Thursday, March 19, 2009

College of the Desert Street Fair

It is impossible to visit Palm Desert and not spend a few hours at the College of the Desert Street Fair. With mountains in the distance, blue skies, palm trees, music, lots of interesting sights. Very interesting. Stay with me, I'll introduce you to some really wild characters.

The College of the Desert is located on Monterey Avenue in Palm Desert. Every Saturday and Sunday morning they host a street fair with over 300 vendors and a wide (and wild) selection of merchandise, arts and crafts, and produce that you didn't know you couldn't live without. The vendors come from all over and arrive long before the sun comes up to set up their stalls. There is a waiting list to be a College of the Desert vendor! Free parking, free admission, and free entertainment. Plastic chairs scattered along the way so you can rest your feet, people watch, and get your strength back to meander through another row. This sign says it all.

I followed the sound of music and discovered a man with his harp. Yes, the real deal. I loved his red ruffled shirt. The sunglasses completed his ensemble.

Besides clothing and shoes,  gadgets and gizmos,  jewelry and purses, lawn ornaments and golf gear, dolls and toys - whew - there's the food! Pass nearby and catch the aroma of hot dogs.

The guy on the right has a waffle with whipped cream and strawberries on top. I resisted. My hands were already busy carrying bags.

The produce is beautiful. Palm Desert is surrounded by farmland and these artichokes were just picked.

Fresh fruit and dried fruit. After eating raisins from the market stands - plump and moist and sweet - I can't go back to the little dry raisins from a box on the grocery shelf. I bought enough dried fruit to bring back home, share with friends and family, and last until our next trip. Did you know you could freeze dried fruit? It works wonderfully for raisins, cranberries, and dates, too.

The sign at the entrance says "No dogs allowed at the fair"  but it's regularly ignored and never enforced. This little guy was carried in a motorized cart with his owner.  It seems like everyone in Palm Desert has a dog. There are vendors who carry nothing but dog accessories, outfits, beds, bejeweled collars, you name it.

Save your energy for shopping.  Catch a free ride from the parking lot. Or after a few hours roaming the fair you can ride back to your car with your purchases.

Clearly these ladies are arriving from the parking lot. How do I know? They have no shopping bags.

Can I capture the essence of the street fair with a few pictures? No,  you'll have to go and see for yourself. Don't miss the pink tutu's or the flip flops in every color.

Take a look at the ladies purses and the eyeglass cases in wild animal prints. 

It's not just the stuff that you shouldn't miss, it's the way it's laid out, the characters who choose this lifestyle of setting up a stall, spending the day selling in the sun, just to pack up at days end. It's the shoppers of every age, smiling, serious, singles and in groups. Different faces every visit. I can't get enough of them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Printing Workshop in 29 Palms

We've been traveling to the Palm Springs area for years now. I'll never tire of the desert. Hiking, daydreaming, taking photos. Exploring. Meeting people and discovering new places. I searched the web for something new for this trip and found the 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery.

What a cool place. The town of 29 Palms is an easy hour and a half drive from Palm Desert but feels like a different world. I passed Joshua Tree National Park along the way; it took all my self-control not to stop, but I'd arranged a one-on-one printmaking class with Gretchen Grunt, artist, and owner of the Creative Center. Her website showed group classes but none that coincided with our trip. She offers individual instruction so I booked the day.

The Gallery had an opening the night before, the eclectic mixed media work of Anna Houghton. The painting on the wall is one of Anna's children. Gretchen was cleaning up when I arrived. With a cup of spicy ginger tea in hand we assembled the materials we'd need for the day. She opened this tool box full of pots of ink and I was hooked.

We set up right in the front room. Sunlight streaming in the window. Gretchen scooped colors of Akua water-based ink onto a glass topped table. She laid out brayers of different widths and jars of paint brushes.

Ah, the press. Although I was interested in learning a process that I could continue at home, I fell in love with her beautiful printing press. We also used a pin roller which is much less expensive than the large press, but I was not as satisfied with the results. For many of my prints I used a piece of string along with the ink. I loved what it did to the page and I was especially enamored with the embossing that I got from the press. Sigh. I know I'll be searching eBay and craigs list for a used press.

Gretchen demonstrated the process for making a monotype. Simply, we applied ink to a plexiglas plate using a variety of tools, placed paper on the plate, covered the paper with layers of thick felt and then using the printing press, rolled over the paper and plate. The ink transfers to the paper. Voila. Monotype is a misleading term because we made a second or even third image with the same inked plate. These additional prints are called "ghosts." They're more subtle than the original image. In many cases I liked them better. Gretchen stretched out a kind-of clothesline across the room. We used old wooden clothes pins to hang the finished (or soon to be finished) prints up on the line. I really enjoyed walking up and looking at my pieces. Most of the time I used a smaller plate. It just felt right. Gretchen encouraged me to make larger prints and I did do a few.

I liked this one in particular. It has an original print and then a ghost on top of it.

I addition to the monotype process we incorporated collage. I picked out interesting pieces from a huge box of scraps and then went outside to spray 3M Super 77 adhesive on the back of my scraps (yes, wearing a face mask). For the collage, we inked a plate and then laid the scraps with adhesive, glue side up, on top of the inked plate. Then added the paper, rolled the press, and held our breath as we peeled the paper off to see the results. I liked this one.

It was a great day. Tiring, exciting, and peaceful, too.  I learned a lot. Halfway through we headed off to the 29 Palms Inn, owned by Gretchen's mother. We had a great lunch outside in the sun next to the pool. We chatted with folks at the other tables. We didn't rush. We strolled back to the center, worked the rest of the afternoon, and then packed up my prints so I could head back to Palm Desert.

This is a photo of Gretchen.

I had to stop on the return trip and snap a few photos of a Joshua Tree. They are really wonderful to look at and so otherworldly.

I drove back to Palm Desert listening to a local radio station and making mental notes of places to explore and things to do; hiking in Joshua Tree, of course, and the Morongo Canyon Preserve; making a blog posting of the printmaking adventure, thinking of ways to explore printing back at home - specifically on fabric. I'm smiling thinking of this now. What I'm trying to say is that I absolutely enjoyed this in different ways at different times. It was fun to discover the Creative Center on the web; to look forward to the day, and early in the morning, to drive out to 29 Palms without knowing what it would be like. I had a great day printing. And I came home a changed person for what I had seen and done. Isn't life grand?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Beads, beads, beads

It's like magic. We arrive in Palm Desert and I'm drawn to The Hacienda Anura Bead Company. The shop is like a pirates treasure, baskets of beads, all colors and sizes, handmade bobbles, carvings, semi-precious stones, and dreamy little trinkets. I was looking for turquoise beads to string for my mother. Last year the shop's owner, Claire, taught me how to string pearls. This is what I bought, aren't they gorgeous?

I couldn't help but take photos of the bead collection. They're on the walls, the tables, in baskets and bins - everywhere!

I think this could be an abstract painting or a wild printed fabric.

And these look almost edible.

This is Claire. See the drawing on the wall? That's Licken, Claire's doberman, a grand old gal. I brought the drawing to Claire when we were here in November. I was so pleased to see it on the wall.

Why do I make jewelry? Part of the joy is imagining the project, rolling it around in my mind before it's ever drawn on paper. Then there's the joy of finding just the right beads or stone. Part of the joy is the process, tying the knots or hammering the silver. There is the joy of finishing. And the great joy of giving it away and seeing the finished product worn.

Desert Holocaust Memorial

The sun was shining brightly, the air warm, and yet the light posts depicting barbed wire fences surrounding Nazi concentration camps chilled me. The trees bordering the memorial represent life outside the camps. With trepidation, I stepped inside the circle.
My mind wandered to Luxembourg visiting my friend, Victoria. We traveled together to Germany. With dread, I visited Dauchau, the Nazi concentration camp outside of Munich. Like today, the sun was bright. Tourists strolled and smiled. My heart pounds and my palms are damp remembering. That's what these memorials are for, remembering the horror and remembering those who lived and died.
I wanted to turn my eyes away from the larger than life sculpture in the center of the circle. The faces spoke to me and brought tears to my eyes. Each image representing those who suffered greatly, millions of innocent people. With numbers that large - millions - it's hard for me to grasp. But when I think of each person. Each individual. Like me, or my mother or father, my sister or brother, I ache for them. Each one of those millions who are gone.
I left with few photos. But with hope for the future and gratitude for my life and freedom.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Eisenhower Peak

This is a white-tailed Antelope squirrel. He lives in the desert. Is he adorable or what? We met him early in our hike to the Eisenhower Peak.  Yes, "we." Bob put golf aside for the day and joined me for the hike. The Eisenhower Peak loop is a 6-mile hike, moderate in intensity, with an elevation gain of 700 feet. It starts out in The Living Desert.
The first leg of the hike is a rocky canyon. Very rocky. Picture wash-walking and boulder-hopping. It is very pretty and the weather was perfect. We wore hiking boots and carried plenty of water. Adequate water is a necessity for desert hiking. And sunscreen, a hat, and a map, too.
I turned around to see where we had been and caught this view of the mountains. When I hike alone (especially if I'm going in and out the same way) I have the habit of turning around every so often to see what the trail looks like from the other direction.  That way the trail looks familiar when I turn around to come back. This can be critical - especially if there are choices along the way - like a fork in the trail. Check out the green at the center of the photo, that's a golf course. Bob notices all of the golf courses.
March is a great time to be in the desert. I love the wildflowers. The winter rain provided enough moisture to stimulate growth.
This paddle cactus is about to bloom. Tempting, but I won't be taking this hike again in a few days to see it open up. So many hikes, I just can't do the same one twice in one trip.
The rocks in this area have a beautiful, rich, reddish brown color. These plants and flowers tucked themselves into a crevice that probably catches water when it rains.
It's hard not to just look at the sky. Just before the midway point the trail widened a bit. And so did the sky. Such a beautiful blue. 
We made it up to the picnic tables - that's the mid-way point. Great views. We unloaded our packs and snacks (apples, nuts, cookies) and rested a bit before heading down along the ridge leg of the loop.
I like this sign. Sometimes in life you get just the right amount of guidance. Trail one way, home the other. Sweet.
Great yellow desert flowers. I think this is from the Brittlebush.
We looked and looked for the Bighorn sheep. We saw lots of their hoof prints on the dusty trail. No sign of the bashful critters until we caught sight of this guy. He is actually a "resident" at The Living Desert.
Wonderful! We left The Living Desert and headed directly to Sherman's Deli. Wow! What a great place. They put dill pickle spears and sauerkraut on the table while you wait for your order (my mouth is watering just thinking about it). I should have taken a picture of the bakery counter. Mile-high cakes and pies. Napoleons. Eclairs. Iced brownies. I was up at the counter three times during our lunch - scanning and asking questions. Yes, I weakened and got a cream puff. I will be eating it for days, it's huge, but the most heavenly confection. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Horsethief Creek

Beautiful blue sky. Imagine the sound of a strong wind.  I'm glad I brought a long-sleeved shirt. The hike is along the Cactus Spring Trail, part of the Santa Rosa Wilderness (crossing into the San Bernardino National Forest). The trailhead is at 4,000 feet (it was 62 degrees when I got out of the car) and descends about 400 feet along a rocky, roller-coaster trail. Bighorn sheep inhabit this area. I kept my eyes on the hills (when I wasn't watching my feet) but I didn't see one. They have a reputation for being extremely shy.
A little ways from the trailhead I came upon this box. Signing in constitutes my wilderness permit.
I'm the last signature on the page. Not much traffic on this trail. I was the only hiker yesterday. That's fine with me. I prefer the less frequently traveled trails.
Along with a lot of water in my CamelBak pack, I carry two laminated folders. One has pictures of Southwestern desert plants and flowers. The other is an introduction to tracks and signs of familiar North American species. It includes drawings of animals and their foot prints, signs of animals (like chewed nuts or scratch marks on trees) and drawings of scat. I saw lots of little lizards. One desert squirrel, a tiny bunny, some birds, and some bugs. This is a paddle cactus (Prickly Pear). They were all around this trail. (Hint: Cactus Spring Trail.)
The Agave (Century Plant) were plentiful. Many were blooming, too. Early in the hike I passed an abandoned, dolomite mine. Rusty old equipment decaying in the sun. Just before the end of the trail are the remains of an old corral made of dried manzanita. I imagined the horses that were kept there near the water at Horsethief Creek.
I always take a photo when I reach the end of the trail. Proof that I made it? This is Horsethief Creek. Cottonwood and sycamore trees line the creek bed. It's about 2.5 miles from the trailhead.  I stopped, sat on a large rock, ate my apple, and felt proud of myself for reaching my destination.
I think the shadows on these dried branches are wonderful, almost mystical. The colors are interesting, too.
This Manzanita has the most beautiful red bark.
Back at the car I took off my heavy hiking boots, put flip flops on, and headed back home. The views from the side of the road were awesome. 
The colors are amazing - pinks and purple and blue.
The snow is still on the peaks.
It was a great hike and a beautiful day. This is a gorgeous part of the country to explore. When I'm out in the quiet and solitude of the wilderness it's hard to believe that civilization is just a few miles away.