The Sky is Bright with Many Colors



This has been a really good week. And not because of any particular event, but because I have really still been feeling like my true self still, which is something wonderful that I hope I can continue to hold onto. As painful as it was to tear myself away from California, I’m managing to ease back into Seattle life. It was good to have a couple of days to get stuff done before having to go back to work, and then work wasn’t as crazy as I was expecting either. Best of all, I’ve really been working harder at taking better care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I did love this sunset I caught the other night. That large cloud in the middle of the picture just has so many colors on it. Amazing. The weather has been really nice for this time of year too. This week there was minimal rain and the sun has been shining almost constantly, with temperatures potentially hitting 70 this weekend. Shocking for March/April in Seattle! I work tomorrow, and Saturdays are always our busiest day, but do have Sunday off for Easter and then the following three days after that as well. There is lots to do between catching up on things around the house and in life, along with my decision this week to apply to a MFA program in Creative Writing. The challenge is two-fold in that I haven’t been devoting myself to writing regularly in many years and that the application is due by April 15th. Whether I’m accepted or not, I think this will be a good exercise for me though. I used to really want to be a writer back in high school and never considered it to be a career I could actually have. But why not? (The obstacle is the path!)

There is a little art-related news in that I will have a couple of pieces in our local Art Lending Library. Dropping them off on Sunday and then the event is on Tuesday. Will post more on that later, but I think it is a fun way to expose more people to art and get them involved actively with seeking out artwork that they want to have in their homes, even if they are just borrowing.

What I love, is how happy–not just content–I feel right now. Very at peace and very centered. I got up and ran an errand before work today to pick up a birthday gift for Bryn (coming up in three weeks). Then work all day was fun and productive, came home to spend time with Bryn and watch Disney movies. But wait, there’s more! Went to PCC and ran into artist friends who also live nearby and picked up avocados, peppers, garlic, and lime. Came home and made the same guacamole recipe that we had last Sunday in Santa Cruz which I will take to work tomorrow for our potluck. None of these things are very significant or overly important. But they have all been so enjoyable. Maybe I’m just being more attentive to being in the moment, or maybe I got a lot of Vitamin D when I was in California that has yet to wear off. Whatever the case, I’m going to run with it.


The Obstacle Is the Path



Just got back yesterday morning from my second California visit so far this year. I had thought there would be a marked distinction between the two, one being a more professional visit for my art along with a personal bent since I was visiting close to my tribe’s territories and the other being a weekend fun trip with friends. Yes, there definitely were differences. And yet… I’ve come home with that same feeling, that same longing for a place. I look outside at the familiar landscape I’ve grown up with, and it suddenly seems foreign. Am I breaking up with Seattle at long last? If so, it will be a long process. But if I could, I would move down to California in a heartbeat to live near the ocean. Anywhere from Monterey or farther north up to Crescent City.

I know this restlessness will fade with time as I slip back into my “real” life. But I don’t think the longing for place will. I just loved being somewhere where I felt like I was myself. I loved our brief time in the city in San Francisco, but it wasn’t there. It was when we started driving down the coast to Santa Cruz. There’s a picture I took of myself when we stopped at a beach and a friend commented yesterday that she loved that photo because I look so happy. Probably uncharacteristically so. I was sitting with her for a couple of hours at the beach at Lincoln Park in West Seattle where we both live. Luckily, the sun was out to help make the transition home easier. It was stunning: the sun shining, the lightly choppy water, the Olympic mountains in the distance covered with snow, ferries passing by and docking to our left on a regular basis, everybody out walking with their kids and dogs. Normally I would have been in heaven, but yesterday it felt like faded photocopy of where I had just been.

When we were in Santa Cruz on Sunday walking along the cliffs north of the main beach, we had all paused at the railing to stare at the water below. I glanced over and noticed that one of my friends was standing directly in front of a sentence scrawled in black marker on the rail. It said, “The obstacle is the path.

This time, I wanted to write about my visit before it faded too much. My visit to Arcata and the Klamath River were so significant and intensely personal, but it was challenging to get back into the moment and write about it. This visit feels even more ephemeral and I wanted to write about it before I start doing all those things-that-must-be-done today and then go back to work tomorrow. But for a few more minutes, before I start my tasks, I will bask in the memories of place, reconnecting with friends, making new friends, and feeling like I was my true self.

Just Say No to Rape Culture

Power Is In Your Soul

I’ve been having some trouble sleeping this week, so since I’m awake and will be computerless for a while in the near future (vacation) I figured I would write. With the Steubenville rape case having just ended in a conviction for the two football players, I’ve seen a lot in the media and in social media related to this story and about rape in general. A lot of the coverage I’ve been reading has come from links via Facebook friends, and happily, they are all of the type that are critical of rape culture. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the links have also come from people who are Native or artists or some combination of the two. Many of these folks also posted frequently about the Violence Against Women Act that took a painfully long time to actually get approved. I’ve tended to repost a lot of articles dealing more specifically with feminist issues on my Facebook page for Robohontas. This may be because many of these articles I am sharing are more geared toward Native women and since Robohontas is female, it seems a more appropriate venue.

But all of this rape culture talk gets me thinking. Why do I feel that I have to segregate my posts based on gender? It isn’t a malicious choice, or even necessarily a wrong one. Yet, it made me recognize that I still have my own feelings of insecurity about working as a gay male artist with a female character, and of treading into the realm of feminist issues. What am I afraid of? I honestly don’t know. I believe it is just a byproduct of the social conditioning that men receive, and of which was so confusing to me as a child and adolescent. And I’m glad to have it brought to my attention so that I can be more aware of the choices I may be unconsciously making!

One of the most thought-provoking things I read from all of these posts were two posts (and lots of comments) on a blog called Rant Against the Random. The two posts (So you’re tired of hearing about rape culture? and Why I Won’t Publish Your Comments About False Rape Accusations) were thoughtfully written and I really love her clear arguments and appreciation for fairness. I also applauded her decision to not only choose to stop publishing comments from readers about false rape accusations, but to also give a thorough explanation as to why she made that decision. There is a lot of emotional baggage when dealing with this type of topic and she handles it deftly and appropriately. She wasn’t afraid in the comments to interact with readers and calmly defend her arguments or respond to points that they may have brought up. There’s so much in the posts and all of the comments that ultimately, like many commenters, it brought up things from my own past. I’ve certainly shared some of the following experience with people in my life, but never publicly written about it.

To be as brief as I can, I was working at Nordstrom, specifically at the spa as a manicurist. The area I worked in at the time had two private treatment rooms for manicures and pedicures in addition to the other treatment rooms for massage and skincare and a more traditional manicure area near the front. I had a male client who, during a service, began touching me somewhat suggestively. At first I tried to ignore it and then when it became overt I panicked and froze. Without knowing what to do, I became an unwilling participant in a brief sexual encounter. That part was bad enough, but what happened after was worse. I went through a period of feeling intense guilt and shame before finally “confessing” to my boyfriend, who recognized it for what it was–that I had been sexually victimized. I knew this was something that I couldn’t deal with on my own, and in my naiveté, I ended up assuming that I should talk to my managers and the company’s HR department. Big mistake.

I ended up providing a written description of what happened to the HR manager, including informing that the incident had me shaken because of sexual abuse from my teenage years, at which point my employment was terminated. But not immediately, no. I had submitted my statement and then had a couple of days off of work. Then I went back in, worked half a day, and then had a meeting with HR where the manager told me that there were at least twelve instances where I should have stopped the encounter and that I was being let go for using poor judgment in a situation. I’d like to believe that part of Nordstrom’s response to the situation would have been different if I had been a female employee, but I don’t really know. I felt that I was being discriminated against because they were assuming that since I was gay and the client was a man, that they felt what happened was consensual. I did find a lawyer who helped represent me in fighting my firing as unjust, but of course Nordstrom’s lawyers got the assistant manager I had first spoken with the incident about to say that I told her I had told the client “yes” when he asked if it was okay. He had asked, but I didn’t say anything, which is what I told the spa assistant manager. I’d like to believe that she just got the story wrong in her head, but that seemed to be the piece which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or whichever formal channel we were going through, took as enough reason to not look into my firing further. At that point I had to decide whether to file a civil lawsuit, which I decided against as I didn’t want to incur the financial and emotional expense of a long court battle.

Looking back now, about eight years later, I can clearly recognize the “rape culture” elements within my own story. My own fear, guilt, and shame after the incident that was causing panic attacks. The minimal response from Nordstrom when I initially reported the attack, followed by the HR manager blaming me personally for what happened. The bureaucratic assumption by the EEOC that because Nordstrom had someone who was willing to testify third-hand that I had entered into the situation willingly, that the incident did not merit investigation. Even the fact that the spa manager wrote me a letter of reference, but wouldn’t actually put her signature on it.

I don’t bring up my own story to prove that women aren’t the only victims. Really, I look at is as an act of solidarity against the silence that so many people who experience acts of sexual aggression live with. I consider myself lucky in that I didn’t come to any physical harm unlike what some people experience. While I think the emotional trauma is nothing to trifle with either, I didn’t have to deal with having my life threatened or being beaten up. The incident also was a trigger that caused me to find my psychologist who really helped me to face and deal with all of the emotional and physical abuse I experienced from my father while growing up, which is really what led me to freeze when faced with the situation at Nordstrom. I don’t say that I deserved what happened, but I now feel a lot more confident that if faced with the same type of passive sexual aggression again, I will not just panic and shut down. What happened to me was horrible, but I also ended up using it as an opportunity for personal growth. Even just writing about the experience and making the decision to hit “publish” is difficult. I haven’t gone back there in my head in a long time and posting this makes me feel awfully vulnerable. But by not talking about it, I am actively participating in the continuance of rape culture.

It would be great if more men would talk about their experiences since there is a lot of social stigma around sexual violence for men that is different than the stigma faced by women in the same types of situations. And women need the support of men along with other women in fighting this pervasive “slut shaming” of those who speak out. Women are clearly the most common victims. Ultimately, it would be wonderful to live in a world that doesn’t blame a victim for having invited an act of sexual aggression.

A Fantasy of a Single United Culture

The First People, 2008. By Susan Point (Musqueam)

The First People, 2008. By Susan Point (Musqueam)

I ran across a couple of things this morning. I’ll start with the second one, which was a blog post at Seattle Art Museum’s SOAP blog. It included the image above and talked about the piece, which was created specifically for SAM by Musqueam artist, Susan Point. I do really admire her work and think that her carving is pretty sensational. I think she’s found a really great blend between the traditional mediums/designs and what the contemporary art world is seeking. Hence the accolades such as the following from the original blog post:

Because of her high stature and the demand for her work, Susan Point rarely executes large labor-intensive carvings any longer and has turned to work other media. This piece, created specifically for the museum, is a large-scale carved and painted panel that retains the ethos of ancient Coast Salish forms yet, in the hands of this accomplished artist those forms and the content they carry are vibrantly contemporary. Susan has emerged as one of the most successful and sought-after Northwest Coast Native artists and she has been credited with single-handedly reviving the unique Salish style that has lain dormant for nearly 100 years. She is among only a handful of Native female artists working in the media of woodcarving.

The other large scale contemporary Native work that I can think of off-hand is a big glass piece by Preston Singletary which sits on the wall directly across a traditional panel in wood of the type it is modeled after. I do like and appreciate both of these works. I love that SAM includes them on display with all of the traditional pieces. And yet… I still take issue with the Native galleries.

Yes, I know I’m hard on SAM’s Native galleries! And it isn’t that I don’t appreciate their collection or their efforts. I’ve met with the Native curator, Barbara Brotherton, several years ago when I was still in school. She was delightful and offered a lot of insight. She also commented that there isn’t a lot of acceptance locally to Native art outside of what the public is expecting to see. And that is the problem. I think SAM is open to pushing the boundaries in other areas, including ethnic art such as the video installation I recently viewed in the African galleries that was amazing. But the closest I’ve seen to that with Native art at SAM was Sonny Assu’s cereal boxes which was also years ago.

The thing is, both of these large contemporary Native artworks continue to reinforce the public’s assumption that Seattle is the original home to Native cultures that made these works. Singletary’s work is based on his Tlingit ancestry and culture, just as Point’s work references her Musqueam background. Both of these cultures are not local, but from farther north (Canada and/or Alaska). Yes, they are Pacific Northwest Coast, but by that vein, so is work from Oregon and Northwest California coastal communities, which is usually also ignored in favor of the bright and bold totem poles and formline designs from up north. I think these pieces certainly deserve a place and home at SAM. But not to the exclusion of other Native artists, and not in a way that reinforces public stereotypes. So if I’m critical of SAM’s efforts in the Native galleries, it isn’t that I don’t like their work. I just believe that they can and should do better, because I’m a member and support what they do. They bring a lot of really great art to Seattle that we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise!

So, back to that first thing I saw today. It was an article from last year about an exhibition of Native artists’ work in Paris. And there was a quote from someone who viewed the exhibit that I think really sums up public perception of Native art and cultures, not only abroad, but right here in the United States (and here in Seattle). Here’s the paragraph that jumped out at me with emphasis added on the part that I found most interesting:

For a Parisian public largely unfamiliar with contemporary Native art, the opportunity to view the works and meet the artists was unprecedented. French ideas about American Indians are still, like those of many people around the world, associated with the romantic vision derived from Hollywood movies and the photos of Edward Curtis: feather headdresses, leather loincloths and face paint. Many visitors were taken aback by this display of modern Native creativity. “I am surprised by the great diversity,” said one. “These works are all grouped under the label Native. I am looking for a common touch in the paintings, and I don’t see one. Coming to this show, I had a simplistic vision, a fantasy of a single unified culture. But I see a wide variety in this art; these painters are drawing on their culture’s past, yes, but from modernity and classicism as well.

I don’t think I can say it any better than that. And I wish there were more opportunities locally here in Seattle to see that type of Native art on display, especially at the institutions that can help make more of an impact on the public’s perception of Native art.

Stereotype Threat



This morning I was listening briefly to NPR in the car and caught a snippet of the interview they played with Cheryl Sandberg about her new book, Lean In. Here’s a brief passage from NPR’s website:

Boys, she says, are socialized to be assertive and aggressive and take leadership. Girls? “We call our little girls bossy,” Sandberg says. “Go to a playground: Little girls get called ‘bossy’ all the time, a word that’s almost never used for boys. And that leads directly to the problems women face in the workforce. When a man does a good job, everyone says, ‘That’s great.’ When a woman does that same thing, she’ll get feedback that says things like, ‘Your results are good, but your peers just don’t like you as much’ or ‘maybe you were a little aggressive.’ ”

“What’s holding women back in computer science is the exact same thing … that’s holding women back in leadership,” Sandberg says. It’s something social scientists call “stereotype threat.” Stereotype threat means that the more we’re aware of a stereotype, the more we act in accordance with it,” Sandberg explains. “So, stereotypically we believe girls are not good at math. Therefore, girls don’t do well at math, and it self-perpetuates. If you ask a girl right before she takes a math test to check off ‘M’ or ‘F’ for male or female, she does worse on that test. The reason there aren’t more women in computer science is there aren’t enough women in computer science.”

I ended up watching Les Misérables this morning, which reminded me about all of the Anne Hathaway backlash going on after she’s done so well during this recent award season. For instance, there is the Huffington Post article addressing things that says:

With an Oscar and a Golden Globe to her name, and a perch on top of the Hollywood scene, why does everyone still hate on Anne Hathaway? Her recent film and award season success has unleashed a backlash, including a brutal response on Twitter to her Oscar acceptance speech. On Friday, HuffPost Live host Alicia Mendendez asked what generates that fire. Rich Juzwiak, a writer at, pointed out that no matter how many naysayers she has, Hathaway still is “winning.” Juzwiak went on to say that “there would not be a need for a backlash if she weren’t so successful, it’s in response to that.”

Or the bit in the New Yorker saying:

This question [Why are you so annoying?] was posed repeatedly in the days after Anne Hathaway’s Oscar win for her role as the destitute-prostitute mother Fantine, in “Les Mis”—and various answers have been offered: she’s too actorly, and reminds us of the show-tune-belting nightmare we knew in high school; she’s polished, successful, and driven, and people still find this distasteful in a woman; plump faces are the vogue and her face is too thin; the public every so often elects a random celebrity victim for vitriolic hatred—every generation needs one, and she is ours; her sunny persona is a coverup for steely ambition that catapulted her out of youthful stardom into a mature career that runs the gamut from eccentric indie to big-franchise blockbuster. To these reasonably convincing propositions, I’ll add one more: she represents the archetype of the happy girl, which is one that many people resist.

Slate thinks that the New Yorker author’s take on the situation is incorrect and ends up still blaming women:

In reality, Weiss’s contention that society is unduly cruel to deliberately girlish women misses the point entirely. Our media is awash with the sexual fantasy of the infantilized and therefore submissive woman. (Watch a delicious satire of the trope from Community here.) This does, in fact, tend to drive many women bonkers. But it should not be construed as some deep-set societal hatred for girls so much as an entirely understandable reaction from grown women who have every right to expect women to be regarded as adults. And that goes double for when we’re engaging in adult behaviors like being sexual.

Still, even if Weiss wanted to mount this defense of women who really do draw negative reactions because they act girlish, I would resist her. Expecting adult women to act “like men”—i.e., to have self-awareness, to be calm, and to have a sense of humor—is not something that other women should have to apologize for.

I really find all of this fascinating. I think Cheryl Sandberg is really on to something with her book and her efforts to continue exploring why public perception of men and women who engage in the same behaviors is so different. Anne Hathaway seems like a great example of this. I didn’t hear a furor over any of the men in Les Misérables, but the catty online comments were everywhere about Anne. Her mouth is too big, she tries too hard, she’s too perky, etc. And then now that she is being rewarded as successful with nominations and actual awards, she is disliked even more. There was even an Oscars dress spectacle about how Anne’s planned Valentino gown was too similar to Amanda Seyfried’s Alexander McQueen gown, and Anne threw a fit when Amanda showed her a picture of it. However this actually played out in real life, it would be hard to imagine that the media would jump on that same story if the people involved were men. Would Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe would be portrayed as jealous rivals over a tuxedo?

Yes, stereotypes do have a role in our everyday lives that help us to move through the world we live in. We all live with and use them regularly. But when we accept them blindly, and don’t recognize when something may not actually be as we perceive it… well, that’s when they become dangerous. Why? Because we and our perceived worldview feel threatened. Hence, stereotype threat.


SAM Shop and Segregated Books

SAM Native Art Books

Last week (or was it two weeks ago?) when I had stopped by SAM shop at Seattle Art Museum I figured I would see if they had any books on Native art that I may have missed recently. I wandered through the many bookshelves looking for the Native art section. No luck. Thinking that I had missed it, I retraced my steps and checked again more carefully. Then again. I knew that there had been such a section on previous visits, but that could have been a year or two when I last was specifically looking. Where did they go?

Then I thought to look over by the case of Native art. Aha! Tucked in a spot behind the stairwell down from the main galleries is a glass case that displays Native art (mostly traditional Salish art, of course) and there against the wall was a small bookshelf containing the available Native art books. I didn’t think to take a photo at the time, but found the image above on SAM Shops Facebook page.

This segregation of the Native books from the rest of the available books for purchase has stuck with me. Is it a big deal in the grand scheme of things? No. But does it say something about how Native art and cultures are viewed by the most prominent art institution in Seattle? Yes. These were the only books pulled out specifically from a rather large shelved area that is clearly where you would be looking for books. I can’t help but question why it is okay to separate the Native books from the rest and place them by the Native art, when one doesn’t find the Asian art books near any Asian art items, or African art books near African art items.

It speaks, to me, of how American culture generally knows little about the indigenous cultures that were here before colonization. It says that the mainstream art world in the Pacific Northwest has little interest in Native art and cultures except as curios, and that any Native art had better reflect what the public is expecting to see (formline design, totem poles, basketry). I appreciate that SAM’s collection of Native objects is likely heavy on traditional Coast Salish artifacts, but I really wish they would push the envelope a little bit and not play it so safe in both the Native galleries and in their store. It would be nice to see not only more contemporary Native art/artists represented, but also more Native art/artists from other regions of the country.

If SAM is at or near the top of the Seattle art world food chain, they have an opportunity create a menu that can help influence the public taste. I only wish they would!

Reflections: Visiting the Klamath River



I’ve been meaning to write about my visit down to Humboldt State University for the opening of Fix the Earth: NOW for a while. Yet, I’ve been rather at a loss as to what exactly to say. The trip was amazing and a lot of fun. It was also a very personal experience that left me longing to go back and spend more time there. In general, I loved driving down the coast between Crescent City and Arcata, seeing the redwoods, staying in Arcata, the show opening at HSU, meeting folks in-person that I only knew via online interactions, and meeting new people as well.

I had been really excited to be in a show that included Rick Bartow’s work, as he’s one of my favorite Native artists. He was there and I was able to spend some time chatting with him which was great! I got the down and dirty about a sculpture he made titled “Fox Spirit” that I know I’ve posted images of before. There were also new artists to me (Frank Tuttle, Cheryl Tuttle, Brittany Britton) that I was able to meet and view their work, and seeing work in-person from other artists I was familiar with already (Julian Lang, Lyn Risling, Brian Tripp) was so much different than looking at an image online or in a book. I really loved that all of our takes on the tradition of fixing the earth varied widely, and yet also had a common thread at the core. Some of us made new work, some of us showed previously created work, but all of it was really meaningful.

There is also a show currently on view at the Morris Graves Museum of Art that focused on Native artists from the Klamath River and surrounding river systems. In fact, there was a great deal of crossover with many artists having work in both shows (Julian Lang, Lyn Risling, Brian Tripp, Bob Benson, Frank Tuttle, Cheryl Tuttle, Brittany Britton, and Louisa McCovey at the very least). That show was nearby in Eureka so I was able to stop there and see so many wonderful pieces. There were also items by Nisha Supahan (From the River Collective founder) and others who are part of the FTRC family. Photography wasn’t allowed at the museum and there isn’t (yet?!) a catalog available, but I treasure the memory of spending time with all of those objects. So many of them resonated for me and there was a wide variety from traditional ceremonial items to paintings to sculpture to conceptual pieces like Brittany Britton’s work that collected elements from the river in jars and vials.

But the river. That was really the most meaningful part of my visit. I had driven down to California in two legs, spending a night in Eugene, Oregon, which made the drive easier. Coming home on Saturday, I drove straight through from Arcata back to Seattle, which was reaaaallly long. I had thought of driving back through Karuk country on Highway 96 up to I-5, but this would have added a few hours onto the trip. Yet, I knew that I had to visit the Klamath farther upriver while I was nearby.

On the way down, I had made a small detour to visit the mouth of the Klamath River at Requa. It seemed like it is probably popular in the summer months at least, but was fairly deserted in late February. The expanse of the river is quite wide at the mouth and there are sand bars as it meets the ocean. I spent a little time soaking it all in as this was my first real moment experiencing the Klamath River beyond driving over it on I-5 years ago. I noticed a pair of what I think were eagles circling above. They were fairly high up, but I could tell they were large! Eventually, another one joined them. By the time I left, I could see a group of six eagles that were flying high up over the river and then another two that were above a hill on the opposite side of the river bank.

The art opening was on Thursday evening and then Friday morning I went back to HSU to do a video interview with Julian Lang. Frank and Cheryl Tuttle joined us partway through and we had a great conversation about the show and Fixing the Earth. After that I stopped at Samoa Beach on my way to the Morris Graves Museum. When I left the museum, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon and I had no concrete plans to be anywhere. I was in the car driving back to the hotel when I suddenly decided to start driving toward the Klamath River. It would have been at least three hours to get to the current Karuk Tribe headquarters at Happy Camp, but I figured maybe I would go part of the way into the mountains and at least try to get to the river. Julian and Lyn had warned me that there are a lot of falling rocks on that highway and it certainly does twist and wind its way through the mountains!

I worried about driving back to the hotel on the narrow mountain roads in the dark, as well as whether the sporadic rain might turn to snow in the high passes as night fell and temperatures dropped. The farther I got towards my goal, the more anxious I became. Yet, I found that I couldn’t turn back without touching the river. As I drove, I asked the mountains for safe passage. I followed the Trinity Highway for what seemed like forever and then turned off onto Highway 96 to follow the Trinity River to Hoopa. I could tell that I would definitely be driving home in the dark now, but still pressed onward as I was so close!

Then I made it to Weitchpec where the Trinity River joins up with the Klamath. This was originally the site of a Yurok village, the Yurok being the “downriver” people to the “upriver” Karuk. I said hello to the river as I drove over the bridge and just felt a flood of happiness. A ways past that I got to a spot called Big Bar where there was a huge turnout beside a small road that led down to the river. It was clearly getting darker now and the high mountains on each side of the river canyon made it even more dim. I thought about pressing on toward Orleans (Panamnik) which wasn’t too far away and is officially within aboriginal Karuk territory as well as being one of three Karuk tribal board meeting places. But I also recognized that I could keep going and going and that daylight was fading. I pulled over in the turnout and got out of the car. The river was so close!

I got back in the car and drove the short distance down the tiny road that led to the river bank. I parked where it was still grassy and literally bounded down the sand bar to the rocky portion along the river’s edge. I was home in a sense completely separate from the apartment I call home in my everyday life. The road was higher up and occasionally I would see the headlights of a car passing up above. Otherwise, it was calm and silent except for the sound of the river and the noise of the rocks underneath my feet. The mountains rose up sharply on either side of the river and I couldn’t tell where they ended in the clouds and fog. I could see the red algae growing on the rocks at the river’s edge, which reminded me of the toxic blue-green algae blooms that I read about which have been taking place during the summer months more frequently in recent years.

I always love looking at wet rocks along beaches and river banks. The water brings out their colors and patterns so vividly. They all seemed to be calling to me and I gathered a few that were most insistent and washed them off in the cold water. It started to rain lightly and the sky got darker. I didn’t want to leave, but eventually made my way back to the car. Exhilarated, I started the drive back to Arcata, saying goodbye to the river as I drove across the bridge at Weitchpec.



The drive back through the mountains was, at times, terrifying! It was so, so dark and then it began to rain heavily. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, but every time I passed a vehicle going the opposite direction, I gripped the steering wheel tighter. I encountered fog in the higher elevations. At one point in a higher pass, it was so thick that I could barely see the road a couple of feet in front of me. I inched forward and came across a car that had apparently pulled over and given up trying to drive for the moment. Pushing forward, I soon after emerged from the cloud bank in that pass and was so relieved to have even limited visibility back.

There was an Indian casino I had passed close to the start of my journey and I kept telling myself that if I made it safely back, I would stop there for dinner and play some slots as a reward. Well, I obviously made it there eventually and was so happy to get out of the car! I had some great sushi and played the slot machines for a while. If I hadn’t had a drink with dinner I would have left with double my gambling money, as I hit a lucky streak rather quickly. But, I didn’t feel ready to drive yet and ended up losing everything after a couple of hours. Which was fine really, and a good lesson about recognizing that an easy win is not a guarantee of continued success.

Besides sharing these stories about my visit, I think the biggest thing to note is the impact that participating in this show and going down there has had on me. I came back changed. Even before I went, the whole process of making the four pieces that I submitted was similar, but different for me. I usually do have a pretty regimented way that I approach these geometric pieces, but there was an unknown feeling inside correcting me when I thought about jumping around in the process. The pieces all had to be made methodically, in a certain order. I don’t know why, but I just knew it was important.

There were similar and stronger moments like that when I was down there on my visit. That unknown feeling became stronger, almost like an interior voice at times. It compelled me to stop at certain places on my drive, to collect certain rocks or shells. Even to detour on my way home up the side of a mountain toward the Oregon Caves only to turn back a mile away from my destination when the snow started to cover the narrow winding road. It also told me to stop at a spot on the way down, and then to leave quickly all of a sudden. There had been no traffic on my way up, but I passed several trucks heading up the mountain on my way down. I have no idea what would have happened if I ignored those instincts, but when I got home I discovered that even if I had made it up to the caves, they were closed for the season anyhow. I think it was more about gathering something up there in the high country. The strongest moment was when I was down there, alone, by the river. Whatever needs to be done, I will know what to do when the time comes.

Of course, the more time that passes, the more all of this seems like a distant memory. As I slipped back into my daily life, my more analytical self says it is all a product of my subconscious. It is harder to reconnect with those moments where I felt so whole and sure of my path. But I won’t forget, not completely.