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.

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.