Playa: September 23 & 24, the last days

Monday, Sept 23, last days….

A busy day in the compound. The full set of fall residents is to arrive next Sunday, so lots of staff members are here, working to make sure the cabins are ready and the Compound immaculate. I’m unaccustomed, even after this short period, to having so many people around (at least five workers, in and out). I chuckled to  see myself, a city creature, get befuddled after a mere week alone by “so many” people.

CompoundYardThe Compound yard in front of my cabin

CompoundKitchenThe residents’ kitchen. The professional space is out of sight, to the right.

CompoundTablewlRachel was getting ready to chop wood for the little stove, seen here, as well as the gigantic fireplace in the residents’ “living room.”

CompoundGateThe main lane from the front gate (with the red roof). The gate and fence surrounding most of the property is made of 8-foot juniper poles, lashed together (faintly seen in the middle ground). The gate is wide, closed when residents are not in session, although sometimes nosy parkers (like Jer and me last June) sneak in anyway. The stouter corral poles on the left seem to be leftovers from the ranch operations of the previous owners.

I got up early and did an 18 x 24” painting of the playa from the lawn. Again it was a warmish morning but then began blowing. I love trying to understand the weather patterns, even in such a small space of time.

I’m making good use of the materials in the Playa library. The maps are helpful, if erratic, and I know what I need to check on Google when I get back to Portland. Finding the center of the pano is my first problem (well, not the first, but perhaps the biggest one). Once I get the pano photos in a form to be readable (or see-able), I might be able fix on a center.

I’ve been checking over my paintings, trying to fix my sights on the problems areas and then running outside to see if I can find the correct colors in the views. The real problem is, of course, that the colors keep changing.

Tuesday Sept 24, 2013

Last day at Playa: early this morning, I walked around the paths east of the ponds near the dry lake bed. I could look across the ponds at the Commons.


The Commons at Playa. Again the reflections in the pond are astonishing and have become an important factor of my own experience. When the ponds freeze, however, all that will be effaced.

The mown path follows the rim of the ancient lake bed, many feet above the current lake shore. I didn’t go down into the marshy area that looks to be fed by springs. But I looked closely at the grasses and wondered about the varied foliage. So much a person doesn’t know, so much to know that I may never find out.

FRomOldLakeBed2betterNow it’s raining. It was cold this morning, and blowing, but exercise made it easy to tolerate. By early this afternoon, a rain storm came over Winter Ridge (maybe the one that Jer told me about that was in Portland a few days ago) and is soaking the space. This is one of the few storms from the west I’ve seen. Most have come from the south, or perhaps the southwest.

I find the wind disconcerting when I’m inside. But once I’m out in it, it isn’t so bad. I have the old painting jacket and flannel shirt that I can put over my three other layers of clothes, so the wind can’t get through. It isn’t cold enough to need a hat, although I thought I might. It’s just the wind that makes it seem cold. Rachel says that the wind blows much of the winter, quite fiercely. That would be interesting.

I have to show these critters again, because they became my most constant companions. As the temperatures dropped, I spent more and more time inside. And besides, I love the reflections in the pond.

DucksI’m typing this in front of the upstairs windows in the cabin, watching for Jer and the little red Honda to appear. It’s much too early, but then again, Jer has always been an early arriver. I need to return the cart that was lent to me to haul my art stuff around the grounds. I meant to do that before it rained, but I didn’t see the rain coming. This storm appeared over the northwest Winter Ridge, whoosh and ga-blam.


And that was it, the last journal entry. Jer showed up. He took photos of the dust storm on the playa; I showed him the wood rat’s nest.

The paintings that I did at Playa, or some portion of them, will be posted in the near future. Being back in Portland, I keep diddling with them, see their flaws, working to fix them. In addition, I’m starting to sand my sample cedar board, to test how smooth I want the surface and what needs to be done to fix the inevitable knot holes and imperfections. That project will take a while, but in its own way it should be peaceful and remind me of my days at Playa.

Playa was just what I needed. I wouldn’t call it “healing”, as I think of healing as a quiet activity, without too much excitement, and what I felt while I was there was great excitement. Of course, my excitement often involves great landscape views, which is what I had. And projects, of course, which I had in equal measure. I had good company too, just the right amount, and lots of quiet time, when I could ponder how to achieve what I had in mind and where I wanted to go to check out different views of the same landscape. I could marvel in the colors and breathe in the air and not be hurried, even if excited. I think that’s a kind of perfection.

I missed Jer, of course, and eventually I would have missed the city. But for two blessed weeks, I simply existed in whatever occurred to me at the moment. What occurred had much to do with a grandeur bigger than myself. Bigger than myself and yet all involving. Not only was I immersed, but I was involved in reimagining it in pigment, on canvas. –June

LargeCroppedSummer Lake Playa, taken from hills in front of Winter Ridge, facing east. Approximately 180 degrees, with the southern edge of the lake/playa truncated.


One thought on “Playa: September 23 & 24, the last days

  1. Looking forward to seeing the results of your immersion. From the teaser in the last post, I could see we are in for some classic Underwood big landscapes.


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