And then there was this. I’d looked all my life for a wave like this peeling across an empty sandbar on a lonely coast in California. I could hardly believe my eyes. But even if they had betrayed me, there was also that feeling in the gut, the butterfly that gnaws and never lies about the presence of greatness, holy ground, and all that. Today was not the day to venture any further, but I’ll be back.
It had been awhile. We needed to getaway and we found what we were looking for on the Mendocino coast. A small house. Just our family and the wind and more beauty than one should rightfully be entitled to, unless it were by grace. Speaking of a different form of grace, pelicans are the masters, and it was a joy to paint this stretch of coast in their presence. What is going on with earth here though? Dizzying displays of plate tectonics. I set up a few feet from the edge, tying my easel to a small fence, partly to keep it from blowing away in the howling wind, and partly so I’d have something secure to grab on to should the heights send me spinning asunder.
After finishing the previous painting, I ventured further on to explore this coast trail to its logical end. I found it here. The sign told me so. The ribbons and trinkets tied to the barbed wire fence spoke of the prayers of others who’ve walked this lonely path. And I thought to myself, “that makes sense… that’s what people do at The End.” The next day I returned with my family to share this beauty with them. It wasn’t so lonely when they were there with me. I didn’t think so much about Prayers or The End, instead we just sat and watched the whale spouts dancing like ghosts on the horizon.
I’ve painted the border fence at the Mexico border before, but this is the first painting I’ve done of California’s northern border. There’s really not much of a border there. Just a beach stretching into the distance. Oregon hasn’t yet built their wall to keep us out, but I won’t be surprised if they have plans in the works. On this day though, there was no need for a dramatic fence or wall, the weather provided the perfect border drama illuminating Oregon while leaving California in the dark.
Painted on location, well at first anyway, back in 2017. Then I never went back to finish it properly so about a year or two later I took it to a silent disco on the beach below and tried to finish it there, but got so distracted with silent disco-ing that I couldn’t think straight about the painting and only painted in circles instead of arriving at any sort of destination other than right back in storage where it was before and finally when I was asked to paint another painting from a similar vantage point (my last post) I figured I should pull this one from the dustpile and brush it off and have another go, and so it went.
Lots of memories here. Some would call it one of our Better Places. Others might say too many of us call it that, which is usually what I say when I’m trying to park my van in that warzone on a Saturday afternoon.
Just kidding. I don’t even try to go here on a Saturday afternoon anymore.
I’m not a “morning” person, I am however a “whatever-magic-is-in-the-light-in-this-particular-place-right-now” person so it worked itself out. Just the sight of these deer grazing along a beachside meadow beneath a rising sun aroused these dry bones from the body bag and back to life. It was such a moving scene, I was surprised whole whales weren’t emerging from the scattered bones buried in the sand as well. They didn’t though. Whales are heavy sleepers.
I don’t know if anyone has ever painted from this vantage point, or ever will again. It’s over 10 miles from the nearest road. The logistics of getting here, along with all of one’s painting gear, are not easily solved. And once here, I imagine most would shy away from painting a barren rockslide, but to me that was the magic of this painting. This fire-swept wilderness is one of the most geologically unstable stretches of coastline in California (hence, no roads). It’s a harsh environment, but therein lies its charm and beauty.
There’s a tower that watches over the city here and has been tolling its chimes on the quarter of the hour between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm since 1925. Unless Jani Eisenhut is feeling musical. I’ve heard that this lifetime local hops in and and plays whatever she wants on the organ’s chimes, whenever she wants. What a beautiful freedom. Two things. One, she is my hero. And two, we should all have our own tower of song in which to play for the town whenever we please. These paintings are mine. I hope they’re ringing clear to wherever you are right now.
They call it a casino, and yet aside from placing the riskiest bet known to man – betting on art and culture – no gambling has ever taken place in this building. When it was built, Vegas wasn’t much of a thing yet, and the word “casino” was still just an Italian word that means “gathering place”. And so it was the gathering place for art, music, performance, film, dancing and culture in general in this small island town.
Did you know that King Arthur’s famed sword, the Excalibur, was forged here, and that this is the island where King Arthur himself passed away? Ok, that’s not true, but the little town tucked behind this little cove on this desert island was named after the island in that very legend, as recorded in the English poet Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King in the late 1880’s. I’m no king but this was a rather idyllic setting to paint an afternoon away, that’s for sure.