My third son was gifted a session at Go Ape for his 11th birthday. My oldest son had done Go Ape back in Britain for his tenth birthday but this was a first experience for the other boys. The three older boys were eligible to do the full course under the supervision of Mr Pict and their grandfather. My youngest son, being too wee for the full course, had a ticket to spend an hour on a junior course which my mother-in-law and I could supervise from ground level.
It was just as well I could supervise from the ground as I don’t think I could have managed even the junior course without my fear of heights causing me to go into a panic. The staff at Go Ape were fantastic. They were competent, of course, but they were also great with their encouragement and praise and creating challenge. My youngest son – who is completely fearless – got the hang of the course pretty quickly so they encouraged him to try and beat his own personal record, then to do one of the routes backwards, and to try different types of jump on the zipline. He had a whale of a time and absolutely loved it.
Once our time was up with the junior course, we headed into the woods to track down the others and see how they were getting on. We had seen them getting fitted into their harnesses and being trained and at that time they were all smiles and excitement. We wondered if, almost two hours in, they were flagging or finding it was getting too challenging. We met up with them just as they were doing the fourth stretch of the course. They were definitely feeling challenged but were still enjoying the experience. It made me queasy seeing how high up they were. Shortly after we met up with them, they had a choice to make as to whether to take a difficult route over to a platform or an extreme route. My oldest son wanted to do the extreme route which meant his father had to take a deep breath and accompany him. They had to move between a series of short scramble nets which were dangling in the canopy of the trees. It was pretty terrifying to watch even from ground level. Meanwhile, our birthday boy was having an attack of nerves as he found the combination of height, wobbly platforms, and wind to be overwhelming. It took him a while to collect himself but, with some advice and encouragement from a member of staff on the ground, he took a first step and then another and then in no time he was across to the next platform. That experience, however, meant that once he was back on the ground, he decided he was staying there. He was done. So were his 12 year old brother and grandfather. My oldest son decided he wanted to complete the course in its entirety, however, which meant one final set of challenges. Since he had to be accompanied by an adult, that meant his father had to complete it too. This included what my husband declared was the scariest part of the course: a just-too-long drop off of a platform to swing across onto a net. Once they ziplined back across the lake, they too were done.
Every member of Team Pict had challenged themselves and felt a sense of accomplishment. Just maybe even my mother-in-law and I get to include ourselves in that since we overcame our anxiety enough to spectate and offer encouragement. Everyone was hungry after hours spent in low temperatures in the woods, especially those who had been burning calories swinging here and there, so it was time to eat. The birthday boy wanted to have pizza for dinner so we headed to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza and had some delicious food. Once we were home, he had his special birthday dessert, a platter of cannolis, one of his favourite things.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “trees”. The obvious subject would have been a Christmas tree but I really was not in the mood to draw or paint one. I, therefore, chose to depict a frosty tree but in a slightly abstracted way. I worked on this page gradually over the week before Christmas and got it finished thanks to having two days off work while my kids were still in school. It is a bit sloppy and imperfect thanks to being worked on inconsistently and in a bit of a rush each time but it’s only an art journal page so that’s quite OK.
Next year, I am not signed up for any courses and I have no art based commitments or obligations. I am just going to do my own thing and will try to be disciplined about eking out some art time each week without having a prompt to do so.
After our morning in Calistoga, we headed to the nearby Armstrong Redwoods. We were intending to visit the Muir Woods the following morning but thought that the Armstrong Redwoods would serve as a gentle introduction for the boys and would give them an opportunity to be a bit feral. On a hot and sunny day, it was lovely to wander in the shade and cool of a grove of gigantic trees. These type of sequoias are native to the Pacific coast and would once have covered a much greater expanse than they now do. This species of trees are the tallest living organisms on the planet and it is possible for them to grow to be two thousand years old – though most are bright young things at just several hundred years old. They can be 16 feet in diameter and can be over 300 feet tall. It is impossible to convey the scale of the trees and my photography could not capture it accurately either. I found it very peaceful to walk among these towering giants – well, as peaceful as a mother of four can ever feel – and looking up towards the canopy made me feel dizzy from the perspective.
We visited the Colonel Armstrong tree. At about 1400 years old, it is the oldest of the trees in the grove. It takes its name, of course, from the man who decided to preserve this woodland and for whom the park is named. The tallest tree in the park, meanwhile, is the Parson Jones tree. It stands at 310 feet.
There is an easy trail to follow around the park and which led us past the most notable trees. The icicle tree is one that has unusual burl formations on it. Strangely enough, these burls – which are apparently incredibly heavy – grow in icicle shapes. These are a way for the tree to grow downwards, I think, though I am far from certain. People like to saw them off and use them to build furniture, though obviously the ones in the park are now protected. The icicle tree is fenced off precisely because vandals have made off with its famous burls in the past. We also found a few trees that had “goosepens”. These are little caves inside the trunks of the gigantic trees. The boys loved that they could all climb inside the interior of a tree. It’s the type of place they would make into a gang hut if we had redwoods in our garden. They got their name because apparently early settlers could keep their geese and other domestic animals inside the caves as natural enclosures. The caves form when the trees are damaged, including by forest fires. Since redwoods are fire resistant, they smoulder in unusual ways and I guess these hollows are the result if a tree already has a “wound”. There was also a slice of tree with the rings marked for various historic events to illustrate just how many hundreds of years these redwoods can grow for. There were also a number of trees that had fallen down and been left to become a different part of the ecosystem and massive stumps where trees had been felled. These trees gave my boys ample opportunity to climb and jump.
Hungry after our walk outdoors, we ate a mundane meal with indifferent service in a nearby town. It had looked like such a promising place to eat too so that was disappointing. Still, it filled a hole and stopped the children from getting hangry and it set us up for our final trip of the day: Bodega Bay.
After five weeks, I finally managed to open my art journal and create a page. This was thanks to me actually being able to go along to my art journal meet up group for the first time in months. I decided to use the most recent Colour Me Positive art journal prompt as my jumping off point. The prompt was the theme of “new beginnings”. There are a lot of ways I could have chosen to interpret that prompt, from the personal to the more expansive and profound. I chose, however, to think about the regular beats of life, its cycles and rhythms, and the idea of each passing day being a new beginning came to mind. I decided to illustrate a winter sunrise. I was actually going to keep the page monochromatic, just shades of black and grey, but one of the other ladies at the meet up suggested I add just a splash of colour to the sun so I added some yellow and orange. I cannot decide if that was a positive step to take or not. I think maybe yellow would have looked nice against the greys but not so much the orange. But such experiments are precisely what an art journal is handy for.
This week’s Life Book lesson was entitled Seeds of Love and was taken by the course organiser, Tamara Laporte. I am particularly enjoying her lessons because she goes into such depth explaining the concepts and techniques being demonstrated. This particular lesson focused on value contrast, layering and whimsical versions of botanical, organic shapes.
This was definitely a piece that required both patience and faith. There were so many steps involved in the process that patience was required to let each layer fully dry and set before progressing. Happily that works for my schedule anyway as I do my arty stuff in bursts between other chores and commitments. Faith was required because my version of this piece went through a definite ugly stage before it all pulled together into something coherent. I had a better experience with the neocolors this time though I could have done a more skillful job of blending them. It was really only when the black and white paint pens were added to reinforce the lines and shapes and create little details with the doodles that the ugly mess I was creating finally looked pleasing. As per the lesson, I added a few words. I chose words that connected to the botanical theme but which also could function as metaphors.
In many ways, the finished piece is reminiscent of the zombie animals I draw with ink. It makes me think about creating a mixed media version of my zombie bunnies.
I have finally made a decision about my next art challenge. It is going to be “Into the Woods”. That theme allows me enough scope to work in different media and cover a wide range of subjects. Since my last art challenge involved a lot of time pressure, I am not going to impose a timetable or deadline onto it. I will just create whenever my artistic mojo strikes but I will – mostly – create in response to this theme.
My first work on this theme was a lino block print I have titled “Worried Bunny”. You can read more about it here.
I will be sharing the art I produce in response to this theme on my art blog, Pict Ink, so make sure you visit there if you want to see more.