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musings from the studio and beyond ~

dawn chandler’s reflections on art and life. . . .

 

what do you do after standing in front of that altar….

{ part 2 ~ why my new year began the last monday of january }

So what do you do after standing in a Museum before the altar of a magnificent Monet and you are just bursting with desire to be outside, be in the land, be bathed in color, be one with paintbrush and paper? But here you are, surrounded by people and enclosed walls and pavement and urban clutter and, for the first time in a very long while you are without any art-making accoutrements. (Well, not totally without art-making accoutrements: You’ve simply left you’re travel watercolor kit and large sketchbook back where you’re staying at your brother’s house and GOD, you just really don’t want to take the time to drive all the way across town to retrieve them.)

You are in the midst of what can only be described as an artistic emergency. ACK!
What to do?!

Well first, you dash breathlessly into the museum gift-shop desperately searching for anything with which you can draw or paint COLOR. There among all the Monet merch you purchase or yourself a ridiculous set of amateur colored pencils that are encased, no less, in a snappy decorative tin emblazoned with (quelle surprise!) Monet’s waterlilies.

Colored pencils bought by Dawn Chandler during a creative emergency at the DAM Monet show.

Then you drive yourself as quickly as you can through the city to the Denver Botanic Gardens, hopeful that, it being late January, you’ll have the brown and grey winter gardens to yourself.

Next you fill your thermos with coffee in the cafe and study the map. Then, with camera in hand, you take a deep breath and set out on an amble curious to see what beauties may reveal themselves to you.
Soon you are crouching among curled dead leaves, brown petals and seed pods.

The delicate colors of winter Hydrangea blossoms. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Beautiful winter textures of the Denver Botanic Garden. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Eventually you find the perfect secluded bench beside a sun-warmed wall that looks out across a small wave of short-grass prairie to a stand of white birches; music of nearby cascading water muffles the city’s sirens.

A sunny spot at the Denver Botanic Gardens in January. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
January birch tree, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Here you pull out your tiny little notebook (gifted to you by a faraway friend along with its perfect hip bag he made for you, his “artist friend”) in which you’d scrawled your museum notes, and you begin to draw.

Dawn Chandler's emergency botanic garden sketching kit.

No matter that your new colored pencils kind of suck and that your notebook’s paper isn’t really dense enough for artwork. You’re just downright happy — thankful! — to be here, doing just this: quietly looking, quietly noticing, quietly drawing, away from the crowds.

Colored pencil sketch by artist Dawn Chandler of a January birch, Denver Botanic Garden.

After about an hour, you decide to get up and stretch your legs. And you see that over there where the sound of cascading water is coming from, there’s a wall between you and the falling water. Then you notice there’s also a bench beside the wall. You look around to see if anyone is watching, as though you are about to do something mischievous, and assured that you are alone, you step up and stand on the bench and peer over the wall.

And who looks back at you but a Cooper’s Hawk. Beside the water’s edge, her puffed-up grey body blends in with rounded river stones; she’s hidden in a tiny cove at the base of the waterfall, surely as surprised to see you popping up over the wall as you are to see her on the other side of it.

A Coopers Hawk hidden beside a stream, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Your brown eyes meet her red.
You feel your whole being smiling.
You take a deep breath of gratitude and whisper: Be safe.

Back on your saunter you go.


A turn here…. a turn there…. noticing all the way….

Winter beauty spotted at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Nature's beautiful winter textures, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Nature's beautiful winter patterns, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Mesmerized by the koi, Denver Botanic Garden. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Delicate and elegant seed pods, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Snowdrop blossoms, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Two days later you’re back home in Santa Fe.
Despite the excellence of your trip, you are just so excited to be home again, because you are so ready to get to painting in your studio.

And then you get some news that requires you to run an essential errand up to Taos the next day. You have no choice — you have to go the very day after returning home.
And you are cursing the Fates because after a week away you just really really want to spend the day in your studio painting and if you were fifty years younger you’d sure as heck throw a tantrum.


And then your Muse whispers to you The Obvious:

Go — Paint anyway — paint on your way.

Dawn Chandler's road trip watercolor sketches from near Taos, New Mexico
Dawn Chandler's assorted and various watercolor roadtrip sketches

Mostly abstract & playful watercolor musings, some inspired by Monet (center & on the right), others (on the left) inspired by the New Mexico landscape.


New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler aka 'Taos Dawn' in her Santa Fe studio.

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings!
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

Find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Learn more about it here.

~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico


why my new year started the last monday of january

The first three weeks of the New Year I had been up to my eyeballs in office work — the soul-sucking mind-numbing numbers-crunching paper-cut-inducing head-banging end-of-year secretarial & administrative chores required of being a self-employed sole-proprietor small business owner.

But I promised myself if I could bear to stay out of the studio for a couple of weeks and instead focus all my energy on New Year administrative chores, then I would be free to dive — PLUNGE! — into art again.

At the end of three weeks of solitary secretarial confinement, my whimpering Muse was gasping for breath.

Art…. I… need…. ART.

FINALLY My Muse was resuscitated at 9:15am Monday, January 27th.

For that’s when I walked into the Monet show at the Denver Art Museum.

Artist Dawn Chandler steps into DAM's Monet exhibition.

And again on Tuesday, January 28th at 9:15 in the morning, yet more breath was breathed into my Muse. For that’s when I walked into the Monet show at the Denver Art Museum for a second time.

OH! What a luxury to get to see the show twice!
Honestly, I have to give myself a little pat on the back for being oh-so-clever as to anticipate that one visit wasn’t going to be enough to satisfy, and that really two trips two days in a row would be just perfectly luscious — especially if I could go early in the morning before the afternoon throngs.
Oh so clever indeed; my back is downright bruised from pats of self satisfaction.

But back to that first Monday and the supreme joy I felt walking into that exhibit.
That joy was deep, seeped in decades of warm memories of attending museum shows with my family. For museum excursions were as much a part of the Chandler Family modus operandi as backpacking excursions on the Appalachian Trail. My brothers and I were fed a steady, richly nourishing diet of museums, which continued — intensified! — into our adulthood. Any time we visited home, a family museum trip was always on the itinerary. Always. It could be any museum anywhere, but 95% of the time those trips were to New York, and 75% of those NYC trips involved a visit to The Met. (NYC was an easy hour train ride away.)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado

The Denver Art Museum.

Here’s the exciting possibility — probability — of entering a museum with curiosity:
You’re going to learn something.
You’re going to be enlightened, you’re going to be enriched
.
Maybe it’ll be just a tiny soupçon of information that lodges itself into your head — a little fact that you didn’t know before but with which you’ll now wow your friends in a round of Trivial Pursuit later on.
Enter a museum with openness and you will be changed.

How WONDERFUL!

SO….. Brimming anticipation, I felt positively giddy walking into that Monet show at DAM because I KNEW I was going to learn something. I KNEW I was going to see some lovely, peaceful scenes. But even more I KNEW I was going to see lots of gorgeous color and juicy paint and I knew all THAT was going to intoxicate me. I KNEW I was going to exit that exhibit with my fingers twitching uncontrollably with the desire to paint.

Sure enough.

You know, it’s interesting about Monet. His work has become so popular — it’s reproduced ad nauseam on so much STUFF from posters and puzzles to umbrellas and scarves and bags, to coffee mugs and neckties and notebooks — that his work and the paintings of so many of the French Impressionists has become a sort of cliché. So many sweetly soft pastel colors, it’s enough to make your teeth hurt.
And so when a friend tells me he’d never really had an appreciation for Monet, I get it.

A better appreciation of Monet may be possible with a deeper understanding of his place in the history of western landscape painting. [Here is a terrific quick synopsis of the evolution of western landscape painting in the 19th-century.]

Essentially, when Monet began to get serious about painting in the 1860s, painting landscape en plein air [outdoors from life] was still a relatively new concept, thanks to recent inventions like portable paints in tubes, foldable easels and compact paint boxes.

Before Monet’s generation, landscape paintings were usually highly detailed, tightly rendered, and often highly idealized depictions that were labored over by the artist for months in their studio.

Claude Lorrain, View of La Crescenza, 1648-50.

Claude Lorrain, View of La Crescenza, 1648-50.

Camille Corot, Hagar in the Wilderness, 1835.

Camille Corot, Hagar in the Wilderness, 1835.

Theodore Rousseau, A Meadow Bordered by Trees, 1845.

Rather than getting caught up in painstaking details, Monet and his generation of landscape painters sought to capture the impression — the effects of light and shadow and color — of a landscape. And they felt the best way to capture the impression was to paint it directly from life, sometimes within the course of just a few hours. That was revolutionary!

Monet was particularly interested in conveying the atmosphere of a place. How do you paint air — or the envellope, as he referred to it — of a place? Monet was determined to figure it out.

And the idea of motif.

He returned again and again to the same subject, studying it in different seasons, at various times of day, it in all sorts of weather and light. This simply wasn’t done before — at least not to the extent nor with the obsession of Monet.

Claude Monet, painting in series: the haystack paintings, 1890s.

Claude Monet, painting in series: the haystack paintings, 1890s.

Just look at those haystacks above and how different the light and colors are!
Just look at all those gorgeous paintings below Monet did of Rouen Cathedral!

Claude Monet, painting motif, in series: Rouen Cathedral, 1890s.

Interesting to note that with the cathedral he painted it from the same angle every time (perfect example of a motif!) What’s changing, is the light, of course, depending on the time of day, and that in turn changes the color.
(Did you ever think one place could look so different depending on the light?)

A related aside: As I’ve been thinking about Monet’s paintings lately, it occurs to me that my first awareness of Impressionism — my first memory of noticing and being aware of an individual Impressionist painting — was of a painting I first saw in a book when I was a junior in high school. It was Monet’s 1896 painting La Grenouillere:

Claude Monet, La Grenouillere, 1869.

Claude Monet, La Grenouillere, 1869.

I remember being blown away by the water in that painting. I think I may have even audibly gasped. HOW did he get that water to look so wet, so fluid? What the heck colors are those? How did he mix them?
Disappointed though I was that La Grenouillere was not on display in Denver, several other of his paintings of water were, including some I had never seen before, as I shared in this week’s Tuesday Dawnings.

The paintings of Monet’s that I really wanted to see though were at the end of the exhibition — and that’s the main reason I planned on a second morning to attend the exhibit. On the first day I took my time, listened to the audio, read every descriptive placard, admired every painting, and generally walked slowly through the galleries among the crowd. But on the second day I bolted through the doors, jumped through the crowd, leaped down the steps and fled to the last galleries. Here were his later paintings and I wanted time alone to linger with these….

….his River Seine series…..

Monet's River Seine paintings at the Denver Art Museum
Claude Monet, Morning on the Seine, Giverny, 1897.

Claude Monet, Morning on the Seine, Giverny, 1897.

Claude Monet, Morning on the Seine Near Giverny, 1897.

Claude Monet, Morning on the Seine Near Giverny, 1897.

and these, his Waterlilies….

Claude Monet, Morning on the Seine, Giverny, 1897.

What moves me — what delights me — what fuels me with excitement about these paintings is how nearly abstract they are.

And that got me in a pensive state…..

Claude Monet, Water-Lilies, 1914-15.

Claude Monet, Water-Lilies, 1914-17.

Last year I had intended to focus intently on my abstract landscape paintings — my ‘textual landscapes‘ — which for me are my most deeply personal, satisfying and soulful work. But for lots of reasons I allowed myself to be distracted from that goal. I derailed myself. So much so that come year’s end I felt regret, like I’d let myself and my Muse down.

Maybe that’s why after pondering these paintings alone in the galleries, I felt a sharpness in my throat and kept blinking my eyes as I stood in front of this painting as though before an alter.

Claude Monet, Water-Lilies, 1914-15.

Claude Monet, Water-Lilies, 1914-15. (Details below)

I could so easily imagine myself in this artist’s shoes. Staring at this canvas I could smell the oils, the turpentine; I could hear — I could feel — the movement of my arm and wrist curving the brush across the canvas to carve those ovals, to push and scumble paint on canvas. I could breathe the deep breath of satisfaction and delight with the placement of each juicy daub of color.

I just so know what he was feeling when in the flow of painting….

.
. .
. . .
. . . .
. . . . .
. . . . . .
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . It’s a new year, a chance for new beginnings.

THANK YOU, MONET!

I am diving — PLUNGING! — in!

Artist Dawn Chandler's Santa Fe, New Mexico art studio

This week in my Santa Fe studio … prepping new panels for new paintings….

Claude Monet, The Water-Lily Pond, 1918.

Claude Monet, The Water-Lily Pond, 1918.


New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler aka 'Taos Dawn' in her Santa Fe studio.

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings!
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

Find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Learn more about it here.

~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico


santa fe september

Dawn Chandler's oil paint palette for her New Mexico landscape painting 'Santa Fe September.'

Summer has been protracted this year.

~ sigh ~

I’m ready for the days to cool and the colors to heat up into hues of fire.

Maybe sharing this painting of an earlier Santa Fe September view will entice Mother Nature to pull out her autumn colors…. (Please?)

I began this painting two years ago and worked on it off and on….

Dawn Chandler's initial steps in creating her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler starting to block out color in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler starting to add the initial cloud colors in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler building up the clouds in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler punching in the sky in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler further developing the sky in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler adding more touches to her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'

It sat 98% finished for months. In fact at that point most people would have looked at it and deemed it 100% finished.

Dawn Chandler's New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September' nearly finished.

But my Muse and I just sensed that it was asking for something more… we just weren’t sure what.

And then I decided what it wanted. . . .

The sky in New Mexico landscape painting, 'Santa Fe September' oil on canvas by artist Dawn Chandler.

See that jolt of deep blue among the adobe buildings?

Detail of New Mexico landscape painting, 'Santa Fe September' oil on canvas by artist Dawn Chandler.

That’s what the painting was wanting. The overall landscape is an actual scene from a photograph I took in my neighborhood, but that patch of dark blue is a pure jolt of color from my imagination.

Finished! New Mexico landscape painting, 'Santa Fe September' oil on canvas by artist Dawn Chandler.

Think of is as a tool shed.

Better yet, think of it as a blue treasure chest — a big box of blue sky filled with dreams of New Mexico among golden cottonwoods. . . .

Autumn! I can hardly wait for you to get here!

Santa Fe September
by Dawn Chandler
oil on canvas ~ 36″ x 24″
private collection


New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler aka 'Taos Dawn' in her Santa Fe studio.

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings!
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

I invite you to find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Learn more about it here.

~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico


the moreno valley & me – part two

[This the second of a two-part series. Read the moreno valley & me, part one here.]


When my friend Carol asked me to paint their view of Baldy from the Moreno Valley, it was not the seemingly obvious view from the meadow near the main cabin that I and others had so admired.

Looking north in the Moreno Valley to the peaks of Touch-Me-Not and Baldy. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Rather it was a more private view known only to her family: The view from “The Rocks.” To give me a sense of the scene, Carol sent me several photos of the view, apologizing for their “poor quality.” “It’s hard to get a good picture up there.” One glance at her photos and I could see the challenge for a photographer and painter: the dark visually heavy diagonal wall of evergreens cutting through the lower half of the view made a sharp angular contrast against the almost ethereal distant vista.

Looking north in the Moreno Valley to Eagle Nest. Photo by Carol Munch.

Still, I thought I could work with at least a couple of her photos.

What would be ideal though would be for me to experience the view myself; to hike up there, smell the air, take in the aura and get a sense of place.

A few weeks later I drove from Santa Fe up to the Moreno Valley, and within a few moments of stepping out of my car, I was huffing after Carol through a cathedral-like park of huge old Ponderosas.

Among the ponderosas of New Mexico's Moreno valley. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

We turned into thicker woods, wildflowers dotting the piney forest floor despite the drought.

Red columbine. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Eventually the grade became steeper and rocky, when finally, after a scramble the canopy opened up and we were on “The Rocks.”

“Oh wow…..”

Northern New Mexico's Baldy Mountain and Touch Me Not. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler


Gazing north, I could immediately see why this has become a sacred place for her family. Across the red rock of the shelf and the shadowy band of evergreen and aspens lay the long, wide Moreno Valley, the flat blue shimmering mirror of Eagle Nest Lake, and rising above that, purple-blue late afternoon clouds gathering over Touch-Me-Not and Baldy. I could have sat there gazing all night.

Reluctantly we descended back down to the cabins, only to return twelve hours later to experience the light and color of morning. A cloud of white fog rose in a wide line over the lake, as Baldy and Touch-Me-Not appeared and disappeared among the clouds.

What a gift to get to experience this unique vantage on the valley, on those beloved mountains.

Morning mist rising off of Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Over the course of many weeks, I created six oil painting from various photos of the view — the first three based on Carol’s photos, the second three based on my own. Here they are:

Moreno Valley Painting One ~ A Promise of Afternoon Rain

It’s that cloud that drew me into this one. I just loved the shape, sense of volume and presence of that cloud with its cool blue flat bottom, and the sense that it’s growing as heat and moisture build.

A Promise of Afternoon Rain, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler
Moreno Valley Painting Two ~ Midday on the Overlook

Midday is a challenging time of day to capture with paint. Bright overhead sun washes out color and minimizes shadows, thereby reducing the contrast between and definition of shapes. Knowing this, I’m a little surprised I even tackled this painting based on a midday view from The Rocks. Yet I think the painting effectively conveys the feeling of the heat of the day.

Midday on the Overlook, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Three ~ Another Beautiful Day Draws to a Close

The third painting captures early evening when the sun is sinking lower and lower, drawing the color from the shadows and it sinks down. You feel as though the heat of the day is being consumed with dark cloak of coolness. In this painting, too, you can really see the angled wall of dark trees. Squint your eyes and the painting become almost an abstraction of shadow and light.

Another Beautiful Day Draws to a Close, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Four ~ Evening Storm Breaks Over Baldy & Touch-Me-Not

Painting Four is the first of the paintings I did after visiting the location in person. Funny, but of all of the paintings in this series, it was for sure the most challenging for me. In this one I was trying to focus in a bit more on Baldy and Touch-Me-Not, as well as get some purple-grey drama going on in the sky. For the longest time I just couldn’t get the folds and colors of the mountains nor the clouds to look the way I wanted. I kept at it though, and finally — finally! — I was satisfied. Persistence paid off!

Evening Storm Breaks Over Baldy and Touch-Me-Not, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Five ~ Can You Just Smell the Rain

Painting Five is a particular favorite, because I just love the tree there on the left. And I really dig that big brooding cloud that you know is just waiting to dump some rain on the valley. I must say I think I really nailed the light in this one.

Can You Just Smell the Rain, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Six ~ Peaceful Summer Evening

When I came up with the title ‘Peaceful Summer Evening’ for this one, I was humming to myself that great Eagle’s tune Peaceful Easy Feeling** which for me was always the quintessential “days off” song during those gorgeous carefree summers working at Philmont.

This painting holds and stands for so very much of what floats in my dreams when I think of those magical New Mexico summer evenings of my youth: A view from an elevated rocky perch, which we clearly had to hike to. So as we’re standing here, our hearts are pounding a little bit from the hike, and we’re catching our breath just a wee bit. And as we breath in, we’re inhaling that unique and luscious fragrance of pine mixed with sage mixed with sunlight mixed with distant rain. We are surrounded by evergreen, but even more lovely, by aspen trees — and they’re catching the last light of day, such that their leaves are flickering bright shades of emerald and jade. And there is sky, of course. But New Mexico sky is just different from other skies. [If you know New Mexico then I know you know what I mean….]. And there are mountains, of course — but they aren’t just any mountains. For there’s Touch-Me-Not and there’s Baldy, and, well, they’re just more special to those of us who know and dream about them still…

And, well…. I just want to stand here for a long, long while, and drink in this peaceful summer evening…

Peaceful Summer Evening, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Seven ~ Eric & Katie’s View

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I did these six paintings as studies for my friend Carol to consider for a potentially larger painting which would be the gift for her son and new daughter-in-law. When the sixth was completed, I sent them photos of all the paintings for their consideration.

A few weeks later the four of us had a conference call. WHOOT! They made me feel like a painting GODDESS in their ebullient praise and appreciation of my work. But…Hmmm….

Was there any chance I could do yet one more painting merging elements found in some of the studies? Could I somehow combine the expansiveness of painting number six, capture something of the rich and stormy sky in painting number four, and overall focus in on Baldy more?

[I had to chuckle (and groan slightly) that they particularly loved the sky in painting number four, because it was that damned sky that had caused me the most struggle of all the paintings!]

Ahh well….

Of course I said I would see what I could do!

The truth is I was a little nervous about trying to create, essentially, by committee. But I love a good challenge, so to help me focus on this new goal, I packed up all of my paints and headed to a secluded cabin in Colorado where I could be free of interruptions for several days and just focus on painting.

This was the perfect prescription for my Muse and me. For the painting came together incredibly quickly and dang near effortlessly. [But then… of course… it had taken me six separate paintings to be able to create the seventh!]

In the end we — all of us! — were just thrilled with the result!

Eric and Katie's View, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

The whole family made me feel like a treasured guest and a rock star painter. I am touched and honored and grateful to have gotten to spend some time with them at their Moreno Valley home. And I’m further honored to have several of these paintings hanging in the homes of various of Carol’s family.

Three of the paintings remain, however, and are now finally available on my online shop. Limited edition prints of Peaceful Summer Evening will be available this autumn. If you think you might like a print, please shoot me a message; that will help me determine how many prints to make for this special edition.

Incidentally, there is an 8th painting of the Moreno Valley that I did during this series. Only rather than being a view from The Rocks, it’s from the valley itself, of an old adobe house that caught my eye. We’re looking north toward Eagle Nest, with late springtime/early summer clouds building. Hard to paint this without sinking into a reverie of what it must have been like to live in the valley when this homestead was molded from earth and straw. Surely there’s a window on the north side where, much like their neighbors, generations have gazed upon Touch-Me-Not and Baldy?

Moreno Valley Painting Eight ~ High Desert Homestead
High Desert Homestead, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

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** For my favorite alternative rendition of Peaceful Easy Feeling, check-out the beautiful late Kate Wolf singing it here. To discover my OTHER “quintessential day’s off song” join me for Tuesday Dawnings next week. 😉

___________________________________________________________

Artist Dawn Chandler enjoying coffee and journalling time by the Rio Grande.

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings!
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

I invite you to find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Learn more about it here.

~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico

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the moreno valley & me, part one

Looking south across Eagle Nest Lake from the pass of Hwy 64. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

The first time I entered and crossed the Moreno Valley was in July, 1982. I had just completed a Rayado Trek at Philmont. My brothers were both working as Rangers at Philmont that summer along with some other Scouting friends from back home. My parents and another family — close friends of ours — had spent early July road-tripping across Colorado, when they dipped into New Mexico to pick me up after Rayado. (As a notable aside, my parents had been my advisors for a Philmont trek in 1980, and this other couple had been my crew advisors in 1981). The plan was that from New Mexico we would go on to southwestern Colorado to backpack for a week in the Wiminuche Wilderness of the San Juans — which we did.

The Chandler Family, c.1982.

And so one sunny morning in mid-July of 1982, our family and friends caravanned west to make our way from Cimarron for a late breakfast at some supposedly renown eatery in Taos. This, then, for me was to be a day of many “firsts” — my first drive down Cimarron and Taos Canyons; my first time in Taos; my first breakfast at Michael’s Kitchen.
And, as I said, my first encounter with the Moreno Valley which, to this 17-year-old Jersey Girl, was by far the largest, widest valley I’d ever seen.

Highway 64 is the artery crossing the Moreno Valley, entering from the northeast as it zigzags down from that high pass and skirts the north rim of Eagle Nest Lake, before circling around to head south.

Topo map of the Moreno Valley.

To the east are the mountains of Philmont; to the west the dark hills crumple and fold upwards to Wheeler — New Mexico’s crowning peak.

Eventually on that same side of the road you’ll spot a remarkable piece of architecture — the first and for the longest time the ONLY (and surely one of the most beautiful) memorials to the Vietnam War. Just a little way further down the highway, to the southeast lies the Village of Angel Fire.

Looking south toward Angel Fire on Hwy 64 in the Moreno Valley. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

But right about here — before you leave the valley and enter the western mountains that will eventually lead you to Taos, you want to turn around and look north. For that’s when you’ll see what so many of my friends and I love to see: The long hump of Touch Me Not, and beyond that, rising to 12,441 feet, the rounded rocky summit of Baldy Mountain, Philmont’s highest peak, crowning over Eagle Nest Lake, the Moreno Valley, and the dreams of so many of us.

Looking north toward Baldy Mt. on Hwy 64 in the Moreno Valley. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

Last year I had occasion to reflect deeply on the Moreno Valley. For it was about a year ago when a Philmont friend contacted me about doing a special painting. My friend Carol comes from a long lineage of Philmonters, she herself being one of that early awesome sisterhood: the first generation of women Rangers of the early 1970s. [READ: GODDESSES] I had the great good fortune of getting to know Carol in 2015 when she joined our all women “Sole Sister” crew for a week-long Philmont Staff Association trek. Prior to our trek, Carol was a bit mysterious to me: one of those inspiring Philmont legends I’d mostly heard about over the years but had never met. It was a dream come true to get to hike with this legend (among several others) — for a whole week!

PSA Sole Sister Crew 712 PS6 2015 getting ready for a week-long backpacking trek at Philmont.

Part of what had added to Carol’s mystique for me was the awareness that her family had for years owned a family compound over in the Moreno Valley. A place where, back in the 1970s, when Carol and her siblings dominated the staff roster, there would be frequent staff gatherings on days’ off. By the time I came on staff on the 1980s, Carol and her family had mostly moved on with their lives, and their family compound parties of the 70s became the stuff of legends; a place for me of mysterious fascination. And — alas — a place, too, I likely would never get to see, since I didn’t know the family beyond acquaintance.

Just imagine the excitement when, after our PSA trek, Carol suggested our Sole Sister crew have a celebratory “end of trail” feast at the compound.
I’m pretty sure I squealed with delight.That dinner was magical, for all the reasons that a celebratory feast after a long and wonderful hike is magical. Once strangers, now united in community, in friendship. A sisterhood spanning ages, spanning shapes and sizes, spanning different roots, dreams, futures. All gathered around a rustic table celebrating each other, our community, the land, and our journey together. But also magical for the history — for the stories — of that place. To learn from Carol how her family first acquired a parcel under the trees all those decades ago. To see the shape of history of love tacked and tapestried on every wall, every shelf, in every piece of furniture.

And then those guestbooks.

To pore over page after page of those 1970s summers and recognize with glee so many names of friends and heroes and dear ones.

Philmont summer staff guestbook page c. 1980.
Another Philmont summer staff guestbook page c. 1980.

And then…. oh yes, and then…. to pull ourselves away from the books of signatures and step outside and walk to the edge of the pines , look out across meadows and down that long valley…. to Baldy Mountain.

What a view.

A gorgeous Moreno Valley view, looking north toward Baldy and Touch-Me-Not. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

That view is why Carol was contacting me about this time last year.

Her son was going to be getting married that summer and the ceremony was to be at the family compound in the Moreno Valley.

She wanted to give the bride and groom a special, meaningful gift…

And so she wanted to ask me: Might I consider painting their view of Baldy?

{ To be continued…. }