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El Capitan, Yosemite, from my sketchbook

Yosemite: always beautiful
by Dianne K

Last month (April 2018) Karen, Barkley and I made a quick trip to Yosemite. We were traveling with the dog, so we had to stay outside the park. We chose a little cottage in Mariposa, which is just a couple hours from home, and spent two nights there. It's a short drive along the Merced River into the park, which we loved. We played old CDs and sang old Simon and Garfunckle hits as we drove along. Such a fun memory. The river was high and those purple trees were blooming. Breath-taking.

I think it was a Wednesday, a coolish day. There had been some flooding the weekend before so the park wasn't crowded. Most of the clean up had been done so we didn't notice anything amiss. But we really loved being there on an "off" day. The air smelled clean and crisp, some sunshine, little wind, no snow. Perfect day.

National Parks are like America's cathedrals, especially Yosemite. We are so lucky to have so much US land set aside as parks. I have visited many parks over the years. The last one I was in was Volcano National Park on the Big Island. I can't help but wonder what's going on at the moment and hope to get back there soon. This fall we will be in Palm Springs so I'm hoping for a day in Joshua Tree, with Karen, a nice picnic lunch and my paint set.

I'm no kind of walker any longer, my knee severely limits what I can do, but we didn't let that get in the way. Karen found us great parking places up close to various falls. I pulled out my sketchbook and watercolors and went to work, as they took off hiking. I haven't painted watercolors for years, but I've always had fond memories of earlier trips to Yosemite when I was painting like a mad woman. I had no idea on this particular morning if I would even remember how to hold a brush.

Well, it came back to me, in fits and starts. Watercolor is an unforgiving medium. That I remembered. So I took it easy and decided I would just laugh off mistakes. I was using a little sketchbook that I've had for years, which was just too precious for words. So it was time to just use it, and if I ruined it, so what.

Bridal Veil falls, Yosemite

We drove around remembering earlier trips. On our first trip, we stayed in Curry Village, and slept in those tents. It was one of the coldest nights I've ever spent. We didn't bring blankets or pillows, thinking they would be provided. Mistake. We were up early and I went straight to reservations to upgrade our accommodations. We were lucky and were given a little Curry cabin. That made us very happy. We didn't have "good" clothes but decided we wanted to have dinner at the Ahwanee. The maitre d' eventually let us in but wasn't happy about it. Dress codes in the strangest places. That was a fun evening.

I had been to Yosemite for the first time ever, with a watercolor workshop group, led by my artist friend, Robert Dvorak. That trip was a high point for me. I had no idea how beautiful Yosemite is. And Robert is an excellent teacher. All of us student painters had a remarkable time. And we had dinner at the Ahwanee that night too. Also memorable. I went on several painting trips with Robert, back to Yosemite, and also to Molokai several times. He taught me to be a watercolor painter, and I am grateful for that. Plus, to experience those trips was life changing, to say the least.

 A little sketch of a purple tree, by the Merced River, Yosemite

I'm so lucky to have Karen, my adventurous and patient daughter. She always has good ideas for our little trips. Now, a couple of days out on the road suits me just fine. And Barkley is getting older too. He's still a big black dog, going gray around the muzzle, and suffering from arthritis. We commiserate. But he loves being on the road, and makes for a great companion.

I have no idea where we will go this summer, but I will bring my sketchbook and paints along with me. Now that I'm getting the hang of it again, I realize just how important it is. Painting lifts my spirits.


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