Archive for the ‘eastern Oregon’ Category

Playa: September 23 & 24

October 23, 2013

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.


The Compound yard in front of my cabin


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


Rachel 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 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. The gate is wide and closed when residents are not in session, although sometimes nosy parkers (like Jer and I last June) want in anyway. The stouter poles on the left are 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 mown path follows the rim of the ancient lake bed, many feet above the current one. I didn’t go down into the marshy area that looks to be fed by springs a lot of the year. 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.


Now it’s raining. It was cold this morning and blowing but exercise made it easy to tolerate. By early this afternoon, a 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.


I’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


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

Playa, September 20 & 21, 2013

October 22, 2013

Saturday, September 20, 2013

I’m feeling that winding down sensation. The last weekend, then Monday, and then Jer arrives on Tuesday, we pack, and head out early on Wednesday, back to the land of trees and low hovering clouds.

At Summer Lake it rained, stormed, stopped, and rained again. I snuck in a trip up the hill which was awesome, windy, and didn’t feel like it got me much further along in my painting project. However, I took more photos of the wood rat’s nest and some of the juniper trees in the cluster that feels so sheltering. Wood rats’ nests (they are a kind of pack rat) can go back as far as 50,000 years because of their habits and the dry climates and shelters that they inhabit. They are treasures to paleobotanists. This tree has been recently trimmed, but the nest was carefully preserved. Most likely the animals had moved on, hopefully not to any human habitats, like the airstream trailer nearby.




After I came back down, I puddled around in the studio, dabbling at paintings, feeling a bit desultory.

The big event of the day came in the afternoon..

We took Rachel’s van to a neighbor’s house, directly across from where I’ve been photographing the panorama, so she could walk the dogs and I could do more sketching of the playa. The neighbor lives at just about the level of my grove of trees and panoramic view.

The wind was blowing so hard up there that it was difficult to stand up. The dogs loved it, of course. They frolicked around and came over to say hello and see if I would play too. Not me – I huddled on the porch with my sketch book.

I was sitting in the protection of the porch when Rachel called and said to come out — you’ve got to see this. Across the bed of the playa (not in the air), about a mile or more wide, spread a perfect rainbow. It formed that perfect rainbow arch, but was flat on the whitish sand, with the purples and greens on the inside, the red on the outside. As we watched, this light show seemed to slide away up the far eastern hills, changing their colors sequentially, red through orange-yellow, through yellow and green then blue and purple. It was like a great light show except that the colors were more earthen, more “grounded” than any I’ve ever seen projected artificially.

Neither Rachel nor I had ever seen anything like it. If it had been only one of us seeing it, we would have imagined we were hallucinating or imagining it.

Back at the compound, the dust blew across the neutral colors of the playa, a rain storm pounded the west ridge, and Playa, the residency, while wet and cool, was an oasis of calm.


September 22, Sunday

I went outside and painted this morning. I didn’t get up until 6:30 when the sun came up — the nights are getting longer. I had some coffee and stood on the front porch where it felt warm. Then, about 7 or so, I decided that I should paint outside while it was warm and dry. It was too early to haul stuff too far away, and I had that big painting that needed more work on site, so I checked out the back deck.  When I went around to the side of Cabin 10, the wind seemed stronger; when I went on around to the back, facing the pond, whoosh. But the back deck was definitely the place. If it was windy there, there was a hurricane in the lawn. And a category 3 up the hill.

I took the big easel from the studio out there because it’s heavy, and the wind ( I hoped) wouldn’t carry it into the pond. Then I carted all the other stuff out and painted until ten, when my fingers (in gloves this time) stopped working. The wind had died down some but it wasn’t any warmer. I cleaned up and ate breakfast and sat down in a chair to read where I fell asleep. I’m loving falling asleep after I’ve been up a few hours. I do miss our couch at home but the chairs are pretty soft and I can put up my feet on the footstool.


I invited Rachel over for a stew this evening (imagine, me cooking!). I have a bunch of stuff that I can use up and I’ll borrow some oregano from the kitchen here in the commons. Lots of potatoes and onions and even some leftover black beans. And the big slab of beef, of course, which I have scarcely made a dent in. Rachel said she’d bring a pear/ginger tart and some butter. And some beer. So that should while away half the afternoon and the evening.


I’m anxious to get back up the hill, but that’s not going to happen while the wind is so fierce. I think I’ll spend the other half of this afternoon working on the computer to see if I can solve some of my panorama problems using the photos I have. Or at least see where I haven’t solved them. I’m feeling quite stubborn about this project, having taken it on. It should keep me busy for the Portland fall, at the very least.

The wind is quite fierce right now and it’s cold enough that I have four layers on and am still a bit cold. I turned up the heat in the cabin, but am reluctant to turn it up further. It’s a bit warmer in here. Rachel offered to let me into another cabin to use the hot tub, but I thought that was going too far. I noticed today that there are thermostats in every room in the cabin. That’s why the bedroom is cooler than the downstairs. I like that, although last night I wore a t-shirt over my nightgown. And pulled up the extra cover.

So that’s the news from Lake Summer, where it’s definitely taken a turn toward that other season. The wind still seems to be coming from the south. I saw the golden moon again last night, but it’s waning pretty fast. Must be time to go home.

Here’s a couple of photos from the studio, where I’m spending a lot more time these days.



I found this wall of the studio quite charming. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but still, the grids made by the painters left their traces behind. I’m in good company.


I just finished examining my photos closely and I’m excited again about the pano project. When I blow them up to 100% I can see the old evaporated lake bed lines as well as a lot of definition in the far hills, even within 10 mile butte. I think I can do this.

I could use a better sense of the far lake bed edge. The photos are a bit wonky keeping it in line because I was hand-holding the camera.  I think the playa bed is the horizon line, which means that to the north and south the sky perhaps gets bigger because the land forms appear smaller. But that’s not always the case because the Diablo Mts to the north are higher than 10 mile Butte which lines the south end. I couldn’t do any panoramic stitching using Photoshop: it’s too crazy-making. But the individual “stitch-enhanced” photos on my camera are pretty good anyway. When I get back to where I can download one of those easy-to-use free programs to stitch these into a full panorama.  I’ll use my desktop and play with ways to pull the photos together.



Playa, Thursday and Friday, Sept 18 and 19, 2013

October 19, 2013

Thursday Sept 19

As I walked back from the Commons last night, I saw the moon rising in the east over the playa. It was not a huge moon like one sometimes sees but it illuminated the entire lake bed. More stunningly, it was golden, so bright that I didn’t need a flashlight. I was awe-struck, but grabbed my camera to attempt photos. The photos can only approximate what I was seeing. But they do give some sense of it.


The rising moon reflected in the pond, about 8 p.m.


Reflection in the south pond


As the moon rose higher, the playa came more clearly into view.

Then early this morning, on the way over to the Commons, I saw the moon setting over Winter Ridge to the west.  The color was much cooler this morning, which, I suspect, has to do with the dust in the atmosphere that settles during the night.


The moon over Winter Ridge in the morning; the windows in the cabin are facing east, where the hint of the rising sun can be found.

I have decided I’m a diurnal person, if there is such a thing. I wake when the sun appears (this puts the sun – or me – at a disadvantage in Portland, where the sky gets lighter but the sun doesn’t actually seem to rise.) So at Playa I find myself up and about at unseemly hours, wondering what I’m to do.

I have been thinking about the steps I need to take in order to retain my vision of the Hill after I return to Portland. I’m going to concoct a scroll from my notebook papers (stapling papers together) to make a small mockup. I’ll then go up the hill and try sketching.

Friday, Sept 20, 2013

Somehow I missed journaling the rest of the day.

So, yesterday after doing the short journal entry, I went back to the cabin and made that very long scroll, stapling together sheets from my sketch book. These I hope to turn into something on which I can sketch to see what I need to know of the playa, all 210 degrees of it.


The Scroll (photo taken upon return to Portland. The only purpose of the photo is to show how awesomely long that thing was. And how crude.)

I looked at all the photos I’ve taken up on the hill and I see that I may have, or may be able to take, ones that I can use for painting back in Pdx.


I will have to crop the photos to the right scale: The board sizes are 12 x 24, ie 1/ 2. The photos probably are about 8 x 10 or 2/3 (that’s what they seem to print as, anyway). So I’ll have to crop the onscreen version from those ratios to 1×2 or perhaps print them out and do the cropping manually. But that’s for a later day.

I climbed the hill, photographed a lot, doodled on my stapled scroll, and tried to figure out where the center of the playa was located because I’ll paint out from the center. The center looked rather monolithic – mostly a violet shadow against the sky, with other violet shadows stretching right and left.  And using my outspread fingers to measure the spaces could only approximate where that center might be — in one of the dips that indicate another ridge slipping behind the first? Or maybe another ridge slipping in front of the first? The details are difficult to see. And then, suddenly, the wind came up, blowing sand across the way, obscuring the distant ridges. It became clear that trying to hold the scroll and do anything like sketching was impossible.


I trotted down the hill as fast as I could, as the wind was unpleasant. The dust is covering more of the playa today, but doesn’t quite come up to the compound of Winter Ridge. I can taste it in the air. It’s blotted out almost the whole of the lake bed. I asked if it did this in winter and Barb said no, by winter the lake filled from the opened irrigation ditches and the winter rain. Barb also said it was getting colder outside. I don’t want it to get too cold, ’cause I can’t wear my only long-sleeved, mucked-up shirt outside the privacy of my own quarters. It’s truly embarrassing to be seen in, like an old guy who walks around with food stains on his tie.

I started another small painting in the studio after I came down the hill.

It’s supposed to rain (80%) tomorrow, so I won’t be going up on the hill. A 4-foot ditch runs across the track — could be slippery. I am lucky to have made the change in my plans since neither today nor tomorrow would be good for painting up the hill.

Tonight is a big outing to the Cowboy Dinner Tree Restaurant at Silver Lake, about forty miles north of here. I’m told I will be able to eat on the leftovers for the remainder of my stay. Apparently the portions are huge.


I am now back from a most charming social evening with Barb, Rachel, and Bill at a very crowded, very much eastern Oregon, dinner place.

The Cowboy Dinner Tree Restaurant is about as rustic a building as you can imagine, and really in the middle of nowhere (on a side road off route 31 that begins with a sign saying “this goes nowhere”.

The meal was what I expected, only better (I have been around the desert/cowboy hangouts a bit), and I do have an enormous doggie bag that I’m hoping Pepper will enjoy. Bill and I ordered beef. I knew the slice might be big but didn’t know it would be half a (small) cow. Barb and Rachel both got whole chickens (I mean “whole”, limbs and all). This in addition to fresh-baked rolls, a big green salad, bean soup, baked potatoes, and dessert. You get hungry working the range; not so much so working in the studio.

The company was excellent. Bill was originally from Pendleton so that explains his love of this land. And he knows a lot about the area around Summer Lake


Photo taken on June 22, 2013 by walkaboutmax, made available on FlickR under a limited Creative Commons license. Some Rights Reserved by original photographer. 

Bill talked about “Carlin Village” and “Boulder Village”, archaeological sites on the west side, north of Summer Lake. The Paisley Caves (east of the Lake), where a big coprolite was found, is famous for having the oldest evidence of humans on the continent, 14,000 years ago, with hints that they may have been there as long ago as 16,000 years before the present.


Before we left Playa, I bought this book from the Paisley Mercantile.  It filled in some of my ignorance about southeast Oregon’s archaeological heritage. It covers all of Oregon. It was published in 2011 and is the first survey published since 1993.

As we drove back to Playa the dust storm still raged, but the moon showed it clearly from the cloudless sky above.  Bill said many springs and artesian water sources feed into the playa from Winter Ridge. They have now opened irrigation ditches from the fields, so water is flowing into the Ana Reservoir, and out of that into the Ana River which flows into the Summer Lake playa. We saw a lot of edge water and reeds along Route 31.

Another exciting day in the desert,  what with socializing, dust storms, ambitious plans for art, and sightings of the moon before I even had my eyes totally open. –June

Playa, September 17, 2013

October 13, 2013

Sept 17, Tuesday

I had an exciting morning. Went out with Rachel at 6:30 A.M. — this meant getting up at 5:30 because I’m a nervous nelly —  and I needed to heat up a cup of coffee so I could pretend to be human. We walked up to the bone yard, where Pepper looked for rats under piles of lumber, and Rachel and I checked out the boards for suitable painting ones.


The “boneyard” is the little whitish dot to the left a bit lower than center. The dot (which I could see more clearly on a blown-up version of the photo) is actually the carefully stacked and tied boards rescued when Playa was built. Obviously this photo was taken from a ways away.

I wanted boards at least 12 inches wide, and indeed we found a number of cedar ones, very rough but the right width and length  (the 3rd dimension — 1/4, 1/2, .75 inches didn’t matter).  Rachel said she could sand them a bit and cut them into a good length.

I had settled on 24 inch length as being easiest to deal with. So we set aside most of the eight foot or longer 12-inchers that we found, and Rachel came up later in a truck and took them back to the shop. Then we went our separate ways to breakfast and more coffee. At about 8:30 (still A.M.) I went back to the shop where Rachel had already done a quick rough sanding of the long boards. I sanded a bit more, thinking they needed to be a bit smoother (although they never really got smooth enough to run your hand over with ease). Then, using the big shop saw (oh heaven, what tools!) she cut them into 2-foot lengths, leaving the worst ends  behind.

I now have 10 two-foot lengths of cedar boards to paint on. 12 x 240 Inches. That should almost make the 210 degree panorama. (more…)

Playa, September 15 & 16, 2013

October 11, 2013

Sunday morning, Sept. 15

I am outside on the Commons deck, where the lawn and ponds and playa are quite beautiful and the laptop is almost readable in the sun.

It’s only 11 AM but I’ve already worked on a large painting on-site up by cabin 1.


Cabin 1 from the front. The back looks out on the playa, and that’s where I painted, of course. There’s a wrap-around porch.

I got up about 6, heated up yesterday’s coffee, put on my boots, gathered my painting stuff and put it into the cart that Rachel found for me, the one that pushes like a dream. Rachel says it was made especially for her (along with all the others around the property) by a guy in Eugene. It can be converted into a bike cart just by unscrewing a couple of wing nuts and adding a bicycle widget.

I started this painting with oil bars yesterday, and that turns out to be a good way to get a beginning — my version of the preliminary sketch. When I went back this morning I could see (and correct) some large shapes that were too large and then turn the oil bar contours into an oil painting proper.

I talk about Rachel a lot because she’s the only human around most of the time. No animals of note have appeared today. I see that the ducks who come close to the cabin have dark heads and brownish bodies. This group travels in 3s. They may be different from the others who stay on the other side of the bridge. There’s a clever bridge across the north pond, which has two benches for sitting and contemplation; the bridge is a kind of zigzag with a Japanese feel to it.


The bridge across the north pond in the sunrise