Favorite Spots from the Year #2: Painted Hills

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And the artistry continues with my second pick for “Favorite Spot from the Year“…the John Day Fossil Beds – Painted Hills Unit. These magnificent mounds of blanketed Technicolor are located about 2 hours from Bend, Oregon. Part of the larger John Day Fossil Beds Monument, which houses “one of the longest and most continuous records of evolutionary change and biotic relationships in North America,” the Painted Hills present dazzling displays of color on canvases formed when the area was an ancient river floodplain. The hills are layered with intensely distinct color variations that designate different geological eras.

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One of the greatest delights that I’ve experienced during this adventure has been the significant sharpening of my senses, made even more spectacular by my somewhat consistent awareness of the process as it’s been happening. I’ve started to feel more fully; to actually see what I’m seeing. And somewhere along the way, I began to experience emotional connection to colors. For their subtle/sultry nature. For their ability to merge, their capacity to change. For all they can say through the act of hueing, for the stories that shades can tell. I’ve been humbled by the efforts they give, and grateful to take in the joy. Their always present joy.

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 The Painted Hills use colors to tell us about their millions of years co-existing. The reds show laterite soil that formed when the temps were warm and humid; the greys present mudstone, siltstone, and shale; and the black tones tell of lignite that once took the form of vegetation. They look like piles of patterned pants, like multi-shaded suedes. Like sands displayed within a jar that’s felt its share of shakes. The Painted Hills tell exquisite stories of survival and of change. They’re recognized as one of the “Seven Wonders of Oregon,” and they’re one of my favorite spots from the year.



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