Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Pulse of the Land

Travel is a great tool to observe new and different places while allowing perspective about your home base.
Our recent trip to the Tampa Bay area was not our first but this time I had some huge insights into what it means when you say that there is a pulse of the land. That in itself implies a living, breathing being- and rightly so.
Our home is at 7500 feet above sea level and is laid out in a broad plain between two mountain ranges. We receive 10 inches of moisture a year- if we are lucky. The surrounding mountains intercept most of the moisture as it blows into us. On the valley floor the waters trickle into us from the highlands and creates an oasis/desert environment with wetlands, irrigated fields and a meandering river.
 Florida has seasonal dry spells but for the most part is in great supply of rain. Combined with lower latitude heat and sea level humidity this part of the country is a giant petri dish of biological potential. Bring it and it will grow- whether that means exotic plants or foreign animals. Many mundane species have turned out to be bullies unfettered by restraint found in their source habitats. One plant species that had become a nuisance is the water lily- a familiar theme of one of my painting heroes Claude Monet.
I was able to paint them, however, because even with aggressive herbicide spray they still persist to thrive- as in the lake behind my mother-in-laws house.
The pulse of Florida throbs with the theme of the abundance of life force. Especially the plants and animals associated with the wetlands such as fish, birds and a very major pulse of reptilian and amphibian sorts. The king of this swampy jungle is of course the alligator.
Seething, slimy, wet and noisy abundance from this most primitive of four legged- the amphibians and reptiles. The prolific bird life also adds to the cacophony of noise, embellishing the tapestry of sound spilling out of the waters.

"Dock Lilies" 10x8 oil on linen

When night falls the light fades and although the noises lessen, they persist til dawn. One evening I went out to the floating dock with a powerful flashlight to see what eyeball retinas I could detect. As far as I could see around the edges of the lake were pairs of eyes shining back at me. Some small and close together, others large and far apart and a smattering of varieties in between. An astounding number of eyes- staring at me.
The contrast between Florida and the Rocky Mountains is pretty big. I realized that the theme for the high mountainous part of the world was more about the land itself. Much more active geologically than the coastal lowlands but without the abundance or pure volume of biology that the jungle fosters.
Here the pulse is more about the mountain faces, protruding formations, colorful rocks and the ever present blue skies.
The pulse here is from the very skin of the earth itself.

Great Blue Heron

"Long Pond" 12x9 oil on linen

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