"To create one's own world takes courage." - Georgia O'Keefe
Last summer I took an old school road trip.
I needed to get away- completely- and concentrate on the open road. See some mountains, some canyons and some big 'ol blue skies. I miss big skies. I'm a Kansas girl at heart.
So I borrowed a tent from a good friend, and set out.
Now, to give you a good visual, I'll tell you that since my Honda was not running well, my son, visiting Germany at the time, said it would be alright if I drove his car, which is a 1991 Buick station wagon. Wood paneling and everything. So basically, I was Clark Griswold hitting the open road.
My plan was to drive through Kansas, head over to Stonewall, Colorado, where I spent many summer vacations with my family, then cross into New Mexico to visit Ghost ranch - Georgia O'Keefe's old stomping grounds.
So I followed my plan, the landscape and light shifting, each mile bringing more peace and beauty than the last. I was looking for more than scenery, though. I was looking for the nerve, independence, and focused passion that the artist found at Ghost ranch.
Georgia O'Keefe spent a lifetime developing herself as an visual artist, mostly by herself. Many of her days in New Mexico were spent taking off across the open sagebrush in her Model A, stopping to paint where she pleased, and packing it up if anyone stopped to bother her.
At Ghost ranch, up into her 80's, she would spend her days walking the canyon trails with her canvas, paints, and brushes. She'd find a spot that spoke to her and sit and paint. By all accounts, she did this whether it was 50 or 90 degrees outside.
Georgia O'Keefe's life and career was inspirational, difficult, and brilliant. But one thing that held true for her throughout her life; She knew herself well. She deliberately spent time by herself developing her art and her mind. She was not afraid to be quiet or alone. In fact, she found it a necessity to do her best work.
So I went to see where this matriarchal artist-wonder lived and worked. I got to lay beneath a tree she had laid under, and I got to walk trails that she walked. When I woke up in the mornings, I looked directly out over Georgia's mountain. The one she spoke about when she said " God told me if I painted that mountain enough, I could have it."
It was a remarkable experience to live and breath in that place. The air, the light, the colors; all the same as she experienced them. I understood why she made it her home. I didn't want to leave either.
I was approached by a Hopi woman on a trail the second day I was there who said she saw a "vision" as I was painting. No, I didn't have to pay. She told me I was from two places. The rapid mountain waters and the quiet stones they played around. That my spirit was searching for it's own place. She said my blood was blue and gave me the passion to create . She told me to let all else fall away .
I was more than a little surprised at this woman coming up to me and talking to me in this very straightforward manner about what she had "seen". But thinking about it that night, it all seemed to come together. My very spontaneous solo trip in a station wagon out to Ghost ranch to walk in the footsteps of a woman who had not only the passion, but the guts to create. And to make a life out of her creating when it was unheard of for a woman to do so. Sometimes the universe speaks to us in mysterious ways.
O'Keefe lived her life on her terms, saying
"Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing- and keeping the unknown always beyond you."
I gained so much from my trip to the Southwest in my wood paneled station wagon. Driving on mountain passes, sleeping in canyons, walking rocky trails. It was good for my soul. There was no plan other than to drive and take in whatever came my way, and when you go with no expectations other than to experience what happens, wonderful things are allowed to come your way.
I plan on making this a tradition for myself and my art, and I would recommend a solo adventure to anyone, especially women. We don't always make it a priority to spend time alone. To make our " unknown known", even to ourselves. If you haven't yet, I hope you will give it a try.
You won't regret it!