I didn’t expect it to be the coldest day of the year when I’d started organizing a painting trip up to the top of Mount Palomar for this week. After all, when I’d gone up there with my friend Nancy two weeks ago, we’d been searching for bits of shade because it was so warm. But we’ve had two cold, wet storm fronts come through in the past week, so we’re probably lucky there wasn’t thick slushy snow on the ground!
Nine intrepid PAPASAN painters made the trek up the serpentine South Grade Road to our overlook just beyond the summit. As ear car pulled up, and artists emerged, the first line out of each mouth was, “Holy %X$*#@ it’s cold up here!!!” After all, we’d only driven an hour and a half from the temperate San Diego coast. But this is a hardy and well-prepared bunch: on went the powder pants, the coats, the hats, the fingerless gloves, out came the easels and the painting began.
When it’s clear, I cans see the cut of the Palomar ridge road from my kitchen window. It was that extraordinarily clear on Tuesday, and from the lookout we could see the line of the Pacific 30 miles away. Somewhere down there was my house, too: if I’d had a powerful pair of binoculars I could probably have spotted our hillside.
We were fanned out around the overlook, enjoying the view and the sounds of hawks and the breeze in the trees when we heard an approaching car. We actually heard the music before the engine, so we were a bit dismayed that the booming white pick up truck pulled into the parking area. But I realized that the radio was belting out “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and not some angry urban war chant. I figured anyone who had John Lennon playing, even at full volume, probably wasn’t searching for a confrontation.
The two Rotties in the cab barked. A chuckle preceded Roy as he shut down the stereo and the engine and emerged. “Don’t you people realize it’s %X$*#@ cold today?” he exclaimed. He lives up on the mountain and was quite surprised to see a group of crazy artists bundled up to the eyeballs and peering over a precipice. We all agreed, chatted, joked for a while. Then he announced that we were all somewhat insane and probably needed coffee, got back in the truck and vanished down the road on a receding wave of Beatles.
A half hour later, we heard music again. This time it was some hot wailing blues. This time, Roy was carrying a thermos full of coffee. Seriously. He’d gone home and brewed a pot for us. We all thought this was quite amazing: how often does one encounter spontaneous generosity from a stranger? But it sure carried us through the chilly morning. Here’s to Roy, and to mountain hospitality!
The hardy group, painting on Palomar
A 6"x6" study for Burnt Tree: Palomar
Burnt Tree: Palomar, on the easel. This tree burned in the 1999 fires, and it's amazing to see how much has grown up around it since.
Another study: Palomar West by South West, 5"x7". This one was done on slick gessoed masonite. I love the way the brush strokes show up on that surface.