Manzanita Roots

"Manzanita Roots," mixed media on Yupo paper, 12" x 9"

Here's a little piece on paper, a far cry from my usual urban-inspired and often people-centered work. Among the long list of things that have been turned upside down thanks to the pandemic, I'm finding easier and safer to access nature rather than city, the opposite of the norm.

We got on the reservation system for the national parks earlier and were able to get passes, passes which have been very limited in cases such as Yosemite. So thus far this summer, we've taken in three parks: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and most recently Yosemite.

This image is from Kings Canyon, but really could've been from anywhere in California. It depicts the gnarled, bleached, dust-dry roots of a manzanita bush, apparently also called mountain driftwood, a plant I find weirdly attractive. The lumber industry wants fast-growing and straight trunks in its trees, so manzanita is not in the cards. Respect to that.

When dried out, manzanita bark is a gorgeous bright copper red. The leaves are green and tough and can be used, and have been used in the past, to brush teeth. The conquistadors called it manzanita because it grows a small, edible berry that resembles a wee apple. I have yet to see that apple but every indication says it's delicious, with medicinal properties and all that. 

Like most native California tree species, manzanita is relatively resistant to fire, so the wood is good for making pipes, if you get that hankering. But dried out and it makes a vicious kindling that can crack cast-iron stoves and cause chimney fires.

I'm happy it's around. And feel more enmeshed and grounded in this biome, or geo-region, or land knowing something about it. 
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I do my best to use environmentally responsible pigments, varnishes, and other materials, all while upholding the strictest archival conventions and not losing anything in the way of colour or vibrancy.

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