Brian and I spent two nights camping on the flats in Hope in our vintage camper. Hope is a Gold Rush town just across the Turnagain Arm from Anchorage. The cradling effect of the mountains, the dance of the tides, and the path of the summer sun are tranquilizing. Hope is able to absorb quite a number of people and their dogs of every description and perform its magic upon all.
I took the plunge of drawing multiple images in circles. Brian suggested different sizes. The first drawing I did was of Brian reading in the camper with the view across the arm in the background. The second drawing was my first plein air drawing (the fisherman standing in Resurrection Creek). The last drawing is of the Hope Social Hall. Inside was the beginning setup for a wedding reception– a four-tier wedding cake at the far end of the hall, decorated with live flowers. Unfortunately, we had to leave before the action picked up!
This house and yard have captured my imagination for years. There is no front walk; the grass goes right up to the porch stairs. The house (one of the oldest in Anchorage) and landscaping, kept up only to a point, hold sacred a past richly full of memories for a family in this town. It is a true gift, a jewel. My fears that I would be asked to move were unfounded. In five hours, the only person who approached me was Anda, on a run, who wanted a ride home.
As I positioned myself at the corner of 10th Avenue and and “I” Street, attracted by the wide open spaces of the Delaney Park Strip, and–more specifically– by the reflection of the island of flowers in a puddle, I didn’t realize that the final picture would contain personal memories. My dentist’s office, the home once lived in by a now-deceased friend, and a church where our storytellers’ guild has told stories are all in the picture. There are more memories packed into the Park Strip for me, and for many others.
The Park Strip used to be the only runway in Anchorage. It is now a long, grassy island that extends for many blocks east to west between 9th and 10th. It is a gathering place for community events. (On 9/11 hundreds of people gathered spontaneously on the portion just to the left of the flower island where there is a tall American flag.)
There was a lot of activity going on in the summer sun while I sat in the car and drew the picture. There were skateboarders, a mother changing a toddler’s diapers, tourists taking photos, cyclists, a lady carrying a little dog, people flying kites. Two motor cyclists drove up and parked right in the puddle to take pictures of each other. There was a steady flow of traffic going past me. That parcel of land, does indeed contain a lot! I admit to being more at home in the quiet neighborhood next to the vacant lot, but I am certain that this was the perfect spot for me to be drawing yesterday.
I learned that NOT doing a mock-up composition ahead of time caused headaches I could not rescind once the pen was put to paper. That’s okay, I’m learning, one step at a time!
There’s more to a vacant lot than meets the eye. A vacant lot holds mysteries, evokes questions, offers space to breathe– space that is tempered with the uneasy feeling that it might not be there much longer. This vacant lot is in South Addition, close to where we live, and “catty-corner” from the Fire Island Bakery (birthplace of chewy slow-rising breads and buttery croissants to rival European bakeries). The side view mirror of our vintage truck/camper is peeking in from the bottom; I haven’t to date been able to go “plein air.” How will I hold up to four or five hours perching outside on a small stool with the wind tugging at the paper? That’s the question gnawing at my mind.