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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Great Wolf Lodge

Yesterday I joined the South Sound Urban Sketchers at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound. I'd driven past the place many times and was aware of its attraction to families as an indoor water/amusement park. I didn't expect the huge lodge lobby with it's massive stone fireplace, cushy seating and collection of stuffed wildlife. I decided to sketch a montage rather than taking on the massive lobby space.

And clearly visible from the lobby was the massive waterpark--waterslides, beach chairs, spouting water, a wave-pool, and hundreds of bodies scampering about in bathing suits and striped towels. When I walked in to the pool area, it was so warm and humid my glasses fogged up. Fortunately once my glasses warmed up the lenses also cleared allowing me to sit and sketch this stretch of indoor sunbathers. 

It was all so impressive especially since we could walk through and sketch anywhere on site without having to pay anything. Now if I wanted to hop in the pool or stay overnight ...that's another story. Thanks to South Sound Urban Sketchers for arranging this fun sketch outing! 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Frederick Franck's Pacem In Terris

When I was in the middle of raising three children I would dream of having a studio where I could have uninterrupted time to do artworks. Then I found Frederick Franck’s book: The Zen of Seeing, Seeing/Drawing as Meditation and I learned instead to make simple drawings, focusing intently on what was before me. That book by Franck - The Awakened Eye and Art as a Way, A Return to the Spiritual Roots were my touchstone to whatever shred of creativity I could muster.

Last year while visiting in Warwick, New York I was surfing things to do nearby and to my astonishment came upon mention of Franck.  

“Pacem in Terris is a trans-religious space created along the Wawayanda River in Warwick, NY by Frederick and Claske Franck. It is  "One man's work of art that aspires to be an oasis of quiet, of sanity, where spirit and nature may reconnect.  It is dedicated to what is Human in every human being"

I had to wait until summer to visit since it’s only open on weekends from May through October, but it was definitely worth the wait.

The site is inconspicuous from the road—no signage or grand entrance. Once inside it becomes an extension of Franck’s drawings—intimate and rich with meaning.  It sits on the Waywayanda River (more like a creek at that point) and has three separate entrances – one on either side of the river and another across the road. I first entered where the former Franck dwelling and some outbuildings sit on the east side of the creek. I was delighted to find some of Franck’s actual drawings on display. There’s also a small building with his stained glass of the Stations of the Cross and a video room where you can watch Franck highlight his life story including the Pacem in Terris project.

Several sculptures and a labyrinth wind in and out of trees allowing you to meander along the riverbank and contemplate the words of wisdom scattered in and amidst the sculptures.

On the other side of the creek sits the main building – a stone sanctuary completely dark inside save one candle and a bit of natural light. And across the road another sculpture garden and smaller meeting room are open for people to walk around.

Center of disc says, "The meaning of life is to see."
The physical site is impressive especially since a lot of it appears to be handbuilt with wood and stone from the natural surroundings. The sculptures, mostly wrought iron, are bold and dramatic often with a message spelled out in hand-cut letters. The retreat site is dedicated to Pope John XXIII, Albert Sweitzer and D.T. Suzuki, all super-respected leaders in their respective faith traditions.  

But what enthralled me the most was to see Franck’s drawings on display in the small gallery. I was taken back to my original inspiration for drawing on location – it’s not about creating great artworks. It’s simply about seeing and falling in love with the world.

"I am the living center of the heart"

One of the sculptures in the garden

This site has a nice collection of some of Franck's work.

Pacem In Terris - Warwick, NY

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Black Dirt, Pine Island and Onions

Last winter I was listening to the NPR podcast, Planet Money and my ears perked up when they mentioned Pine Island, NY, a small village just a few miles from my daughter’s home in Warwick, NY. We’d been to a local winery there, and driven though on our way to places beyond, but it never struck me as anything special. But apparently Pine Island has some of the richest soil to find anywhere; so rich, in fact that it’s known as the Black Dirt Region. The dirt is the result of the deposits made by glacial lakes over 12,000 years ago. After a very slow thaw the bogs collected rich minerals that feed the soil and produce rich and intensely black dirt that’s especially suitable for growing the ubiquitous onion.

Being from Washington I associate onions with Walla Walla, but apparently the Walla Walla can’t hold a candle to Pine Island onions. The Planet Money team reported that back in 1955 an onion farmer, Vincent Kosuga,  in Pine Island, cornered the market by buying futures in onions – betting on a drop in price. He then purchased all the onions he could from anywhere in the country and stashed them in warehouses. Next he literally dumped the onions in the Chicago trade center, creating a glut of onions causing the price to drop through the floor. Vince raked in over 8 million in 1955 dollars.

A lot of onion farmers lost a lot of money. Congress stepped in to pass a law that prohibits purchasing onion futures, protecting onion farmers from then till now. So onion farming is now still strong In Pine island. They just had their annual Onion Festival complete with an onion eating contest – a timed event to see which contestant can chomp their way through a raw onion the fastest.

I didn’t make it to the onion festival in Pine Island, but I did find a plethora of onions at the farmer’s market in the neighboring village of Warwick. The market was bursting with fresh onions - also corn, tomatoes, peaches and so much more. And since Warwick and Pine Island are about an hour’s drive from Woodstock, NY, our market visit was enhanced by Woodstock revival tunes played by a local band.