Ah….long time, no post. Hope the New Year has been good for everybody so far!

Vacation has been good! Wandered around some of the arty areas of northern Arizona–Jerome and Sedona–and went up to the Grand Canyon New Year’s Day. Kevin was reduced to gibbering by the scenery ingeneral, since he’s never been out to the desert before. "Oh my god! Did I just see a cactus?" "It’s okay, dear. We’ll take you to meet one later…" 

Of course, the problem is that the desert is just TOO spectacular, and it’s everywhere, and the mountains loom majestically on the horizon and the red mesas tower over you and remind you of your insignificance day in and day out, so by the time we got done with the Grand Canyon, he turned to me and said "I think the ‘awe and wonder at creation’ receptors in my brain are getting burned out…" Which is one of the perils of living out here.

Anyway, we made a Tool-related pilgrimage to Jerome for Kevin, then roamed the galleries in Sedona, most of which are horrifically overpriced, some of which have magnificent work. Got burnt out on bronze cowboys, though. I bought a gorgeous painting that was not horrifically overpriced (I would have charged more for it if it were mine, anyway) in a fantastic and utterly non-bronze-cowboy gallery called "Lark Art." Went to another gallery nearby which had bronzes that made up for all the bronze cowboys, and also made me want to throw my paints in the trash because I will never, ever, ever do anything as spectacularly pure as the curve on the neck of the caribou…well, anyway.

My father, who is driving, was very patient, since I had to sleep on whether to get the painting, and we had to go kinda out of our way on the way back from the canyon to pick it up. However, when you find a painting you can’t live without…

Spotted a Northern Harrier flying over the yard, a bunch of towhees, some unidentifiably warbly things, and more verdins. Grand Canyon was lousy with ravens, monstrous huge birds with beards and croaking voices. Kevin wants to come back in spring, maybe next year, and hike down into it. I’d love to, on the off chance I spot one of the local California condors, which would make me just unbearably happy.

Picked up a few interesting things here and there–more masks, a gorgeous skirt, some ceramic crosses, some earrings. Alas, no jackalopes. I was hoping for a stuffed jackalope, since I think the next Dragonbreath book will be about jackalopes, and I could justify a jackalope as a business expense. On the bright side, I took fifty bizillion reference photos of canyons and whatnot, so there are plenty of places for Danny and Wendell to get stuck in.

Today, having returned from the glorious canyons, we went to the glorious swapmeet, which I like to do whenever I come out here. It’s painfully huge and full of more crap than you can shake a stylized representation of Kokopelli* at. I got a great Nepalese jacket that would have cost double anywhere in Raleigh, another mask, and a Laurel Burch purse** which was, again, about fifteen bucks cheaper than the last place I saw ’em at.

I also got a cow skull. "But Ursula!" you say. "How is it that you are an artist and thirty-two years old and do not already own a vast number of skulls?" And this is because artists and skulls go together like huevos and rancheros, as we all know, to which I say "My ex-husband got ’em in the divorce." And if there’s any place in the world to get a cheap cow skull, it’s a swapmeet in Arizona. They do not promise that the horns are with the original owners, and the bleaching is likely accomplished with white paint and you shouldn’t look too closely at what’s holding the horns on, but by god, it’s a cow skull with cow horns, and if some glue and screws were involved in the union of one to t’other, well, hey, no relationship is perfect, and some of mine have involved screwing at some point or other.

Kevin watched me turn around with my arms full of bovine bone and said "How are you going to fit that in the suitcase?"

"It’ll fit," I said.

In the back of his eyes danced the memory of that time I bought the really big painting and couldn’t fit it in the car and had to have him come out in his convertible and bungee-cord it into the back with the top down.

"It will totally fit," I said.

"Uh-huh," he said.

And once I’d taken off one of the horns with a screwdriver and some snarling, it did fit. (Nothin’ a little liquid nails won’t fix…) My Dad and Mavis provided a marvelous shocking lime-green suitcase of the perfect size to accommodate a one-horned cow skull of somewhat questionable pedigree. (For some unfathomable reason, they were eager to be rid of the suitcase. No accounting for taste…)

Tonight, my stepmother is cooking lamb, which I can smell, and there will be an undoubtedly fantastic meal, and then tomorrow we fly home to North Carolina. It’s been a great trip, but it’ll be good to be home.

And if you have to sit through several weeks of petroglyph art, I apologize in advance.

*Mostly sans genitals. Kevin, having just learned of the existence of Kokopelli, finds this emasculation to be tragic.


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