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.
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.
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!
Inspired by the places where land meets water, and by stories.