Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Washington State

In this unbelievably beautiful state, I combined pleasure with the business of making art.

When I left Idaho it was hot, hot, hot and my car rose through dusty construction into the hills of Southeast Washington. I have never seen anything exactly like them before: rich, green farmland in huge mounds with farmhouses, barns and trees nestled into the crevices.  I wound around this landscape for quite a while, passing through an occasional town too small to warrant a gas station.

After spending the night in a nondescript hotel in Ellensburg, Seattle was a mere 90 minutes away, so I stopped at a “picnic area” in Snoqualmie National Forest and watercolored an amazing view of Mt. Baker. Then, as I was a bit apprehensive about driving into the city with my trailer, and – especially – finding street parking, I left this idyllic spot in plenty of time to beat rush hour.

My cousin Jane is like a sister to me. Our parents were the closest of siblings and her dad is one of my personal heroes, in part because he was perpetually happy and also - insatiably curious. I had not seen her for many years and our reunion exploded with laughter and endless shared stories. She is one of the most enthusiastic and interesting people I know. Her adventures are a series of novels in themselves, only true! She and her husband, Sean, live in a modest home in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. The houses are built above single-door garages, with steps leading up to the front doors. Most people fill their elevated yards with flowers; there is little grass to be seen. Jane and Sean have surrounded their home with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, green beans, fig trees and much, much more.

We walked to a delicious dinner at a Thai restaurant with Jane’s daughter, my niece and her girlfriend. Upon returning, we hastily packed for an early morning trip to their island cottage. Hannah, my niece, handily fixed my easel, which had rattled apart in the highway’s huge hunger. The next day, we left on our weekend excursion at 6 a.m. in order to catch the 9 o’clock ferry out of Anacortes.

Orcas Island feels old. Its big, horseshoe shape is full of farms with faded barns. Two towns cling to the coast. They were both busy but not crowded. Their salt-water smell made me hungry for seafood. On one side of the island, Moran State Park encompasses the 2409 foot Mt. Constitution. We climbed a switchback dirt road towards the top and arrived at their cabin, one of the last three to back up against the park. Every window has a view of islands and water or the wooded incline behind.  The deck shares the sun with the tops of very tall, very straight pines. I set up my easel in their side yard, looking towards some Canadian islands that were framed by a pair of Douglas Firs. The day was sunny but cool and mountains sat quietly in the distance. What a stupendous site!

I have always felt lucky. For sure I am fortunate to have the time and funds to carry out a project of this magnitude. But I am especially lucky to have a big and boisterous family, with generous and loving members, ready to drop everything just because I have come to town! 

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