I spent my childhood living on the slope of a valley overlooking the Columbia River. We could see the river from our house… every sunset reflected in its expanse.
My favorite playground was a dry, steep, sage covered slope punctuated with an outcropping of lava rock. It was a perfect viewpoint for the valley, the river and the mountains beyond.
Autumns from that vantage were abuzz with the sound of chainsaws: smelling of leaf smoke and burning apple wood, and stirring with the activity of the harvest. The river wound bright blue through the golden leaves of fruit trees.
Winters were shadowy ultramarine and crisp white drapery over the rolling hillsides. Shivering cold, the river was a steel band that seemed to hold the world in place.
Spring blazed with wildflowers that raced up the sides of slopes, blue, white and yarrow yellow... the air perfumed with apple blossoms. As the soft green grasses ripened into gold of early summer, I would imagine the slopes were the tawny sides of a giant sleeping lion, with the river its bright string toy.
But summer was a wonder! My father was an avid water skier and summer meant every spare minute was spent on the Columbia….our speeding boat slicing through the blue. My father, graceful and athletic as a dancer, balanced on one ski, leaning back, holding the line with one hand…waving and smiling….sliced through the wake with a little jump….my mother, sister and I getting soaked with spray. The smell was rich, like frogs and fish and mud and boats and power.
One summer when I was still in grade school, my mother’s friend took me on a road trip to see the dams of the Columbia. We wound through desert plateau and sparse forest, following the river. I loved the deep powerful thrum of the giant turbines, the mysterious view of salmon as they made their way up through the murky water of the glass sided fish ladders, and the multicolored lights on the spillway of the Grand Coulee Dam. To my mind then the most wondrous thing I’d seen.
In those years, the Columbia was ever present …
a silver thread that stitched its way through the center of my young life.
In Many ways, these early memories are imbedded in my love of painting in the open air. Spending time in nature, observant and very still was a way of life for me as a young child, and continues to be so as a painter. Although I do much studio painting, I rediscover my self when I am painting outdoors surrounded by and breathing in the landscapes of my life.