I did this piece (Watercolor and water soluable wax pastels on watercolor paper) near a friend’s house in Glendale as part of an Urban Sketchers LA Earth Day challenge (#PleinAirpril). We’ve had some really nice clouds in the Los Angeles area this spring, and I’ve been so thankful for the rain that’s dumped onto our parched landscape. So, when there was a break in the rain in early April I went for a walk in the Glendale hills. I noticed this collection of clouds behind a house with a terracotta roof on a favorite street. I sat down on my sheet of bubble wrap on the curb and set up my paints. I should say that I am obsessed with clouds and have done a number of landscapes with them in the background. In fact, I have been known to jump in the car and chase after clouds when there was a break in the rain on a number of occasions.
When I was thinking about the art I would post this week, I realized the overarching theme of this piece might really be about answering the question, What would you do at a moment’s notice? How would you handle a moment of serendipity? Would you drive around to look for a sky full of ever changing clouds, enjoy the perfect latte while reading an addicting book at a favorite coffee shop, or throw the dog and the boy in the station wagon on a hot afternoon in Paso Robles for a spontaneous and cool adventure at the beach in Cayucos?
I haven’t done any art at a dump, but I have enjoyed a number of spontaneous moments there, especially the dump in Grass Valley. I heard stories of my dad going to the dump when I was a baby in Lake Sherwood. I’m not sure why he went on a particular occasion, but I guess he came back with a hat for my mom and a scruffy little fur wrap for my aunt (who was living with us at the time). I never saw any of these treasures, but I sure heard about them from my mom. Usually, when that story came up she also remarked about the family of raccoons that lived under our house at the time. My mom probably threw away dad’s gifts—oh the irony.
But I do have many memories of going to the dump in Grass Valley years later. It was a pretty drive out there, past horse fields and a huge pond. And then the view of the mountains and trees as you drove in was breathtaking. (I guess most wouldn’t imagine describing the dump as that kind of “breathtaking.”) This isn’t very PC now, but 25 years ago you could go to that dump and drop off anything. So, my dad would take broken apartment-size refrigerators out there (my mom and dad had some rentals in town) and drop them off—literally drop them off. But I couldn’t understand why my brother enjoyed going with him so much until I went with them one day. Once we got there I was instructed to get out of the truck. I watched my brother back it up really close to the trash. Then my dad dropped down the tailgate and he pushed the frig as close to the edge of the tailgate as possible. Once my dad and I were out of the way my brother stomped on the gas hard and the frig flew up in the air and out of the truck. It nose-dived into the trash and bounced twice on the ground before stopping in a cloud of dust. Now, my dad wasn’t much of a giggler, but once my brother got behind the wheel their combined giggling began. And just like that it was over and the three of us were back in the truck heading home, planning the cool drinks we had earned for all that hard work. What a moment.
There were also nights we piled into the truck and went to the dump. We’d sit in camp chairs in the truck bed, eat popcorn and look at the stars. I never knew of anyone that took snacks to the dump—more great moments of serendipity with my dad, his truck and the dump. Once we took a rather fancy telescope out there, but we couldn’t get the truck very level and the stupid thing kept sliding around. We gave up, put it away and just focused on what we could see without it. Sometimes I miss my dad so much it hurts…
Note about my dad’s truck: God, my dad loved his truck. He had a little ditty he would talk-sing. It went something like, “I have a truck. It’s parked outside. I love my truck, let’s go for a ride.” He used to say he wanted to be buried in it. I had this mental picture of us digging a long deep hole you could drive into. We’d sit him up in the cab of that half-ton light green 1975 Ford truck and gently roll him in—master of his world. I imagined future generations would dig it up and it would be kind of like finding the terracotta army that was buried with the Chinese emperor.
Happy Birthday Kelly!