In July I was notified by the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce and the Allied Arts Foundation that I was selected as a 2009 Rushmore Award Recipient for my contribution to the arts in the Black Hills. Talk about shocked. And humbled. Over the last twenty years, artists, musicians, dancers, sculptors, teachers, authors, philanthropists, visionaries from this area have been awarded this honor. And now little ol' me.
The award ceremony is tonight. My family will be there supporting me, as they have since day one in this crazy career. My official portrait will also be revealed. A portrait I have not seen. That portrait will hang in the Rapid City Civic Center, alongside previous winners.
So when the photographer contacted me a few weeks ago to get a feel for what I envisioned for the setting, we both discounted the idea of me sitting at desk, pen in hand, a stack of my books by my side. I wanted an outdoor portrait. Since the South Dakota setting in my books is practically its own character, I suggested a sweeping vista of the Black Hills or the rugged high plains with a view of The Badlands. Or Bear Butte, since that plays a big part in the Julie Collins series. Scratch that idea. Paul Goble, a Caldecott winning author from this area who pens and illustrates children's books featuring Native American fables, specifically Sioux fables, was photographed there a few years back for this award.
We chose a place and a date. I showed up in the outfit I'd agonized over and the photographer's first question was: Do you suffer from vertigo?
Luckily, no, I don't suffer from fear of heights. Put me in a cave? Different story altogether. We hiked in with his equipment so I knew where he'd be and he indicated I'd be 1000 feet across the canyon from him. On top of a 200 ft. sheer rock cliff. Because we'd be a considerable distance apart, his assistant (his wife) and he had walkie talkies to communicate. This area is a popular spot for hikers and rock climbers. She and I drove down to the the next walk in spot and hiked in damn near a mile, up hill. Along the way, were memorial flowers for those souls who had died falling off the cliffs.
The weird thing? In high school I partied up at "Falling Rock" all the time and I had NO IDEA there were cliffs around, let alone cliffs of that magnitude.
Once I scrambled onto the section he'd chosen, and situated myself with my books, yes, I hauled in ALL the Lori Armstrong as well as all the Lorelei James books in with me, because otherwise, I figured people would see the portrait and wonder what the hell *I* did to get on the wall of fame. Anyway, I could scarcely see the photographer, but I knew he could see me, as the lens on his camera was as big around as the bottom of a coffee can and as long as my arm. He directed me to turn left, to turn right, chin up, chin down, smile, move your hair, stand up, etc. all via walkie talkie. After the first two thousand shots on the inset cliff, he had me move to the edge of the cliff and sit on a rock outcropping. The drop was 200 ft. straight down. Rock climbers were scaling the opposite wall. Rapid Creek was rushing below. Wind whispered through the pine trees and the golden glow of the sun surrounded me. It was almost magical. I knew we'd chosen the perfect spot.
Still, I'm more nervous about seeing the picture than I was standing on the edge of the cliff because the photographer got to choose the official pose, not me. But I'm confident the portrait reflects the beauty of the area where I live.
What would be a definitive spot in your neck of the woods?