Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ten Sleep

Ten Sleep, Wyoming, population 260, is a dusty, tiny town that sits on a stretch of prairie surrounded by dry grass, livestock, and open air. Every 4th of July, Ten Sleep doubles its population for one night, hosting the best Independence Day celebration I have ever had the pleasure to attend. The main road, which takes less than five minutes to drive the length of, closes down to host a crowd of drunk cowboys and their dates, all whirling wildly to the country tunes of a six piece band playing on a semi-truck trailer in the middle of town. Throngs of men in cowboy hats and boots and women dressed in their country best pour forth from the Ten Sleep Saloon, drinking Budweiser cans adorned with American flags.

This seems like an unlikely place for climbers, yet each year you can find a gaggle of semi-awkward out-of-towners hanging round the edges of the dance floor (i.e. the dirt road), perhaps adding to their strangeness by miming beta or indulging in other odd climber behavior. While they come for the beautiful swathe of limestone cliffs in the nearby canyon, anyone with any sense will head down to town for the cultural experience of the Ten Sleep Hoedown. This year was particularly memorable for me, as I had the golden opportunity of riding a mechanical bull for the first time- it was extraordinarily hard, by the way.

Red, white, blue and Budweiser. 
Mechanical bulls and Budweiser aside, I had an incredible time in Ten Sleep. The crew of climbers there included many of my favorites, and I somehow succeeded in sending a few great routes, including Esplanada, 12d, and Dances with Cows, 13a.  

Esplanada, 12d. Dan Brayack image.

And... more Esplanada... Eric Horst image.
Jenn Flemming on Dances with Cows, 13a
Ten Sleep Limestone.
On a rest day, we visited the Wyoming Whiskey distillery, the first of its kind in Wyoming. It was in an absolutely miniscule town of 96 people. The arid, hot plains and rocky plateaus of the high desert stretched out in all directions around the small smattering of houses and the few dirt roads that joined them together into some semblance of a town. It was sweltering, dry, and dusty, the distillery being the only commercial building in town, besides a run down bar which was closed on account of it being Monday. I wondered at what it must be like to live somewhere like this, or even more, to grow up there. How intensely we are shaped by the place we spend our childhood- or at least I was by the forests and beauty of Boulder and the Front Range. 

On another day, while climbing, a giant tree spontaneously emitted a thunderous cracking sound, like an avalanche of rocks, and snapped at its base. As it feel, it smashed into the trees surrounding it, erupting with a cloud of splinters of various sizes, some small enough to rise in the breeze and billow in the air. The sound and sight were frightening and beautiful, as so many things in this world simultaneously are. 

Trying in vain to capture the beauty of the full moon reflecting on an alpine lake.
Another Wyoming memory: Early one morning we awoke in the back of the truck to the sound of hundreds of bellowing cows, moo-ing intently as they ran up the dirt road we were parked just a few feet off of. Baby cows trotted quickly and bawled loudly, trying to keep pace with the parade of mahogany colored bovines moving up the mountain on their own accord. The sound went on for so long that somehow it became like white noise, lulling me back into a sleep that consisted of dreams of cows.

mornings by the river

 And another day- As we drove back to our campsite one evening, the sand-colored limestone canyons  were washed red by the simmering light of the prairie sunset, the colors intensified and saturated by the smoke of the wildfires burning down the plains. The land seemed to be saying something over and over, repeating a message like a mantra, and I strained my ears to hear it, leaning into the wind and listening with my whole body. The canyons and cliffs and plateaus and trees and sagebrush and rocks and hardy wildflowers were all saying it together, this repetitive sentence or word, speaking of existence and living and being on this planet, under this sun, beneath this sky, within this pocket of space and stars, enfolded like a letter in an envelope, safe but blazingly bright and utterly intense. I kept trying to listen, to understand, because I know that my life is no different than that of the rocks and shrubs and prairie birds, and whatever truth they're proclaiming with every moment of their being must also be my truth, and I have only to hear it and recover it in order to live in such genuine harmony and honesty as they do. 

I left Wyoming feeling full of experience, washed clean by the dust and wind, purified by the rock, cleansed by the plains. Until next year, and the next Independence Day.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012


Modern Eden gallery in San Francisco is currently showing "Myth," a group show in conjunction with a solo show of artist Chelsea Brown's work. I made a piece for the show entitled "Moonrise and Swallow Song," based on a myth I conglomerated from various Native American traditions. 

In the first days, the nights were as dark as the days were bright. Coyote had created the sun, Otter the clouds, and Raven the stars, but no one had yet thought to create the moon. 
In this time, there was a great hunter who loved nothing more than to stalk the animals of the forest. He would spend all day tracking deer or elk, carrying his bow and arrow, moving silently through the woods. He learned the ways of all the animals that moved in the daylight, and soon hunting them was no longer challenge enough. He began to dream of hunting the animals that roamed in the night, but lamented that it was too dark to hunt by starlight alone.
In this time there was also a Chief’s Daughter who was as beautiful as the rivers and sky. Her limbs were long and svelte, her hair was dark as Raven’s wing, and her skin glowed like twilight. She had fallen in love with the hunter, often trying to gain his affection, helping skin his kills or to tan the hides he brought back- but his mind was full of hunting, and he never noticed her kind and helpful ways or her luminous beauty.
Over time, the Chief’s Daughter began to despair. Nothing she did could get the hunter to notice her. She carried the question in her heart all through the day and all through the night- how could she get him to notice her great love? 
One day, she overheard him say how more than any other thing he wished that there was a way to make a light that would shine in the night sky so that he could hunt the animals of the dark. The chief’s daughter knew that this was her chance to get his attention at last.
The next day, she made the long journey to the land of the Sky People, seeking their chief. She begged him to make a second sun for the night, but this was too great of a thing for her to ask. The Sky Chief refused, and she begged again, bargaining with everything she had, and in her desperation, she offered even her life. Finally, the Sky Chief agreed to create a light akin to the sun, though it would be less bright and only shine part of the time so that the land would remain dark as it had been for a portion of the nights. The price that they agreed upon was the Chief’s Daughter’s life.
The Sky Chief, impressed by the girl’s sacrifice, took pity on her and placed her in the sky as the moon so that she could watch the hunter that she loved. Her beauty and sadness became the cold light of the moon. 
When the hunter learned of what happened, and when he beheld the beauty of the Chief’s Daughter shining down as moonlight, he finally realized what he had been blind to. Now he was the one to despair. He climbed the highest cliff he could find to try and get high enough to reach her, but in his haste he was clumsy, and slipped off the edge. As he fell, he passed through a ray of moonlight and was transformed into the Cliff Sparrow, who to this day dives recklessly from the cliff faces into the great expanse of sky. 

in progress...

"Moonrise and Swallow Song" © 2012 Marisa Ware 

Here it is in the custom built frame I made- glass, wood, and leather. 

...and for your viewing pleasure, here are a few of my favorite pieces from other artists that were also a part of the show.
"Yuki-Onna" © 2012 Melissa Morgan 
"The Language of the Birds" © 2012 Cory Benhatzel 
"Pine Leaf / Woman Chief / Two Spirit" © 2012 Chelsea Brown
"Horned Creeper" © 2012 Chelsea Brown

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lake Tahoe

Continuing with the fast pace of my summer thus far, two days after returning from France I drove with my dear friend Kristan for a few days of ridiculous fun at Lake Tahoe. 

Lake Tahoe on a bluebird day

The weekend started off as a raucous party as we checked into our hotel, an establishment "exclusively for lovers," as the brochures on the bedside table proclaimed. With a Jacuzzi bath right next to the bed and a ten foot wall of glass looking from the bedroom into an enormous shower, we had plenty of fodder for jokes and there was no shortage of laughter. Instead of romance though, we opted for drinking tequila and dining on all you can eat sushi.
While on a drunken mid-evening hike we met this adorable puppy. Thrilling.
The next day, we toned things down a bit, heading into the mountains for a day of hiking. It proved to be an absolutely magical day, complete with numerous river crossings, rock scrambling, and an overflow of beautiful sights. 

Placid mountain stream
A huge bird's nest of some sort... maybe a hawk or an owl?
The highlight of the day was a very close encounter with a mamma bear and her two cubs. They were walking down a hill towards us and seemed completely unconcerned by our presence. We retreated a bit further into the woods before stopping to take a few photos to remember them by.

The trip was short and sweet, leaving us both feeling utterly refreshed and inspired. Nature is the only source for such guaranteed revival that I've found, and sharing it with a good friend only increased the effects. 

Kristan pausing for a moment of spontaneous creativity.

"When I am among the trees,
especially the willow and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
    but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled 
with light, and to shine."

-Mary Oliver, When I Am Among the Trees 

snake by the river