The region around Bend, Oregon is called the high desert. That’s kind of ironic because the elevation is only about 4000 feet above sea level, and they get 11 inches of rain per year and 20 inches of snow per year on average. Still, the High Desert Museum is definitely worth a visit.
Upon entering this museum, I could tell that it was going to be a good one. The artwork alone was outstanding. Currently they’re featuring the work of April Coppini, and her charcoal depictions of area wildlife practically leap off the wall.
Inside, there was an exhibit about how water shapes the west, which was fascinating, as well as an exhibit about the history of the Native Americans of the area. And with a museum of this kind, there were multiple displays outdoors as well. The people who staff the living history portion were extremely friendly and more than happy to answer questions about pioneer life in the area. There was a cabin and a sawmill on the property, which were both fun to explore, and you could learn everything that you wanted to know about the flora and fauna of the region by reading the placards. There were a lot of gorgeous sculptures scattered about the grounds as well.
So this place turned out to be part museum and part art gallery, but it also was part zoo. There were three otters frolicking in their own little pond. They seemed quite happy and healthy, and were very fun to watch. There’s also a desertarium where you can check out snakes and spiders and lizards and turtles. After feeling as though I was being watched, I noticed several owls gazing down at me from tree branches. We also got to attend a couple talks where we were introduced to a skunk, a badger, a porcupine, and an absolutely stunning red tailed hawk.
We learned the difference between birds of prey and raptors. Any bird that hunts for creatures to eat is a bird of prey. That robin in your back yard that is eating a worm is a bird of prey. Raptors are also birds of prey, but they hunt mainly with their talons. It certainly makes you view the feathered world with even more respect.
All of their animals are rescues that couldn’t survive in the wild. We got to watch a bald eagle with a damaged wing, and I’ve never been so close to one of those majestic creatures in my life. I knew they were huge, but, wow… they’re huge.
I have to say that the High Desert Museum was one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. If you ever find yourself in the region, I highly recommend it. If you go, say hello to the bald eagle for me.
I love that delicious point where art and science intersect. I don’t encounter it nearly enough for my liking, so when I do, I savor it. It seems as though most minds go in one direction or the other. It’s a rare one that appreciates both. That why such minds, and their creations, are priceless. Leonardo da Vinci, with his art and inventions, springs to mind.
So imagine my delight when a friend (waving at Mor) turned me on to the A Capella Science guy on Youtube. Tim Blais just got his master’s degree in physics, and he also happens to have the voice of an angel, and from what I can tell, is a consummate videographer as well. Such creativity, such profound intelligence. All in one delightful package.
What I love most about Tim Blais is that I’m sure he’s getting people interested in science topics that they wouldn’t have previously explored. He’s making science cool. No. I take that back. Science was already cool. He’s just making a lot more of us realize it.
I think I can speak for all the creative nerds out there when I say, “Thanks, Tim!”
I have a friend who is an artist, and when choosing his color palette for any given creation, he looks to nature for inspiration. He’ll take a leaf or a flower petal, for example, and put it under a microscope, and then use the colors he sees there. I think that’s a brilliant idea.
If you want the ultimate arbiter of good taste, nature is it. First of all, it’s been around a heck of a lot longer than we have. It knows how to play the game. It doesn’t like short-term trends. I can’t think of even one example of a natural thing that irritates my sensibilities. I definitely can’t say that about humans on an average day. (Nature wouldn’t be caught dead in sandals with knee socks.)
Nature also doesn’t wage war, shut down the government for selfish reasons, or pollute itself in the name of greed. It sees no need for firearms. If anyone were to support health care for all, it would be nature.
While nature can seem arbitrarily cruel, it definitely looks at the big picture and the long term. These are qualities that modern man seems to lack, to our everlasting peril. The more we ignore nature’s warnings, the more we will suffer. Nature is patient. Nature will win. The question is, will we be around to see it?
I love the fact that I’m now living in a city where public art is the norm. I often pass by sculptures and murals here in Seattle, and they never fail to make me smile. It’s always a pleasure to have a bit of beauty and humor or a dash of whimsy injected into one’s day. I love having my thoughts provoked and my perspectives challenged. And some of these sculptures kind of feel like a part of my family now.
I used to live in Jacksonville, Florida, where public art was rather thin on the ground. It was often viewed as too controversial, or not in keeping with family values. (Though I wonder if their statue of Andrew Jackson astride a stallion still stands? I bet it does.)
Some artists in Jacksonville have been known to go rogue, I think, out of sheer frustration. They’d paint any flat surface they could find. Sadly, they always seemed to be quickly shut down and/or painted over.
Allowing art in one’s city takes a certain level of political courage. (And I’m not talking about historical monuments and statues, here. That’s another debate entirely.) There will always be people who don’t like a particular piece, or they will misinterpret it. It is easier to offend than to delight or inspire, it seems. It’s a confident city council that allows self-deprecation and social commentary to be out in the open, for all to see. It’s a brave mayor that doesn’t see creativity as a threat.
I think one of the many factors one should consider when deciding where to live is the amount of public art in the city in question. That will tell you much about the quality of life that you will experience in that community. It will tell you a great deal about the maturity and emotional health of the municipality as well. These are considerations you should never overlook. The ability to express oneself is the hallmark of civilization.
Every day on the way to work, I pass some graffiti on the highway by someone who calls him or herself “Sliz”. I choose to pronounce that “Sleaze”, but there’s nothing sleazy about this person’s artistic abilities. Just from the calligraphy I can tell he or she has a lot to offer the art world.
Since my commute is a long and boring one these days, I’ve kind of created a whole persona around Sliz. I think of her as a skinny 16 year old girl who hides her hair under a ski cap and wears an army jacket and ratty jeans and some well-worn Chuck Taylor high tops. She’s really pretty, but she has decided that it’s much safer to hide that. Sliz has a lot to be angry about. She’s had it really rough. And her graffiti is just a way to express that fury in a non-violent, albeit property-destructive way.
I wish I could meet Sliz and encourage her to use her talents for good. For example, a nice big “Love is the Answer” in bright colors on the freeway overpass would hit the spot quite nicely. Maybe an image of people of different races holding hands. Or a psychedelic peace sign. Even some beautiful imagery would be cool. We all need more beauty in this world.
For all I know, Sliz is a violent gang member with a severe drug addiction. But I like to think that that artistic instinct means that there’s a glimmer of hope. And I’d also like to think that each one of us can nurture our own glimmers, in whatever form they take, into positive forces for change.
A friend of mine recently told me about a delightful collaboration. Two very different groups came together to create the beautiful piece shown below, which was then auctioned off to raise money for Seattle Children’s Hospital.
I’ll let them speak for themselves.
“This piece of art is the blossom of a relationship between two groups that utilize space within the walls of Lake Washington United Methodist Church. Over the course of this past school year, children from the Kirkland Co-operative Preschool and members of Old Friends Club have met on a weekly basis.
In mid-October, a small group of preschoolers came to visit for the first time. The children showed the Old Friends Club Members how to stretch rubber bands between push pins that had been placed into pumpkins! Old Friends Club is social daytime program for people living with dementia, and although some members have difficulty finding words, the smiles on their faces communicated everything there was to say.
From that point on, we’ve anticipated weekly visits. Shape BINGO, singing performances, dominoes, simple card games, parachute and drumming (which became one of the favorites with the preschoolers) are just a few of the activities shared between the groups.
Staff, volunteers and parents enjoy watching as the visits between the two groups grew into a comfortable time of laughter, giggling and sharing.
As the school year began to wind down, we had the idea of doing a cooperative art project. During our final visit for the year, 19 preschoolers and 4 Old Friends Club members sat at tables together sharing inspiration and creativity as they each filled a piece of watercolor paper with designs and color!
Those pieces were cut into strips and woven together to create this beautiful paper tapestry. It reflects well how the hearts of both the children and the members of Old Friends Club have been woven together and is truly the ‘blossom’ of our time spent together.”
I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this concept! And it could be applied to so many different groups. Inner city youth and advisors from the Small Business Association. Any group attempting to team build or resolve conflicts. Members of Congress from opposite sides of the aisle. Children on opposite sides of the planet.
Any time two or more people come together to create something beautiful, they are certain to form a bond. At the very least, the end result makes a memorable keepsake of a new relationship. But if they auction off that beautiful thing for charity, they pay that wonderful energy forward. Win/win/win!
I don’t know how I managed to overlook this Seattle tradition for so long (probably has something to do with the fact that I work every Sunday), but in the quirky Fremont neighborhood here in Seattle there is a street market every Sunday from 10 to 4. It’s only about two short blocks from the Fremont Drawbridge, and it’s a lot of fun. The first time I went was with friends Deborah and Dan.
You can shop for vintage clothing and jewelry, yard sale antiques, flowers, and all manner of international clothing, arts and crafts. Just feasting your eyes on the colorful wares is a delight. I also enjoy watching people walk their dogs. (My dog Quagmire would never tolerate crowds of this size.) And it’s a great way to just celebrate being out of doors.
There are some food trucks every Sunday, but once a month, the Mobile Food Rodeo descends on the area as well, and the crowds swell. The rodeo includes food from all over the globe: Greek, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Native American, all manner of Asian cuisine, as well as seafood, burgers, donuts and hot dogs.
When the weather is mild, after you’ve braved the long lines and gotten your food, you can sit along the banks of the ship canal and watch the boats go by, just as I did with my friends Paula and Kevin. It’s just the quintessential Seattle way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
I hope I see you there, but if you are planning to go, I highly recommend you carpool, bike, or take public transportation, or you’ll experience another Seattle tradition: the utter lack of parking.