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Replacing the View with One More Familiar

March 22, 2012

I moved about yesterday, trying to get a different angle on things. High up on the hill behind Playa (but still way below the ridge) is a large Airstream trailer. It is left over from the building phase of this place, the temporary home for some lucky carpenter. It is unbelievably perched, ass end hanging out over the lake. Chains tied to what I imagine are massive deadman anchors buried beneath its gravel pad to keep the shiny cigar-shaped object from becoming the next UFO sighting. Seated at the fold down table, the view of the sunrise must make even a cup of cowboy coffee, with the grounds strained through your teeth, taste better than best brew a hip barista in Seattle could pour. It’s all about the view. To wake up to that view, to sit and stare all day as the light dances across the basin, to sleep under the gaze of a million stars.

I think about having a view. After selling my home last year, the top of my criteria list is a house with a view. I want to be able to sit everyday and let my eyes can rove about, cataloging minute changes or scrutinizing details. I need a view where I can relieve the tension of staring at a computer screen or at the objects I am bringing to life in my studio. I think the human eye, like that of a bird of prey who sits all day on a telephone pole, scanning the grass for movement, craves distance and the ability to focus on far away objects. Think of our early ancestors, whose development was tied to leaving the closeness of the forest and standing up tall, able to scan the grasslands for prey. We are not meant to sit and stare all day at things close up. We are meant to climb mountains just for the view from the top. Having reached the age of fifty, I find myself needing cheaters—those cheap magnifiers that make one look either smart or old—to do most tasks at hand. Staring out into the distance, my eyes can still focus (of course, I still need  contact lenses to bring me back from my near-blindness).

This morning from my desk, I stopped working repeatedly to stare across the playa at the white whorls that were dancing about as the sun and the wind dried the alkali slurry back into dust. I can waste a lot of time staring into the distance.

My studio here has no view, only high clerestory windows which let the light drift in and settle on the uninspiring plywood walls. It’s better that way, I can get some work done. I create my own views as need be. One painting I worked on this week is a scene which I am intimately familiar with: the view from North Point of Taughannock Park. I swim there several times a week in the summer, relaxing afterwards, enjoying a beer, and  taking it all in. The view is much better that way, at the end of a day, savored and stored up to carry you through the next. The lake here, which has increasingly becoming more mud and less water as it dries up, is like an annoying child always grabbing for my attention with its changing colors and windy moods. As I walk from studio to cabin and back for pee and coffee breaks, I find myself trying to not look, to stay on task. My camera begs me with its big sad eye to take more pictures of the lake. Often, like with the grey tiger kitty that scratches at my deck door in the morning, I give in.

This afternoon I took more photos of the lake, but in its place I put the painting of the lake I want to remember: Cayuga. A lake that is deep and useful, a lake full of memories and adventures to come, a lake that doesn’t dry up and disappear on you. A lake whose views I will never tire of.

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