The Grand Entrance…

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…And descend we did…On Wednesday, we made the trek into the GRAND “Hoover Dam” CANYON from the North Rim.  Dropping over 7000 feet in elevation.  It was most exciting and exhilarating!

It was 7 miles in to our lunch site where we enjoyed some good eats and exchanged stories with one another before setting off along a creek and navigating across several bridges before we reached the historic Phantom Ranch – another 7 miles later.  Surreal.  Yea, that will be my descriptor.

At times, it felt like we were the only human beings on the planet until we passed another and determined, no, we were not as we were greeted or encountered similar two legged characters, strapped with a pack, sporting a hat and most often clicking away with their walking sticks.  Nary a one we met passed by without a friendly greeting.

We were the first of the hikers to land at the ranch and this meant we got to claim our bunks.  This would mean the sought after bottom bunks for our group.  I won’t go into too much detail here, but safe to say the top bunks can be full of surprises.  The woman above me took a fall out of a top bunk sometime in the night.  It took me a bit to land on an acceptable trail name for her, but we concluded with Tumble-ina.  I let her trail guide know that she was not a fan of the name “Thumper” should he want to use it from time to time.  Yea, as Gigi Galore from Pottery School would say, I can stir up some dust.

Phantom Ranch, located at the floor and nestled along the Colorado River, would be our resting spot for two nights.  Everything was perfect – weather, food, views, and the people.  Oh, we saw the mules too.  I don’t think they are asses, but I did like to call them that anyway.  We took a hike on one of our days at the ranch criss-crossing over the Colorado River by way of foot bridges, tunnels and and up and down trails.  FUN!  Impressive these bridges are as are all of the trails that lead in, out, and around this GRAND canyon of ours.  The Colorado River, SWIFT and WIDE!  I do believe it is 277 miles long.

After the second night, we were to be kicked out as a new set of characters would be marching their way to the ranch and staking claim on our bunks and the seats at the canteen for their meals and stories and such.  Our wake up call was at 4:30am.  Side note: night two, Tumble-ina was able to stay safely in her bed rather than falling like a rock to the floor.  We all met in the canteen for a hearty breakfast with pancakes and syrup (YUM!) before filling up our water bottles and taping up our blisters setting out on the trail that led us out to the South Rim.

The climb out of the canyon was just as impressive as the descent.  We meandered along the Colorado River – across the bridges and streams and up and around, along a gushing creek before turning inward slowly climbing our way up via switch backs through Jacob’s Ladder and then the Cork Screw of the Bright Angel Trail.  It would be just under 6,000 feet of an elevation gain and 10 miles to the rim.  It was easy enough until lunch time – which was at the 5 mile marker – and then my calves finally seized up.  The challenge remained fun though.

At every turn, you could take a sneak back and down into the canyon and see from whence you came and this, this was IMPRESSIVE.  I enjoyed, as we all did, every single step of the way.   Our closing dinner was fittingly at the historic El Tovar lodge located just a stone’s throw (truly, it was) from the canyon’s edge.  After that, pure exhaustion and a great night’s sleep was enjoyed.

I now rest back at the homestead in the same chair that I was arm chair traveling a couple weeks back where this trip came across my radar.  Sometimes ya just gotta go when the feeling is right and this experience and adventure proved to be a huge success for me and my fellow travelers.  Peter – pronounced Peet-A – was kind enough to send photos, so I will grab one or two and set your free for now.

Ta-ta.

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State Road 67


…Is the sole road that leads one to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We landed on the scene yesterday and were dropped off at the trailhead where we proceeded to walk along this Grand Canyon’s edge to the historic lodge that jets out into the canyon. It was chilly with gusts of fierce, blustery 30 to 40 mph winds with spitting snow and AMAZING views spreading for miles.

How in the hello did I get here? I was doing my usual arm chair traveling and in my day dreaming state, I s’pose I dialed up a travel company that was offering a guided Rim to Rim adventure. Yea, I signed up with little hesitation. Yea, surprised me too (sorta) and here I sit at the edge of the world. Right, smiling.

I am with 6 other adventurous characters along with a guide – seeking the same dream – to descend into the Grand Canyon from the North, dip a toe in the Colorado river before ascending the South Loop. Hoping all the walking I have done can carry me the distance as I hear only one way in and one way out – by foot and maybe a bit of crazy!

Like most trips, I have been fortunate to land in a group of well-traveled, kind, adventure seeking characters: two of which are Hoosiers, a mother and son duo, so we immediately have a connection being from the great state of Indiana. A woman from China working in IT and living in LA. A hip couple from Austin, Texas and a gent from Oregon looking to complete what he set out to do one time before and our guide from Oregon. A very nice, supportive group with no limit on stories to share.

Tomorrow, is the descent into the canyon – destination Phantom Ranch – for a stay with some play. How exciting this is!!! It is 14 miles of decline with plenty of switchbacks guiding us down. Pretty Hoover dam excited as I have wanted to go down to the canyon floor for as long as I can remember – a long time, no?   Why? Curiosity, of course! What in the heck is down there?!? I only know from books and photos. Bout to see it firsthand!

Heading off now to attempt to pack my bag for the trek. I’ll prolly be back. Until then, have a GRAND time.

Ta-ta.

Denouement

It’s a wrap…The play set in the beautiful, quiet Tuscan countryside with a group of quirky, playful characters spinning around in endless circles of clay and play is now finished, final, finit-o.

The wind blew me back last night…Mission accomplished.  A grand experience this has been.  My masterpieces are trailing behind – a box of a few selected items as a jogger that I might have actually learned something.

Some photos included as teaser to lure you to my upcoming exhibition.  Haha!  (Much thanks to Gigi Galore for the photos of my work that make me look borderline professional – Haha!)

As always, much thanks to each and all who put up with all my shenanigans and supported me throughout this ride and an AMAZING ride it has been!

Until the next one…And there will be a next one…SMILING!

To all…have a golden Monday…Ta-ta for now.

The Grand Illusion…

And here I am…bout to have the curtain close atop my head as this play is bout to come to a close.  Before the final curtain call, going to take full advantage of my surroundings.  The week has been another good and productive one.

The few of us that got all of our work finished and on the ready for the final firings hit the ground running for the train station.  Oh yea…we landed on the scene in Florence and took full advantage of the museums while navigating our way through the throngs of visitors that are beginning to flock the city.

Upon arrival, we went straight for fuel – i.e. Italian coffees.  From there, the Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Archaeology opened their doors to us for a jogger on the history of mankind.  We funny creatures, no?  Yes, we are.  The museums have been very good.  We also got an education on Italian gastronomy as we each consumed a tasty panini.  And one of us unknowingly lost their phone.  Yep me…The positive is the phone was found, but it would require a another trip to Florence.  We didn’t need our arms twisted for the return trip either.

I am most fortunate to be surrounded by goodness.  Maria, with her knowledge of Italy and the Italian language, guided me back to Florence where we picked up my phone.  Nice.  We could have returned immediately, but Maria being the art aficionado had selected an exhibition for us to visit while we were there.  It was awe-inspiring. It is by Bill Viola (from New York) – The Electronic Renaissance.

And today, we went to visit a local potter to Tuscany – Mariani Mario – who has been creating handmade pots since he was 15.  Impressive and entertaining as he was in the middle of hand building a large piece and he continued showing us the process he uses.  He just used his hands and nary a tool and if he did use one, it was handmade.  When we returned to the school, the final firing was completed and all of our pottery pieces are now finished.  Time to start packing up and getting on the ready to depart.  It is starting to settle in that this journey is bout to conclude…

Tomorrow night is the send off dinner and then a bit of time left to explore Italy before packing and taking flight across the ocean…I’ll be back one last time I reckon…Yea, probably with a pottery showing.

Pics today are from Siena and a town that starts with Mont…Leo, Maria and I went to Siena last Sunday and we were granted access to the Duomo for a small fee.  Impress-R-E-O!  Enjoy.

A goodnight to all from under these beautiful Tuscan skies…Ta-ta for now…

Calling All Cars…Calling All Cars…

Bout to put a karate chop on week 11.  Been another week of high marks.  We all continue to climb higher – fine-tuning our skills and growing as individuals.  My week at the studio ended last eve with a breakage and throwing the remains in the bucket of slop before venturing off for popcorn and movie night.

Yep, this Italian pottery role continues to serve me well, but soon and very soon, they are going to escort me out of the country and I will be replaced by another character to fill this role.  I imagine they will have the authorities tail me to the airport and ensure that I board the plane.  John said this week that he has never met anyone else like me and the world prolly couldn’t handle too many of me.  I will take this as a compliment for sure.  This John character, the journey and the cast that I have shared this stage with is going to be one of those that has put a nice indentation in my being.

Enjoying an easy Saturday.  Just back from a walkabout through the hillsides with Gigi and Maria.  Nice.  So beautiful as it is quickly becoming springtime here.  Hanging out on the terrace listening to music while waiting to see if I can be swept away into a flow that guides me about my day…SMILING.  Probably we will take a walk to the local eatery / pizza place this pm for some eats.  Easy.

I leave you with some photos of a few of my latest pieces.  Yea, you gotta be about tired of seeing pottery.  Maybe one day you will be a recipient of an LK original.  My favorite pieces this week and overall are the funky tall, long necked bottles.  I call these telephones and continue to play with them each day by acting like I am on the phone – i.e. the blog title today, Calling All Cars…Yea, my sense of humor has stayed consistent.

I am supposing bout this time next week – give or take a few days, I will be forced to throw what remains of my threads in my bag, box up a couple of masterpieces, say my goodbyes and part ways in search of my beacon to guide me back across the ocean.  Until then, I enjoy the countryside, sling some more clay about, take walkabouts and just be.

For now, ta-ta to all.

Message in a Bottle…

Been a bit since we last corresponded….Supposing we have been heads down here at school and focusing on learning and creating…All has remained golden…

This past Friday was a high as it was my day.  The class went on a field trip and I stayed behind to rest my body and my mind.  At around 9am, I rose and descended the stairs and entered the studio.  It was all mine.  I put on some relaxing music (thank-you Rick R.) with a nice beat and proceeded to kneed and wedge a series of clay pieces that gradually increased in size.  I was able to climb aboard the stallion and have my way.  The clay being larger for me to handle, but the room calm for me to play.  I was able to tame the clay and create the largest and best bowls of the day.  I could hear John in my head guiding me along the way.  Yea, I like these pieces and I enjoyed the peace in the making.  Ahhhh…It was such a beautiful day…the studio doors open to the outer world and just to be me for a day.

Over the weekend, we played as a group and fun times were had.  Sunday, I would declare one of my favorite days.  Bout 8am we all piled into the van and headed to the sea.  Whew-we, was it ever BEAUTIFUL for SPACIOUS SKIES.  A playful day was had by all.  The seaside was a picturesque setting in a national park with a backdrop of trees behind and the beautiful sea at the forefront.

We had fresh sandwiches prepared at the small grocery and landed on a log fit for all where we sprawled out and enjoyed the sea and one another.  And there were other bonus stops along the way…a historic castle high resting in the sky, a tower for climbing with panoramic views for consumption before the descent back down to the sea where we meandered before making the trek back to the homestead.

Yesterday…Oh my…the program is now winding down.  This means it is time to finish what we started and conquer what we have yet to climb.  I crawled into bed last night truly hazed and glazed.  I took almost every masterpiece off my shelves and dunked each in a glaze.  They will be fired this week.

My compass is now focused on corralling larger masterpieces – functional or not – and partaking in more of the Italian cuisine and scenery.  I will take it day by day from here on out, but no different than what I have been doing for the past couple months.  What a golden experience this has been and I see nothing less than flickers of gold sprinkled in the days that remain.

To all back home…supposing this is your first warning that I do believe I will be returning home…

Wishing you well.  Ta-ta for now.

Easy Like Sunday Morning…

 

Oh yeaaaaaaaa…so easy, relaxing…like a Sunday morning…and nary a beat has been missed in this wonderful boot shaped country.  It is almost time to put the bubble wrap around this week.

Yes, back to the pottery studio this past week.  Indeed, I did trim the bottom out of another bowl.  I can get a tad bit reckless during the trimming process if my mind goes astray and it must have.  I threw some clay about and a couple heavier than desired bottles appeared, but I like the form.  Magically – with some creative carving – the load in the trunk or torso of any piece can disappear.  Once these carved pieces are masterfully glazed and fired, maybe can be passed off as finds from an Italian Archaeological dig.

My body is starting to balk at the intensity of throwing clay around everyday, so I decided to give it a break by exiting the stage door to the left which happened to be the door to Florence.  I returned back to the countryside yesterday from a couple of golden days there.  I got culture-ized – ha, I KNOW!  I went straight to the Duomo of Florence and frequented whichever museum would let me in thereafter.  I never looked back until I boarded the train to return home.

I am directionally challenged, but I made my way around and around and around passing the same spots many times.  I circled the cathedral a couple times looking for the ticket office to gain entrance.  Once inside, I began climbing – just shy of 500 narrow, stone steps – straight-up to the cupola.  Fantastico!  I had read about this structure prior to coming to Italy and it was the one place that I wanted to see – especially Brunelleschi’s Dome.

Once my feet exited the duomo, I was fortunate to gain entrance into the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the David and other fine works.  He is HUGE, magnifico – the David is, no?  Si!  Picture included.  Inspired.  By way of map and GPS and poor (if that) Italian language, I landed at the doorstep of the Uffizi and guess what?  Yes, they let me in and I saw the painting of Venus and much more.  I had read about and been guided to see the sculptures created by Marino Marini, so my feet beat the time on the clock and the doors were still open and this was IMPRESS-R-E-O – around 200 sculptures and just me and a handful of others in the museum!

Along with the museums, I did take a long pause in one of the piazzas where I took a seat and sat idle to people watch and daydream for a couple hours with the sun radiating above.  Felt nice to stop and not do and to absorb…AND…I slept great in a comfortable bed – the kind that forms to the shape of one’s body where curiously certain body parts sink deeper into the mattress.  My body feels rested and ready for another go at pottery.  Feels nice to be back home too.

That is all I have for now…I am continuing to learn and grow and stay in the flow…I am getting exposed to more languages too and I like this much…along with Italian, some German, Slovenia, and French.  I like them all, but I so enjoy the way the French language sounds when spoken.  It is quite the romantic language.  I have learned how to say both ‘yes/oui’ and ‘no’ in French and…I ignorantly think I can BS my way when there is uncertainty which is often.  My next immersion course might just be a foreign language.  I would enjoy returning to Italy and speaking Italian fluently – or a bit more than ‘umpo’ with those that I have not been able to do so…

It is Sunday and I plan to rise and enjoy a coffee, read, go for a walkabout and enjoy this beautiful weather and the landscape that is quickly changing colors in a palette of rich greens.

Enjoy your day ahead.  Bye for now.

Vagary

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I like this word, vagary.  Uh-huh, Latin.  Correct, a noun.  An unpredictable instance, a wandering journey; a whimsical, wild or unusual idea, desire, or action.  (Thanks again for the list of travel words, Jane G.  I like much.)

Last we corresponded, I was in a tailspin from glazing all my wares for the wood firing and the usual eating, walkabouts, and of course talking.  Not too much has changed; however, certain I have some news to report or I can tap into my imagination and make something up…Whether you find it amusing or not is a different story.  Take a short journey to the paragraph below if I still have ya.

The wood firing was completed on Friday and with much anticipation and excitement, we huddled around the kiln like kids and unloaded it.  I have a couple, few pieces that I favor and pleased as punch to have been part of the process from beginning to the end.

After the highs of week, the weekend was fairly slow-going for me.  I stayed out too late on Friday running my mouth, so Saturday was a day of philosophical readings, eating whatever I had on hand – not much – a jar of chickpeas, an egg, an overly ripe, too soft of an apple, some nuts and yes, chocolate.  Oh, I went to the studio and trimmed a few bowls too – somewhat recklessly, so I called it a wrap and retreated for a nap to preserve my sanity and my masterpieces.

Sunday, I was ready to leap off the terrace and race the roadways for civilization after staying back at the homestead for too long.  Lillie, Gigi and I were heading into Florence, however, a miss in communication occurred and they made it and I landed in the all too familiar local town of…yes, Certaldo.  I made due on a pastry and a coffee before climbing the slippery-sloped hill to Certaldo Alto for a tasty pizza with the locals before my feet walked me home.  It is one helluva walk there and back, so yes, a nap was in order before taking up reading again.

Started this book, Art as Therapy, and it has reached the stage where it has grabbed ahold of my curiosity and I am motoring along nicely.  It has shifted my thinking about art.  I like it when my mind goes adrift to a new place of residence.  Very good read and quite fitting for my current situation – surroundings, activities and people I am with day in and day out.

Today (Monday) kicked off week 9 of the program where we are on our own with a self-customized project plan.  Yes, this means discipline of oneself…as I sit up a bit straighter.  Yea, I know!  Day 1 was a success (insert checkmark here).  I showed up.  I slung around some clay and created a few potato chip bowls – larger in size for me – before I drifted off to make a bottle that bellowed outward with room to breath and guess what?  Yea, I did it and with greater ease and quickness and it felt good, really good.  The bowls still need some work.  I did some glazing too and I am getting less sloppy.

The weather looks to be nicer by midweek, so I might find my way to Florence to frequent one of the many must-see museums…for inspiration of course and no way can I return home to the United States of America without frequenting at least one.

I like this quote that I selected for the visual today.  It is hanging in the studio and I noticed it when I arrived on the scene back some 60 odd days ago.  Just under 30 days to go…Anything can happen…Possibilities abound…

This is about it from the boot…All in all, high marks for skills, people, surroundings and mental well-being.

To all out there in this here universe, wishing you well.  Ta-ta for now.

Oops…There it went…

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What the heck happened?  The weekend came and it went??  How could I not put a wrap on week 7?!  Pretty sure it was week 7, no?  Si.  I will try to dig deep for some brevity…

Saturday was a fun-filled day…John – aka Mario Andretti for the day – drove us to a local town market at what I reckon (Aussie word) was record time and speed.  The van door whipped open, we all rolled out, scouted out the best coffee and pastries, got kissed on each cheek by an interesting gent, ate some of the best rotisserie chicken and all by 9:30am.  Proceeded to buzz the outdoor market before hopping aboard a train bound for Florence for the day with Lillie “Proper” who is just a step away from becoming improper.

Fueled on sugar and caffeine and the hum of civilization, we were off on the hunt for new experiences and adventure and yes, this would include pastries, pizza, pasta and such.   The pizza…erh…two…one spicy with red sauce and the other pear gorgonzola.  Delis-TZ-E-OH-SO-GOOD.  Had a sit in the piazza and enjoyed a Cucumber Gimlet while people watching – whew-we…it was cold with ice cubes and so refreshing.  Florence is a guarantee for activity and a plentitude of sights – people and architectural.

Sunday one might be thinking a day of rest was in order…um…no…we were off to Siena by foot, bus and train.  The weekends that remain are running out, so time to ratchet it up a notch and start exploring with more vigor.   It was a most delightful day.  I think we walked just under 30 miles between Saturday and Sunday and we are almost on autopilot for the 9 km walk in to town and the return trek.  ALMOST – say my hips, feet and mind!  Siena is on the must return to list.

This week we have been hazed and glazed as it is the time that we have all been waiting for – the wood firing.  The kiln is now locked and loaded and will be fired up at 10pm tonight.  We are all excited.

We continue to laugh – the doubled over, projectile tears kind of laughter and enjoy the wonderful lunches, walks, talks and carrying on like kids – thankfully often too.  OHHHHH!!!  Today we took a different walking path and we saw a PORCUPINE!!!  CRAZY!  We chased after it, but it scurried off into the brush.  Never have I seen such a creature live!!!  Excited!  I hope we see it again.  We also saw what we believe to be wild boar and deer footprints.  I reckon based on the frequency of our walks that we will most likely see one or a few of these wild boars and I don’t believe we will be a chasing after these creatures.

When I look back on what we have all accomplished since the start…yea, I see a trail of pastry crumbs…quite a few misspoken Italian words on the floor waiting to trip someone up…a lighter version of me, but I also see how far we have come in our pottery skills and the friendships that we have fostered.  I have even surprised myself and that I enjoy.  The bonus is we are not done!

S’pose I am going to call this a wrap as I am pleasantly tired and ready to rest as I want to rise and visit the wood kiln around 4am.

To all back home…Missing you.  Ta-ta.

 

 

 

 

BUSTED with a kilo in my hands!!!

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…Clay that is…This am I woke up early and had much energy.  I ventured downstairs to the dark studio to flip my bowls over for drying and in walks John to see what was going on.  As I was explaining, he just did an about face, said his “yea yea…”  and off he went.  Funny man this John is and he continues to come back each day as Franco does and they give it / us their all.   Nice gents full of character and talent.

Been a week…Week 7 at school and still slinging clay and babbling – i.e. running my mouth.  Gosh…What have we done this week?

Hmmm…I started making BOWLS.  Yea, AGAIN!  Yea, I am off project…Somewhere along the way I veered off plan, but I am learning and that is what is important.  Yet AGAIN John showed me how to make a bowl as I wanted to graduate to larger items and I got to ride the Blue Stallion in the middle of the room.  Most nervous I was, but sat down I did and made the largest bowl I have ever made – a couple, few kilos it was.  SMILING.  Yea, with John’s guidance.  Yea, that is it in the picture.  Impress-R-E-O!  No, have not been able to replicate it – YET, but I sat down and threw a few – maybe 6 to 8 – with John and Lillie “Propers” help.  I came in today and trimmed each of them and they all have feet / footings and I am so proud.  I think I am getting bowls and the trimming technique down, y’all.  Feels really good.

Lunch?  Uh…oh yea…still eating and the chefs continue to serve it up and we don’t miss a beat or a bite.  Trying to think of my favorite item or meal and whew…hard as they all were very good as were the desserts and the coffees.

We have a couple new characters on the scene that we are breaking in nicely.  Davit is here to manage the wood firings that start next week and Leo is here for a 3 month stint.  And Leo – like Davit – is from Switzerland and he is assisting with the firings and he will be attending a course in April.  Both Davit and Leo are nice additions to the family environment.  I am trying to teach American-Italian lingo and it is going swimmingly.  We continue to laugh and that provides good kindling to fuel the fire to carry us along to the next day.  Oh…pottery…yes…yes, we are all improving greatly.  I am still lagging but catching up on some of the foundational skills.

Walking?  Yep, still walking and we have a new route – the Equestrian trail and it is a long downhill, followed by a trek along the road, a small lake, the pizzeria and then a steep dirt, rocky road uphill just passed the equestrian farm.  We also have a walk through the vineyard which I will name later – jogger curry and quacking ducks.  The walks continue to be entertaining as we babble and most often double over in laughter and we do pause to take in the beauty of the area.  Sometimes at night I wake up and go step out on the terrace to look at the stars, the moon and planets to fully appreciate where I am.  It is beautiful for spacious skies here.  No joshing.

We have not yet closed the door on week 7 as we have 2 days left.  Tomorrow, John is taking a group to an outdoor market and then most of us are dispersing about the area to see what we might uncover in the Tuscany area.  Not sure what shenanigans we might get into.  Yea, SMILING.

Ok, I have successfully babbled.  I am showered.  My clothes are drying.  It is raining.  I am pleasantly tired.  S’posed to be a beautiful weather weekend.  Maybe I return with news.  Wishing you all a golden weekend ahead.  Ta-ta.