|Quartz Mountain cave spirits, 9 by 12 watercolor|
So it is with me with a small, shallow cave in the ancient granite hills of Quartz Mountain park and resort in southwest Oklahoma, another of my 15 favorite places in the state.
|Mount Baldy, the tallest|
|Drought takes its toll|
Years of drought have reduced the water level of Lake Lugert/Altus to just 12 percent of capacity. There's more sand and mud than water, and at low water you can sometimes see the foundations of the town.
What makes the place special is the state park, where you can camp, rent a cabin, or hike, and the Oklahoma Arts Institute where high school students attend sessions on the summer, and teachers in the fall.
|Quartz Mountain lodge|
In addition to the art classes, the best part was meeting, sharing ideas, and partying with artists and high school and college teachers from around the state, and making new friends.
It was there that as a relatively new watercolor painter that several of us traveled to the cave, not far from the main lodge. I'd been trying to paint what I see, and the work was fair to ok, because I still get caught up in details, rather than what I feel.
But the cave led to a break-out painting. Inside, looking out at the autumn colors, I turned out something different, something spiritual, visceral.
There are other stories, like hiking to the top of the highest mountain, 2,041 feet, in the dark with a group, to see the sunrise. The skies were daily populated by soaring vultures, who nested in some remote area up high, stretching their wings once the air warmed. We didn't go to try to find their nesting cave.
It's still wild there. Your imagination is set free, and it's hard not to imagine native people huddling in the cave for protection against a winter storm.That's why I think my painting is free, and why it's such a favorite place.