Monday, March 24, 2008

Driving Back to Coolidge

On the dry and dusty Saturday between Good Friday and Easter I head back to Coolidge to finish painting the baby’s mural. I know the next few weeks will be busy and the baby could come at any time. Since Gus has to work, I am suddenly struck with a painting mood. I pack my bags and drive north. Traffic is thick enough heading north but the south- east bound lanes of I-10 are virtually stopped as I drive by. Later I find out the hold-up was due to the police chasing a murder suspect from Phoenix to Tucson. Meanwhile, I concentrate on my side of the highway and watch for Picacho Peak to appear in the front windshield, which means I am getting close to getting off this gray ribbon of asphalt. At exit 111 I head north past fallow fields where cotton grew over the winter. In some fields green oceans of grass hay are blowing in the breeze today. Parallel to the road a wide irrigation ditch flows with muddy water. At various points smaller ditches break off to deliver this precious resource to farmland. In the distance I see a charcoal gray column of smoke rise at the edge of one of these smaller irrigation ditches. Along the bank I can see the tangerine colored flames licking the dirt and devouring weeds. In this way farmers control the spread of weeds into their fields of crops. In the dry dust of the flat and vacant farmland two dust devils swirl fifty feet into the air before dissipating in the empty blue sky.


As soon as I arrive at the house I unpack my paints, set up the boom box and get to work. I paint sand, birds, and grass to the songs of Norah Jones, John Denver and James Taylor. Then, to mix is up I listen to Trisha Yearwood and Colin Ray. It’s a funny thing about painting that often I think it’s all coming out wrong, then I walk away and come back to say, well, that’s not so bad after all! Every painting gets to a point where it’s just time to stop or you’ll make it worse. I stop and take a break. I thought I was done. I was going to head home but there is this one area I really don’t like, and…

Well, before I know it I am painting again. I fixed the area I wanted to, which was the grassy bank alongside the lighthouse, but then I messed with the sand a little too much for my liking. I may have to come back one more time to fix the sand and paint wildflowers on the grass, but for now the mural is done and the baby can come if it wants to! At least the parents can rearrange baby furniture now!

On Easter morning I take a short walk in the early morning sunlight. I discover wildflowers in the desert where the kids walk their dogs. Beyond the chain link fence around the schoolyard a lavender blanket of flowers covers the ground. From the rooftops the great-tailed grackles whistle sharply, piercing the calm Sunday morning with their shrill calls. Mourning doves coo from walkways and walls, or fly past my head at warp speed. Last time I was here I did a bird count. Great-tailed crackles and mourning doves rule this old cowboy town. However, I did find a nesting Anna’s hummingbird in an aspen tree near a playground, as well as an orange –crowned warbler and a red-shafted flicker in a newly landscaped water retention basin. The flicker looked so lost as it searched for food and refuge in its greatly diminished habitat.

Off Northern Ave an old farm still stands with livestock and barnyard birds still in residence. The crowing roosters awakened me the first night I slept here, but the use of a fan soon drown out their morning calls. Beyond the farm a brand new neighborhood has sprouted like wheat from the fields. It is lined up on the eastern edge of what's left of the farmland and on the western side the older section of town stares back. I've no doubt the new homes will creep across the remaining grass until the two sides of town are nose to nose. I stand at the corner and look at fallow fields and dilapidated barns but as I turn to head back perfect landscaping greets me at the corner of the neighborhood. This agave plant is spouting an asparagus shaped bud that will soon tower over my head in bloom.


Today I point my vehicle southward and home. Once more the gray asphalt ribbon spreads before me. As I drive past the Arizona Children’s home on Rt. 87 I see large black birds in old dead trees near the road. As I pass by I suddenly realize they are vultures and I am tempted to go back and take pictures, for I do have the camera with me, but I was up until 2:30 this morning and I am anxious to beat the traffic and get home to Gus. Farther down the road I notice perfectly square bales of hay strewn across one of those green fields I saw yesterday on my drive up. With the sun slanting softly across the flat land illuminating the mountains beyond I actually did start to pull the car over, it was almost too much to resist, but at the last moment I speed up again and continue home. This photo of a green Easter sunrise lives only in my mind.

9 comments:

The Texican said...

Nice Mural. I'm sure the little fella will enjoy it. You were smart to finish it before the arrival. With our first, I had to come home from the hospital after the delivery to finish painting the nursery. Our daughter was greeted with paint fumes on her first night. Enjoyed your travelog also.

Larry said...

It's really interesting reading your posts and seeing how descriptive you can be. You painted a picture before you even lifted the brush.

Texas Travelers said...

Nice post. That says it all. Well, maybe a comment on the wonderful mural and good photos and excellent writing and......

Sandpiper said...

I love your painting! Wonderful writing, too. Your detailed descriptions lifted me up and took me along with you!

PA-Birder said...

Nice mural, I saved as wallpaper on my computer. I'm guessing Common Tern ove Artic on the mural as the birds have a dark tip on their bills.
Vern

Mary said...

Kathie,

Baby will coo at the mural. Artists are their own worst critics sometimes. It's lovely.

Through your writing, I was there during your travels. You write so well...

Mary

Kathryn and Ari said...

You are such a renaissance person: I'm envious of all your talents!

Island Rambles Blog said...

Beautiful mural...so bright..my favorite subject....... lighthouses....lovely post too. Cheers.

Kathiesbirds said...

Texican, thank you for your encouragement! I hope your daughter survived the fumes!

Larry, that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever told me. Thank you! You're not so bad with words yourself!

Texas Travelers, glad to see you once again. I don't know what to say..., I'm blushing with delight!

Sandpiper, glad to take you along. Do you like the sanderlings? I tried to capture their essense! They are so cute.

Vern, I am truly honored! The tern on the shore is a common tern, but the one in the air is an artic. I loved both pictures and so included both. The artic one I had painted whiter below until I read in the description that it was mostly gray, so I added a gray wash to the body but tried to leave a white cheek patch. I saw that it's beak had less black on it but didn't want to mess with a good thing, if you know what I mean. One mistake and I'd be starting all over again!

Mary, you are so thoughtful and sweet and you well know about being your own worst critic as I have heard you berate yourself before. Thanks for the encouragement!

Ah, Kathryn and Ari, you are quite talented yourself and accomplishing so many good things for the birds and others. Thank you.

Ocean, glad to hear from you. When Ocean likes my ocean painting and lighthouse, well, that's something!