Saturday was a perfect day to head to Seattle for a Seattle UsK meet up! The Wallingford Center was the setting, a shopping mall housed in a historic school with the headline act of a colorful Trophy Cupcake and espresso cafe. When Jan and I arrived, the sketchers were lined up on the benches in front of the cupcake showplace, because after all, who could resist? so we joined them.
There was time for one more so I perched outside this very festive women’s clothing store to sketch and later paint in.
We were back to the Squaxin Island Museum for a holiday craft fair on Saturday. I wanted to sketch the front of the building for its unique architecture with exquisite landscaping around. But as rain threatened to resume, the warmth of the museum beckoned.
Inside the Museum the tribal artesans had spread out with their wares and in many cases were practicing their arts while the public shopped. I found a bench where I had a view of Eileen here, doing some pretty skillful turning of the heel of a patterned sock, using four needles, while she greeted friends and family and only occasionally looked down at the needles. Her legs were cozy in their bulky knit leg warmers and the museum’s leather sofa with the tribal symbols made a comfortable place to knit. Meanwhile her niece stood behind stacks of sweaters, hats, and gloves, selling to the customers. The sketch got quite cluttered as I put in the museum display cases. And the quote on the wall – A place to come together, to collect, gather, and share – seemed to so perfectly reflect the feeling of that day. The translation back to the indigenous language follows. I would love to know how to pronounce these or perhaps this word/concept which conjures such warmth. It reminds me of the Scandinavian word hyggelig.
I went home with the warmest, softest knit hat, which will come in handy this week as our temperatures in the northwest plunge to the 20’s!
To continue my education about the lives and history of the Squaxin Island people who have lived in Olympia and the surrounding areas since time immemorial I visited their museum and research center this week.
The colorful wall murals answered so many of my questions with pictures, texts, and stories. And the display cases were rich with artifacts. After perusing the displays, Jan and I sat in the well appointed library, feasting on the books and later went outside to enjoy the lovely gardens and stream for some sketching.
It was a smoky day in western Washington, but we didn’t notice it there in the secluded area by the Sound with its rich oxygenating greenery.
Autumn is upon us now quite suddenly, at least a month late, bringing the rain and cold temps. I’d like to go back to the museum on a rainy day with the friends who weren’t able to join us, for the kind of immersion that sketching always promises. Like leaving the tea bag in longer to get a richer brew!
Monday was Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly mis-named as Columbus Day) But when I arrived that morning at Squaxin Park (formerly Priest Point Park) in town, I was there to get to know more about these people whose home for thousands of years has been on this land we call Olympia. I brought my sketchbook, because that’s the way I learn things now. But after a few minutes I realized that I needed to be fully engaged with all my senses, and particularly my feelings to the unfolding of this event. My sketchbook became a jumble of notes as my iPhone occasionally took the pictures I would need to use later, and occasionally tears streamed down my face.
The tribal leaders opened the dedication ceremony and prayers while drummers and dancers filled the open meadow with chanting and waves of movement. We la ho yaa ye ye ye ye kaha ye or something like that. They were invoking the spirit of the land.
“The land is alive and it sings to us. The plants are alive. They are our teachers and medicine to the people.”
“We are the people of the water. “
“We are joyful all of you have arrived!” (This is written on the sign in the native language as you enter the park now)
“We as Squaxin wrap our arms around you.”
And then the mayor and council members each read a passage of the proclamation vowing to stand together with the Squaxin Island tribe for the mutual benefit of our shared home.
A minister of the Interfaith council asked everyone present to find ways to embrace the truth that indigenous wisdom holds the salvation our world needs for healing.
And then the tribal leader proclaimed “Thank you for welcoming us back to our home.” The flag of the Squaxin people was raised next to the American flag and the tribal members served a free feast to everyone.
What more can I say. I wish you’d been there. The Ancestors definitely were, in the magnificent towering trees around us.
My younger son Andrew turns 30 this month! Sunday I took the train to Seattle to spend the day with him and his girlfriend to celebrate. My home is about 7 minutes from the Amtrak train, which is good because I’m not much for dealing with the city traffic at this point.
The day was fun – trendy vegan restaurant for brunch, followed by art museum and beautiful parks. Seattle is definitely a more high-energy city than Olympia, which seems so laid back in comparison. We waited 45 minutes for a table at the restaurant. Apparently not unusual.
Then headed for the Seattle Asian Art Museum in lovely Volunteer Park.
My favorite was the contemporary Be/Longing exhibit. This spectacular garment? made of thousands of dog tags, yes, dog tags.
The interior was reflective. I couldn’t resist taking advantage of the fun house mirror effect. The sculpture definitely creates some kind of mental/emotional collision. Something about the power of individuals in the collective or maybe it’s a longing for . . .(sorry I didn’t record the artist’s name!)
Afterward our feet were weary so we found a perch in the shade next to some grass. Andrew stretched out for a rest while I sketched the water tower.
And later rode the train back home again. Gotta do this more often!
Sometimes I forget, when encountering a natural attraction here in my new Olympia home, that my reverence for such things has been long running. Like the salmon run. Just now I used the search window in my blog to see what I might have sketched, painted, written about the salmon run. And this post from July 2011 popped up. A mixed media Muse piece with a native woman kissing a fish and my words written in reverence:
The salmon always run, and we must welcome them as the sustenance for more than the body of woman. . .as the running fervor of a life worth living, even through and beyond the destruction of habitat, even through the unconscious living which lacks the vibrancy of a shimmery wet creature wriggling in your hands and burrowing into a space, not only in your stomach, but in the heart, where its beat and yours are joined in celebration. . .
And now that I live on the land where the peoples of the Salish Sea have worshiped the salmon for thousands of years, that feeling has grown.
On Wednesday this week some of us nature journalers met at Tumwater Falls to watch the salmon swimming and leaping upstream. I’ve been trying to capture the drama with my phone camera, but wanted to tell the story in my sketchbook, on location.
I started on the opposite side of the viewing bridge from this point, where the fish were lining up on the river, resting up from the already tumultuous trip up the river from the ocean. Ahead were the big leaps that would take them to their spawning waters (or the hatchery tanks). They were barely visible underwater, dark undulating shapes, so I started my story there.
As they crossed under the bridge they largely disappeared in the foaming waters, except an occasional one would attempt the leap up the falls and the onlookers would gasp in delight and amazement. Above the falls it was easy to see the fish up close in the hatchery tanks where some had “bruises” from hurling themselves against rocks on their passionate journey!
In the annotated version here you see the fish ladder to the right of the falls where I presume most of the salmon were able to ascend the river successfully.
Many of the Chinook were already turning this golden color. See the wounds on the mouth of the one on the lower right side. Many of these salmon are quite large, around 50 pounds. If you have a lot of questions about this salmon migration and hatchery, I recommend this article to read.
This sketch was done at home from a picture I took from a different vantage point. It happens quickly, this sudden burst of energetic athleticism. I waited minutes, with breath held and finger on the button to capture this shot.
It never gets old, this adrenal rush and the moment when the fish slaps the water. You can feel it in your belly.
You may remember Monarch Sculpture Park’s post from last year This country park, supported by the artist/owners and donations, is not only an invitingly peaceful spot, but an outdoor art museum whose assorted sculptures interact with the meadows and woods and water features in a way that tickles the imagination.
I had a hard time deciding what to sketch this time. I actually just wanted to sit lazily on the grass and take it all in. How could I fit all rush of impression on the paper of my little sketchbook? Yet the sketchbook is what brought my two sketch buddies and I out on that afternoon. So I turned toward the duck weed carpeted pond and the forest with a tall rust sculpture and started “doodling” again. Since the whole scene read as green, I challenged myself to use a diverse palette, greens, blues and oranges.
When I got home I found the two new gel pens I’d bought in Portland and had fun perking up the scene with some opaque line contrast. Lots of scribbling here. It was hard to stop!
Last weekend I got to go back to elementary school. No, not with a grandchild. I don’t have any of those. I was visiting friends in Portland for a three day weekend. Saturday night Janet and I took a picnic lunch up the hill to Chapman Elementary to sit on the hillside with the crowd and wait for the swifts to arrive, the Vaux’s Swifts to be precise. They’re the ones that arrive in Portland for the month of September each year and perform their jaw dropping show each evening at sunset.
We got there early, having heard that it would get crowded. At our blanketed spot on the hill we ate our dinner and watched the back up show of children “sledding” down the hill on the cardboard left there for that purpose, and the soccer players on the field below, as the hill filled up with all ages of happy spectators, their dinners, their dogs and small children colliding around us.
And finally the headliner act arrived in chaotic rushes, flying around the gigantic chimney where they would spend the night. Plunging and soaring, spiraling and dispersing, returning to circle round again. Where were they coming from? Were they aware that the crowd of spectators had grown to over 1000? 2000? 3000? I started sketching the building, looking for flight patterns, gasping with the crowd when the inevitable hawk appeared, afraid to keep my eyes on the sketchbook for fear I’d miss something.
At sunset the patterns changed. The swifts appeared like swarms of bees, became almost a funnel shape. And then someone in the crowd gasped and clapped and all heads turned toward the mouth of the chimney as the birds disappeared one at a time into the chimney. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who imagined what it would be like to spend the night inside a chimney in the feathered company of thousands of your kind. Cosy? Comforting? Smelly? Claustrophobic?
That night their were 4,940 bedfellows, to be (not) exact. Apparently there are bird watchers who get trained to make this count. Could my thumb actually keep up with the clicking of the counter to capture each one in time? I doubt it. Perhaps the final count is an average of many findings.
Finally after many minutes, the final swift disappeared down the chimney. The crowd applauded and worked their way home in the dark.
Day 3 was a busy scene at the harbor with every manner of water conveyance from the grand Lady Washington tall ship and Virginia V steam ship to the tiniest remote operated sailboats. This city does love their boats!! Ostensibly we scheduled the meet up for the time listed on the program for the tugboat races, but we learned that you have to book passage on a tour boat to go out in the bay where the races take place since they cannot be viewed from the harbor plaza.
No problem, we occupied benches on the end of the promenade and started drawing the easier ones as they blew, floated, motored and paddled by, with no concern for relative size or distance. The whole scene got anchored by the folks temporarily watching from the rocks closest to the water.
To finish off the sketchbook I went through my pictures of the weekend, picking my favorite poses of the people who entertained and shared talents, history and tribal blessings for the event. Maybe next year I’ll book passage on the Virginia V and watch the tugboat races from the sound!
Labor Day Weekend in Olympia was dominated by a colorful harbor scene at the 49th Annual Harbor Days Festival presented by the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association, boasting 250 things to do and see! The sketcher in me translated that to – 250 things to sketch! Starting with the tugboats, which are a thing here with lots of history in the Puget Sound.
The historic roots of tugboat racing stemmed from the last half of the 1800s, when sailing ships arrived in the Sound from ports throughout the world. Because of the lack of wind on the inland waters, steam-powered tugboats were required to tow them to the docks for cargo unloading. By tradition, the first of the tugs that raced out to meet the arriving ships got the towing work.
Some of the tugboats I saw on the dock last weekend were hardly the working kind however. Like Tugzilla here, with its owners chillin’ on deck and answering questions from the appreciative crowd of onlookers. On Sunday there were tug boat races in the harbor and you could book passage on an historic boat to be able to view them out in the Sound.
The festival was crowded enough that finding a place to sit and sketch was problematic. I found this little bit of dock alongside the colorful Tugzilla and got set up to sketch, only to discover that the crowds of enthusiasts were finding their way down the boardwalk in my direction and creating a wave motion on the floating boardwalk, disrupting pen and my sense of equilibrium!
So I adjourned and met up with Ineke, and we both decided to tackle the busy scene above while standing at a railing (color and details added later at home!) The big crane in the background is an ever visible reminder of the Port of Olympia activity and the lumber yard. The historical underpinnings of this city on the Puget Sound, its roots in native tribal life, white settlement, and the role of commerce in expansion and development are abundantly visible to this day.