It’s been an epic production period – five large new billboard paintings in six months. As we wind down and get ready to ship everything out, I’m feeling so crazy lucky to have had such a great group in the studio. Each person came with a totally unique skill set - and overall there was just a great amount of breadth and competency as we faced each challenge. Thanks so much to Patrick, CJ and Kelly who are painting fiends, and to and to Peggy, Lucy, Jane, Lani who all also contributed significant stints. The studio just seems to get better each year.
Last spring I started growing things in metal stock tanks in the middle of the shipping container compound (above)… this spring the garden is going full force. Three tanks are filled with greens (two are mine, and one is Emmett’s) and we will soon add a fourth for a summer crop of tomatoes and cucumbers. The prepper in me sometimes wishes for more room, but the high metal sides do a really good job of keeping the critters out. And I’ve been wanting to read up on vertical gardening and square foot gardening to see if there is a way to maximize the space that we already have.
One great thing about the garden is green smoothies every morning. Our friend Kartz (one of my big-time heroes) battled brain cancer with kale juice, and got me interested in the alkaline diet last time she came for a visit – I’ve been thinking that I need to write about diets soon, and all of the different ones that people I know prescribe to. (there are a lot!)
AZ West started out as a tiny 700 sq foot homestead cabin and over the last twelve years has evolved into an elaborate compound of structures and parcels of land. For my first six years in the desert all water was hauled in by trucks that were notoriously unreliable. We lived by the rule “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”. House guests who offered to wash dishes were watched with an eagle eye to make sure that they didn’t use more then a trickle. Even the cooling systems (evaporative) require water – so when there is non, life becomes untenable.
Nowadays I have a well, and the house borders on the edge of bourgeois. But there are regular reality checks that serve as remiders that we are living in the desert . Last year the pump in the 660 foot deep well failed and had to be pulled and replaced two times in less then twelve months – and last week a secondary pump that pushes water from a holding talk to all different parts of the property had to be replaced. It isn’t a question of whether a part of the system will fail, but a question of when it will fail. As a result I’ve learned the art of appreciation – this week we are celebrating our shiny new blue pump that is optimistically pushing water to all edges of the property.
Last weekend Katie, Sarah and Kate hosted a Women’s dinner. I’m of a generation (of women) who pushed hard to be beyond gender and I’ve spent so much of my life trying to defy expectations based on things like class, sex or age – So I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about celebrating my gender identity . But I’m an eternal fan of Katie, who I trust completely, so I set out following a hand drawn map and a series of signs that said “women”. We parked in the fenced yard of a small stucco house and then walked down an old washed out road that turned into a rough trail that terminated at the ruins of a stone cabin.
It was high up in Pioneertown where the nights get chilly – and there were few flashlights between us, but it was a really extraordinary evening. It also made me realize how many truly exceptional people have moved here in the last two years. (both women and men alike) Katie who is out here teaching desert youth, Angela who lives in a world of her own, Peggy who I think just found herself, Kelly who has wonderfully dry humor and deadpan honesty, Lucy who is totally sincere and sweet, another Kelly who became my new hero when she told me that she lives in the back of her red Toyota pickup for up to eight months a year (while tracking tortoises), And I reconnected with Stephanie Smith who has been here for years doing her thing – which is ever evolving and always fascinating.
I’ve been living in the desert for almost thirteen years – and every so often there is a real shift. Right seems to be one of those times. Several years ago the recession put a damper on investors snapping up desert properties to make a quick buck – and now those of us who are left on the ones who truly love this lifestyle and couldn’t live anywhere else. And being added to this mix is a younger generation of desert explorers bringing a new depth and thoughtfulness to our community. I know things will continue to change, but sometimes I wonder if we will look back on this period as one of those moments when things seemed to be in just the right equilibrium.