Tag Archives: Hanford

Lessons from the Drive Home

When I was a kid we drove down to Los Angeles from the Bay Area – a lot. I thought I-5 was the most incredibly boring drive anywhere. My parents often did the drive at night, I suspect as much to get us to sleep through the drive instead of having to listen to us complain about it, as much as to fit their schedules.

A funny thing has happened the last few times I’ve driven I-5, especially on the drive home from Camp Gramma and Gramps. I-5 has gotten interesting, even beautiful. Or perhaps I have just become open to the final lesson from camp.

Lesson # 4 – You do not have to go somewhere “special” to be inspired.

Two weeks ago I was in Yosemite. Beautiful, awe-inspiring and very photographable. You can hardly take a step without finding another vista, waterfall or critter to photograph.

This week I spent in Hanford. Yup, Hanford. If you are like 99% of the people I’ve mentioned Hanford to, you have no idea where Hanford is, you’ve never even heard of it. It’s near Fresno. Ah… It’s between the San Francisco and Los Angeles. Aha!

But something about the lighting on my drive home from Hanford to San Jose was just perfect. The hills were a beautiful buttery yellow, the sky a blue that varied from pale and watery to brilliant azure depending on where I looked, and everywhere there was a scene that I wanted to photograph.

If you’ve ever driven on Hwy 198 or I-5 you might be surprised. I mean it’s all just fields and bare, dry landscape, right?

I kept thinking of a book by one of my professors (and one of my favorite photographers),  Robert Dawson, called The Great Central Valley. In this project Bob photographed areas, that might otherwise be dismissed, in such a way as to show their beauty and dignity. You can see some of his magnificent photographs, here. (And while you’re at it, check out Farewell Promised Land. The photograph, Private property, Lake Tahoe, remains one of my all time favorite photographs.)

Where I could, I stopped on the roadside on my way home. The two images in this blog post are from those stops. The first (above) is of a farmer tilling his soil. I like the juxtaposition of the farmer and field with all of the man-made timing and light devices (including the reflection in the rear-view mirror).

 The second is of a hillside recently burned. I think the black hills make the golden-yellow and sky blue pop – and I like the way the black pickets and road carry the black through the image.

The drive has reminded me of an exercise that I used to do – Daily Photographs. Every day I would take photographs and then cull them down to the 5 best. This served two purposes – it made me look at my everyday environments with an artist’s eye – and made me self-edit (something I’m not very good at). Hmm. I think I’ll have to start the Daily Photographs again. Perhaps there is an artists’ book in there somewhere…

I challenge you to find artistic inspiration in an environment you previously thought boring.



Things I Learned at “Camp” This Year

I spent the last week reconnecting with my parents in a way that I appreciate more and more as I (and they) get older. I had the added pleasure of  bringing with me my niece, Amelia (7) and nephew, Colin (two weeks from 11). My brother, Bryce and his wife, Melanie, get a week “off” and I get a week to really enjoy the kids. The crowning glory is the stone fruit, fresh corn and tomatoes that peak in the central valley this time of year.

Our daily routine went something like this:

  • Apply sunscreen to wiggling kids who are still chewing their last bite of breakfast but are too excited to wait.
  • Sit next to the pool, in the shade, cold drink in hand, chatting with my mom while watching the kids perfect their cannonballs.
  • Help the kids make lunch. Try Colin’s “special” tuna and wonder how his stomach survives his marvelous (but curious) culinary experiments.
  • Sit with the kids and kibbitz on their computer games (at my parent’s house computer games are a group activity). Help Amelia rescue kitties in her favorite game.
  • Spend an hour resting, reading or sleeping. (When I ask Colin why his feet are by my head in the bed he matter-of-factly tells me he is stretching.)
  • Head back to the pool, this time IN the pool splashing the kids in between laps. Marvel that just a short time ago Amelia could barely swim across the short side of the pool and now she can swim the length without pause.
  • Make dinner. Insist that if the kids have room for cookies they definitely have room for salad and that the last bite of tomato really won’t kill them.
  • Throw the frisbee for my dad’s scary smart shepherd-border collie mix, Pepper. Enjoy the cool evening and glowing sunset.
  • Cuddle up with the kids and a book or TV. 
  • Wonder how parents, especially artists with children, ever get anything done besides make sure the kids are safe and well fed.
  • Kiss, hug and tuck in the kids. Fall into my own bed and fall asleep.
  • Repeat.

While driving home to San Jose, I was thinking about what spending a week in Hanford with my family taught me. I realized that, more than anything, having time to hold still and rest refocuses the mind on lessons we already know but often ignore.

Lesson # 1 – Don’t rush art to meet a deadline (or fruit to market).

I’m sorry to say that the my artists’ book using a family quilt was not ready for the 23 Sandy Gallery Uncommon Threads deadline. I worked on the book and was trying to get it finished on time and then realized I was rushing it. I was making decisions based on what I could get done quickly, not on what the book needed. A week of eating perfectly ripe fruit – picked from the tree when ready – not when the market demanded, reminded me that things have a natural timeline. Including creating new artwork.

[As a side note – if you’re going to/through or near Hanford, California, I highly recommend Cody’s Fruit Stand on 13th Avenue. The people are always nice and the fruit is drip-down-your chin perfect.

And the corn from the First Fruits Stand on 12th. Sold every morning to cars that line up to buy bagfuls and always sold out by noon. After your first bite of this corn you’ll be lined up every morning, too.]

Did you have time off this summer? Did you learn any lessons to apply to your art making?

Up next: Lesson # 2.