Introduction to the Artist- Chapter One, a draft. / by Heidi Geist

I realize so many of you are just stumbling into the 48 Beer Project, and have not yet met the woman behind the adventure (me).

I give a brief history of Me (Heidi) on the main page, so forgive me for anything redundant here.

Born in Murray, UT--a Gemini--in the year that John Lennon was assassinated, Mt. St. Helens erupted, and the Rubik’s Cube made its debut, my parents moved to Prescott Valley, AZ just a week or so later.

At our dusty little desert home in Arizona, my older brother, Hansel, and I did all the usual things young Gen Xers did…hand-fed carrots to wild jack rabbits from our concrete porch, and played in the dirt..with frequent baths in the kiddie pool. I actually have no recollection of these things…just going off what the family photo albums tell me!

We were a bit isolated out in the desert, a one-car family, the one car that my dad used to drive to school every day. He was a brilliant man…the kind that seems to know everything, but not in that obnoxious way that exudes pretension or arrogance, its like life was a series of math problems and he knew all the formulas to solve them. He was working on his degree in biology with an extended major in entomology (study of insects)…he graduated Summa Cum Laude in just 2 and a half years.

My dad was an exceptional wildlife photographer. This is back in the day when his Nikon knew nothing of the digital world, and he had a makeshift darkroom in his office closet. His images (slides) were sold off to Visuals Unlimited, an agency in New Hampshire that published work in various collegiate textbooks, and other science publications. I loved spending time as his assistant…which meant a lot of set up and even more, patience. We would go out into the desert or the woods, and set up a blind, where we would sometimes wait for hours for an animal/reptile/bird to come along. Actually, the most common photo for me to help with was the good old Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. You see, they love hot rocks and sunshine, so you’ll find them out on back roads enjoying the radiating summer heat from the pavement.

He would spot one, pull over, and hand me a long stick, saying “don’t let it get away”, as he prepared his camera to shoot. I was ages 6+ when we did this! I knew what to do though. My parents were incredible teachers and knew they could trust us to be smart when we needed to…maybe smart feels like the wrong adjective here, but trust me, I knew that “smart”, in this case, could mean moving away as stealthily as possible!

We were an active family. Not sporty, though both my brother and I did play sports and were both fairly competitive, we were just always doing, making, working. We camped and hiked and explored. We learned about survival, how to build fires, fend off predators, make shelters. It was knowledge that my parents valued as humans, not some bizarre “end-of-days” paranoia, but just the things that most humans should know and don’t.

We had a pop-top VW bus-orange-that we drove everywhere. We would go on weeks-long, and occasionally, month-long road trips all over the west. National Parks greeted us regularly, as did endless historical sites, not all of which were public. I was enthralled by the history of the American West. I hunted with an insatiable passion for relics-arrowheads, beautiful rocks and gemstones, and was consumed by a hunger for the history of the Oregon Trail. We often hiked for miles down the old wagon wheel ruts lost to the landscape, the winds and to “progress”-modern civilization.

Old mines and shacks were littered with tumbleweeds that I was more than excited to toss aside…a treasure hunt.. always a treasure hunt. The real treasures, though, came in the stories that were told by the decay…the dust. The words were written in the abstract aesthetic of rusted tin cans and old shell casings.

It was really the Native American history that captured my attention and my heart. Massacre sites, told the truth of this country, of a history not taught in school rooms. Corn cobs nearly petrified, bone fragments, obsidian arrowheads. Days spent in quiet contemplation, among the rocks and grasses, warm breezes that seemed to want to tell us something. Camping and hiking out west, especially the southwest is like nothing else.

We moved to Tucson when I was two, where my dad took a job with Hewlett Packard. I often found myself in detention for allowing my tomboyish urges to get the best of me…but was a strong student and hard worker. I tagged along with my brother as much as he would allow, in a day when parents called up the street for you to return for dinner. The 80s.

Days in Tucson were spent lizard hunting, skateboarding, crafting. Water is a precious resource in the parts of the west, so many yards were comprised of rock or sand, as opposed to the plush, cool grass we later became accustomed to in Idaho. Feet adjust to the hot rocks. Our backyard hosted orange and lemon trees, a fig tree and my mom’s incredible vegetable garden. In that day, going out back to pick your own orange or cherry tomato was nearly as exciting as going for ice-cream!

My mom worked here and there, as many mothers do… filling space where money is needed or keeping busy when the kids are at school. She was (and probably still could be) an insanely talented artist and crafter. Her illustration abilities put mine to shame. Before meeting my dad, my mom lived in Boston, where she worked as the “paste-up artist” in the advertising department, for the Christian Science Monitor.

Both my parents were incredibly resourceful and able. I remember every time I would ask for help with something, their first response would be “what would yo do if I wasn’t here to help you..?”…and I would pause and consider this, and often figure out the issue myself. I am beyond grateful for this, because it has made me strong and independent.

So here I am.

I had a vision. I made a decision. I saw it through. I am proud, but not undeservedly. I am not arrogant about my choice. I am proud that I didn’t let my fear of success cloud my drive. ……I….. built my house. ….I….did it and it was hard and I’m grateful for every moment I get to spend in it.

I hope I am teaching my daughters good. I hope they see that you not only can do what you are passionate about, but that you should follow through with what your gut tells you is good..for you.

Human transcendence happens individually. But collectively, we are the Geist.