Let Me Illustrate

Last night’s windstorm blew the cover off the hot tub. It ended up in the driveway at the bottom of the little hill the tub perches on, only a few feet from the Subaru. I suppose a stronger gust — stronger than the 40mph wind they said we got in the night — might have carried it into the side of the car, or landed it on the hood. I wouldn’t have cared much. The Subaru still shows golfball-sized craters from last August’s hailstorm, and we’ve been slow to fix it. A massive dent from a 7′ by 7′ spa cover would have only given it a bit more character.

Still, the force of the wind as it yanked at the straps tore the hook from one of the bungee cords and bent a steel cleat almost at right angles. When we first moved in, I had a good laugh when I climbed up to inspect the hot tub. The old cover was ripped in four places, dented in others; styrofoam poked through the corners. It weighed a ton: water had soaked it through and it no longer provided much insulation. But the Previous Owner, whom we’ll variously call Peter Ravenna (not his real name) or just PO, had tied the cover down with a web of polyester rope, more thoroughly than they trussed up Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. I unwrapped the thing and then gradually, as I became used to seeing the cover fly through the air down the drive, developed my own obsessive system of straps and guylines.

We had the cover replaced when they replaced the roof (see under Hail, Damage by) and until this weekend it had stayed put. I folded it up where it lay and shifted it closer to the garage. As I did, I saw something peculiar. To the side of the garage door, right up against the raised bed where I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to kill off the daylilies, was a single false goldenaster flower (Heterotheca villosa, probably var. pedunculata). Down in Arizona or New Mexico, you might still see one in November, I guess, but up here it had the effect of that scene in The Wizard of Oz when we leave sepia Kansas for Technicolor Oz. Not only is virtually everything else in the landscape sucked of bright color, but even the remaining dry leaves have been stripped from the trees now. The yellow aster almost cried out to be painted, and I thought briefly about digging it up and taking it inside. Seemed a pity, though. It had done too much to flower out of season to end up in a cup of cold water, and then to have its prettiness butchered by my attempts at botanical illustration.

I began painting the Rocky Mountain Juniper — the one mentioned in the last post — instead. Next week I’ll show that off. In the meantime, an earlier watercolor of Cercocarpus montanus (commonly called Alderleaf or Birchleaf mountain mahogany). That also is looking ragged this time of year, and it deserves to be seen in better days.


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