Monday, September 30, 2013

Walking Home

Deer Dancer by M.R. Chochita
Today on my morning outing, I made a concentrated effort to walk slowly and pay attention to my footfalls, breathing in...heel to toe, breathing out...stepping forward. 

 By slowing down and feeling the bottoms of my feet touch the ground, my inattentive mind was calmed and I wanted to send this peace to a precious member of my family.

Since I have been walking the same desert road every day, I've come to know its uncharted mapping. I walk with hiking poles, digging the points into the earth, swiftly moving past the rabbit brush and globe mallow. 

I've learned how a long curving horse trail cuts below blood-red sand hills. I've come to know the spot where four boulders mark a dry-as-chalk arroyo, which on some days gushes with red paint shortly after a torrential downpour.

Walking on, I thought of my cousin, D, donning his 60's tie-dyed t-shirt, looking fit and joyfully engaged at our recent family reunion. His face shined; his smile contagious. It felt good to bridge the miles and years of our lives for a very short visit to learn who we are and who we have become.

I take in, and try to remember all I've seen, since he will not be with us too much longer. 

"The Father in beauty is walking with me and carrying me," says Joseph Rael, a Native American mystic. "We are vibration and we are breathing through our feet."

I wish that for my cousin. I wish that he will feel carried and loved; that as his energy continues to descend, the earth energy will rise up and give him balance and courage. 

The ancient Pueblo Indian deer dance is performed every year by the men of the tribe. They too, carry poles; wooden sticks covered in fur, to symbolize the deer's two front legs. Atop the dancer's heads are deer antlers, and wrapped around their legs are clattering seashell that mix with the men's melodious chanting. The men begin moving in delicate steps; then as the animal becomes aware of being hunted, the men's steps escalate as they pounce, sprint and rise to rhythmic dancing. 

To touch the ground is to be a part of everything.

I hear the chimes in the courtyard on my return walk to the casa. A blustery wind stirs heavy clouds across a tin colored sky. Again I think of my cousin who is experiencing the gradual process of walking his physical body Home.

The spirit on the other side of knowing is already aware of his coming...we are doers in states of placement so that the holy self will place itself among the heavenly planes.

May the voices of our family lovingly walk D into the Vast Self, the Great Mystery, from which we all emerge, and from which we all return.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Delicious Autumn

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth, seeking the successive autumns. -George Eliot

The colors are just starting to take a turn here in Abiquiu, New Mexico. I imagine what it would be like to fly, floating lazily on updrafts while viewing the sumptuous turning of foliage to the robust colors of yellow and orange and red. From the east coast, through middle America, the southwest and then north to Alaska. Non-stop color.

Still, sometimes you have to leave your routine of walking, writing, eating, sleeping, walking writing... (repeat the same scenario day after day) and venture to the margins to get a little change of scenery and perspective. I've been at the ranch for almost a month, and have stayed pretty true to a productive work schedule.

But there's a lonely old place called Tierra Amarillo, New Mexico; a small town nearby that I never knew existed, until now.

They sell much more than flat tires. At Tierra Wools, you can buy locally made rug tapestries, woven from sheep's wool that is harvested, locally, and where the dyes to color those threads are hand-dyed, locally, and all that's left to do is let the weavers spin their magic. 

It just feels right and good to know the origin of your products, and that they were processed with tender loving care in your own backyard.

Side note: You wonder, who would sell flat tires? Well, a local artisan wants your old grungy, tubular discards so he can recycle them into functional floor mats and last-forever flower pots. 

And then off to Chama, another small town up the road a-ways, and from there...
only twelve more miles before you cross the New Mexico, Colorado border. Only twelve more miles until you experience the Continental Divide. What's fascinating about these areas is how two seemingly disparate regions co-exist right next to each other.

One minute you're in the desert, and the next you're at 10,000 feet, and breathing in the glorious thin air of a green mountain forest.

I love tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Another exploration off the ranch led to El Farolito's in the town of El Rito. They encourage you to bring your own drinks, so Mary, the life of our party, brought tequila, mixer (she even brought her own ice) for all of us to imbibe. 

Size doesn't matter to tiny restaurants in small New Mexican towns. 

All that matters is rip-roaring taste, which the El Farolito, Home of the Four-Time New Mexico Green Chili Champion, aptly delivers.

Tomorrow it will be time to get back to work. Back to my favorite chair in front of the most gorgeous view in the Southwest, and put pencil to paper. 

But I'll notice the changing of colors; and the slow turn of the land to a colder, stormy autumn...with only a little nostalgia for summer as she not-so-quiety, slips away.

Monday, September 16, 2013

In Adoration of Art

"Sirens of Rutino" by Adrian Arleo

I'm at the halfway point of my month-long stay on Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The landscape is stunning and ever-changing and the library on the ranch never closes (they operate on the honor system). I am inexplicably drawn to its hallowed shelves almost every day. 

Legend is, in the early days, because the landscape is so captivating and full of surprises, people couldn't get to sleep at night, so the librarian decided to keep the library open for 24 hours, everyday...and that means, forever. 

People could get their reading and indoor explorations done at night, provided they could pull themselves away from the celestial displays in the heavens right outside their windows. 

Sounds familiar. I couldn't start working on my writing project (which is why I'm here) for 4 full days, the stimulation of the landscape is so compelling; I couldn't take my eyes off the spell-binding, ever-changing sky, the blue mountains, the multi-colored spires and buttes, the red dirt beneath my feet. 

So far, I've flushed out nine hares from their hiding places under antelope sagebrush as I hike the two miles on my way to dinner each day. Splendid surprises! 

I think it was the facial expressions of woman and birds that attracted me to the clay sculpture (above) by artist, Adrian Arleo. She brilliantly combines human and animal imagery which alludes to the primal relationship between the two worlds. Constructed of clay, glaze, wax encaustic and gold leaf, it immediately elicited an astonishing emotional resonance for me. I love how the hands are folded in unassuming, humbled poses.

Another piece of art I enjoy is Lindsay Pichaske's ceramic piece titled, The Long Thaw.             Here is a quote from Lindsay re: her work: "What separates human from animal? What borders exist between real and imagined, beautiful and repugnant, animate and inanimate? Through the act of making, I swim in and around these margins, exploring how slippery the answers to these questions are." The eyes of the animal in this piece caught my attention. Sad human-like eyes; longing, pleading, expressive eyes.

The Long Thaw  

I found the work of Adrian and Lindsay perusing Ceramics Magazine in the "forever open" library. On my walks at the ranch, I see women creating and expressing themselves in a wide range of genres and mediums: oils, pastels, ceramics and clay; watercolor, charcoal, pencil sketches. How could you not in such an enchanting environment?

Gradually, I make my way back to the casita, pull up a chair and revel in the view. Putting pen to paper, I begin to write...nourished and inspired by women artists everywhere.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I am a Dweller on the Threshold

It has taken four days to settle, to draw inward

 for a month-long stay at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico 

to compose stories...write this life....and 

it has taken four whole days, just to begin.

Four days---not to clear the mind, but

 to dampen the senses, relieve the quickened pace of

change that happens not in hours, not in minutes

but in moments.

I walk the heart labyrinth for guidance, asking

when and how (?) shall I begin,

for each afternoon brings shape-shifting light

and I cannot look away

from a leaf on sun-baked sandstone

a rattler coiled silently in the portal,

multi-hued outcroppings and shiny stone cliffs.

I wash my clothes and hang them on the line,

and cannot take my eyes off 

the deep blue mountains and gold sand hills,

the spires, and buttes and gypsum-strewn arroyos

the bones, stones, and dried piƱon wood. 

How (?) shall I begin?

I draw deeply the fragrance of antelope sagebrush, 

walk a couple miles to dinner each night, and poke

the earth's skin with my stick.

There is no stillness in this outer world:

animals and insects are jumping, running, fleeing,

above and below, in front of and behind

hummingbirds buzz, a deer poses

lizards sprint and rabbits dash

in my peripheral vision, ravens light 

and lightening strikes 

a dizzying theatrical performance, this earthly world.

Amplified and untethered, how (?)

how (?) shall I begin?

*Title: I am a Dweller on the Threshold  -Van Morrison

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Girls of 1019 S. Main Street Have Turned 60


How I met Suse for the first time: 

We were sitting on the floor of the dorm room, playing guitar. I turned to Suse and said, 

"Do you know Alice Cooper?" 

"Why yes,"  she said. So we sang: 

“I’m 18 and I don’t know what I want. 
18...I just don’t know what I want.
18...I gotta get away. 
I gotta get outta this place. 
I’ll go runnin’ in outer space, oh yea."

That was 42 years ago.

Today we talked about new recipes…mixed greens, cashews, sliced avacado and chopped bananas drenched in honey mustard dressing (really, chopped bananas?)

"Come to supper, my sweet coven girls."

Suse popped a cork on another bottle of wine, and Lindy said, 

"I'd like that sound to be the ring tone on my phone."

We went all-exotic sitting around the campfire, assembling S'mores with Ritz crackers instead of graham (for the salty/sweet dichotomy).

"Wow, these S'mores are mind-blowing."

"Depression hurts; let's do yoga."

"You soak your feet in Polident? Good as a pedi? Really?"

We sat out on a rocky boulder formation, gazing into the wide Colorado sky, and talked about the big divorce, the road less traveled, chronic illness, the road not taken, ailing parents, how we don't have bucket lists...we just do it; how to grow tomatoes; the hottest topic of the day: climate change....and how, the next time we meet, we're going to read poetry and sit naked in the hot tub till midnight.

Remember the fly on the table at the Blackstone Bar (circa 1972)?

It looked gi-normous rubbing its whopping proboscis in my puddle of beer. 

Remember how it felt to laugh so hard you almost pee'd your pants?

What is the role of nature in the world, how are we a part of, and how are we apart from, the whole of nature? Our major god is nature, we nodded, and we love her very much.

Here are the pros and cons of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shamanism, Kung Fu-ism, and 1019 S. Main Street Coven-ism. 

Just pick one and begin to train your mind.

"Good morning my darling bluebirds; let’s go kayaking today."

We remembered when girls couldn’t play Little League simply because, well, they were girls. The room is just full of incapable women, isn’t it? …social workers, therapists, mothers, writers, photographers and marketing wizards, that we are.

We remembered when we attended a lecture by Anais Nin, the French born novelist who wrote passionate erotica and short stories. “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are,” she said.

We all agreed Marge Piercy’s, Small Changes and The Moon is Always Female, re-directed the trajectory of our lives forever. 

"I think I see green space junk," she said, flat on her back while viewing the heavenly night sky through a bank of spacious skylights. One toke over the line, sweet Jesus.

Art makes you feel happy and free and creative and loved…so we visited lovely galleries. 
Lindy noticed how I travel light. "Man, all she's got is a sandwich bag on a handle."

We all agreed that Molly is the sweetest dog on the face of the earth…she’s a “leaner”, and we all wanted to take her home with us.

And we all agreed the Women’s Movement is NOT over until women are no longer beaten and raped and treated like second class citizens in many countries all over the world.

Women (like men) should enjoy the indelible right to sustainable employment, healthy food, clean water and education for themselves and their children. 

Until they are treated like valuable human beings, we are still involved for the benefit of our sisters everywhere 

What we've learned: After all these years of trials and triumphs and self-improvement and dark-night-of-the-soul prayers and falling in love, and falling in the gutter, and picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off...we have not changed all that much. 

Deep in our hearts, we are still the same life-loving girls and we pledge to face our dangers, hold each other's hands and continue riding the arousing Carousel of Happiness for as long as we are given. 

With thanks, we say goodnight, from the Cowgirl Bunkhouse in Wondervu, Colorado, circa 2013.

Dedicated to the absentees: Lisa, Richards and "Skin"

Women for Women International