The River Road, Part One

The Morant River in the vicinity of Serge Island, Jamaica. The Blue Mountains are in the background (credit: Claude Fletcher, amataiclaudius)

Morant River (maybe)

I’ve been around rivers all my life. In the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, a river ran behind our house and also across the street. It could have been two different rivers or maybe it was one river and the Jamaica Public Works Department interfered with it by running a road across it. I don’t know. Since we lived about twenty miles upriver in the same direction as Serge Island, I would guess that the river of my early memories is the Morant River. Later on, when we moved further down towards the sea, I again encountered rivers, including the one that emptied out into the Caribbean about a mile or two from my first school. That too, may have been the Morant River. I don’t know.

Constant Companions

1987 New Monklands, Jamaica photo NewMonklandsSept87.jpg
Windows from which I used to watch the river as a child. Decades later, my boy plays outside in the yard.

As a small child, I took all these rivers for granted. They were constant companions to play in, get stranded on boulders in, watch from the upstairs rooms of our house, and follow as we drove down the valley to places like Serge Island, Trinityville and Morant Bay. On longer drives, as we made our way down winding mountain roads to Kingston or towards Golden Grove in Portland, we drove past children splashing about as their mothers, aunts and grandmothers washed and dried clothes by the river banks. Always of interest, were the lambs, new arrivals to the kingdom of god, dressed in their flowing white robes and tightly wound turbans. Dipped into the river, they were born anew and welcomed into the fold of believers. There was the occasional Rastaman, bathing and shaking his locks dry, and there was also me, a small girl, skipping over rocks, collecting “beads” from river grasses, following the river to its end by Lyssons Beach. I didn’t realize it then but these things were all my special friends.

Plantain Garden River

My all time favorite river in our home parish was the Plantain Garden River. I loved its name and I reveled in the names of the communities through which it ran. Most of all, I loved that it “walked its own walk,” refusing to run in the same direction that the other rivers on the island did. This river, the Plantain Garden, runs through communities with names like Ginger Hall, Airy Castle and Sunny Hill. Whereas all the other rivers in Jamaica (nearly one hundred of them) flow north or south, my idol flows eastwards. I am sure there is some geographical reason for this but for me, it is its difference that makes it memorable.

1987 Knutts River, Jamaica photo KingoftheWorldSep87.jpg
Standing atop steps that are needed to cross Knutts River during the rainy season

The parish of St.Thomas is filled with rivers. These include the Clock and Roaring rivers, both of which meet the Plantain Garden River in the district of Ginger Hall. As memorable as the Plantain Garden may be, it is the Yallahs River that is most striking. Just about every year this river floods its banks, rages across the land making roads impassable and in some cases, makes lives unbearable and unlivable. During floods and hurricane season, it cuts country off from town and vice versa. It surges in a mad rush, taking crops, livestock, homes and humans with it.

Yallahs River

Yallahs is a heavily mined river. It is valued by the construction industry for its sand and river rocks. It is also valuable to the National Water Commission (NWC). The primary provider of potable water in Jamaica, the NWC designed the Yallahs Pipeline Scheme to divert an estimated average annual yield of 16.4 million imperial gallons of water per day from the Yallahs River. This water is channeled into the Mona Reservoir, a large concrete dam that serves the semi-metropolitan area of St. Andrew. In some ways this undertaking is similar to the construction of California’s Hetch Hetchy Dam and the diversion of water from the Sierras to the San Francisco Bay area. In both cases, the corporate area gathers water at the expense of the countryside. To learn more about the Blue Mountain Multi-Purpose Project of 1980 and its possible ecological impacts, access the Ministry of Mining and Natural Resources of the Government of Jamaica’s special report here: <http://www.pcj.com/dnn/Portals/0/Documents/SWECO%20PREINVESTMENT%20B3.PDF>

~Please stay tuned for next week’s, “The RiverRoad” part two.~

Stupid NASA, Earth and Nature

Capture
credit: NASA

A friend sent me NASA’s earth art book and immediately, I started scribbling down place names for no other reasons than these: They are arresting names; and I wonder what goes on there. What do these places look like up close? Who lives there and how do they live in and treat these places and spaces? Are there open spaces for me to go wandering about in and exploring?

Ever since I arrived in the Bay Area, I have a renewed appreciation for open spaces that I have not felt since my childhood and my later adult sojurn in Jamaica. Just as importantly, this appreciation informs and colors my art. When I looked at the NASA pictures I thought once again, how cheeky, trying to create something, anything, when nature has already done it and done it so well. Here I am, getting ready to re-work my “the vees in picasso” sketches that I did last spring. I know not where the inspiration came from nor why it came from those particular sketches. All I know is I have a clear vision and I am going to move it from inside my head and out onto my canvas. But damned if one of the NASA shots isn’t an almost exact replica of what is in my mind’s eye!  Even the coloration and texture (hence the use of modeling clay on the canvas) are the same as what I envisioned.

I just got through experimenting with a light modeling clay and a golden bronze acrylic paint that I have been reluctant to use. The experiment was tedious and it took me a long time to master that paint. I tried working with this bronze before and it hadn’t been tactile. In fact, the wretched thing was and still is, a very heavy paint. It does not rest easily on the canvas. This is the same paint that I worked with in the “David at Yosemite” painting. Turns out this paint is truly a bitch to work with and not simply because the David painting was a difficult subject.

I finally finished this new experiment in bronze painting. It has turned into a painting called, Little Fairy Castles in the Cow Pasture (or Childhood at Belvedere Estate). When I finished it I thought, “That was really difficult but I’m ready to work on my “vee” painting. Now along comes NASA with its “Earth-observing environmental satellites in orbit around the planet”, to show me that it has already been done! They have all conspired to outdo me, NASA, Earth, Nature and those dim-witted satellites that never did anything except spin about in the skies. They never lifted paintbrushes nor tried to coax heavy bronze paint onto canvas! Adding to my chagrin, the NASA picture, shown at the top of this post, is of the desert outside of the United States that I have my eyes on. Yes, it is of the Namib area that I wrote about in an earlier article, the same Namib desert that I invited my Yosemite painting man to visit with me so we could photograph, paint and sand-board there. Sand-boarding and sand-sledding in Swakopmund, Namibia, was another of our Urban Daddy Magazine discoveries. But that is another story.

Here now are some of the place names from NASA’s earth as art book that stirred my imagination:

  • Painted Desert, USA
  • Desolation Canyon, USA
  • Lake Disappointment, Australia (childhood fairy tales and river myths come to mind)
  • Parana River Delta, Argentina (this conjures up images of piranha fish)
  • Anti-Atlas Mountains, Morocco (what does it even mean to be “anti” in a place name?)
  • Carbonate Sand Dunes, Atlantic Ocean (how do you even have dunes in the ocean??)
  • Ribbon Lakes, Russia

The following are not place names but oh, the conjuring up my mind does just thinking of these titles: gravity waves, ice waves, phytoplankton bloom, and Wadi Branches, Jordan (is this a geographical feature or a place-name?).

Oh, stupid NASA Earth as Art book can be accessed here: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/703154main_earth_art-ebook.pdf and the artworks mentioned in this article are shown below.

Happy New Year and see you in 2013!

At Yosemite (mixed media, 2011)
At Yosemite (mixed media, 2011)
2012-12-29 12.44.20
early version of Belvedere painting
2012-12-30 10.05.33
final Belvedere painting
Remembering the "Vs" i (at the de Young)
Remembering the “Vs”, i (at the de Young)

My Very Trippy List

photo 1 (2)
Young elephant seal, photo by Coastside State Parks Assn., 2012

I will be out working with the seals all this weekend so I’m getting this week’s post in early. Sorry to throw you off with my early schedule.

So, back in May I stumbled across those crazy lost and found emails, remember? Thanks to them, I started thinking about my creative side and how that part of my life was being lost or shelved. In those emails I found I had done all this writing and photography and paintings – I created much more than I realized! What’s more, if I could do all that while having fun, how much more could I do if I set goals and got serious about my writing and my art?

So, here then, is the list of goals I set to help me focus on my creative side/work. If you are wondering about the inclusion of trips to national and state parks, don’t! Some (okay, maybe all) of my earlier posts relate in one way or another to nature and the outdoors. They feed my creative side and make me happy too. No wonder I’m so creative here in the Bay Area. It turns out that I have a new old muse. Hello Nature girl.

Creative writing

*Write a short play (done)

Submit said play to x competition (done and done)

*Work on poetry (done)

Submit poems to program xx (done)

Submit poems to program y (still working on it!)

Await outcome (I won’t have the results until April; am crossing my fingers and my toes!)

*Start a blog (done)

Maintain said blog and complete one post each week (done and done!)

Visual Arts: paint, paint paint!

*Painting/drawing/collages

Take a painting class or workshop (done!)

Create at least three pieces I am totally happy with (done!)

spectre
my best and favorite painting for the year

*Photography

Buy a good digital camera (done)

Learn to use and master said camera (still working on it!)

Blend writing and visual arts into creative pieces (done and done!)

Visit and overnight at one state or national park (done and done)

*Yosemite (done)

*Sequoia (done and done)

AND in 2013:

*Enter at least one art piece (a painting) into a local and a national competition

*Try to stop destroying writing and artwork that I’m not totally satisfied with (this is a work in progress)

*Enroll in a workshop at the Crucible or take a drawing class (hope I have enough money for this!)

*Visit and overnight at a state or national park outside of California (Yellowstone or Grand Canyon) and/or visit Picasso’s, Guernica, in Madrid museum (hope I have enough money for this too!)

Thank you for hanging with me. Next week I’ll give you my Jamaican Christmas cake recipe. I’ve been busy these past few nights making cakes for family, friends and co-workers. Let the festivities begin!

Thanksgiving Day

The hibiscus, patterns in the tablecloth, remind me of home. Home. This is home now. But I wonder, do they think of us as they prepare to eat their Thanksgiving meal? Then again, maybe they wonder the same thing about us.

Yosemite

At Yosemite (mixed media on canvas, 2011)

We went to Yosemite and enjoyed the waterfalls, brilliantly powerful from last year’s rains and snowfall. The Merced was a rushing, roaring monster of a river. It was breathtaking. In a little grove inside the park I agonized over a plaque, a commemoration of the First Peoples. It told the story of the original inhabitants who were burned out of their home in the very spot where I stood. I took some photographs of the plaque so I could go home and do some research/further reading on the peoples and the subject. Ironically, they are part of the cache of deleted images that remains deleted from my computer files. Though in no way incriminating, these photographs stayed where I sent them, first in and then out of the Trash Can. Not so the other photographs that you find interspersed in my “Red Book Stories” posts.

I created an oil and acrylic painting of the very first stop that DSan and I made in Yosemite. It is our first view of the river [the Merced?] from a very high perch atop granite rocks. If you look carefully, you will see his profile along with a head in the clouds and also an emerging (or disappearing) face in the water below. Both head and face are substitutes for two women, his Europe woman and his California woman.

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