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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Day 30: Old Faithful in Yellowstone (7/4/15)

I am sitting here writing this in front of a fire I built myself (using five fire starters...I could blame it all on the wet-ish wood but there was operator error too). After the fire dies (because I let it die - not because it decides to die) I'm going to sleep in my tent for the first time this summer. I made a s'more too and drank a huckleberry soda. All in one of our country's most magnificent national parks.

This morning I drove an hour and a half to Old Faithful. This is the only deadline I had for myself on this trip - be at Old Faithful on Fourth of July. Partly because two years ago on the TransAmerica ride I can't stop reminiscing about we ended up at Old Faithful on July 4th. It seemed like a pretty iconic, American place to be on our country's birthday. Even being in our nation's first national park was awesome. And today, it was again. Old Faithful itself is a pretty big tourist trap - hundreds of people sit on benches waiting for the geyser to erupt every 90ish minutes. I hiked up to Observation Point to paint away from the crowds. It is incredible how much of a melting pot this park is...people come to visit from all over our country, and all over the world. I met young people from Taiwan, Italy, Germany, and Romania, and all over the United States too.

I am trying to hold a mirror to myself about some of my habits on and before this trip. I am confronting my own dependence on technology (my attachment to my phone, how often I allow it to be a negative distraction from my artwork and "the now"). I started leaving my phone in the car when I'm out painting, and my eyes were really opened to what a insane distraction it can be. The sooner I evolve my artmaking process to limit technology - even perhaps not using a computer to reference photos - the sooner I will become a more productive, engaged art maker. What a twenty first century almost feels embarrassing to admit. But it's the truth, and the truth sets you free, right?

I've also been thinking about the environmental consciousness of my lifestyle. The other night I thought, wow! I can use a piece of foil when I'm cooking, then I don't have to clean my dishes. Score. So I finished cooking and bundled up the foil and thought, I just created a piece of trash because I'm too lazy to wash a dish. That really weighed heavily on me. I also have old t-shirts cut up to use when I'm painting to wipe my brushes...but sometimes I use paper towels. No real reason. That's dumb, that's creating more trash. Suddenly I see my dad's use of hankies in a whole new light. There's a girl in New York who keeps all the trash she's produced in two years in a mason jar. A MASON JAR! So I've been thinking about what I can do to live a more sustainable life, now and in the future. I think my fellow Brueggeman Fellows are finding people in other countries consume and waste much less than we do in America.

Today, beyond being thankful for our freedoms and those past and present who fight to preserve them, I am most thankful for our national parks. What an incredible demonstration of our democracy - setting aside the most beautiful, stunning, magnificent landscapes in our country for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. I may have a romanticized view beyond the politics that went into these decisions, but I honestly think they are the coolest thing about our great nation. There is a oneness in these parks. I have met such nice people, and conversation flows easily in part because we all have something in common: a desire to experience a beautiful landscape. People come to these parks to spend time outdoors, to learn, to create lasting memories with family and friends. It is heart warming the number of extended families and junior ranger hopefuls I've seen in the parks. The future of these parks and the sacred wilderness spaces in our country are in their hands. How are we raising kids to love the earth? What are we doing to get them outside? We protect what we love...I hope enough kids love these landscapes to continue protecting them. And that we all somehow learn to live more sustainably so we don't end up like Wall-E.

A final note...before I left on this trip I knew how important it was for me to go on it alone. Regardless of this being a point of the Brueggeman Fellowship, I knew in my gut I would grow in ways only being out by myself in the world could make me. I have, and I am. I am becoming a better artist, daughter, sister, almost-wife, lifelong learner, friend, person for the world, out here on my own. And I'm learning I enjoy the independence and autonomy. Today is all about celebrating freedom...and I am so blessed to be living my freedoms across our great country.

There she blows!
My studio on Observation Point.
An American girl takes a selfie on Fourth of July!
The finished (and sold!) painting of Old Faithful.
Thomas Moran's watercolor rendering of Old Faithful.
William Henry Jackson photograph of Old Faithful (he was on the same expedition to Yellowstone as Moran).
Another William Henry Jackson photo - I believe this one is the first ever taken of the geyser.
Reentering GTNP - got the official park sign selfie.



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