most gratifying. Actually, a small school appears to swim up and down in about 250 feet of canal. All our lovely worms, doughs and crickets were utterly ignored. They will hang motionlessly in the water over a sand patch and sun themselves. I have tried several times to hook one and watched as fly fisherman failed to get a bit. One evening I saw a frustrated young fisherman strip off his shirt and jump into the canal with his net to try and scoop them up. I am beginning to wonder if they are pets and someone feeds them expensive catfood at dawn so they turn up their snouts at bait, like cats. We had to leave at eleven when she goes to work. I had caught one ordinary trout and gave it to her to mollify her home-care client for being a little late to work. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Fishing Report


Lake fishing has not been good to me this summer. My young friend who lives across the way here at J-Diamond took me fishing for my birthday in July. We rented a rowboat on Lake Sabrina at the head waters of Bishop Creek canyon. The oars were set for a man's shoulders, so we both had to hold the oars out of the oarlocks into the middle of the boat while rowing, and it was an awkward slog, although less so for her since she is in rock-climber good shape. We rowed to a rocky inlet and dropped anchor. An hour went by and we didn't hook any fish. We were floating crickets and I saw, with mine own eyes, a trout leap out of the water and flip OVER my floating cricket in a perfect little shining arch! Not even a nibble at my bait. Morgan did better, but at least three got away from her, slipping off the hook at boatside, once her knot came undone. Then we pulled up at a sandy shore to go pee. I tried to step out into shallow water, misjudged its depth, fell in and soaked my jeans. Later Morgan finally hung on to one trout big enough to eat, and I caught one too small and let it go. Then the line on my reel fouled in big loops, and by the time I unwound it, I was down to the splice with heavier line used to pack the reel. But the sporting goods store had used something like tennis racket wire -- I couldn't fish with it -- anyways it was time to go. When we reached the boat ramp, there was a guy sitting there at the edge of the water on a comfy chair under a huge sombrero, angling right off the beach and catching one every ten minutes -- innocently adding insult to injury. Nevertheless, it was a very pretty, fresh morning on the water and Morgan is delightful company.

I began driving up to Intake II, the next hydroelectric lake in the canyon down from Sabrina. First time there I snagged four foot-long inch fish on salmon eggs, so exactly alike I called them Clonefish -- musta been right after a plant. I took them home and fried them as usual, but they were inedible, tasting like butcher paper chewed in with freezer-burned cold cuts. After that all I did was scratch. One night Intake II was unexpectedly down about 3 feet, and I saw people leaving, shaking their heads and muttering "We can see 'em, but they ain't biting." Nor did they bite for me. The next time the water levels were normal but early on my line fouled badly and since it was just a patch from a leader spool, I didn't have enough to pull out the tangle. Disgraceful lack of preparedness on my part. 

So I Googled: "How to load line on a fishing reel" and got some instructions, bought some spooled line and loaded my reel myself. And I must have done it right, because since then I haven't had the looping problems I had with the "professional" load. Live and Learn by the light of community-minded information sharers on the Internet!

I also got skunked at Lake George, Rock Creek Lake (several times), and Convict Lake. I did hook two large trout at Intake II one day, but couldn't land 'em. I know they were large because they both leapt high into the air when hooked. One crashed down on my bobber tackle and weights, and broke the line, making off with my hook and leader; the other splashed lots while I brought it to shore, but thrashing around in the shoreline rocks it yanked the knot out--it slowly swam away with another hook, big fat thing, and I couldn't reach it with the net. So much for the lakes.


Fish and Game declared August 8, 2012 to be a "Free Fishing Day" -- folks can fish in California without a license. A friend of mine took advantage of this dispensation and sent me the following report:

I did fish and what an experience that was. I was by myself since my companion was visiting relatives. I decided to go back to Lake George.  With no tackle except the hook and weights already on the pole, I decided I'd scavenge from the shoreline, which produced a few hooks and some weights. [note: the pole had been scavenged from an abandoned campsite at an earlier time, it is hot pink and black and from its labeling appears to have been a prize in a fundraiser for breast cancer] I also purchased night crawlers from the little shack there. I headed for the beach spot but it was occupied so I continued on the trail around to the back part of the lake, a private serene little spot, not including the loud talking that seems to echo over the lake. I cast my line in and settled in to look for tackle and then do some reading. Not long and I had some bites but not strong enough to do the "give a little slack and then a slight jerk" technique my brother taught. After the nibbles I reeled in and put on another worm.  About six worms later I caught my fish, an average size and since I had no tackle to take the hook out or cut the line I decided the best thing to do was get my mouth as close to the fishes, saving as much line as I could since I was on a budget, and bite the line off.  The fish lived in my little blue bucket for quite a while, which I felt very sorry for, of course.  An hour or so later some boys quickly walking past notified me of a bear that was over by where they were just fishing.  I thought "Oh yeah, a bear.  Yeah they're around the area.  I'll just sit here in my nice spot and not go over that way".  But then one of them said "Look it's on its way over this way!"  Of course I wasted no time in smashing everything into the bags I had and reeled my line in as fast as I could.  They offered to help carry some stuff which I of course accepted. We all took off at an even quicker pace around the lake and toward the parking lot.  We all made it safe and sound and the bear showed up about ten minutes later having cleared out all of the fisher people on one side of the lake.  After the excitement and everyone taking pictures I found out that the same bear had done this the day before also.  He/she is a fish snatcher.  I wasn't going to argue.  I almost left mine there for him/her but decided the hook might hurt the bear.  That's just me.  Lastly, my one average sized catch grew to four and the three I acquired were quite a bit larger than mine. I had tried to pawn my one fish off on a man I saw with a string of three because I didn't want to clean just one.  The man wanted to get rid of his fish so I consented to take them off his hands.  I did the dirty work and had trout for dinner.  So no swimming, but I would have, had I not been rescued.  I had a great day! 


Driving 4000 to 6000 feet higher in elevation to the lakes in summer gets me out of the heat but burns more gas than cruising to the Canal. Actually a North Fork of Bishop Creek, it is stocked by Fish and Game and runs parallel to Hanby and along the bottom edge of Shady Rest Trailer Paradise where I used to live before J-Diamond. Recently the DWP mowed its banks and now there's no thickets to tangle up the tackle, so this September I've been fishing the canal in the cooler evenings. The trough is semi-clogged with weeds and reeds: prime trout habitat, and these past few weeks I have seen lots more and bigger fish there than last year.  They slip out from hiding under the dark mats of weed and tread water, heads into the stream, then flit away, flickering like mossy shadows against tan patches of sand on the bottom. 

Drop the barbed and stinking dough-bait over by the reeds and try to wait patiently for the electric bobbling tug of a fish mouthing the blob. One hit is usually a miss, a continued pull and jerking means time to start reeling in the wriggling, leaping life form at the end of the line. A canal fish will zig-zag and zoom around down in the bottom of the canal, so that I can't see them while my line is zinging out of my reel; as it tires, it works to the surface and I try to pull it towards a place on the bank where I can get ahold of it. If I can hold it with one hand, I remove the hook and put it back in the water, if I need two hands, I take it home for dinner. I have caught many fish this fall in the Canal, at various points along its course -- it goes on for quite a while before turning into the Owens River. 

Probably the best time to fish the canal is early morning, but I have been going in the afternoon and evening. There is about an hour, the hour of the dogs, when off-leash pets bark at me, splash in the water and spook the fish, and head for my tackle box. I try to keep it closed so some dumb pup won't try to lick my hooks. Mostly it is quiet -- few townsfolk fish the canal, I think it is considered to be the low-status domain of kids and drunks -- "Oh, I wouldn't eat fish from the canal!" But the many fish I have cooked from the Canal all taste better than those fish I got from Intake II, and they are plumper and the tails and fins are long and scarf-like and unchewed. I always imagine I would like to sit by the canal and read as I wait for fish to bite, but I find I am restless and must walk up and down, constantly moving my bucket and tackle, chasing the most recent fish signs, casting and re-baiting far oftener than you're supposed to with dough-bait. But it seems to me that either the fish take the dough-bait almost as soon as it drops, or they ignore it; I get a bite right after the cast, or I stand around while my tackle gets tangled in the weeds. I have seen little floating foam spider "flies" for sale in the fishing section at Vons, maybe I should try dropping some of those on the eddies by the reeds.

Fish seem to favor hiding in a stand of reeds, or maybe reeds hide the fisherwoman. As evening deepens, fish leap at bugs hovering over the water, bats and birds swoop the bugs, and the bugs bite the fisherwoman. The fish splash down, usually just a gloop!, but big ones really smack the water and make waves. Part of the thrill of fishing at evening is the sudden irruption of a wriggling, robust life form out of the dark mass of the water, which is flowing along pretty quickly, its surface reflecting blue, then silver, then metal gray light from the sky. Cottonwoods stand dark against the lingering skylight above the Sierra silhouette to the west, and sometimes there is a cloudy, coral and magenta sunset, reflected in the stream. I fish until I cannot see my tackle, which is too late really, since the fish can't see the bugs either and stop leaping. One night I looked up to see that the only light in the night around me was coming from the crime lights at the back of the Vons and KMart shopping center. I had to drag my self away like a too-tired kid.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Camping in the Pine Flats

I have been escaping the August heat in Owens Valley by visiting with friends up in Mono County in a dispersed camping area I have nicknamed The Pine Flats, although it's actually flat only in places. We hiked up to a ridge that overlooks the former Alpers Trout Hatchery ponds and loops (now a ranch retreat). The headwaters of the Owens River collect in this area and flow through a "hidden" valley I had never seen before, mostly private ranching property, down into Long Valley and Lake Crowley.  

My fishing experience has been dismal recently, except for catching one brown trout in Pine Creek. Browns have golden fins and rich red dots along the sides--almost too pretty to eat, but also delicious. I am looking forward to autumn.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cottonwood Snow and Owls

In early summer the cottonwoods set loose their namesake in drifting piles of seed fluff. At times it looks like blowing snow. Great shaggy popcorn balls of it hanging high in the big old green trees. Toss a lighted match and it will explode in a fireball. After the wonder of it, the nuisance; when the yard guys hose it down, it resembles old rags, which they rake into truckloads, as they did the yellow cottonwood leaves in autumn.

I painted a few small owls for a friend who wished to buy an owl picture from me. She likes Saw-whet Owls, and I assumed that meant she likes small, cute, harmless creatures, like toy poodles. But when I showed her the paintings below, she chose "Sinster Owl", saying "Oh yes, he looks vicious!  That's what owls are, they are ruthless, vicious hunters!"  Ya never know.

 Perky Saw-whet

 Sinister Saw-whet

Spooky Saw-whet

Barn Owlets

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer evenings elsewhere

I have been musing over old photographs of mine taken of California hills on the other side of the Sierras; here are two paintings from that reverie. The road from Boonville hills in the Anderson Valley, the center tree and hillside from Point Pinole, Bay Area. Everywhere oat grass catching sunshine, flaring against the shadows.

Life at J Diamond Mobile Ranch has been too exciting lately--two trash fires in the residence area and a sewage backup due to underwear in the bilge pump. I hope for a return to easygoing boredom; always a good thing for painting when there's nothing else to demand the painter's attention.

Except home improvements: I have purchased a solar panel and multifarious widgets that render and modulate and parsify the power of sunshine into 12 volt battery storage and out again to another set of widgets that spins fans, brightens bulbs, and pulses sound through speakers and sunshine through cameras into computer screens. My shoulders ache from the tension of trying to understand 12volt electrical system, and even when it's late I can't leave off, I continue to fret among the pillows. Interesting, because no matter how difficult or frustrating my painting session becomes, I do not tense up about it; rather, painting seems to relieve bodily tension and I usually sleep well after painting. I slip into sleep easily, with colors and shapes swirling around in my mind, somewhat like floating.

More later....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Winter Into Spring

My new paintings this past winter-into-spring are of dusk and what I have come to call the "grottoes."  I feel they are deeper visions of mine and I have a sense of vulnerability in painting them. I feel they are archtypically feminine, as Marian visions often appear to young women and are thereafter  ensconced in grottoes, around springs in shallow caves, such as the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. If male imagery can be defined as a phallic shape thrusting outward, surely the female icon could be that of an entrance into a secret garden, an oasis among the rocks, a hidden source of rest, nourishment, healing and preparation; a riparian nursery, curtained by thickets, a sanctuary for contemplation, for the intimacy and peace of prayer.

Art Show at the Black Sheep Cafe

This month I have 11 paintings hanging on the school-bus-yellow and fire-engine-red brick walls at the Black Sheep cafe in back of the bookstore on Main Street. Climber hangout, lotsa foreign accents, a new venue in Bishop. A young woman who works there (my J Diamond neighbor of the Thanksgiving Dinner last November) was my "in" to the proprietors, and I am grateful for her efforts. I have never hung art work in a coffee shoppe before -- this opens up possibilites for me in the area, such as eateries in Mammoth. Follow-up next blog to see if anything sells.

Red Neck Reaction to Lady Painter

Phil, one of my bowling team mates in the Bishop Road Runners League this past winter, when I tried to invite him to come to the artist reception at the cafe and see my paintings on the wall, replied: "What? Come to see your panties on the wall?"  Ironically, I suppose this remark could be taken as one expression of my exposition (above) on the feminine nature of grotto imagery, but I rather think he was reacting out of the standard issue red neck arrested development pattern, wherein males seem to hit a wall at the age of 13, splatter, and stick. Boys are naughty and Girls are nice, and even when they get older (we are in our 60s and 70s here) the women display mild disapproval (roll eyes, shake head, flick wrist like a little slap) in combination with complacent indulgence (smile broadly, flutter eyelashes) towards naughty male behavior. And people out here ask me, over and over again, "Why didn't you marry?" And my truthful answer is "I didn't want to be a wife, I wanted to be an artist." My answer is meaningless to them, they stare at me and shake their heads.  

I feel I have chosen rightly.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Winter Paintings, and Rothko

"... artists pick what already exists in the world, but what they do of course is to pick what corresponds to their own sense of truth."
— artist Sean Scully, speaking in the documentary film, "Rothko's Rooms."

I wonder if my picking thickets as carriers of truth was influenced by, or presented to me in my childhood through a TV cartoon of Grimm's fairy tale of the Sleeping Beauty. Flip-book-like animation of thorny bramble cross-hatched the screen, obscuring and engulfing the castle, wherein the comatose guests and Briar Rose slumbered for a hundred years. When the right sort of prince came along, an opening appeared in the impenetrable thicket through which he entered, found, and awakened the snoozing fraulein with a kiss (who never woke up and said "Yuck.")

I have always felt this tale to be about (among other things) the artist's muse, or interior awareness of and attempt to grasp a beloved or an ultimate meaning. One that must be searched out, captured, and expressed; praised, actually, and praised to the point of exhaustion. "This is the most important thing I have to do in life, really the only thing I need to do, the work that can give my life a purpose." Now, this could be read as a statement of the male biological impetus to impregnate the female (in some written versions of this tale, the prince rapes the young woman, who wakes up pregnant), and/or it could be understood as a statement of spiritual ambition: to transcend accidental material existence with a conscious demand for meaning, for participation in a greater life.

Abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman wrote about his vertical stripe paintings, explaining that the primal vocation of a human being is to stand up out of the ooze and consciously confront the reality of personhood and the intuition of God, "... to stand in a place."  To stand forth, to be aware, to seize the opportunity to recognize the other and demand to be acknowledged.

OK, so why all the drums and trumpets for some messy bushes, dark roads, and a muddy canal? Guess I haven't yet got as far out of the ooze as Newman did. But I see glimmers:

Dusk down by the ooze seems to open into the dark matter of the cosmos, a camouflaged interior that can be sensed but not seen when the bright light of day reflects and richochets around the faceted surface of the world, distracting the mind from searching for an opening into its deeper, simpler, more distilled and more demanding truth -- perhaps something like the truth in Rothko's large, dark, "room" paintings.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A New Year in Anza Borrego

I took off on a January road trip and visited fulltiming friends dry camped in Anza Borrego for the winter. Mild evenings, cool mornings, pleasant days -- not freezing-the-pipes nights like Bishop.  Lotsa fan palms, date palms, teddy bear cactus. A bowl of alkaline earth, circled by mountains.

An Afternoon at The Slabs and Salvation Mountain
Websites to fill you in:

Slab City was one of Chris McCandless' stops on his way to Alaska in the movie Into the Wild. We visited the Range Stage where he sings his duet with the young trailer lady. The irrigation canal at the "back" of the grounds was newly earth-worked and fenced. The place did not seem as crowded as I had imagined. We waved at many folks coming out of RVs at the end of the day to sit on folding chairs and chat. 

I had seen many photos of the the heart slope but I was unprepared for the spectacularly colorful interior armature of Leonard Knight's Museum rooms constructed of straw bales, branches, clay and paint, paint. The late afternoon light lit up the branching ceiling structures, falling through small irregularly spaced windows -- although the word "irregular" is impertinent here, for the regulation is evident, but it is not derived from an engineer's blueprint but rather seems to mimic the fractal growth patterns found in nature. The colors glow and reflect into one another like sunlight refracts through stained-glass windows in old churches. The interior spaces are very small and close, but while looking up into their ceilings, the armatures appear to extend into a greater space than is actually present. I was reminded of the Watts Towers, cathedrals, playground jungle-gyms, color-coded illustrations of neurons in the brain, the painting classroom at Immaculate Heart College with its banners, puppets, blocks, and Mary's Day parades, and the boxfulls of photographs I have taken and continue to take of trees and thickets, thickets. He painted no figures -- it's all words and flowers and waters (the blue and white striped areas are the Sea of Galilee).
Alas, I came too late to meet the artist himself. Here is some of his work:

Winter Colors

Dry and cold, late autumn and early winter in Owens Valley. Donkeys, mules and horses stand in the sticks, nosing up to the fence when I stop to take pictures. 

Winter colors rarely appear in postcards. Stripped of the stuff of vacation fantasies, the armature of winter stands stark, leaning into shadows, then catches for a moment the late horizontal sunlight as it strikes across the valley before dropping behind the ridge. What lies underneath, what remains, what still contains the power to surge into summer.