August is a month of pilgrimage for Americans. It’s the month we return to our holidays of choice, the special places we feel most alive or inspired to be free.
August is when we return to places that nourish us, even if that’s just gardening at home. We enjoy that collective breath before the rush of school and September begins.
We all have places like this, even if they’re not particularly picturesque to others. Places so special to us that even a small tug can break the dam on our memories.
An old snapshot of the family ski condo may looks like a terrible place to our spouse. But those old, poorly-lit photos remind us of why we loved (or hated) being there. There are some places, just like some people, who help us become more of who we are.
If it’s a place of home for us, we grow nostalgic over the way it smelled, the way we were able to sleep without fear. My Mexican grandparent’s home, where we never rushed. The smell of a vitamin store still reminds me of their house.
All these memories from a smell, or a snapshot, or a riff of music from that wonderful weekend. We know why that particular spot on earth held safety and hope for us. And we know why we want to remember it as long as we breathe.
Those are the places I have the privilege and pleasure to paint, when some of you ask me.
So for August, while many of us are on vacation with family and visiting our special places, pull up a chair for some special family stories.
Today, the story of the Hale family. And how I came to paint their place of pilgrimage.
Jon and Jess Hale are old friends from our Jeeping days. We met in Moab during the Rubicon Owner’s Forum yearly trips. I have witnessed Jon ruin or roll his Jeep more than once. He’s the guy who looks for the roughest patch of road and announces, “I’m in.”
Years later, we all ran the Rubicon trail in California. I’ll never forget how we celebrated the finish. Each couple rented a jet ski to scream over the sapphire waters of Lake Tahoe.
Jon and Jess are nurses who work in Seattle. Seven years ago, Jon and Jess swapped their Rubicon for running shoes, bikes and wet suits. Instead of off-road driving, they’re off-road running.
Jon ran his first Ironman at age 40, swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles. That’s just one race. Jess, who joined the Ironman ranks, too, recently shared about one Ultramarathon. This one was a 50 mile race. She remembers the huge highs and lows, feeling strong and invincible one moment, then not sure she could do it the next. But, when she finished she said,
“I never felt so alive and was ready to sign up for the next event. 😊”
They’ve learned together how, with hard work, their bodies can carry them farther than they ever thought possible. This coming weekend they are running Mount St. Helen’s trail for another event together.
Being outside, climbing new peaks, and training together is the Hale family’s special place. Special enough to want it painted. So, they asked me to capture this in a commissioned watercolor piece.
I worked with a picture of them running across the San Francisco Bay Bridge (view the pics above the “Artist’s Note” at my site), but placed them in front of a mountain lake with huge peaks in the distance.
This 22″ x 30” watercolor is the result. It now hangs in their entrance hallway. They see it every time they leave and return home after an event. As Jess just shared this week “We still smile every time we look at it!”
Now, I don’t run marathons, but capturing a family’s places of pilgrimage. Knowing my art, even two years later, is still bringing them joy and satisfaction. Well, that’s my version of a runner’s high! Be sure to read the Artist’s Note for more.
Let me hear from you! What is your special place?
Next week, another story!