Inktober 2108- “Short-tailed Stoat”

Inktober 12- White-tailed Stoat

Inktober 12- “Short-tailed Stoat”– So…this one is an experiment from one end to the other. Of course if it had been a Fail, y’all would never have seen it. This stoat was one of a colony that kept me thoroughly entertained popping up and down in the rocks one evening near a monastery in Mongolia. I was inspired by Aaron Blaise to buy some white ink pens and try them with my dip pens on toned paper. The “firsts” are: a Gillott #404 nib and both Gelly Roll and Uniball Signo white pens on Strathmore Toned Tan sketch paper (a 5.5×8.5” pad). The black ink is Perle Noir, which I used for the last piece, a baby elephant. I’m quite happy with this first attempt, so there will definitely be more Inktober drawings done this way. I have lots of toned paper, lots and lots of pen nibs and a number of bottles of ink. So I think this will go on past the end of the month.

The Art Life: When Life Hands You A Lemon…

24. me on location
On location near Erdenesogt, central Mongolia, last year

As the great old Rolling Stones song says “You can’t always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need.” In this case, what I wanted was to leave for seven weeks in Mongolia on Monday. What I got is having to cancel the trip due to having fallen last month and sustained a concussion. The decision came this past Monday when I woke up with a recurrence of mild symptoms, plus still feeling tired and a bit out of sorts. Mongolia, and the travel required to get there, is challenging when I’m at 100% and I am definitely not. Any problems en route or out in the deep countryside or even in UB could have been serious, possibly requiring an emergency air evacuation to a country with western-standard medical care. It is not a place to test “What can possibly go wrong?”. And I was struggling and not quite getting there with mentally gearing up for packing and the attention and focus that requires. So I did the adult, responsible thing *sigh* and cancelled.

on location trinidad
This summer I’ll be doing this
mud road
Instead of this. Summer in Mongolia (eastern part, three years ago), which is the rainy season. But don’t get me wrong. With a great driver like I had on this trip I almost always get a kick out of “local conditions” and this was no problem. We both looked at each other and grinned when he suddenly lost traction on all four wheels at once and did almost a 180 in the Land Cruiser. Good times

The “need” part comes in with the fact that this will my first full summer at home since 2007. And, after three exhibitions in four years and, in retrospect, a little too much travel, I find that a break with a long stretch of unstructured time and no non-discretionary deadlines (there are juried competitions I want to enter) to be very desirable. Lemonade.
So, what will I do now with all this “free” time? Well, I’ll miss having gone on my 12th trip to what has become my second home, that’s for sure. The prospect of not seeing friends, well-loved places, new places, being with the Mongols and painting and sketching on location there is kinda hard.

garden 3
Gardening is my main hobby. Great exercise for great rewards

OTOH, I have time now to let it rip in the studio, trying out new media and ways of working, experimenting with my painting, drawing and painting “on location” in my own garden. Having time to paint with my friends in the Sunday Paintout group. Sketching at our local zoo. Taking day trips to the beach or river with my husband and our two collies. Doing training with one year old Peregrin that he needs and deserves that was going to be delayed until I got back. Spending lots of time in the garden and my propogation projects (probably will do a plant sale this fall). Getting to go to a family reunion in August on the Oregon Coast that I was going to miss. Working on marketing/career stuff that’s been beckoning for quite awhile now. Sitting on the patio in the afternoon sun with a beer in a pleasantly vegetative state. But also, retrospectively, recharging from the past four years. And, of course, planning my 2018 trip to the Land of Blue Skies…

P&H rope
Peregrin and Hailey, our rough collies

But, wait! There’s news! In either December or January (I’ll announce the date when I have it), I have been invited by the Sequoia Park Zoo Conservation Advisory Committee to be one of the speakers for their Conservation Lecture Series. The title of my talk will be “Art and Conservation in the Land of Blue Skies”.


Part 5: The 2016 WildArt Mongolia Expedition: Enroute North to Erdenesogt Soum

1. departure haze
Departure from Great Gobi A, looking north on a hazy day

Our time in Great Gobi A at an end, we packed up and headed back north the way we’d come. The fuel level in the Land Cruiser was low so the first order of business was to get to a soum center, Bayan-Ondor, to fill up. We also had lunch there. Soyoloo, our cook, went into a cafe and arranged for us to use a table and to get a thermos of milk tea. This worked out very nicely.

Once again I’ve included a fair number of photos to show our route in case it might be of interest to someone else doing research about going there.

2. road north
Heading north
3. mts. and camels
The areas of haze created interesting atmospheric perspective
4. leaving GGA
The boundary sign we passed going into Great Gobi A. I hope to see it again sometime on another trip there.
5. livestock
Not far north of the SPA boundary, we started to see livestock. There was a fairly large herd of goats in the distance. You can see that we are now in an area of more red soil than gravel.
6. gers
We came upon this line of gers with no one around, as far as we could tell, since we didn’t stop. No dogs or any of the things outside that one sees at herder’s gers
7. bags on grid
However, there was this cleared area which had been divided into a grid and bags of something laying within each square
8. gazelles
A little farther on and back into a shrubby area we suddenly spotted two gazelles! I was barely able to get a few grab shots from the car and then they were gone.
9. arachnid
We stopped for some reason that I can’t recall now and someone saw this arachnid. She was over an inch long. No idea of the species.
10. road north
We drove through the afternoon back through the basin and range topography
11. wildflowers
On another short stop I photographed a couple of wildflowers. From the shape of the flowers I think this one is a member of the pea family
12. mountain
We finally had the mountain in view which had been totally covered in snow when we saw it on our way south
13. Bayan-Ondor
Bayan-Ondor, where we got gas for the vehicles and had lunch
15. family
 The man probably was bringing his or his wife’s mother into town to shop and maybe visit with friends
16. ovoo
Then we were on our way to our next stop, Amarbuyant Monastery, which had been destroyed in the late 1930s as had been so many, but was supposed to be undergoing restoration. The Dalai Lama had been there and this stupa was built in his honor.
17. herder and daughter
But we were on a very “local road” and Erdenbat had never been this way, so when we saw a herder and a little girl sitting up on rock keeping an eye on their livestock we stopped to ask directions. We were quite charmed by the two of them as a father out with his daughter,  who he clearly had great affection for. She was very self-possessed, not an uncommon thing to see in Mongolian country kids
18. leading the way
The herder decided that the best thing was to show us the way, so off we went with him in the lead
19. earth road
We finally reached a point where we could apparently go the rest of the way on our own, so we gave them each a gift as a thank you and went on our way through some pretty rugged terrain
20. well
We came upon a well and stopped for Kim and Oliver to see how they work. This one is typical in that a very large commercial tire has been split lengthwise to form the trough, a great reuse of something that would otherwise be thrown away
21. khiid
We came up over a rise and there before us was Amurbuyant Khiid…what was left of it. It had been a major commercial caravan route and a hive of activity. That all ended in 1937 when the Mongolian communist government destroyed it and hundreds of other monasteries in the country to break the political and social power of the lamas
21. old walls
Wall sections like these are pretty much all that is left
22. censor
There were a very few artifacts to see like this incense burner, which would have been outside of one of the temples
22a. temple-stupa
There has been some rebuilding and there are monks and students in residence again. But it felt like rather a sad, isolated place. We asked for and were given a tour of the two temples, but not with much enthusiasm or welcome

I started to feel uneasy not long after we started to visit the second temple. Wasn’t sure why. There was a stillness I found unsettling and not just that it was quiet. We were shown a couple of large panels in the main temple that listed all the people who had donated to the restoration, along with the amounts they had given. It added up to millions and millions of tugrik. The surviving old temple was in poor condition and visible repairs were cheaply done, although the interior wood framing and supports looked sturdy and good. The new temple, in the shape of a ger, also had a feeling of being built quickly and cheaply. The ceiling was made square panels a little like the acoustic tiles one sees in America. Some were askew and some seemed worse for wear. In both cases, it felt like no one had noticed and no one cared. The tower for, I assumed, calling the monks to prayer, looked to be in pretty bad shape. A new long, low building, had been constructed (visible in the front of the photo of the complex above). There was also a good array of solar panels to provide power. Our young student tour guides walked us past the newish long living quarters building on our way out, answering some last questions, and a very unfriendly male voice ordered them back inside. The closest school was 60km away and the boys only attended one week a month. The rest of their time was at the monastery taking classes in Buddhist practice. And so we left. We had been given permission to camp somewhere in the vicinity and we drove around looking for a spot. I became more and more uncomfortable and stressed, to the point that I finally had to say that I needed to leave now, right now. Something felt bad and wrong there and I needed to get away from it. It was so very odd and I was clearly the only one who felt it, or at least no one else said anything. Have never had anything like this happen on any of my travels to any place before. But leave we did and found a spot on an open plain to the north with a great view. As sometimes happens a local herder and his wife showed up on their motorbike to check us out and have a visit. We went to their ger the next day.

22b. herder ger
Our “neighbors”, a kilometer or two from where we were camped

As we pulled up the woman came out. She was holding her hand which was wrapped in a plastic bag. We could see instantly that it was terribly swollen, a bite of some kind. I gave her a half-dozen or so ibuprophen for the pain, emphasing that she should take no more than three at a time. Her husband was going to take her to the soum center hospital, probably more of a clinic. It turned out after some chat and a translation from our guide, Batana, that the woman had gotten down on the floor of the ger, reached under a bed to get something and felt a sting. At that point all the Mongols decided that it had been a scorpion. Her life wasn’t in danger, but she definitely needed to see a doctor. They left and we were on our way a short time later after getting water from their well.

22a. mountain
Ikh Bogd Nuruu from the south. Orog Nuur (Lake) is on the other side
23. ovoo
We now drove towards Ikh Bogd Nuruu and worked our way around the south end of the mountain, passing this ovoo on the way
24. road sign
A road sign!
25. mt. south side
We drove back along the north side of the mountain, passing large herds of animals. The hope had been to camp in the area or by the lake but the presence of many herders and their dogs made that unsafe, so we had to settle for stopping a few times for photos
26. lake, herder
And what a photo opp!
27. stupa
After working our way through some extremely rough ground, we arrived at an overlook for Orog Nuur. It was a big deal for me to see the lake again since I had camped there on the south shore in 2010 on my very first tent camping trip in Mongolia. It was also the first time I’d traveled with Soyoloo. So it was special for both of us since it’s pretty remote

We continued on and found a sheltered spot not far from a soum center. It was quite windy, as it had been for a lot of the Expedition. The drivers and guide went into town to get gas and buy snacks.

28. vultures
The next morning, not far from the soum center we came upon this flock of eurasian black vultures and I got a lot of really good reference photos
29. Horses
And it’s always nice to see a herd of horses on the way
30. herder chasing horse
One mare and her foal had other ideas, though, and the owner was still trying to catch up and turn them back when we went out of sight
31. child
Turned out that it was International Children’s Day, which is a very big deal in Mongolia, with celebrations in every town. Lots of the children are all dressed up and as cute as can be
32. girl on bike
There was a fenced area that was obviously for community gatherings and this day it was all for the children
33. road ovoo sign
In the far distance were the mountains we were heading for. And, look, a second road sign!
34. bayanhongor
Closing the loop, we arrived back in Bayahongor, which had been our jumping off point for the journey south. We stopped in town and did some final grocery shopping
35. Erdenesogt
Then we did what I had originally planned to do when we were there before…travel north up the river valley into the Hangai Mountains to Erdenesogt, which is in the far background

We drove up to a high point with an ovoo and wonderful view of the river valley, then backtracked a short way to a special spot where we set up camp for a few days. And that will be next week’s story.

Mongolia Monday: The Best Camping Trip Ever, Part 5 – North To The Hangai Mountains, Bayanhongor, Gachen Lama Monastery

While our original intent had been to spend two nights at Orog Nuur, the combination of heat, mosquitos and there being very few birds around in the morning caused us to decide that we would travel on north instead.

After having lunch on the north side of the lake, where we did see some shorebirds and demoiselle cranes, we worked our way through heavy vegetation on a really rough earth road to get to the main route to Bogd, a soum center, where we re-filled our water containers from the local well.

Shorebirds, Orog Nuur
Demoiselle cranes, Orog Nuur

Then it was up and away from the Gobi toward the Hangai Mountains, another part of Mongolia that I had never seen before.

Ovoo with a Soyambu, the National Symbol of Mongolia; very unusual

We stopped for the night a short way off the road, after having passed through three changes in vegetation as we went up in elevation. It was cold and windy, quite a change from our previous campsite by the lake, but I slept well.

Upland campsite, with visitor

The next morning we drove into Bayanhongor, an aimag center which was quite a substantial town. We trekked around town buying petrol, eggs, bread and meat. It was an energetic, busy place which had nice tarmac paving in the central area.

Bayanhongor comes into view, backed by the Hangai Mountains
Horse-drawn water delivery service, Bayanhongor

On the way out of town we found that the road Khatnaa wanted to take was washed out by the recent flooding. Consultations with a number of locals ensued and an alternate route was found. And what a route it was!

Perfect scene- an earth road leading deep into the Mongolian countryside
Tuy Gol valley
Tuy Gol valley
Yaks, horses and gers; it must be Mongolia!

Our destination was the soum center of Erdenetsogt, home to the Gachen Lama Monastery, neither of which I had ever heard of, much less knew anything about.  The soum center was typical, except for the lovely setting above the Tuy Gol. The monastery was anything but, as you will see below.

This is one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful buildings I have ever seen. And what makes it almost unbearably poignant is that it is the sole surviving structure, other than the entry gate, that is left on the site from the destruction of the monasteries that took place in the late 1930s. There were originally ten temples.

The entry gate
Gachen Lama Monastery, old temple

But today the monastery is alive again and it was bustling with activity when we were there in anticipation of a visit the next day by a prominent Tibetan Rimpoche (teacher), who was going to preside over the dedication of two new statues that were to be installed in the new temple next door, which was built in 1990, making it the 20th anniversary celebration.

Temple porch with the two new statues

The old temple was filled with people, many of them elderly women wearing beautiful brocade del. Upon entering, we found that they were preparing hundreds and hundreds of printed Buddhist sutras which were to be placed in the statues. There was a real assembly line going. Some monks were rolling the small strips of paper up very tightly. These were handed to the women who then wrapped them in sewing thread. After a few minutes of watching, Soyoloo reached down, picked up three of the rolled sutras and handed one each to Khatnaa and I, keeping one for herself. Then she got us each of spool of thread. Suddenly we weren’t on-lookers anymore, but participants, truly a gift. We each conscientiously wrapped our sutra and added it to the growing stack. Amazing to think that I’ve left a little bit of me in such a special place.

Preparing for the Rimpoche
One of the two statues
The new temple, just past the row of prayer wheels

As an artist, the temple was pure eye-candy, being covered with a riot of decorative carvings and paintings on almost every surface. Stylistically it is probably mostly Tibetan, with some Nepalese influence. I’m posting most of the best images I took because when I googled the monastery, I got no hits at all and this place is too special to not share.

Peacock detail,, old temple
Unknown deity or creature, old temple
Elephant at corner; for strength- old temple
One corner of old temple; the fretwork gives this large building a delicate, airy feeling
Gachen Lama Monastery; the old temple

After we left the monastery grounds, we walked toward the river to see the seven stupas which overlook the river valley.

Three of the stupas; cue Jantsannarov’s “White Stupa No. 1”

This seems to be one of the most beloved pieces of music in Mongolia. I love it, too.

We debated whether to stop here for the night in the hope of seeing the Rimpoche the next day. But we really had no idea when he would arrive and were a little uncomfortable being conspicuous as the only non-locals around, so chose to travel on. And that resulted in one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.