I feel really lucky to pass these fields and the Santa Monica Mountain range every morning on my way to work. The mountains in the far distance are called the Boney Mountains. To get to them, I have to drive up a steep hill and they are not revealed until I reach the top. Every day I can hardly wait to see what they look like this time. I think my favourite is when there's a layer of fog hanging in the highest peaks, gradually fading into the soft hills that lay to their feet. The grass now lost all its fresh green from the winter and in the evenings reflects the golden light of the setting sun. I love this spot, the good memories I have from there, and I hope the feeling it gives me will always stay present in my mind.
Next we headed further into the Valley, past Furnace Creek and South towards the Badwater Basin. On the way down, we passed the Devil's Golfcourse, which lies right next to the Badwater Basin itself and is characterized by it's field-like, dry, sharp, and rocky surface that is penetrated with surface salt. The indivdual pointy dirt and salt crystal formations are very light and when they are dropped on the ground they sound like shattering glass. A couple of miles further down the road, the Badwater Basin emerged as a surreal white and giant saltflat. While cautiously walking onto it, I looked back and saw a sign high above on the wall that lead up to Dante's Point: It marked sealevel.. and we were -279 feet below! On our way to Dante's view, we took Artist's drive to see the beautiful palette of a variety of colored rocks, which is caused by the oxidation of different metals in the ground. Next we passed the favourite viewpoint of Pacific Coast Borax Company's vice president, Christian Zabriskie. Our last stop before leaving the valley, this magic place with its many faces, was Dante's view. From up there one can see the huge salt flats streching out North and South into the valley and it's albedo blinding everyone looking down onto it. A majestic and beautiful yet strange sight, just as if someone spilled a humongous bucket of white paint.
That morning we started driving West towards Death Valley. Driving through Panamint Valley with its beautiful twisted and twirly rock formations, our first stop was Mosaik Creek and just before sunset we got to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. I've never seen sanddunes before. I immediately felt as I left the barren landscape of the valley for a moment and that I was wandering through some dunes in the distant orient. Because we arrived this late in the day, the heat already vanished and the sand underneath my feet felt cold, soft, and smooth, just like a persian silk carpet. The further we went out in this giant sandbox, the higher the dunes grew and soon we found ourselves surrounded by some that were 80 feet or taller. It seemed to me as if I was standing in the middle of an ocean of sand and someone froze the time. Definetly the most beautiful experience of this trip!
One of my favorite places in California: Alabama Hills. If you ever drive along the Eastern Sierra you can find these extraterrestrial-looking rock formations close to Mt Whitney. It's all BLM land, so camping is free!! An amazing spot for boulder climbers and adventurous explorers. Our night there was one of my worst camping nights ever. A day before the area had a sandstorm warning. Setting up a tent was impossible as the wind just blew it away and crushed it into the nearest rock. Took me about an hour to light a fire and when I finally got it, the thing was lighting up with roaring flames from devouring all the oxygen. Mental. But I got payed back with one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen: the snow covered Eastern Sierra mountain rage glowing in the morning sun.
We're headed down South from Mono county to our next stop: the Mammoth Mountains and their (now) frozen Lakes. Coming up from a very green Southern California, I didn't expect to see so much snow. Mammoth as a Ski and Snowboard resort was very busy this time of the year, but driving just 5 minutes outside of Mammoth Lakes we lost ourselves in the surrounding beautiful mountain scenery. A wide flat valley opens up when driving further South and in one of the side roads we found a place called Convict Lake. Not far from there we discovered a number of natural hot springs tucked away behind some hills. Most of them were not accessible due to the heavy snow and muddy off-road conditions, but luckily we were able to reach one of them. From there the view was simply breathtaking. Many times I had to remind myself that I'm in California as the distant blue mountain ranges gave me the impression to be on a highland plateau in Patagonia.
This weekend we went on a trip to visit several places up North along the Eastern Sierra in California. Our first stop was Mono Lake, not far from the border to Nevada. Back in the day, so-called 'Fly-Eaters', the Native American Kucadikadi (translated "eaters of the brine fly pupae"), used to live by the lake. The lake itself is about two hundred feet deep, and apparently its alkaline water can be used for doing laundry.
Colette Compton asked me to film her graduation recital last Friday at CSU Channel Islands. I was amazed by her virtuosity and miscellaneous choice of music, ranging from 18th century Italian opera to this year’s Super Bowl 2016 performance of Bruno Mars. The audience including faculty, staff, friends and family filled the Performing Arts lecture hall. Everyone was thrilled by CoCo’s show and enthusiastically applauded her final performance as a CI student with standing ovations.
Performing Arts teacher Heather Castillo and student Grace Akuna from the CSU Channel Islands asked me to create a video to a dance performance in the university’s ‘Arts under the Stars’ event. Accompanied by the African Drumming group LABATABEATS, the students interpret the novel Frog Island through a dance performance.
I was so lucky to participate in the CSU Channel Islands Performing Arts spring production “MOTOWN”. Together with other CI students, I performed classic Motown songs recorded in Detroits Hitsville studio from 1959-1972, the Golden Era of the record label. Although my main role was rather subsidiary, I gained a lot from this experience. I mostly challenged myself with learning percussion parts on the Konga handdrums and gained insight into Jazz guitar chords which gave me an intirely different perspective on how to play the guitar. I was inspired by the beautiful and complex vocal harmonies that the people in the 60s came up with. But the most precious experience I drew from these past 4 months was seeing how the the musical itself developed. How everyone involved grew from it and new ideas formed the piece step by step, every week. I think it changed everyone, in a positive way. I was fascinated by seeing stage-fright transforming into stage-thrill and individuals unifying into a performing group that excited audiences on every single show .
Recently I’ve been working on Graphic Designs for the California State University Channel Islands. One of them was a Flyer for the African Drumming Class led by Raymond McNamara and the Channel Islands Choral Association asked me to create a poster to invite students to their weekly choir rehearsal. I enjoyed combining the “analog” pen and watercolor sketches with digital media.
Here’s the outcome of a spontaneous afternoon with friends at the pool. The hot weather and too much naked skin gave me the opportunity to try out the Mehndi paste that I got from a Sri Lankan Shop in Topanga some weeks ago. We all had great fun experimenting with the designs and various ways to apply it to our skin. What a wonderful plant, the Lawsonia inermis.
We spent three days up in in Kalispell, Montana to visit Max. Damn’ cold up there, I can tell you. So cold I thought I’m breathing liquid oxygen, so cold our campfire froze, so cold that I could cut glass with my nipples, so cold that even Bill Clinton slept with his own wife, so cold that cats climb in the fridge just to warm up, so cold that hookers.. ah nah – it wasn’t that cold! A beautiful country, hope I can visit in summer. The scenery reminded me of the novel ‘A river runs through it’. “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” – Norman Maclean, A river runs through it.
Zion National Park in Utah was an incredible experience. On our way there were crossed 4 US states in less than 6 hours: California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah! On day one we took the challenge to crest Angel’s Landing, a 1500 ft tall rock formation near our camp. The 2.4 mi trail that leads to it’s top was carved out of solid rock in 1926 and metal chains were clamped every few feet to assist the dangerous hike. To the left and right several hundred feet abyss.. one false step – stonedead. Oh ja, I was scared. This gave vertigo an entirely new meaning and it didn’t help to know that since 2004 a total of 6 people died on this trail by falling from the cliff. Yikes. I was even more proud of myself when I reached the top and enjoyed the breathtaking view over the Zion Canyon. The next day we literally run up and down to Observation Point in less than 3 hours from which Angel’s Landing seemed tiny at an altitude of 2100 ft. The rest of the day we explored ‘the Narrows’, looking like Star Trek characters from the 70s with our wet-suits in shallow but ice cold water. ‘Two Arches’ in the northern Kolob Canyons were our final destination before heading home through Sin City and the desert to California.
Usually both S and I are not the biggest Valentine’s Day fans, but this year we decided to celebrate it far beyond any human civilization in solitude on the romantic Santa Catalina Island. Excited for this weekend to come, with our very own green tent, camping equipment and everything packed and ready for our wildlife adventure, we set out to catch the ferry – but – hooray hooray the Los Angeles traffic ruined our grandiose plan as we arrived 2 hours late and missed our sail. On top of all our “luck” that day, we had to change our destination from the idyllic, remote Two Harbors to the only and therefore most busy and touristic town on the island: Avalon. F’n Avalon. Casinos, Cocktails, Tourists, Golf and ah ja, a lot of Golf carts. So ja, not what we expected our weekend to be, but we still had a lot of fun in the consumer’s paradise of Santa Catalina.
After getting lost on our way and detouring on the Maricopa highway for about three hours, we finally arrived in a snowy Yosemite National Park in Northern California. Packed with snow chains, warm clothes and pyjamas and we threw ourselves into the adventure. Although unfortunately most of the hiking trails were closed during that time of the year, the sight of the valley alone was a as from a fairytale world. No bears passed our way, but we encountered a wildlife, so tame and unimpressed by us humans that they would walk right in front of us, without moving an eyelash. Can’t wait to see that magic place in summer!
Along the Pacific Coast Highway, the California State Route 1 and close to Malibu, there’s a beautiful hiking trail in Corral Canyon. We arrived there late just before sunset and our friend Cara led us to a hidden cave. Rumor has it the frontman of the Doors came up there a lot in his teens to hang out, think and write. You enter the cave from underneath through a tiny narrow gap in the rock they call ‘the birth canal’ and the cave itself is painted in pink. Writings, riddles, poetry, tags and graffities are found all over the walls. To one side the cave is open and from there, one can see over the beautiful hilltops of Malibu Creek and Topanga State Park. A wonderful place to write. “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.” – William Blake