Monday, October 29, 2012

Turn Toward What You Deeply Love

Sometimes you hear 
a voice                                                                                    
through the door calling you,                                                
as fish out of water hear
the waves, 

or a hunting
falcon hears the drum's-
"Come back. Come back." 
This turning toward what you deeply love
saves you.

Children fill their shirts with rocks and 
carry them around.

We are not children anymore.

Read the book of your life, which has been given you.  
A voice comes to your soul saying,

Lift your foot. Cross over. 

Move into the emptiness of question and answer 

and question.    


What is it you deeply love?  Do you listen for that still small voice telling you to jump in, cross open your hands and receive? 

May we wake up! 
May we stay alert and be alive 
to the questions and answers and moreover, 

to the questions with NO answers. 

May we wake up to the not-knowing, 
the scary and empty white page, 

the remarkable invisible things 
we can't smooth out and pin down 
so tidily 

with our thinking minds. 

Just follow the tracks laid out in front of you,

         until your dreams



Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last Leaf

Today, as I observed the last leaf struggling to hold onto a twig
in my yard,

a story came to mind;
one I read in childhood
and never forgot...

a short story by O. Henry, called
The Last Leaf.

Two young girls, striving to create a life of art in New York City,
lived together in a cold, upstairs apartment.

It is late fall and Johnsy gets very sick with pneumonia.

She lay in bed looking out her window, everyday,
watching leaves on a vine, against the brick of a neighboring building,
falling and falling,

one at a time.

She soon becomes saddened
and discouraged, thinking

that when the last leaf falls,                

she will surely die.

Susan tries to encourage her, but Johnsy's cough worsens and
she refuses to eat.

Meanwhile an aging, frustrated artist named Behrman, who lives downstairs and has always
been protective of the young girls,

gets word of Johnsy's illness.

A decrepit old man, he has claimed for years he will someday

paint a masterpiece (though he had never even attempted a start).

One night a horrific storm with   howling winds and pounding
rain beats on the young girl's window.

Susan closes the curtain, and gently asks
Johnsy to get some sleep.

There were only four leaves left on the vine.

Morning comes, and Johnsy asks the curtains be pulled, fully expecting to see all the leaves

blown away, and fully expecting to breathe her last breath.

But there is still one leaf left.

One leaf refusing to be blown away.

In the days that follow, a doctor tells Susan that old Mr. Behrman had too developed pneumonia,
and nothing could be done for him.

A janitor found him helpless with pain,
and his shoes and clothes were wet and icy cold.

Found with him were a lit lantern, a ladder that had been moved, and
a palette of green and yellow paint.

"Look out the window at the last leaf on the wall," he tells Susan.

"Didn't you wonder why it never fluttered in the storm?"

"Behrman painted it on the wall during the night, after the last leaf fell."

Johnsy kept her gaze on the leaf, and soon thereafter began to eat.
Her cough died down, and a light of hope began to fill her eyes.

In time, Johnsy fully recovers, never knowing of her kind neighbor's first,

and final, masterpiece.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Roadside Culture

As a child of the sixties, I was among the cult followers of Tom Robbins’ first novel, published in 1971, called Another Roadside Attraction. In the novel, we follow the adventures of an oddball couple that opens a combination zoo/hot dog stand along a highway in Skagit County, Washington.

Stranger than fiction...much stranger than fiction, and a curious, lap-slappin’ funny, bizarre-kind-of-read.

Admittedly, I am attracted to strange.

And old.                                                 

Rusty. I especially like rusty.


Run down.


And we mustn't omit....

flat out kitschy.

I like gear wheels and cotter pins,
hammers, rakes and saws.                       

Bevel gears are fascinating; 
racks and pinions, dare I say...are down right groovy.

Consider the tools of the trade, or...

any implement used in your hands to form, shape, fasten, add to, take away from, or otherwise change by…

cutting, hitting, pounding, screwing, drilling…you know…all  those obsolete machinations our fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers were adept at to keep our mechanically-devised world in motion.

Ha. My mother once told me to marry a man good with his hands.
And I did.     

He knows all about washing machines and oscillating sprinklers, electric screwdrivers, marine hoists, and multi-spindle drives.

He knows how spur gears are used; where to buy band saw blades, how to fix a windup alarm clock. (Okay, windup alarm clocks are obsolete, but he’s also been known to build computers from scratch). 

In short, he knows how to git ‘er done.

So we were both taken aback by a roadside attraction of decades-old and junky, obsolete, rusted out...brass, steel, aluminum and wood-rotted “STUFF”

whilst whizzing along the backroads of Hwy. 84 in sunny, enchanting New Mexico.

Here was a place where men once fixed things. 
Here was a place where workers once operated machines. 

Where boys learned how to put together a wheel and axle 

and fix their mother’s sewing machine.     

But, in time and somewhere along the line,
our lives became more complicated 

(while claiming to be simplified),

and those things that were old were left to rot and die,

and those things that got broken    

no one wanted, 

or maybe we've lost the language of our forefathers, 

and just don't know 

how to fix them, anymore.  


Monday, October 8, 2012

God Told Me

"Pedernal is my favorite mountain," the famous painter, Georgia O'Keefe, once said.

Robb Carter, Ghost Ranch guide
"God told me if I painted it often enough, I could have it." 

O'Keefe instantly fell in love with
New Mexico when she first
visited, in 1917. Eventually, she made northern New Mexico her 
permanent home.

My first visit was 18 years ago,
and I have been returning on and off with a love and fascination for the land that develops with increased potency,
each time I

Georgia O'Keefe's small adobe on 8 acres at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu', New Mexico

 Riding horseback among cliffs and painted desert flats, we curve around cactus and delicately cross arroyos where sands and gravels are left behind in abandoned river channels.

Earth dirt and pastel-colored shales; gypsum and limestone cover embedded dinosaur fossils, millions of years old.

Named Ghost Ranch; this is a place of bones.

Whose bones?

The skulls of dead steer, wrangled in the searing

Or the bones of the legendary red-haired,
six foot tall "earth babies" that howl late 
into the night?

The ghosts of men fill these canyons.  

Men killed in battles between sheep and 
cattle ranchers...

and outlaw livestock thieves fighting over
a buried pot of gold.

Flat topped mesas, stones that shine at sunset, colors of an autumn bloom...

...the fragile high desert, mountains and mesas are all sacred places to those
who love this precious land.


Monday, October 1, 2012

ALL Land is Sacred

 ALL Land is Sacred.

The Chama
These words on a bumper sticker in the parking lot of the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am here this fall to do research on a writing project about a Yupik boy coming of age in Alaska, who, upon graduating high school, attends IAIA to study art.  Hopefully, it is in my future to return here for an expanded period of time to write, and study hand-built pottery at Santa Fe Clay. But there are other reasons I can't pull myself away from this enchanting landscape.

I am called, time and time again, to walk in the beauty of this very special place. It has become my yearly pilgrimage, come fall-time, to visit Santa Fe and Ghost Ranch and Taos, New Mexico. I've lived in Alaska for 32 years, bending into the long cold winters with eagerness (call it fortitude, now that I am older), and still relish hiking in the mountains, and skiing the frozen river in my hometown. 

But here, the sun (oh the sun!) casts shadows on humble adobes and rock faces and everything standing upright; shadows that carry my breath away. There is something about the land that strikes a chord of familiarity with Alaska, and that might be part of my fascination. The ground is raw and wild, not sculpted, with stunning panoramic views of mountains (and mesas), and you can feel an edginess in the atmosphere that anything and everything is possible. And like Alaska, there are  indigenous people (the Navajo Nation, ancestral Pueblos and Apache tribes) who practice their arts and culture through dance, jewelery making, basketry and pottery.       

Fall along the Chamo River
 I feel refreshed and renewed here, by the cool snaking Rio Grande and Chamo River, by the way the sun spills through an open window, by the smell of sage and pinon pine. 

Fall Bloom

 Storms rise up quick and fierce, changing the light, bewitching the land.

Storm over Bandelier

What looks like fire, isn't; instead, a cauldrom of storm clouds

Clouds race above and mountains curve. Here the sacred sites of native peoples uncovered by excavations, show us a place where the human and spirit world coalesce. Tribal stories of creation are seen in the land.

Ceremonial kiva of the ancestral Pueblo Indians

Quiet times of prayer and contemplation can be had at a monastery deep into the forested desert...

The Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert

...or the treasures hidden in the heart can be mined

from the land, all of it sacred.