We're just back from New Mexico, where we went to visit my sister on the spur of the moment. That is, we were debating whether or not to go up until about a day and a half before we actually left, which does not leave much time for packing or arranging for various animals to be cared for. This is not atypical for our approach to travel and many other things, alas. And I'm imagining that our children will be deeply embarrassed by our lack of organization as they get older (F already is, and reminds us over and over about school functions, since he is afraid we will forget to go to them. Which is pretty legitimate), and will turn out to be early for everything, and freakishly tidy, and will find professions in law or accounting or some other profession that requires organization and precision.
Anyway. We were concerned about finances, and really, it was not particularly responsible to head off on a trip right now. But as J pointed out, what will the kids remember? The time we responsibly stayed at home, or the epic trip to New Mexico, where the snow pack in the mountains is the best it has been for twenty years? So we went. And it is epic when we go there, because we drive all night, a 23 hour drive if you only stop once to eat. We leave in the late afternoon or evening and go all night and all through the next day. We hit the Mojave desert about dawn, and spend the next day traveling through the strange, magical landscape that is the Southwest, with its worn, eroded earth and ancient volcanoes and cacti and tumbleweeds and old lava fields with enormous tumbled boulders scattered across the terrain. My sister lives up in the Jemez mountains north of Santa Fe, at about 7500 feet. That whole area of New Mexico is high desert, but where my sister lives there is some available water and conifers and other plant and wildlife. Lots of wildlife, in fact-- on the mesa where they live Fish and Game trucks occasionally come around the neighborhood to warn people when bears or mountain lions have been sighted locally. My sister woke up in the morning once to find a huge black bear in the cherry tree outside the window. In the tree! Eating cherries! I didn't know they did that. It broke some branches on the way down.
We went skiing and sledding, ate too much, and came back a couple of days ago through Death Valley. It was still dark when we got there. The moon had gone down so it was pitch black, and we stopped the car to look at the night sky. I saw more stars than I ever have in my life, it was like I was falling up into them, a strange sensation. It's a sorry thing that I'm so unfamiliar with the night sky. We "slept" in the car for an hour or so, beside the road, until dawn, and then wandered around that barren landscape. Took a little hike through salt flats and one of the area's deep narrow canyons, with steeply canted, colorful layers of rock. The stone is pink and green and gold, deeply tinted until the sun rises over the mountains when the landscape washes out in the glare of the sun. And flowers! We lucked into the desert bloom, which comes only when there has been an unusual quantity of rain for the year, over an inch and a half or so. As we headed down to the Badwater area, where the elevation is 282 feet below sea level, I was struck by the remarkable resemblance between that landscape and the pictures that have been sent back from Mars where the bare earth is densely scattered with rocks, and there is not a trace of life anywhere.
Coming back took even longer because our little Death Valley diversion added another 300 miles to the trip. This is where insomnia is your friend. We all slept really well, though, when we finally got home.
And now I am back to painting. I'm trying to finish up the elaborately detailed painting I started so long ago so I can focus on the Great Room project. I finally completed the first panel of that room, and now I only have a million more to do. But it's wonderful to be able to focus my time and energy on these, after so many months of design work. I'm not official, though, according to C. Last night she asked me, "Mom, how do you make an artist hat?" Since this is what artists wear. A beret, and also a smock, and they have one of those little kidney shaped palettes. She told me, "You should get one of those hats, Mom, so you can really be an artist." I will post photos one of these days. Of the murals! Not me in an artist hat, though maybe I should get one and see if it improves the quality of my work. Maybe artist gear is what I have been missing all these years.