Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Small Work, Big Ideas: YUKON

Late night after rain, North Klondike River valley, Tombstone Mountains, Yukon
A sliver of blue braves the milky white cloud-sky this morning, giving me hope as I unfold myself into the wet world outside my tent.  Day after day delivers rain in these Yukon mountains and a nearly sun-filled pause in the low dome of moisture leaves me grinning.  I can cling to blue and its possibilities. 

The bluest blue.  I live for these days!!!
 I didn’t know I’d be spending the whole summer in northern Canada.  It’s become late August.  I am pioneering an artist in residence program at Tombstone Territorial Park, camping and working with the park’s Interpretive Centre on arts/ecology education while also tending the fires of my own creativity.  I’m exploring the land as much as possible, smitten by a revolving presentation of rainbows and ethereal twilight as we move deeply into fall. 

Rainbow and oncoming storm near North Fork Pass, Tombstone Mountains, Yukon
Beneath the daily flow of art and teaching I'm privately trying wrap my head/heart around the sense of raw wilderness that – delightfully and astonishingly – surrounds me here.  It is truly awesome, in the same way that glaciers and icebergs were for me in Greenland.   I am small here, surrounded by dreams as fast and wide as the waterways that cleave these moss-covered hills.  And I am learning to let the earth cradle me when it feels like nothing else can or will.

"Drunken Spruce / Forest Family", acrylic on tree-free paper

Tundra Raven, Olgilvie Mountains, Yukon.  Mixed media on tree-free paper.
 I’ve stumbled upon what I call a last place, an ecosystem still incredibly undisturbed.  We have no reference point for this in the South - the lower 48 - and I understand how fragmented everything has become. Wilderness like this takes your breath away, leaving you mute and grasping for a tether to guide you home across the tracks of moose, caribou, grizzly and wolf.

Caribou antlers fall where they may in Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon.
I haven’t had much online access here this last month.  We are solar powered and off grid at the visitor center where I work.  I’m finally returning to social media and this blog, overwhelmed with how to begin and what to say of my current experience in the north.  I know that photographs are a great place to start, though they reveal only the surface rather than the soul of these cloud-topped mountains, spruce forest, and sub-arctic tundra.  

"Small home / big big world", mixed media on watercolor paper
Artist’s residencies are one part making/creating and one part looking and seeing.  I'm constantly alert as if I’m scanning for grizzly on the horizon.  Right now my days are heavily weighted to accommodate a growing cache of impressions to be doled out slowly in the coming months.  I am the alpine pika stockpiling food for winter.  My voluminous notes, research and outdoor adventures in the Territory are crucial sustenance to carry me forward.  Creating art from raw experience, distilling wonder into something articulate and palatable while capturing the ephemeral - it takes time.
"Ravens over the Continental Divide", Tombstone Mountains, Yukon.  Mixed media on watercolor paper.