The other day I joined a group of friends playing music at the Snap Dragon Cafe. It's an informal group. Many of the musicians are graying, and most happen to be Caucasian. Whoever shows up has the opportunity to share a song while the rest sing along, listen, or accompany on their instruments. Sometimes I sit with them, sketching as they play.
This time a young black man joined us. Artis is from the east coast. He told us he moved out of his house and is touring and playing music with a group of friends.
When it was his turn to share a song, he sang of being together, as community. As friends. Just being.
I thought of "Black Lives Matter" and the backlash it is getting. I thought of how lately neighbors have called the police on black men, even when they are in their own homes or the yard of a relative! Even totally innocent, they have been identified as theives, as somehow dangerous, and shot, even killed. It occurred to me that Artis, is on a mission of healing, of helping to bring the races into better understanding, through music.
Artis is a treasure. I have known other black men who were gentle spirited as well, and never met one who was in the least disrespectful of me, and yet some people view black men as dangerous, as "the enemy". Why?
And who is the enemy?
When a neighbor calls the police on a black man who is in his grandmother's back yard and the police shoot and kill him when he pulls out a cell phone, who is the enemy? Is it the neighbor? The police? The black man?
My friend Edna says,
"I do not shrink from using the word "enemy": an enemy is any person or group who seek to do us harm, and there are now many powerful people who are doing great harm and need to be opposed."
For her, the enemy is "powerful people who are doing great harm", particularly to the environment and to less powerful people. For some people the enemy is black men, or immigrants, or liberals, or Republicans, or corporations, or....the list goes on. And there are people in all those categories who may be "doing great harm", but there are also many more people in all those categories who are doing great good.
Perhaps "the enemy" is not a group of people, maybe not even a particular person. Maybe "the enemy" is thought patterns that do great harm, especially when people act on them. What if we stopped fighting people who belong to this or that group we fear and instead oppose the actions of those people, and work to change the thought patterns?
My image of the little white girl playing with one of my silks
jars my sense of justice
when I think of the little brown children
separated from their parents
crying with no one to comfort them.
I pray for--no, I demand--a humane way to deal with people who come to us asking for help, for safety.
I demand a government that upholds the promise in our Pledge of Alliegence: Liberty and Justice for ALL--all the people, not just white folks like me who happened to be born into citizenship.
And always there is the painful question: what can I do?
So I've been doing Cat Scratches (Jackson makes a good model)
and Flower Failures (flowers don't get up and walk away)
Until I finally feel confident enough to add some color.
But I'm still making mistakes!
I'm working on Illustrations for Patchwork House. It's a stretch for my skills; I want to express the characters and moods of the friends I knew and the feelings of the good times as well as the hard times.
One of my guides is Framed Ink, by Marcos Mateu-Mestre. Wow! What a wealth of ideas and instruction! Mateu-Mestre has a style perfectly suited to murder mysteries and action drama--a bit different from my style and what I want to convey, but useful never the less.
I think I want something gentler and maybe a little introspective, maybe more like Emily Carr's illusrations in Sister and I in Alaska.
I LOVE her humorous depiction of herself and her sister! I like the expressions and postures of her figures--her focus is very much on her figures. Her backgrounds tend to be minimal, showing only what is necessary to get the feel of the place, and her colors muted.
However, I love color, and I do want some background. After all, the setting of Patchwork House, in an almost ghost town, is a character in itself.
The clutter, the rusted tin and weathered wood of the buildings, the antiques scattered around, homes abandoned or reclaimed--there was a feeling of....of creating a humble new life from an abandoned past.
(Thumbnail for "Workshop", showing Boone and Davey cutting fire agate--Believe me, I left out a LOT of clutter in this draft of the fire agate workshop!)
In just 8 days I'll be in Oatman!
I haven't been back to Oatman, Arizona since....since my youngest son, now a father himself, was a toddler.
I'm told it has changed and not for the better. The patchwork house we lived in is long gone. The Brown Jug, where we danced on the old wood floor, burned down years ago. Judy's Pottery Shop, where I spent many an afternoon chatting with friends, is now a bar.
I wonder if any of those old miner's shacks are still there?
I called Judy yesterday. She and Willa, who owns the Glory Hole Antique Shop, are the only old timers left, she said. Judy wondered why I would even want to come to Oatman now; it's just a tourist town, she told me. I told her, the cliffs will still be there; there's no way they could get rid of Elephant's Tooth! I've a hankering to walk up to Elephant's Tooth. Walking in the hills above town was my joy and my solace when I lived in Oatman.
It is said that at one time these slopes were covered with gold seekers tents!
Apparently the wild burros still come into town for handouts from the tourists. I bet you can still see a "gunfight" staged in the street. Not that the gunfights ever interested me, and the burros got ALL my corn the night before I planned to harvest it one year, so I'm not overly fond of them!
And the hills are still there! I wonder if they've fenced or covered the mining shafts? Some of them were pretty darn deep! Once I dropped a stone down one, and counted to 12 before I heard it hit bottom.
If Oatman, Arizona was an abandoned gold mining town, Gold Road was just the ghost of a ghost town; nothing left but a few stones.
We often stopped here on our way home from Kingman; the kids loved to play in the ruins. As I was painting and remembering, thinking about the hopes and dreams of people who once lived here, I could almost see the ghost of a woman with a baby on her hip standing in one of the doorways.
Gold Road came into being when Jose Jerez discovered gold bearing rock while looking for his burro. At it's height, Gold Road had a post office, a store, and of course The Gold Road Club--where Jose spent most of his money from the claim before dying of an ingestion of Rat-Be-Gone (I wonder what what kind of a man he was; did some folks consider him a rat?).
I was looking through old sketch books from my Oatman years, and I found these.
When we lived in Oatman, it was an abandoned mining town. Many of the houses were still abandoned. You never knew what you might find that had been left behind. Once I found a decent cast iron skillet, which my family still uses.
The house we lived in, one of the abandoned ones, had pieces of the roof missing before we made it habitable. It had no indoor plumbing--no water in the sink, no toilet, no shower. Our water supply was a faucet outside the kitchen door. Also, no electricity. I highly recommend everyone spend some time living primitively like this; it builds resilience.
Back in my hippie days, I lived in a patchwork house in the ghost town of Oatman, Arizona, on old rout 66.
It was a miner's cabin, left over from the gold rush days of the early 1900's, when so many people flocked to these hills to mine gold, that the hills were covered with people living in tents.
Remember those patchwork quilts people made during the depression? They used flour sacks, discarded clothing, and any thing else they could find to create colorful warm quilts with no particular pattern. Our house was like that. It was made from scraps on tin and wood that had blown off of other houses. Even the nails were scrounged. My three year old and I picked up nails all over town; his father straightened them and used them to put up the weathered wood and rusted tin walls.
When we first moved in, the roof leaked and there was no water or other plumbing. By the time we left, we had installed a real kitchen sink with running water, a shower, a real flush toilet, and even a hot water heater. In the summer, the tap water was so hot, we had to cool it with water stored in the unlit propane water heater!
I've been enjoying doing little watercolor paintings inspired by my photos and memories. I plan to gather them into a sketch journal to tell the stories of our time in Oatman.
Life has been busy, and I've been taking a break from the book about Thailand and Laos I was working on. Instead, I have been doing little watercolors, tiny, 5" x 7" paintings. I can make good progress on these when I have only an hour or even one half hour at a time to spend in the studio. I'll start several, go do some errands while the paint dries, then come back and add more color or more detail. It may take several sittings, but I've got half a dozen finished before I know it!
This one is a low tide in the spring, when the leaves are coming out and the grass is that vibrant green!
This little plane carried as many as 13 people out of Laos during the Vietnam War, when the Communists began attacking the villages where my uncle Dick Hall was preaching. This way he saved about 150 people who would otherwise have been murdered.
Dick Hall, who brought God's Love and care in the form of food and medical help to so many people all over the world, died on February 18, 2018. He was 92 years old. When he could no longer travel with ADRA to bring aid to suffering people in Africa and Asia, he traveled through out the Pacific Northwest to tell people about the work and to gather support for it. His wife Jean and daughter Riki plan to carry on this work.
Inspired by the places where land meets water, and by stories.