Saturday, August 31, 2013

Artist Residency Mesa Verde National Park: Personal Archaelogy

Although it goes against my natural inclination to procrastinate,  I am packed and ready for my trip to Mesa Verde National Park early tomorrow morning. I have actually spent months in preparation; researching the Ancient Puebloan people, purchasing and testing out needed gear, getting into condition and learning the basics of operating my new camera. I even drug my suitcase down from the closet and started packing a week ago. I thought I was done but I had to make a last minute trip to Cabela's due my brother's advice last week. As a seasoned outdoorsman and wilderness canoer, he advised me not to wear cotton jeans or underwear into the back country unless I wanted to "have yer crotch rubbed raw if it rains." I am now in possession of a $60.00 pair of lightweight, water wicking, sun shading hiking pants. Hey, I take my crotch seriously.

Bruce provided other sage advice on matters related to wilderness hiking. On the arid conditions found at the parks's high altitude: "Drink lots of water. If yer not peein', yer in trouble." On managing dangerous wildlife:  Rattlesnakes: "Just watch where yer walkin' for Pete's sake." On Bears : " Make yourself as big as possible, wave your arms and shout, and for Cripe's sake, don't run." On Mountain Lions: "It does't really matter what you do, by the time you hear one they are already on you and going for the juggler. Yer dead meat."

One of the most compelling reasons I applied to do a residency at Mesa Verde was to be able to study the ancient people who inhabited this amazing region a thousand or so years ago. They built their sandstone dwellings first on the mesa tops and later inside cliff overhangs perched high above the valley floor. In a way, I will be able to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming an archaeologist. Studying the artifacts of ancient peoples in an attempt to learn about their culture and drawing similarities between their human experiences and our own both fascinates me and resonates in my art work. As I was packing I got to thinking about my own personal archaeology. 

A few years ago, when my Dad was living in a nursing home, my brother and I spent over a month cleaning out his home and out buildings, in short, unearthing the artifacts of our father's life. We came across many items that made us put down our brooms and just reminisce about our childhoods. I will be taking two of these items along with me on my journey, my Mom's binoculars and my Dad's Audubon bird book. They remind me of all the times my family spent camping and hiking. Bird watching was just one of the things we did to pass the time in the many state and national parks we visited over the years.

In our family, the worst two words in the English language were; " I'm bored." The automatic response was, "find something to do or I'll find something for you." So while we camped my brother and I read (well, I did), collected leaves, shells, moss, etc., played cards, had contests to see who could roast the biggest marshmallow, hung around with other camp kids and whittled sticks and soap animals. My dad kept his pocket knife razor sharp due to his personal philosophy that you were less likely to get cut if it was sharp. Only one kid ever severed an artery. We all enjoyed the diversion of ride to the local emergency room immensely. So, as I head west tomorrow, even though they are no longer with us, I'll be thinking of my parents and how much they would have enjoyed this trip. I'll watch a bird or two for you guys. 

Stay tuned for more western adventures. Ahhhhhh.... The American Southwest, where everyday is a good hair day.

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