Sunday, November 30, 2008

Boyce Thompson Arboretum - Day Trip with Dad

Yesterday, My Daddy-O, his wife and my darling other mother, Judy, and I gathered ourselves for a day trip to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, Arizona, about a 90 minute drive from Phoenix. I have never visited a botanical garden; I had no notion what to expect except Dad promised TREES, which word would probably lure me out of a coma. My MuthaCam died on Thanksgiving Day, a death from which (ACK!!!!!!!) it can't be revived, so instead I challenged myself to tote a sketchbook and a few drawing supplies. I decided to share with you the two journal pages I actually finished in my written journal, so you could see what becomes of the ephemera I collect, what kinds of small notes I make to capture memories ... and for FUN! I've had fantasies since my arrival in Phoenix, my exposure to the Hispanic culture via friendships, acquaintances, and literature, of being a Curandera, a healer who uses botany as my medicinal cabinet. To arrive at this Arboretum and see that the first trail, closest to the check-in building, was named Curandero Trail? No words for the anticipation I felt. Succulents and shrubs galore, beautiful names I wrote down, plaques in English and Spanish articulating the many uses of each plant. Enthralled, I was. This is where I overcame my extreme self-consciousness and first brought out my sketch book, my pencil and watercolor crayons. Tiny capturing of a blade, a bud, a color. Serenely quiet except for insect noise and the occasional footsteps-on-gravel of other arboretum visitors, or the clicks of cameras. When we first arrived, my Daddy-O turned a corner and saw a view of Picket Post Peak that took his breath away. He stopped cold and got out his camera; I stood behind him and made the quick, small sketch of him shooting the peak. I ripped out the portion on the map that I actually walked. I could spend a week there, take a cot, a warm blanket, 2 or 3 candles. Each 'area' is a completely new atmospheric experience. The eucalyptus forest, for example, is a lawn of tall tall tall white-peeling trunked gum trees, so tall you have to lean almost in a back bend to see the tops, but the trunks are so smooth to the palm, despite the tears where the bark splits and begins to peel. A forest floor littered with peeled bark of every imaginable sand, tan and brown color. And the smell -- eucalyptus, certainly, but laced with the air blowing through, carrying the rose garden, some of the jasmine vines. And across the air, through the branches, the sound of the Native American flute music. It felt like a transportation. My sole page of sketches. In the book I previously posted about, The Art of Travel with a Sketchbook, one of the most encouraging and SMART pieces of advice I read was to create small frames on a page, then really hone in on one tiny thing, draw your focus IN, to reduce the intimidation an entire blank page can induce in a novice sketcher. FABULOUS IDEA!!!! FABULOUS!!!! In the corner, the woman? Was actually my VERY fast take on a statue which stood in a private grove, a narrow tall female holding an infant. The grove offered a bench sheltered under the branches of a gorgeous aged tree which was also shedding its bark. At the base of the tree was a plaque stating the grove had been created in memory of Norma Guzman Celis, 'who had made the lives of us all a joy, and who is painfully missed', along with the names of her 4 children. She died at age 41, in 1996. I had a quiet crying few moments upon reading that, sat on the bench and let myself conjure Norma, her children, their love, tried very hard to use the grove as a place to visualize the emotion that is still alive, and then I drew the face of the statue and wrote their names. As Mari le Glatin Keis, author of the Art of Travel with a Sketchbook, said, along with many of her workshop participants: the simple wash of a color on a journal page has proven time and again to be enough to summon the memory of an entire moment, or dialogue, or event. Now I can say that I understand that absolutely. The upper right sketch, of a peely spiky tree branch extending off the equally shedding trunk of a pathfinder juniper? Reminds me of how the spikes caught my palm if I ran my palm upward on the bark, but not downward, and of a young couple whose two small daughters they pulled in a stunning pink wagon clamored to get out just there, and touch the tree too, and how the littlest girl, maybe 4 at the most, yanked my sleeve and commanded me to 'let me see'. And she was delighted with how tiny the little sketch was! And just behind this family collected a group of shutterbugs with tripods sticking out from backpacks at every possible angle, all in a half circle comparing cameras and lenses and talking 'camera shop' and I was looking around for my Daddy-O, who would LOVE to stand in and join the conversation. So, it looks like a rough sketch of a tree at a weird angle, but it's multi-dimensional for me. And notice how much longer it took for me to write all it signifies to me than to just look at the sketch, now that you know what's behind it? Brilliant, man! True story. Between this page of sketches and the things I put in my written journal, the entire day unfolds before my memory vividly!


Veronica said...

I love your drawings. Fantastic