In the Covid-19 pandemic world, birds remain free to go about business as usual. They can flock together and converse through their songs in the same way they always have. For us humans, things are different. “Social distancing” has become the new normal and I admire our country for putting the health of others as the top priority. In fact, I found inspiration for this painting in social distancing, wanting to express something positive in a time that often feels awkward. Barn swallows have always been a favorite of mine and are the subject of this painting. They take me back to an easier time. Days full of sunshine and the blessing of a friendly conversation.
Aside from the simple abundance we normally experience on a hike, some days can be particularly special. Like the time we came face-to-face with a mule deer buck on the path just in front of us. It was as surprised by us as we were of him! As our brains processed his closeness and his majesty, he turned and disappeared into the trees. Much like what happens when observing a shooting star, we see it, then we don’t. We fix our eyes at the place it once appeared hoping to see it again. For that one brief moment, it was pure gratitude for our eyes.
“For Those Who Don't Know Jack” is a painting that finds its roots in vulnerability. The White Tailed Jackrabbit (which is actually a hare) changes color each year from brown in summer to white in winter. While this greatly improves survival chances in summer and winter—the periods when the change is complete—the time of transition is one of nervousness and caution with the hare constantly on the move. There is no safe place because the transition means the loss of protective coloring. There is no where to hide and danger abounds. Sometime, life feels this way. We find ourselves between places, not quite here but not quite there either. Staying focused and alert allows us to celebrate the transitions life brings and find enjoyment and inspiration on the journey.
The inspiration for this painting happened on a camping trip. We had enjoyed a day hiking and were relaxing around the campfire at the base of Guanella Pass, at the Geneva Creek Campground. The weather forecast had been good for the weekend, but anyone who lives in Colorado will tell you that the weather in the mountains is unpredictable and can turn on you. Sure enough, just as the sun was setting, the wind came up and the thunder began to sound in the distance. But it didn’t stay in the distance for long. As lightening began to streak across the western sky, our dog Mica’s extreme distress reflected our own unease. We knew it was time to drown the fire, pack our gear and surrendered the night to the storm.
Telling someone that they’ve gone down a “bunny trail” is a kind-hearted way to let them know they’ve gotten off track with a story they are telling. This is what we were trying to tell life the year this painting came to be. Everything felt chaotic, especially with family and work issues. We yearned for a break, a time to hit the open road and drive. But that was not to be. Instead, Tom found peace in painting about our yearning and I found peace as I watched the painting appear from a blank canvas. When he told me the title, I laughed in delight. It was our private joke about a year we were glad had drawn to a close, thankful we had survived the lessons it taught us.
Tom’s grandparents lived on a farm in rural North Dakota... During a visit in his early childhood a strong storm developed. Everyone was huddled in the house watching and waiting. Tom’s memory begins with hearing the twister rather than seeing it. As it approached, the strong wind tipped over the outhouse. To his horror, his mom and an older cousin ran out into the driving rain and blowing debris to set it upright. The distance seemed enormous to Tom and he tried to run after her. His grandmother had to hold him back. When the storm passed, everything was okay. A hay wagon had flipped over but there was no real damage. Yet the memory of his mom out in the midst of the storm shook the security of a very young Tom! He decided to commemorate the experience and “Vanishing Point” is the result.
This painting was inspired from a one-of-a-kind experience. A few years back, we were visiting the Flat Tops Wilderness area, fishing at a small lake called Chapman Reservoir. It’s a few miles outside the tiny mountain town of Yampa. On this particular day, we had the lake to ourselves. I had camped and fished at Chapman as a child and so I knew the best spot to fish from. We walked around the lake and settled in for a relaxing few hours. Across the lake we saw a bald eagle take flight. It glided so effortlessly on the air, that in itself was a special moment. But then, to our dismay, it dove straight toward a smaller bird. At first we thought we were about to witness a raw moment in nature, the eagle attacking and killing the smaller bird. But that was not to be! To our delight, [...]
The Story Behind the Painting: The Long Winter One of the most memorable experiences in our life set the stage for this painting. I was working for the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation. The Foundation was supporting the re-introduction of lynx to Colorado. Lynx were trapped in Canada, then brought to a wildlife rehabilitation center near Creede, Colorado, for a three-week stay. They were released in late winter/early spring, just before the breeding season. A sustaining population was reached in 2010 and the program was declared a success! In this particular year, the release date happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary. The invitation to be at the release was an amazing gift, because spectators were kept to a minimum! We headed to Creede from Denver after work on a Friday evening. Creede is about a 5 hour drive from Denver, so it was about midnight when we arrived. We [...]