Painting on the Colorado River (an essay)

January 30, 2020 8:56 PM | Anonymous

by Cheryl Evans, WAS-H member

From the editor: Cheryl Evans spent 6 days on a raft trip on the Colorado River out of Moab, Utah in August. Painting in plein air is a passion of this WAS-H Signature member, but it is always a major challenge to capture the essence of the subject and the changing light. Evans was the only painter on this all women trip organized for 16 writers from around the country.

" I came to the river with purpose. In the inky dark silence, I crept on arthritic feet – quietly, stealthfully. I came armed and ready to capture and tame the sky, the river, the morn. Armed and ready, scooping a dime store bowl into her gurgling waters; I drew forth a bit of her beauty, her power, her life-blood. There was a gurgling – or was that a gleeful giggle?

No matter. With brush in hand, no time to lose; I drew forth my trusty sword. With an arsenal of color – a bit of cad yellow, a splash of cerulean blue, a pool of burnt sienna the color of an old alley cat’s eye - I began - another day, another chance to find my better self.

You see, I know a thing or two about morning and waiting: a coffee can scoop of sweet oats poured into a chewed and gnawed wood trough for a dusty brown pony, drowsy and glassy-eyed with sleep: cold clods of “father-turned mother earth” on bare feet down rows of ripening sweet strawberries, dressed in dew drop crystals, clinging to serrated leaves: coffee in hand, the tap, tap, tap scratch of school house chalk on a worn blackboard, scratching out the morning’s assignment – hieroglyphics to sleepy-eyed students daring to be taught – and me daring to teach.

You see, I know a thing or two about morning - another day of caring, and hoping, for another day to care and hope. Another day of meals, and doctors, and diagnosis that give so little room for another day of caring and hope. Then suddenly on a day unexpected, I open up the Book of Morning, and there is just one last gentle breath – a tiny whisp of vapor leaving this world, and then no more.

So I come to the river to open up the Book of Morning once more.

The first streak of burgundy backlights the silent monolith of timeless sandstone. On a small sheet of pristine cotton, once picked by nimble and worn hands, I dip my brush into the river water and lay in the dawn. The river gurgles and giggles. Now a dash of yellow and the rosy pink of a baby’s cheek, a swath of purple – the color of a king’s robe morphs into a cloud. And the river gurgles and giggles.

Wait. The sky is changing. The colors are spinning one into the next. A carousel of woven clouds dance across the morning sky, and I quickly splash down more river water, more color, faster and faster.

And the river giggles.

The light is changing. Once clothed in the sleepy darkness of night, the mesquite and cottonwoods put on their morning coats of viridian and sap green. I load my brush faster and faster, yet before the pigment hits the paper, it has changed again.

I sigh.

The River giggles,

And God laughs."


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