— los alamos winter, i — pajarito canyon
6 x 6 inches oil on panelcopyright dawn chandler 2010

Enough of summertime paintings — I’m ready to immerse myself in the season of the present. And what better way to do that than by exploring the late autumn forests with a convivial group of friends.

Earlier this week I had the good fortune of being invited to join a stellar group of women on a day hike in the Pajarito Canyon of Los Alamos. If that name sounds familiar, it may be because this is an area decimated by the disastrous Cerro Grande Fire of 2000, that destroyed over 48,000 acres and 200 homes in Los Alamos.

Ten years later, this fire-ravaged landscape on this overcast December day was gray and bleak. Broken, charred tree trunks rose up from the muted landscape like lonely masts in a ships’ graveyard. The wind howled eerily. Yet even in this barren winter landscape, signs of growth and rejuvenation were everywhere. Though leafless this time of year, dense stands of slender new aspens covered the shady hillsides, their gray monotony broken with sprays of copper scrub oak, red willow and evergreen. The wind though….never have I heard such a haunting sound. Never. Voices are what we heard emanating from the waving aspens, an ancestral murmur stirred by our conversations and the approaching snow.

Here’s a scene from our hike that day — toward the end, when the sun broke out briefly as we wound our way up from the stream and back down to the trail head. I did this little painting that evening, after our hike, in an effort to hold on to a bit of the magic of the day….