Friday, February 8, 2019

What Happens, When You Can't Not Paint

When the desire is strong enough, the means seem to magically appear, as they did for me on a trip I made to the California Coast a few years back.

In Pacific Grove ©Theresa Grillo Laird

For some unknowable reason, California has always held some kind of crazy pull on me. Even as a young child, I begged my parents to move from our east coast home to that place of promise called California. I spent leisurely childhood  hours with one of those old Walter Foster painting books propped in front of my myopic eyes, dreaming my being into a painting of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

April rain at Mission San Antonio de Padua ©Theresa Grillo Laird

 I didn't actually make it out to the west coast until about 8 years ago. For a too brief period of 3 years, my husband and I made frequent trips to the central coast to maintain a property inherited by his family. Though I haven't been back since the property was sold, I just have to close my eyes to smell the hay filled scent of the fields surrounding the orchard the house stood on. A moment's thought, brings me back to the eucalyptus filled air of Hearst Memorial Beach or to the feel beneath my feet of the rocky ground of Big Sur's cliff tops. Warm dry air filled with scents of coastal plants, the colors, the ocean breeze through the mountain passes, all live in my senses daily. I'd move there in a New York minute if it wouldn't mean throwing my family life over the cliff.

coastal pines ©Theresa Grillo Laird

Traveling up highway 1 for the first time through land that gradually turned to countryside, it took less than a day to start feeling half sick that I didn't bring my paints and easel. A quick trip to a San Luis Obispo art store took care of the paints and canvas. I figured I'd just sit on the ground to paint, making an easel unnecessary, until I discovered how pernicious poison oak can be. By the third trip there, I knew I'd be looking at several weeks of steroid packs back home to fix the purple welts that plagued me after each trip. Ah well. Every paradise seems to have it's serpents.

On my first  night, surprising chilly for April to this Floridian, I eagerly packed my new paints and brushes and waited for sunrise. Various kinds of rose bushes lined 3 sides of the house, and their scent lingered in the room and mixed with the sweet fruit wood burning in a pot belly stove. There was no TV service and the mellow lamp light and country night sounds gave the house a peaceful gentleness that I wished I could have bottled for future enjoyment. I slept well that night.

I woke the next morning to sunlight edging over the mountain tops and flooding the orchard. A day trip to a place I knew nothing about called Big Sur, was on the menu. I grabbed my new paints and made my way out to the garage where some faint hammering had been going on. "How's this?" said my husband, and presented me with a folding easel he had constructed out of PVC piping he'd found in the garage. Be it a dining table big enough for unexpected house guests, or an on-the-spot easel, he has a remarkable ability to turn out at a moments notice, whatever is needed! Here's a picture of it in action.

painting in Cambria 

That humble but sturdy easel served me well for the next 5 weeks whenever we took time off from working on the property, to explore the region. A photo of it in use, still graces the back of my business cards and reminds me that those things necessary to feed the soul, like sweet dreams of a golden land, clifftop splendors and a means to paint will somehow always find their way to you.

In Big Sur-almost heaven!

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