WINTER IN TUCSON - March 4, 2014

Yikes! Here I am writing about winter in Tucson and spring is already here. Once the cooler weather arrived, life got very busy.  There were classes, sketching and painting expeditions with various friends, and art exhibits to enter which meant framing pieces. So, it’s been an incredibly active several months.

I had three small oil paintings in the Small Wonders show at The Drawing Studio and one of them sold!

In November I did a one-day workshop with Pat Dolan - "Connecting with your Power Animal". Pat is a certified shaman and led us, with about 20 minutes of drumming, on a journey into the lower world. At the end, I started painting and the results were surprising. It was a fantastic experience.

Dream Wolf - WatercolorDream Wolf

Since then, I’ve done a pastel portrait of a retired Ambassador Wolf, Grizzer, at the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN. I based it on a photo from their calendar, taken by Wendy Watson who kindly gave me permission to exhibit it. “Grizzer” was recently accepted into a juried exhibit at The Drawing Studio called “Beauty and the Beast.” There were three volunteers from an animal rehab center in NW Tucson at the reception, each of them with a wounded raptor: a Harris’s Hawk, a Great Horned Owl, and a tiny Elf Owl. Naturally I had forgotten my camera. I signed up to be a volunteer with the rehab center and am waiting for their next training so I can start helping out.

Just 90 minutes a week will make it look like you’re aging backwards.

Five steps to looking 10 years younger.

Grizzer - pastel paintingGrizzer

Winter in Tucson means snowbirds arriving, the big gem, mineral and fossil show (now the biggest in North America), rodeo week and all sorts of other activities. I spent an afternoon at the gem show but didn’t make it to the rodeo this year.

One morning there was a fire in the neighborhood; it was a grease fire and the owner got out safely, but you can see that mobile homes burn quickly and very thoroughly. I’ve had someone come check my wiring since then as that can be a source of worry in these older tin houses; though I have aluminum wiring in much of the house, he said it’s in good shape and not a cause for worry.

Mobile Home after fire

There was some chilly weather in December, but this winter in Tucson has been pretty much a non-starter. January and February have been beautiful, temperatures in the 70s and even upper 80s, so I’m getting plenty of swimming in and now do a half mile of laps two or three times a week. I realize this news will be painful to many of you. Orange trees are already blossoming – the smell is divine.

My grandson Jack with BijouMy Grandson Jack with Bijou

Loving Winter in Tucson

Jeff, Laurie & Jack have been bitten by the road trip bug. They left San Francisco the day after Christmas and arrived here the next evening to see what winter in Tucson is like. We spent most of the following day at the Sonora Desert Museum, and hung out at the pool and hot tub that evening before dinner. The next morning they were off again, up to Sedona for a couple of days, spending sunrise to sunset at the Grand Canyon, then on to Las Vegas, Death Valley and home again. It was wonderful to have them here, however briefly – and hard to believe how tall my grandson is getting.

Jeff and LaurieJeff & Laurie

When he had called around Thanksgiving to tell me of their plans, I went into major cleaning mode and managed to get the living room and hallway painted, too – a job I’d been putting off for quite some time. All that remains needing new paint is my bedroom and bath – I think I’ll save them for another winter in Tucson.

I’ve made myself a “proper” studio, putting together a couple of cabinets from Home Depot and installing some display shelves on the walls.  It’s right smack in the middle of the house, so all the chaos is in full view, but Bijou and I don’t mind at all.

The Studio

February 17 thru’ 21, I was commuting to Tubac (just a one-hour road trip) every day for a plein air impressionist painting workshop with Lois Griffel. I had taken two previous workshops in western NC with her 10 and 12 years ago – this time I felt more like I knew what I was doing. Then, the morning of 2/22, I drove to the Triangle T Ranch in Dragoon to spend the weekend with eight other Pastel Society members. This is a beautiful spot on the northern edge of the Dragoon Mountains, with lots of fascinating history: movies filmed here; Japanese interned during WW II; famous visitors; winter camp for Cochise & his band.

As a result of seven days of painting expeditions, I have six oils, two pastels and one watercolor all started on location and in need of finishing – to say nothing of dozens of wonderful photos I might paint! I've also discovered about four "starts" from my previous workshops with Lois - maybe I can finally finish them.

The other day I got to have a visit with one of my RV friends, Max. He was on his way back to Deming, NM, from Quartzsite, and stopped for a night at one of the nearby casinos. It was fun to see an old friend and made me nostalgic for my RVing days.

March came in like a lion and we finally got some much-needed rain, along with thunder and wind. As the storm ended, sun hit the Catalinas and a rainbow formed.

Santa Catalina Mountains After the StormRainbow Over the Catalinas

This winter in Tucson, I've gotten so far behind in keeping track of the books I’ve been reading (many of them books on painting) that I've forgotten many of them. The list is short for a five-month period.


Swallow the Ocean - Laura M. Flynn.  Memoir. A remarkable story of growing up with an unmedicated schizophrenic mother; all about resilience and enchantment.
The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman. A moving novel about isolation, courage, and how a choice can devastate many lives. Her first novel - I hope she keeps writing!

Subtle Bodies - Norman Rush. This novel is kind of strange and struck me as being self-consciously witty in many parts.  I finished this one, then tried an earlier novel by Rush - Mating - which gave me the same feeling, so I decided there were better things to read. 

SBI! CTPM Process

At Home in the World - Joyce Maynard. An unflinchingly honest memoir. Parts of this must have been very  difficult to write. The author had an affair with J.D. Salinger when she was 18 and he was 53 - a very different view of Salinger.

The Yellow Birds – Kevin Powers. The author is an Iraq veteran who sees the world around him and his experiences with the eye of an artist - great attention and focus on detail. A story of friendship and loss, this is one of the few books I’ve read that I wanted to immediately start reading again – the language is so beautiful though the events are sometimes horrifying and disturbing.

Then Again – Diane Keaton. Memoir. A wonderful story of two fascinating women – her mother and herself – it recounts her struggles with eating disorders and a lack of self confidence. This is a delightful read about a very American family with very American dreams

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) - Jenny Lawson. If even 50% of this is true, the author is a loose cannon and her medication doesn't work very well. Parts of it are funny, parts are like OMG!

Wait Till Next Year - Doris Kearns Goodwin. Memoir. I knew Doris from my two years at Colby - we were in some of the same classes. This little book covers her childhood and adolescence, growing up in a very close-knit neighborhood in Brooklyn NY, and being a fanatical Dodgers fan. Reading it brought back many memories from my own childhood growing up on the opposite side of the country. Oddly enough I, too, was a Dodgers fan - likely because Seattle didn't have a team of its own.  I wasn't into it as much as Doris, but I remember very well when they finally, at long last, won the World Series in 1955. A good read.

Stoking the Creative Fires - Phil Cousineau. A fascinating look at creativity, and the many great minds and great artists of all sorts throughout history. I especially liked the emphasis on the need to take time out for "reverie" - daydreaming - as "doing nothing" is something I find extremely difficult. So I'm going to start practicing... next week.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism – Doris Kearns Goodwin.  This was extremely interesting, especially as one of the journalists was an ancestor of mine, Ida Tarbell, and I had known nothing about her. I had to speed through the last 150 of 750 pages as the library had the book was on hold and they wouldn’t let me renew it.

Spring is a time for dreaming; my dreams lately are all about what road trips I'll take this coming summer.

View of Tucson from Tumamoc HillView of Tucson from Tumamoc Hill

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