Saturday, November 22, 2008

Past Lives

Viper recently re-revealed he used to be a hockey player (and then upbraided his readership by chiding us for not remembering this tidbit of personal information).

Which got me thinking. Many of us have long-buried talents, childhood aspirations, lost dreams. For most of my life I wanted to be an artist. Instead, when I reached college I became a geologist. Art faded into the background. Then, in the summer of 1996, I went to northwest Wyoming for a month to live at a guest ranch and conduct field work for my undergraduate honors thesis as a participant in a Keck Geology Consortium project. That trip changed my life in many ways. To give you all a hint of just how much, when I die, I want my ashes to be thrown from the bridge over the Sunlight Gorge and into the river below. Sunlight Creek merges with the Clarks Fork River and the Clarks Fork empties into the Bighorn Basin. I did field work from one end of the valley to the other.

The Clarks Fork River valley, my most treasured place in this world. The Clarks Fork River runs through the deep gorge in the right-hand side of the picture; Sunlight Creek runs through the cut visible in the foreground (if you enlarge the picture you can just barely make out the bridge over the gorge on the left. Follow the highway and you'll see it.) They join just out of sight on the other side of that hill.

Towards the end of the project, after I had collected my samples, I accompanied some of my project-mates to their field area as a fun, leisurely activity. With nothing better to do, I found myself drawing in my field notebook. Soon enough my simple sketches had blossomed into art like I hadn't made in years. My field notebook became the one place where my artistic talent, long-unused, could flourish.

The mouth of the Clarks Fork River, Wyoming. A spectacular exposed tilted sequence of Paleozoic strata is visible. That sort of thing is enough to make a geologist squeal with delight.

The same section, viewed from the ground. This picture was aken by John in 1994 during the University of Michigan's summer geology field camp, two years before I made my drawing.

Clarks Fork Canyon, Wyoming, slightly upstream from the previous picture.

The Clarks Fork canyon. I took this picture the day I made my sketch.

I went to western Ireland after graduation in 1997 for five weeks for my geology field camp experience. There were 25 of us living at a educational center in the small village of Clonbur. I learned to drink beer at the pubs in the village, where we would go in the evenings after dinner and homework were complete. Lush Ireland, as far as drawing went, was the opposite of dry, brown, rocky Wyoming. My sketches, though predominantly different shades of green, still brought me pleasure in their creation.

Finny, County Mayo, Ireland.

Lough Corrib, near Clonbur, County Galway, Ireland.

Once my learnin' days were over (I finished my MS in 2000), my drawin' days were too. The last entry in my field book is from May 12, 2000, ending the renaissance of drawing in my life.

Sometimes I think I should have continued with drawing, somehow combining my love of rocks with my love of art. How could I fit opera singing and running in there, too? That would be one wacky career.

(P.S. Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. I knew it was a very, very long shot to hope for a big win to put a shine on this awful season, but it was not meant to be. I will, however, continue in the grand tradition of Clevelanders by saying, "Wait until next year!" Your team won this round, sir...but watch out.)

(P.P.S. For those truly gluttonous for punishment, here's my thesis research from the 1997 Keck Symposium conference volume. Yeah, I was-- and still am-- a total nerd.)


Anonymous said...

Wow, those are great drawings! It's so fun when we get to mix two things we love into one. Thanks for sharing.

BeachRunner said...

Great drawings of some special and beautiful places. That is awesome.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

It's 7:19 and I've had a few beers by now so this might just be the beer talking but I'll say it anyway: Beer. Beer beer, beer beer beer. Yum. Beeeeeeeer.

But seriously, sister, you are a talented artist and you should continue to create! It is obviously an outlet for you and a joy for the rest of us to behold, when you deign to post your creations.

As an Irishman and a lush, I take umbrage at your calling Ireland lush! I prefer to think of it as The Emerald Isle of Drunkards!

I was there (Ireland) in 1989, and have been longing to return ever since.

Brewing fine beer, which you also do, is quite creative. Obviously, Sarah, you are looking for creative outlets, so I will exhort you once again to take up your brush, your pen, your bit of charcoal and show us the world as you see it!

Word verification: haerinae, which is just plain cruel to require of someone who has had as many beers as I have.

Mmmmm ,,, beeeeeerrrrrrr ...

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Thanks for sharing your drawings. I think it would be a great outlet for you if you could find time to make art a regular part of your life. There's something about having an analytical job that makes a creative hobby very special, and vice-versa.

joyRuN said...

Great pics & phenomenal sketches!

"...geologist squeal with delight" - I'll have to find some way to use my new favorite phrase in daily conversation.

tfh said...

Thanks for sharing your drawings. I do still wish I could hear your voice. It must be frustrating not to be able to put these talents to "good use," although any use is better than no use. The right hemisphere of my brain often feels rusty and untalented and I envy the creative and artistic in you.