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.
Here is Mike
red brown hair, cut short
an observer, a scientist, loves to draw
likes order but not overly concerned about it
loves to watch exciting action
wears muted colors, earth colors (browns, grays, olive green, tan)
"Gram" and "Gramps" are -- well I can't help imagining Jean as Gram and Dick as Gramps. I see Jean as always being prepared with food and snacks for the children, and Dick as compassionate and comforting--the protector. I don't know if Mike and Mindy will make it into the book, but having them "with" me on the trip gave me a another perspective. My journal notes with them in mind really fleshed out the experience for me.
Perhaps they belong in a book of their own.
The temple courtyard on the way to Riki's house was packed with dogs; Mike counted 42. Mindy stayed very close to Gramps as they walked through. "When people don't want their dogs anymore, the Buddhist monks take care of them," Riki explained. "Thai people don't believe in neutering them, though they are beginning to."
Mindy wondered what lives in the water the houses have their feet in. "Fish", said Riki. "Crocodiles", said Mike. Mindy peered into the water to see if she could spot any crocodiles, but all she saw were empty water bottles and coconut husks.
Mindy wouldn't go to bed that night, thinking about crocodiles, although Mike told her that “crocodiles don't eat little girls, only sometimes a careless bird” and Riki assured her she had never seen a crocodile in the water. Mindy felt sorry for the birds and would not be comforted. Then Mike called out, “snakes live in the water too!” and Riki agreed that might be true.
That did it! Mindy wouldn't go to sleep until Gram and Gramps let her sleep with them. Mike thought that Riki's orange hunter cat, Charlie, would kill any snakes, so he lured Charlie into the room to protect him. Luckily, he and Charlie were fast friends, and Charlie didn't mind.
Mindy bounced out of bed as soon as it was light, but Mike lay in bed awhile listening to the temple dogs barking, to people nearby talking in words he couldn't understand, and to the "whoop whoop" sound of a strange bird. Riki was already at work, but Gram fixed breakfast. Mindy tried the sticky rice, but wasn't too sure about the mangoes and coconut milk. Luckily, there was granola too.
I've GOT to stop checking the news before bed! I wake up feeling grouchy and scared and vulnerable. If I don't get a chance to do some art, I stay grouchy--just ask my beloved Rich. I feel like I'm wasting my life!
On the other hand, a whimsical doodle like this one can remind me to sing!
Do you see the eyes? This "Winged Vase" reminds me of Mary Litchfield Tuel singing, "Make me a vessel of Thy Love"
The news last night--cruise missiles heading for Syria--hurt my heart so much! I have never felt such deep emotional pain. I thought of all the people who have had to flee the war. I thought of Jemilla and her five children who fled first to Turkey, then came here for medical attention she could not get there, of Safa, who fled Aleppo when there was not food, no work, no homes, no hospital, no diapers for the baby.
Most especially, I thought of Jamila "Rose Anne" saying in tears, "When I left Syria, the county was stable; now it is destroyed." And that was before the terrible events of this week!
Prayer helped a little. Talking with Rifaat helped a little. Even so, I found myself wondering if there was some drug I could take that would help me escape from the pain. I now understand why people get addicted to drugs and alcohol!
I was exhausted this morning from mourning all night, so Rifaat took me out for breakfast at Sporty's. "Lets Make A Deal" was on the big screen T.V., as usual.
Suddenly, I understood the silly costumes, the exorbitant prizes, the anticipation, the excitement. It makes a wonderful distraction for people caught in pain, emotional or physical. So, It has it's place.
But I don't want my life to be about distraction, so I tend to take it in small doses. Distraction that is (not life!).
Then I called one of my spiritual teachers, Khadija.
Khadija said that those of us who are emphatic or who are on a spiritual path, are more sensitive now, as things heat up. That some of the greatest Spiritual growth and insights seem to happen when the world is in greatest turmoil.
She reminded me how important it is to stay grounded in the Divine and in one's center (or Dantien, or Hara), and gave me a practice to help with that. She told me that the usual translation of "Allah Ho Akbar" as "God is the Greatest" is incorrect; it compares God, and God is incomparable. A better translation she says, is "Peace (Divine Peace) is Power."
God's Peace is Power. If I can stay grounded in that, perhaps I can weather these times and keep my sanity, and maybe even bring some peace to those around me!
My cousin Riki's house in Bangkok is in a village in the middle of a swamp--or what use to be a swamp. When I first visited, in 1997, every house in the village had a boat for the family "car". Houses line the canals--the klong--each with steps down to the water.
We arrived by four wheeled taxi, though. The taxi let us off at the gate of the Buddhist temple. We walked past the crematorium, past the temple, through the 40-60 dogs lounging in the shade. People abandoned dogs at the temple to be cared for; no Pet Protectors there! No neutering or spaying either.
We dragged our suitcases over a narrow foot bridge and came to a sidewalk with water on both sides. Riki's house is along this sidewalk. Her house is on a cement foundation, with the first floor more of an open air family area and the living area on the second floor.
There are watermarks about 1 1/2 feet up the walls of the first floor, left over from occasional floods.
I visited her again in 2009, with my uncle and aunt, Dick and Jean Hall. The Halls were missionaries in Thailand and in Laos in the late 1950's, when the Vietnamese war spilled over into the ongoing civil war in Laos. Dick and Jean took me to visit friends in Thailand and Laos, telling me stories of their lives and people as we traveled. I met the 80 year old dentist who taught Dick to pull teeth in Namtha. I met the Lao man who was inspired to become a doctor when, as a child of 8, he watched Dick do surgery on a man with a shotgun wound to his face. I met many such people and heard their stories!
I plan to create a book, using my sketches and notes of that trip, featuring Dick and Jean's stories. As I develop this project, I plan to send out occasional posts such as this one. You are welcome to comment!
Inspired by the places where land meets water, and by stories.