Sunday, April 25, 2010

Going Home

This week I have just finished up a lovely new painting called "Yellow Fields, Catalina Spring." After taking a hike with an old friend from college, and enjoying the particularly beautiful spring we've had here in Southern Arizona - I remembered standing by a trail and seeing what looked like a sea of yellow and gold poppies glittering in the sun. And I had the impression in my mind of just solid blocks of yellow - without reference to the thousands of individual poppies that made up the view. An overall effect of yellow settled on my vision and I thought it could be painted that way. I'm quite pleased with the result, though it is perhaps a bit more abstract than some of my other paintings of the same areas.

The other big news is that my wife and son and I are all getting ready to go back to North Carolina this Thursday. It has been around three and a half years since we have visited, and in that time I have not seen anyone from the North Carolina side of my family, except my mom and grandmother. It's going to be a lot of fun to introduce them to our son, who most of them have not met, and show him around the places where I grew up. I was explaining to him what green grass was the other day - telling him that it only grows in Arizona in places were there is sufficient water, usually irrigation. "Where daddy grew up, it grows everywhere!" I told him...a point largely lost on my busybody 1 year old.

One of the reasons for our visit is that I will be recieving the "Rising Star Award" from the alumni association of Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC. I was a student at Lenoir-Rhyne and have my degree from there - and I had a wonderful four years of experiences that have always left me holding Lenoir-Rhyne in great esteem. So it is a fine compliment to receive an award from the University, and I am looking forward to visiting there again. I will also be donating a painting called "Rhyne Building, through the Trees" that will ship to Lenoir-Rhyne a little later in the summer to be featured at a spot on campus that is yet to be determined.

It is a funny feeling getting back to visit one's roots. For 11 years I have lived outside of my home state of North Carolina, and to be honest - life being what it is, there has been very little in me that looks back. Life, to me, always seemed to be primarily focused on where you are at the time - and for the years that we've been in Arizona this has been our reality. But still there is something you understand instinctively when you go back to the places where you once were; when you see the old high school football field where you watched Friday nite games. When you see the parks and places YOU played when you were a kid. When you see pink dogwoods blooming and remember climbing the trees. When you hear the soft southern drawl of the people from North Carolina and realize that you are back among your own. It can't help but be something understood, because I guess even the trees understand the roots and the ground that they came from.

Sometimes it's not lost on me that I have been the oddball son who disappeared into the American West! I think of the untold thousands who saw their family members get in wagons or on horses and make their way out to gold fields, ranches, and all manner of wild and open ranges. I have seen so many amazing things in my life and I wouldn't change any of it. Being from small town North Carolina was crucial in one particular way; that is, it made me intensely curious about the outside world. To other people, the small town life is more about comfort and familiarity and that's all they really need and that makes them happy. To me, on the other hand, it only made me want to know about the wider world.

So here is a toast to the Tarheel state and all the family and friends we are looking forward to seeing again. And OF COURSE I will have my camera ready, always on the lookout for a new landscape that I can paint.

As I sign off I do want to send condolences to my own extended family - we lost our uncle Brian Walters on the 22nd of April. Brian was a good man and he will be greatly missed.

And as that Bon Jovi song went - "Who says you can't go home?"