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Issue #218, Epic Road Trip, July 10, 2018, Mill Run, Pennsylvania

July 10, 2018 I had most of the day to myself yesterday, and took that wondrous opportunity to go to ‘Falling Water’, where Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house that is cantilevered over a waterfall on the Bear Run River.

I was not feeling so great early on; severe lack of sleep the night prior (mostly due to Orion constantly moving around in the cot above) led me to feeling almost vertigionous, and I walked around the house on the tour yawning and feeling dizzy. Not dizzy enough to prevent me from enjoying the house, though, and I participated in the guided tour, given by a youthful and enthusiastic historian, and absorbed many details that make this former residence a brilliant statement about nature, structure and utility.
Wright surprised the Kaufmans, wealthy Pittsburgh department store owners looking to improve on their getaway cabin, with a design for a house positioned directly over the river, and he did so using a cantilevered support system, which was revolutionary for the time.

The way Wright designed the interior spaces opening up to the river was incredible, as was the way he designed the bedroom and office spaces, which are reached by narrow passageways and open up with an intimate feel to nature beyond. Because Wright also designed many of the details of the house, like in-wall heaters, tables, chairs, and kept many of the rocks jutting into the space inside, he created a total environment, working in harmony with nature. Every step inside the house brought a new design delight.
The guest house, above the main house, is also sublime, and is reached by a cantilevered, curved and stepped archway covering the path. The artwork here was superb, with paintings by Diego Rivera, prints by Picasso; and wonderful sculptures tucked into the corners. In all, it was a treasure that I’m glad I got to see first-hand.

After the tour I had a a brief lunch of yogurt, apple and brownie; hoisted my large pack containing my sketchbook and easel and headed down to the iconic ‘viewing area’ to do a drawing. I was fairly happy with the first one, then I moved to the upstream view of the house, where all the tour groups were assembling, and sketched a view looking the opposite direction, of the bulk of the house sitting over the water, with it’s stair steps descending from the living room, leading almost to the surface of the water. I was not as happy with this drawing - fairly challenging considering the heat and the flies - but I might be able to turn it into something good.

On my way back, I detoured to ‘Ohiopyle’, a nearby town that is headquarters to river-rafting tours, nestled in a valley scored with a large river, to get some vegetable and fruit for our next meals. I was successful in finding the grocery store that the docents of Falling Water told me about, purchased some food, then it was back to the crowded theme park campground where I found Paige lounging in the Cricket, resting and attempting to heal her cold. The kids were off somewhere, thoroughly enjoying a focused afternoon of water balloons and slides. I eventually found them by the pool and entreated them to come back for dinner, a giant and delicious pasta and vegetable creation, that Paige threw together.

We have neighbors with two young kids; they told me they were from Carbondale, PA; and they assisted us in trying to get our fire going - (our wood seems wet and won’t light well). Our other neighbors are a younger couple from Pittsburgh with whom I chatted the previous night, who were clearly Deadheads, so we talked about Jerry Garcia and Red Rocks. When I told them I had attended shows there in the 80’s, they looked at me with amazement, and said I had ‘aged well’.

This morning I woke up at 6am and rode my bike up the road to a spot just overlooking a farm, with five pointed corn silos and one large tower, and I did a drawing. The fog, filling the valley beyond, dissipated as I did my drawing. It was nice, and when I got back, everyone was still asleep.

no loger sublime
nature through scratched sunglasses
on a sunny day

design masterpiece
house built into the cliffside
hanging over creek

suspended stairway
hanging over the water
brings cool water close

so long, Frank Lloyd Wright
I sing the iconic song
while sketching the house

how lucky were they
to have lived in the house first
before the tourists

cantilevered walls -
everywhere, the message:
tensions and release

spherical kettle
swinging over the fireplace
entertains the guests

Rivera paintings
complete with Picasso prints
in Frank Lloyd Wright’s house

humans and nature
were never more intimate
than when in this house

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen