The Vacation of a Lifetime (part two) – Barren and Beautiful

As I continue to look through the pictures and remember all the beautiful sites we visited on our vacation, I am still struggling for a way to collect all my thoughts. I could easily do a post on each park we visited. But I don’t want to bore you with all the details. Of course, if you want all the info, I’m more than happy to oblige!

You can check out my preview post and my first installment if you’d like.

barren and beautiful capitol reef

So for Part Two of this series of undetermined length, I decided to group together a few parks that are still rolling around in my brain. On any given day, I’m not sure if I loved these parks, was intrigued by these parks, or was happy to move on from these parks. It’s not that I didn’t like the time we spent there, or that they weren’t beautiful. The parks were…well…different.

barren and beautiful canyonlands

Capitol Reef and Canyonlands are not generally on the top of anyone’s list of national parks. Particularly when you are looking at parks in the southwest. We all know the Grand Canyon, and most folks are familiar with Zion, Bryce and Arches as well. But we didn’t meet many people on our trip who were planning to visit Capitol Reef or Canyonlands. In my opinion, they missed out on some incredibly beautiful landscapes.

barren and beautiful capitol reef 2

Beautiful in the midst of barren

Capitol Reef was a study in contrasts. As soon as we entered the park, we were awestruck with the barren nature of the landscape. Towering red cliffs, expansive red vistas, deep crevices through the unforgiving rock – these were the sites by which we were greeted. We even joked that it looked like the setting of the movie The Martian.

barren and beautiful capitol reef 3

Yet, running through the middle of the park is the Fremont River and oh what a difference that makes. Instead of the wild and rocky landscape, you see green fields, lush orchards, and tall shade trees. In fact, in the early 1900s, a thriving agrarian community was nestled along the banks of the river and became known as Fruita, because of all the fruit trees that were grown there.

barren and beautiful capitol reef 4

Our campground was nestled in the middle of what used to be Fruita and it felt sometimes as if we were in a different world than the world in which we went hiking. My favorite time was at sunset when it seemed as if the mountains were on fire from within as they reflected the glow of the waning sun. Capitol Reef was definitely a study in contrasts.

barren and beautiful capitol reef 5

 

Barren becoming beautiful

Canyonlands is one big park that is subdivided into three sections – Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. We did not visit the Maze, since it is fairly inhospitable to family camping and hiking, being accessible only by 4 wheel drive on unpaved roads. Island in the Sky and the Needles are separated by the Green and Colorado Rivers. There are no roads connecting the three districts. We are tent campers, but not back country campers, so we did not camp in the park, but we did drive in to do some hiking in both Island in the Sky and the Needles.

barren and beautiful canyonlands 3

The rock formations were intimidating, the views stunning. Despite the high overlooks, we were barely able to see the rivers down below. On one day, it was so windy (upwards of 50 mph) that we found it difficult to walk and our small one was being pelted by sand. We didn’t do much hiking that day, but we were able to drive through the park and take some pictures of the wildness.

There is plenty of hiking to be done in the Needles, and the weather was much more amenable that day. However, because of the remote nature of the park, most of the hikes are in excess of five miles, which is pretty far to go when you’re six. So we kept to the few shorter trails.

barren and beautiful canyonlands 2

In many portions of the park, there is no soil in which is stick a trail marker post, so the rocky trail is marked by small piles of stones called cairns. Our girls had a delightful time running from cairn to cairn. On one such hike, we learned about “potholes.” No, not the ones you hate driving over! These potholes are small indentations in the rocks that fill with water when it rains. We visited in the dry season, so all the potholes were dormant. But in the monsoon season, these same holes team with life. There are species of shrimp who lay their eggs in the water, buried in the silt at the bottom of the potholes. The eggs lie dormant during the dry season, but when the rain comes, they tiny shrimp hatch and come to life.

barren and beautiful canyonlands 5

What I found fascinating was the black topped soil that was often found alongside the trails. This soil, called biological soil crust, is actually living dirt. It is filled with micro bacteria, algae, fungi, lichens and moss. The living soil helps prevent erosion and dust storms. When enough of the biological matter builds up, this seemingly barren landscape can support beautiful plants, shrubs, and flowering cacti.

barren and beautiful canon lands 4

A beautiful life

As I reflected on these two parks, I couldn’t help but see them as a picture of what my life so often resembles. I may feel barren, dry, empty. As a Christian, I have the Holy Spirit in me. Even when I can’t see Him, He is there. John 7:38 says that streams of living water will flow from me. The Holy Spirit will bring life in the midst of what seems dry  and barren. He is at work in my life. Oftentimes, He is unseen, his work too small for me to notice. Are you discouraged or in a desert season? Do you feel as though your life is barren? Take courage, pray and believe. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

I don’t often put extended Scripture quotes in my posts, but I pray this one will encourage your soul:

Isaiah 35

1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;

the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;

it shall blossom abundantly

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the LORD,

the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who have an anxious heart,

“Be strong; fear not!

Behold, your God

will come with vengeance,

with the recompense of God.

He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then shall the lame man leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

For waters break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

And a highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;

the unclean shall not pass over it.

It shall belong to those who walk on the way;

even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain gladness and joy,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 

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My daughter the unwitting celebrity

I have a “famous” daughter. My children are an endless source of inspiration and I love to write about them. In fact, I just did a quick search on my own blog and found more than ten examples of posts where I mention my girls. We take them on trips to art museums, we expose them to local artisans, we encourage their own creativity, and we delight to see them embracing, appreciating, and contributing art.

We, as a school community, celebrate both the visual and performing artistic endeavors of our students in grades K through 12 every spring. The students perform a variety of musical numbers for their adoring fans.  We also have a chance to view many of their art projects on display. Students are invited to submit original artwork to grace the cover of the program for the evening’s festivities.

daughter art 2

My oldest daughter labored for days on getting her design just right. She wanted to find the perfect illustration for this year’s theme of “summer”. In the end, the teachers recognized her hard work by granting her the privilege of having her artwork on the program’s cover. She became an instant celebrity on campus the day it was announced. I arrived to pick her up at the end of the day, and as we lingered on campus, every student who passed us called out their congratulations.

daughter art

Proud daughter, proud mama

I was so proud of my daughter for having her artwork recognized. Our students were so gracious to acknowledge their classmate’s success, and to be genuinely proud of her accomplishment. My daughter was definitely excited to have won, but she was also humble. I know that she does not like to be in the spotlight and was even a bit embarrassed at all the attention. She was also extremely worried about being publicly acknowledged during the night’s program. Her fears were relieved when she was simply recognized verbally that evening.

Now, I don’t know whether or not my children will ever have artwork on display in a gallery or a museum. But I do know that they love to create. Their minds of full of countless ideas, and art is one way in which they can express that imagination. I want to encourage them to be creative. We want them to enter contests, to take risks, to face their fears. I’m delighted that their school and their art provide them with opportunities to do so.

daughter art 1

What about you? Are there risks you can take? What art do you have to create? We all have something to share. Let’s also be the ones to cheer others on in their successes. And remember, if you should see artwork by A. Keller in your local museum, you saw her here first!

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A Gala, Grace, and Goodbye

A wise bear once said, ““How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. If that is true, then I am indeed lucky, blessed in fact.

Two years ago, my family moved to the Austin, Texas area because my husband had accepted a teaching position at a classical school in Georgetown. This summer finds us packing up our home, saying “goodbye”, and moving yet again. I am excited to start a new adventure at a new school. However, I am finding the saying of “goodbye” to be incredibly difficult.

Recently, Laura blogged about a new painting she was finishing up for a benefit auction for our current school, Grace Academy. When I had originally asked Laura if she’d be willing to paint a landscape of our campus for the auction, I did not know we would be leaving the school. And so I found myself on a Friday night, surrounded by people who love the school and were excited to contribute their funds towards the furtherance of Grace Academy’s mission. Among the items up for bid was Laura’s painting.

goodbye to grace

Unexpectedly, I found myself anxious over it’s sale. Not because I didn’t think it would be popular, but because I was worried over who might get the painting. Would it be someone I know? Someone who loves art? A family who loves Grace Academy? Even though I didn’t create the beautiful landscape, saying “goodbye” to it felt a bit intimidating; it was also a “goodbye” to the school I’d come to love.

The auction was a silent auction, so I wasn’t aware of how the bidding was going. A friend of mine promised me that she’d let me know who purchased the painting once all the dust of the gala auction had settled. The next morning, I received a text from a dear friend that said, “guess what I have?!” and this picture:

grace goodbye 2

Not quite goodbye….yet

I found myself relieved that she was the one who purchased “Sunrise at Grace”. I told her that I was glad it was going to a good home; having it with her felt like it was still “in the family”.But I was also sad as the realization hit that she would be one of the hardest people to bid goodbye. She also texted me, “And now with y’all moving it holds another special place for me because I wouldn’t have the painting without your connection to Laura. So thank you! I will treasure it always. And always think of your and your family as well as the school we love so much!”

I have joked with her in the past that she is my muse when I have nothing to write about. On at least one occasion, she was the direct inspiration for my post of the week. I can think of countless other friends that I have met as a result of our time at Grace Academy who have so clearly influenced who I am as a person.

My friend sent a wonderful thank you note to Laura in regards to the painting:

I am writing to let you know that my family now has your beautiful painting of the Grace Academy landscape on our mantle! It is just beautiful!!! It will always hold a special place in my heart. Our two boys (currently 10th and 8th graders) started attending school at Grace in third and first grade. I can so clearly remember the first time my husband and I drove onto campus. The property is beautiful and just has a feeling of peace and joy. Even 8 years later I think of that first time I entered campus and how peaceful it was almost every single day that I drive onto the property. So thank you Laura! Thank you for your selfless donation of time and talent to our school. We will treasure it always. May God richly bless you in your artistic endeavors!

goodbye

This school will always hold a special place in our hearts as well. Even as I am writing this, I am a substitute teacher in the Upper School. I was just told by a roomful of eighth graders that I am their favorite sub, as I passed out their difficult Logic test. We will miss the students, we will miss the teachers, we will miss the parents. We are lucky indeed, for it is quite hard to say goodbye.

 

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Where is the art in your neighborhood?

On our Facebook page, we occasionally share fun venues with interesting art related events. We try to highlight cities where our subscribers live. If you’d like us to feature your city, let us know!

This past Saturday, my family participated in a fantastic art event at Laguna Gloria, our local contemporary art museum here in Austin, Texas.

We have previously visited Laguna Gloria and greatly enjoyed it, so we were eager to return. My children LOVE all things artsy – particularly if they can get their hands dirty and create some masterpieces.

finished art projects

It was a rainy day in central Texas, but we braved the rain anyway. After signing in, we were given a map and an explanation of all the events that were going on and immediately headed off to an indoor venue where the girls could enjoy some paper, markers, chalk, and an opportunity to create their own book.

Creating some art

After a stop for some free snacks and beverages (including some specials for the grown ups!), we embarked on a tour of the working art studios. The first stop was the claymation studio.

claymation art

Our girls made their own clay sculptures that were then incorporated into a claymation video using the free app Stop Motion Studios. They are super excited to try some movie making at home.

From there, we paused a bit to watch a portrait painter. The girls were enthralled to see the portrait come together before their eyes as a patient model sat so very still. Our oldest in particular has a new appreciation for what “Miss Laura” does.

We then had a chance to watch and create our own silk screen prints.

silk screen art

The girls were fascinated with the tiny, almost invisible, holes in the silk that enabled the jackalope scene to be printed on their paper.

Our last stop of the afternoon was in the pottery studio. The girls were able to use carving tools to create a design on a clay tile. The tile was then inked and the girls were able to use it as a stamp to create their own unique card. Our youngest has already turned it into a lovely birthday card for her older sister – but shhh….it’a  surprise!

stamping art

We were there for several hours, and still didn’t experience all there was to see. There were seven open studios in all, but some had multiple exhibitions and activities going on. Despite the weather, over 1000 people showed up to enjoy all the art to be had. It was a fantastic day for our family, and it was all free!

Finding your neighborhood art

What art venues are there to be explored in your city? In our internet age, it’s easy to find fun (and often free) events in your own neighborhood. Where will you explore this week? Share your stories with us! And if you’re even in Austin, you can’t go wrong at Laguna Gloria!

 

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9 Ways to Raise an Art-less Child

Recently, I was listening to a podcast with Anthony Esolen, the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child. While I have not read the book (my husband has informed me that it is on our bookshelf), it has generated a plethora of reviews, critiques, responses and agreement that have certainly piqued my interest.

Then I got to thinking about what else suffers as we notice the collective shrinking of our imagination. Is a love of and appreciation for art next in line for extinction? 

So, in my own nod to Esolen, here is my non-exhaustive list on how to raise an art-less child:

  1. Schedule every moment for the children in your life, at home and at school. We would not want our children to have free, unstructured time. They might accidentally create something, or even worse, might find that they LIKE to create. That will not do. art-less child
  2. Ensure that your home, office, school space is a “mess free” zone. We     can’t have any residuals of the creative process lying around cluttering things up. Neat and tidy, tidy and neat. Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness.
  3. In fact, you really should just eliminate any type of crafting or art supplies altogether. If they have no tools, they can’t create make a mess. art-less child
  4. On the off chance that children gain access to art supplies and actually make something, do not display it. Instead, it’s probably best to point out the deficiencies of their work lest they be encouraged to continue along these lines.
  5. To be fair then, you really shouldn’t display any art in your home, school, or office. No sense in playing favorites – no child’s art, no art from anyone. 
  6. There’s no need to stop just at the home, school, or office. It’s best not to take your children to any museums. Those places are really too stuffy, too quiet, and not really appropriate for children. Besides, since you’ve eliminated free time, there’s no opportunity to go to museums anyway. art-less child
  7. It’s probably best then to not encourage your children to read very much.  They might stumble on dangerous works such as this book or this one.art-less child
  8. Instead of exposing them to good books, be sure then to substitute technology and banal programming. Just to be safe, avoid any shows or games where they could be creative; you want mind-numbing, not mind-enriching, so take no chances. 
  9. Do not expose them to or point out ANY beauty in nature. Goodness, if you’ve managed to keep them away from human-created beauty, don’t slip and let them appreciate God-created beauty. art-less child 

If you are able to adhere to these nine guidelines, you should be successful at killing any love for or joy in art and beauty in your own child and those of others you love. 🙂

art-less child

Just in case one of our wonderful readers has not picked up the tongue-in-cheek nature of this post and is scrambling to send my poor children a box of art goodies (don’t let me stop you…), the pictures in this post are my own children, the books listed in #7 are well-worn due to being read so many times in our home, we frequently visit natural parks and museums, I cannot store all their art supplies, and we have numerous works of art hanging in our home (Laura’s art, famous art, and my children’s art). 

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