An artist stranded in Death Valley stayed
To paint and dance her way on starry skies
And brought new life peaks through her art and dance
By sharing wellsprings deep within her soul
We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of Marta Becket, the woman who created a wellspring in the desert of Death Valley Junction and called it the Amaragosa Opera House.
Marta’s story is an inspirational one– As a traveling dancer from New York, in 1967 she and her husband were camping in Death Valley National Park when their trailer got a flat tire. To get it repaired, they were directed to Death Valley Junction, a tiny desert community just outside the park. The town was once a Borax mining station and though not considered a ghost town, it was sparsely populated. While waiting for the tire to get fixed, Marta explored the old adobe buildings there and discovered an old abandoned theater.
“Peering through the tiny hole, I had the distinct feeling that I was looking at the other half of myself. The building seemed to be saying…..Take me…..do something with me…I offer you life” To Dance on Sands: The Life and Art of Death Valley’s Marta Becket
She and her husband stayed and restored the building to hold her performances there. She painted an audience on the walls inside the theater, and other beautiful artwork on the ceiling. The opera house became famous and people from all over the world came to see the opera house and her performances.
We recently visited there! — the eve of this past New Year’s Eve– to film inside the opera house and around Death Valley Junction. We’re producing a piece on the Amaragosa Opera House for our Finding Beauty in Dry Places segment– coming soon! We’ll be sharing beautiful imagery and an amazing story encompassing the history of this remote, desert area!
(Inside the Amaragosa Opera House)
How do you build an environmentally sustainable home, that is energy efficient and weather tight? A home that withstands earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters? And you build it with your own two hands, using the earth beneath your feet?
That’s what I went to find out when I took a workshop at the California Institute for Earth Architecture and Art- Cal Earth, is “ a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to providing solutions to the human need for shelter through research, development, and education in earth architecture.” An institute that shows you how earth turns to gold.
An Open House tour prompted my initial visit (Cal-Earth generally holds these tours the first Saturday of the month). Being there can sort of feel like you’ve stepped on the set of something akin to a desert space odyssey (Star Wars, anyone?). I found the tour fascinating, viewing a variety of earth structures- from a 400 sq-foot emergency shelter dome that can be built in a day, to a 2,000 sq. ft home with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a 2 car garage.
Afterwards, I signed up for the introductory. day-long workshop.An enlightening experience that I enjoyed.
Amazing what you can do with earth, water, sandbags and barbed wire. Of course any reason to get my hands dirty (or should I say ’earthy’ since the word ’dirt’ is not used at the institute). At this time though, my plans of using my newfound knowledge and skills extends to replacing a retaining wall around the patio area in my backyard.
A future episode is coming soon!
Anna Mary Robertson Moses lived from 1860-1961 and spent most of her life on a farm. She had 10 children, of which only 5 survived infancy. She loved doing intricate needlework, but when she was in her 70’s arthritis made it difficult for her to continue that. So where she could no longer hold a needle, she could hold a paintbrush, and therefore took up painting.
This soon catapulted her into fame as Grandma Moses, and during the rest of her life, she created over 1000 paintings and became one of America’s best-known folk artists. She was 76 years old when she started.
What if she had only complained about how arthritis was hindering her, and had just given up and not tried doing something different?
What if she figured ‘oh well, I’m old now and might as well sit back and take it easy until I die’?
What if she held the belief that she had already done all she could do, and had no other unused talent?
You’re never too old and it’s never too late to take your life to a higher level.
What hidden talents have you yet to discover? Is there something you’ve thought about doing, but poo-pooed it because you’re now older?
What are some things you can at least try to pursue?