Zion National Park was experiencing an Indian Summer when I first arrived, with daytime temperatures still reaching into the mid-80s and everyone enjoying shorts and t-shirts weather. Unfortunately for some, that also meant that the brilliant fall colors that sometimes paint the canyon floor as early as September hadn't even begun to make an appearance for most of October. Not so this week!
Nighttime temperatures have now dipped down into the nippy range (and stay that way in the canyon shadows well into mid day.) And the leaves on the cottonwood trees are finally beginning to turn golds and yellows that luminesce in the bold afternoon sun.
On Friday, October 30, I held my free place-based journaling workshop in the Grotto picnic area and was thrilled at the over-booked (only slightly) turnout. Everyone received a complimentary Strathmore Softcover Toned journal and Sakura Gelly Roll and Micron Pigma pens (and two lucky participants received Sakura pen sets and pen cases as "door prizes.") The introductory workshop was originally scheduled to last only one hour but everyone was having so much fun (and both the scenery and the sun's warmth were so beckoning) that everyone stayed on for an extra hour and a half (leaving then only because the shadows, and the accompanying chill, had returned.)
I have established a very enjoyable and productive work schedule (if you can call this "work"): up at 5:30; draw, paint, write and edit in the studio until the sun comes up; and then (after breakfast and two cups of tea) out! Sometimes I return home for lunch, sometimes I just eat one of the MREs my wife purchased for me. (The high dessert air may have something to do with it. The scenery and the invigorating physical activity certainly do. But the food never fails to taste stupendous.) Home in time for afternoon tea; dinner; and then abed by 8:30 (although stargazing occasionally gives me a late-night energy boost.)
Now that I've settled in, I'm also being visited by some of my Grotto neighbors: the little Bluebird (above) popped by to say "Hi!" while I was waiting for the down-canyon shuttle this week; and on Saturday, as I walked into the kitchen for another cuppa tea, I thought to myself "That spot of dirt on my bike tire looks just like a lizard." Well.... (This is the second lizard now that has paid me a visit. I don't know what the kitchen's attraction is, but they're well behaved house guests so I don't mind.)
On Monday I spent some time exploring the Kayenta Trail to Lower Emerald Pool before taking the Emerald Pool Trail back to the Lodge and Grotto Trail back to the house (a leisurely 2-hour loop) -- and, of course, found some awesome subjects as the trail gradually took me above the river and tree line. Along the way I had a chat with a group of visitors from Spain, and spoke for awhile with one of the trail crews about the park's growing popularity and its impact its fragile desert eco-systems.
This week marks the annual Zion Plein Air Art Invitational and, for the first time since my arrival, I don't feel like the only painter in the park. (There have, of course, been other painters. But, in a park of this size, it has been easy to give one another plenty of working room.) The PAAI is an annual fundraising event for the Zion Natural History Association and is immensely popular with the public.
For a change of pace we were treated to a gentle rain and swirling clouds that obscured the peaks (very reminiscent of Chinese landscapes) on Wednesday -- perfect weather for getting lots done in the studio, and drinking more tea. But, despite the inclement weather I was very pleased to speak to a near-full house during my PAAI lecture, where I spoke about being an art adventurer and what I was achieving during my residency in Zion NP.
One more week down, but I think the best one yet is still to come. So, I hope you'll join me again next time as my adventure in southern Utah continues. And, as always, thanks for letting me share it with you.