Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2009

Greetings from Artesia, folk art on the roadside in
southeastern NM town of Artesia,  November 2008,
photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.












folks in artesia
so friendly they’ll fall over
to lend you a hand















Postscript: Artesia, NM, a town named for the Artesian wells found at the turn of the 20th century, is, oddly enough, an oil and gas town today. Driving in from the north, you’re greeted by the sight of a huge blackened oil refinery, its tall stacks discharging clouds of steam. The air has a headache-inducing odor of natural gas, and if you ask locals how they manage to live with it, they’re likely to say, “Oh that? That’s the smell of money.”

But there is also a part of Artesia that looks and feels like 1950 small-town America. Brick department stores whose signs remind you of driving to Fedways downtown with your mom (before Fedways became Dillards), and a sense that time stopped.

One of my dearest friends is from Artesia, and I can tell you that there’s a lot of goodness in this place. Generosity is produced here.


-related to posts PRACTICE: Roadside Attractions – 15min, WRITING TOPIC — ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, and haiku 2 (one-a-day).

Read Full Post »

What I remember is the large sombrero, South of the Border. The scraggly pines, sweaty heat. A few hundred people get married there every year, the border between South and North Carolina. You can drive through his shoes, lanky legs that stretch up 100 feet.

What I remember is Garnet, a western ghost town. Abandoned. There was no one there. We walked among the ghosts, took 3 rolls of photographs, before digital film, cell phones, or text messages. We were utterly alone. We drove miles outside of Missoula. The direction was up, the air thin. The pines, Ponderosa. I am a woman destined to be near pines. Unlike Bill Holm, I love trees. I feel safer nested between oaks, ash, or elms, than exposed on the lonesome prairie.

What I remember are the echoes of the past. Miners and the women who serviced them. Saloons, creaking hotels, flat-faced and aged pine. What about the Annie Oakley’s of the boom town? Were there women who mined the precious ore?

And on NPR, Libby, Montana goes to court against Grace. Libby is just outside of Missoula. People are dying. Vermiculite settlement floats down the airstream, the rivers, seeps into the ground. It laces Grandpa’s clothes. He hugs his children and grandchildren. Grandmothers wash the clothes; hang them on the outdoor line to dry. First one lung goes, then the other. The mining company denies it is a problem.

It’s true. In the days of Garnet, the late 1800′s, we did not know the dangers. Now we do. When does a company become accountable. Shouldn’t a 21st century company admit wrongdoing? Libby is dying.

What I remember is how much I love the smell of the ocean, the Georgia Gold Coast, Yamassee, South Carolina where my Granddaddy went to fish and carouse. We visited the Cherokee Nation. I see us standing in a faded Polaroid next to a man in feather headdress, long before I knew about the Trail of Tears. I was just a child.

When I write by hand like this, barely able to read my own writing, I am still a child. Chicken scratch. The sun streams in over my shoulder. The air 10 degrees. Snow covers the cedars in an angel dusting of flakes. I come home from a grueling week of work to see 3 pileated woodpeckers playing in the oaks behind the house. I hear them first, like nails hammering into a hollow coffin. I raise hand to brow, cup the sun away from the pupils — there they are, in stripes of red, white, and black. The female is black.

I stand there silently for a long time. Suddenly a laughing call, swift jagged flight between trunks, a burst of white under wing. I am certain they put on their show just for me. My own roadside attraction — 3 pileated Woody Woodpeckers frolicking in branches of snow.



-15 minute handwrite, posted on red Ravine, Friday, February 27th, 2008

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC – ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Read Full Post »

It’s warm outside, the kind of day I can imagine getting into a car, our bags packed in the back, and setting out on the road. A bit of a breeze in the air, wind is never fun when you’re driving the highway, but the temperature’s just right.

Jim and I get into air-conditioner fights on the road. He’ll turn the fan on high, and I’ll point all my vents toward him, close the one on the far right, so that even he gets chilled enough to turn the thing down. I can withstand heat in a car, will in the winter sometimes sit in the driveway listening to the radio and absorbing the sun trapped inside.

Last road trip we went on was to Carlsbad, Thanksgiving weekend. We stopped at the UFO Museum in Roswell, walked up and down Main Street, pointed out all the big-headed, big-eyed creatures that adorned almost every storefront, except for the Mexican panadería where we bought pan dulce for the last leg of the trip.

At the bottom of the road winding up to Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, there’s the completely abandoned White City. That was once one giant Roadside Attraction, an Old West movie-set-looking place. It had a saloon made of wooden slats, complete with swinging doors, and a series of white adobe casitas, which is where workers used to live.

White City went on the market last July, I think, and I’m trying to remember if we found out who’d bought the place or whether it was still for sale. It must have been a popular destination decades ago, or so the series of weathered billboards on the highway wanted you to believe. Best food around! Cheap gifts!

I can’t imagine anything thriving there now, especially not a junky souvenir shop. Seems the gift shop and restaurant at the National Monument visitor center satisfy most tourist needs, and once you finish winding through those gentle Guadalupe Mountains and finally hit the bland highway back to Carlsbad, you’re kind of happy to be back in the privacy of your own car.

On the drive back to Albuquerque Jim noticed a piece of art, if you can call it that, parked on the shoulder of the road outside Artesia. There was an old RV, on its roof a male mannequin, falling head over heels as he helped a female mannequin up the RV’s metal ladder. We pulled over, snapped a shot, then sped away before the owners of the house came out to see what we were up to.

It seems people still get into the act of entertaining road weary travelers. Some don’t even try to make a dime from it, although I think the main reason Dad never stopped at Roadside Attractions was because we’d all end up wanting to buy something like tumbled rocks in a little fake suede pouch or Mexican jumping beans. I don’t think we ever stopped at the teepees outside of Holbrook, Arizona, the old Wigwam Motel. They had rattlesnake eggs, you can still turn ’round and see ‘em, I remember passing the last sign and feeling like we’d lost our chance forever.

We did stop at Stuckey’s, got a box of peanut brittle with the purchase of a tank of gas. My whole family loved peanut brittle. It was long gone by the time we got to California.




-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Read Full Post »

Happy Birthday, Mabel Dodge, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Happy Birthday, Mabel Dodge, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-
2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







tombstone in winter;
knowing Mabel’s ghost lingers,
we write for our lives







I’ve felt the ghost of Mabel Dodge Luhan. She walks the adobe halls of the house at night, creaking on the steps leading down into her bedroom. It was pitch black the night of her visit. The dogs of Taos were howling in the distance. I didn’t look up from the hand-carved bed frame. The frame that I once read Dennis Hopper wanted to chainsaw into pieces and remove from the room. Someone must have stopped him.

Mabel would have turned 130 years old on this day. Those who benefit from her artistic vision sit on black cushions in silence; it’s the first week of what will be a year of study with Natalie. Whatever you think of Mabel or Tony (and you can hear an earful from the locals around Taos), together they created a pulsing creative space at the foot of Taos Mountain. One large enough to hold them both — and the rest of us, too.

Mabel’s grave is in a lonely corner of Kit Carson Memorial Cemetery. I visit there every time I am in Taos. Below is an excerpt from an article by Henry Shukman when he was hot on the trail of the ghost of D. H. Lawrence. It’s a fitting tribute to Mabel. Sometimes people are remembered most for the things they leave behind. Happy Birthday, Mabel. I hope you didn’t think we’d forgotten.



It was from the foot of Taos mountain that Mabel Dodge Luhan — heiress, patroness, columnist, early proponent (and victim) of psychoanalysis, memoirist and hostess — planned the rebirth of Western civilization. She moved to Taos from the East Coast in 1917 and fell in love not only with the place but also with Tony Lujan (later anglicized to Luhan), a chief in the nearby pueblo. She promptly left her second husband, married Tony and expanded a house on the edge of town, turning it into an adobe fantasy castle (what Dennis Hopper, who owned it in the 1970’s, would later call the Mud Palace), and began to invite scores of cultural luminaries. The idea was to expose them to the Indian culture she believed held the cure for anomic, dissociated modern humanity. After dinner, drummers and dancers from the pueblo would entertain the household.

Today her house is a museum, guesthouse and literary shrine all in one. For anyone on the trail of Lawrence, it’s the first of three essential ports of call. As I make my way up the groaning narrow stairs, the sense not just of history but of peace hits me: no TVs, no telephones. Instead, the deep quiet of an old, applianceless home. There are a bathroom with windows that Lawrence painted in colorful geometric and animal designs in 1922 to protect Mabel Luhan’s modesty, and floorboards across which Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and Thomas Wolfe creaked. (In fact Wolfe stayed only one night. He arrived late and drunk, decided he didn’t like it and fled the next morning.)

- D.H. Lawrence’s New Mexico: The Ghosts That Grip the Soul of Bohemian Taos by Henry Shukman, from the NY Times, Cultured Traveler, October 22, 2006



Winter In Taos, Taos, New Mexico, November 2001, C-41 film print, photo © 2001-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Winter In Taos, grave of Mabel Dodge Luhan, born February 26th, 1879, died August 13th, 1962, Taos, New Mexico, November 2001, C-41 film print taken at my first Taos Writing Retreat at Mabel’s House, photo © 2001-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In a cold like this, the stars snap like distant coyotes, beyond the moon. And you’ll see the shadows of actual coyotes, going across the alfalfa field. And the pine-trees make little noises, sudden and stealthy, as if they were walking about. And the place heaves with ghosts. But when one has got used to one’s own home-ghosts, be they never so many, they are like one’s own family, but nearer than the blood. It is the ghosts one misses most, the ghosts there, of the Rocky Mountains. …because it is cold, I should have moonshine …

— D.H. Lawrence from Mornings In Mexico


-posted on red Ravine for the 130th birthday of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Thursday, February 26th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day)WRITING TOPIC — HAUNTED, The Vitality Of Place — Preserving The Legacy Of “Home” (with photos of Mabel & Tony and links to many of their contemporaries)

Read Full Post »

Chickens at Market, three chickens for sale in the open air market of Hoi An, Vietnam, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved

Chickens at Market, four chickens for sale in the open air market of Hoi An, Vietnam, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





It just dawned on me that Jim thawed a whole chicken to roast for dinner tonight, which means we’ll being eating meat on Ash Wednesday.

Not that I observe Ash Wednesday. I didn’t go receive ashes today at mass, and I usually don’t give up anything for Lent. Yet, a little voice inside my head did admonish me for not having saved the fresh cod I bought last week so that we might eat fish tacos tonight instead of roasted chicken.

Growing up we always ate fish on Ash Wednesday and other holy days. Usually in our house that meant we ate fish sticks that Mom pulled out of the freezer and cooked on a baking sheet in the oven. We ate our fish sticks with tartar sauce and maybe a salad and potatoes. Being as how fish sticks were one of my favorite foods, I always looked forward to holy days. (I even kind of liked getting the little black cross of ashes on my forehead.)

And why fish but not chicken? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church, or other Chrisitian religions that observe the law of abstinence, interpret the law in the same way that Jim and I interpret our own meat rule?—which is that when we say meat, we really mean red meat.

According to website ZENIT, which is a news agency that covers the Catholic Church,


The law of abstinence prohibits eating the flesh, marrow and blood products of such animals and birds as constitute flesh meat.

In earlier times the law of abstinence also forbade such foods that originated from such animals, such as milk, butter, cheese, eggs, lard and sauces made from animal fat. This restriction is no longer in force in the Roman rite.

Vegetables as well as fish and similar cold-blooded animals (frogs, clams, turtles, etc.) may be eaten. Amphibians are relegated to the category to which they bear most striking resemblance.

This distinction between cold- and warm-blooded animals is probably why chicken may not replace fish on days of abstinence.



Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which I understand now is a season of reflection and repentance, although during my childhood it just meant it was a time to give up chocolate or fighting with my brother. Lent is observed for forty days—from Ash Wednesday to Easter, not including Sundays—and the reason we give up so-called bad things (per my layperson’s understanding) is that we try to emulate Jesus and the time He spent in the wilderness for forty days. 

In many countries, the last day before Lent (called Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, or Fasching) has become a last fling before the sacrifice and solemnity of Lent. For centuries, it was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival Carnival, which is Latin for farewell to meat.

The tradition of Catholics eating fish originated in the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church prescribed “no meat” on at least one day a week. Of course, the eating of fish was allowed. Another explanation for the sacredness of fish as opposed to chicken (besides the fact that one is cold-blooded and the other is warm) is that during the Biblical Flood, which some Christians interpret as a punishment to mankind for its sins, fish survived; hence, fish were free of all sin. (Hello00, they also had gills.)

Anyhoo, I’ll probably be the only person in my family who eats chicken tonight. Well, me and my oldest sister, who happens to be married to a Muslim.

Let’s just hope that if this fish thing is really important to God, He will remember that I have strong associations with folks who will be dining with some cold-blooded, sin-free creatures.

Read Full Post »

Our Lady of Guadalupe Tree, carving of the Virgen de Guadalupe in a
cottonwood in Albuquerque, taken with my mother-in-law’s iPhone,
October 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.










healing from inside
the heart of a cottonwood
nuestra señora













The story goes that in 1970 a parishioner of the 300-year-old San Felipe de Neri, Albuquerque’s oldest Catholic parish, carved the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe into the open wound of an ancient dying cottonwood. The Virgen saved the tree’s life.

Hundreds of people, many tourists, pass the cottonwood each day—it stands behind the church, which is in Old Town—without ever knowing that Nuestra Señora is hidden inside.

I took my mother-in-law, Celia, to see the tree one day in October of last year. We had just visited another sacred spot, a hidden chapel, also dedicated to the Virgen de Guadalupe, to pray for Celia’s recovery. She is a private woman, and this is the first time I’ve divulged on red Ravine that for the past four years she has been fighting a deadly form of lung cancer called Small Cell Carcinoma. 

Celia completed the latest round of chemotherapy in November, and last week she got a clean bill of health. I’ve been holding on to this photo since our visit last year; I wanted to post it today as a way of thanking the saints and the universe for Celia’s remission.

Today many people I know confront challenges. Illness, job loss, matters of the heart and spirit. For all of you and all of us, may the Virgen de Guadalupe bring solace and healing.

The cottonwood’s scar is closing, and soon the carving will be locked inside. I’ve been told that the carver’s son is seeking a way to remove the carving without harming the tree. I wonder if the best course would be to allow the Virgen to become the tree, as she is already.


-related to posts haiku 2 (one-a-day), Mary In Minnesota (haiku for yb), Virgin Mary Sightings, and The Virgin Mary Appears On A Bug.

Read Full Post »

The Oscars Official Ballot, found at www.oscar.com




 
I have to admit, I’m not a hard-core fan of the annual Academy Awards ceremony. Usually I haven’t had a chance to see most of the nominated films, plus I’m not into the Hollywood red carpet nor whose gown is the most stunning or the most sorry. And frankly, I get nervous watching an actor blubber about what that little golden statuette means to him or her. Remember Sally Field’s 1985 heartfelt speech, …you like me, right now, you like me!?

Yet, I love a good movie. I love the entire experience. The popcorn (with butter). The turn-off-your-cell-phone reminder. Previews of more films I probably won’t get to see on the big screen. And especially that quiet moment right before the feature presentation starts and sweeps me into two or so hours of a reality other than my own.

Yes, everyone who’s had a hand in creating the best films of the year—from the sound mixers to the make-up artists to the cinematographers, directors, and actors—deserves to be recognized.

 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was created in 1927, over dinner held at the home of MGM Studio chief Louis B. Mayer. Actor Douglas Fairbanks became the first president when the Academy was granted its non-profit status in May of that same year, and MGM art director Cedric Gibbons designed the trophy of a knight holding a sword and standing on reel of film. (One popular story goes that upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Academy librarian Margaret Herrick remarked that it resembled her Uncle Oscar. The Academy officially adopted the nickname “Oscar” in 1939.)

On May 16, 1929, the Academy held its first awards banquet, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, honoring achievements in 12 categories (later reduced to seven then over time increased to the current 25). Two hundred seventy people attended the  black-tie dinner, which was filled with long speeches. Tickets cost $5 per guest.

Award recipients were announced three months before the banquet that first year. In subsequent years the Academy decided to keep the results secret, providing in advance to newspapers a list of award winners to be published after the event. However, in 1940, the Los Angeles Times published the names of the winners in its evening edition, which was available to guests arriving at the ceremony, thus prompting the sealed-envelope system still in use today.

By 1942 interest in the ceremony had grown so much that the event was moved from a hotel venue—generally the Ambassador or Biltmore Hotels—to Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The event has been held in a theater ever since.

The first televised Oscar ceremony took place in 1953, and the first full color broadcast three years later, in 1956. About 40 million viewers are expected to tune in to tonight’s event.

 

Every year it seems critics are perplexed by who gets nominated for an Oscar and who doesn’t. The 81st Annual Academy Awards, held tonight at 5p Pacific/8p Eastern on ABC and hosted by non-comedian Hugh Jackman, is no different.

The film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, showed up in a whopping 13 categories—Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Makeup, Music (Score), Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and Writing (Adapted Screenplay)—and yet, I’ve not heard nor read one great thing about the movie. That, coupled with the fact that I don’t much care for Brad Pitt means I probably won’t see it, unless I run out of picks to add to my Netflix queue some day in the future.

Slumdog Millionaire, a movie I thought was fabulous for its imagery and the fact that it contained so many layers beyond the story of two kids from the slums for whom love conquers all, is nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture. I hope it wins, although I might have preferred Milk or The Reader had I seen either one of them.

Of the other nominated movies I’ve seen, and I’m almost embarrassed to say it’s a paltry four, here are the ones I’m rooting for:

  • I loved Michael Shannon—Actor in a Supporting Role—in Revolutionary Road. He was brilliant as Frank Givings, the mentally ill son of the realtor-cum-nosy-neighbor who sold April and Frank Wheeler their suburban home and subsequent hellhole. (Revolutionary Road was also nominated in the category of Art Direction, which I’m hoping it wins as well.)
  • Anne Hathaway—Actress in a Leading Role—in Rachel Getting Married was so deep, I couldn’t believe this was the same person who’d played assistant to Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Plus, I was thrilled to see that Rachel Getting Married showed up with a nomination in anything at all; although it was an especially fulfilling escape, it was not by any means a blockbuster.
  • Wall-E for Animated Feature Film was a touching look at what might happen to our beloved Mother Earth should we continue to trash her and treat her with disrespect. And who would have thought a person could fall for an animated character? Also in this category is Kungfu Panda, which I enjoyed and which also sent a valuable message to viewers: You can be anything you want if you have the courage to go after your dreams.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on tonight’s Oscars awards. Who do think should win? Who were you surprised that did win? Any embarrassing speech moments that you squirmed through?

I’d also like to invite you to return to this post throughout the rest of 2009 to share your thoughts on movies you’ve seen. Any you would recommend? Let us know. I’m much more swayed by word of mouth than I am by that golden statuette.

 

A Few Good Links

Read Full Post »

Entenmann’s Donuts, a box of oldie-but-goody chocolate-covered donuts our family recently enjoyed, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.










Entenmann’s Donuts
with their plastic-like frosting
are they real or fake?












yum…plastic donuts are good, photo ©
2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved






Postscript: For those of you in Albuquerque, you can get Entenmann’s Donuts in chocolate, powdered sugar, or glazed at Keller’s Farm Stores.


-related to posts WRITING TOPIC — VELVEETA CHEESE and haiku 2 (one-a-day).

Read Full Post »

Sunrise On Taos Mountain, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Sunrise On Taos Mountain, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.









welcome to Mabel’s
silent retreat in progress
foot of Taos Mountain




writers hone their craft
sitting in community
with nowhere to hide




silence changes you
in ways you have yet to know
let monkey mind be









A new year-long Writing Intensive with Natalie Goldberg begins Monday evening in Taos, New Mexico. Some of our writing friends will be there for the first week of writing in silence. They will return three more times with the same group of writers — in different seasons, with different books to read, as different people.

A year of silence changes you. ybonesy and I met in a Writing Retreat with Natalie and subsequently signed up for Natalie’s second year-long Intensive. red Ravine is one of the creative endeavors born of that time.

Gratitude to all the writers who show up to sit together, walk the moradawrite haiku, swim in the Rio Granderise for morning meditation. Who keep coming back. Who show up for each other through joy and pain, through laughter, tears — times when it feels like their minds are trying to kill them. Gratitude to mentors like Natalie who continue to teach us what they have learned about the practice of writing, no holds barred.

If you have any thoughts about writing or artist retreats you’ve attended, large or small – Iowa, Oregon, Georgia, California, Wisconsin, Paris, London, Nova Scotia  – we’d love to hear them. Below are a few links from writers who have shared their Taos experiences on red Ravine. We are all there, sitting and writing in solidarity.

Thanks to the Spirits of Mabel and Tony, and all at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House who work together to make these writing retreats possible. To the writers who came before us. And the quiet strength of Taos Mountain. Gassho.



‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾

Alone Together – The Beginning Of The Petroglyph Practitioners
– meet a group of women who first met at one of Natalie’s Writing Retreats in Taos and continue to write together. Read the story of the mystery of the Petroglyph Rock in Mabel’s courtyard.

A Letter To Agnes Martin And A Surprise Reply – the story of a writer who meets a great artist at the Harwood Museum during one of the Taos Writing Retreats and the conversation that ensues between them.

Homing Instinct — when he was 16 or 17 years old, ybonesy’s father worked one summer at the Mabel Dodge Luhan place. She said Mabel herself was gone, but an English author hired her father to help put in the flagstone. Read more about ybonesy’s journey.

Sitting In Solidarity – the experience of Taos on one December retreat with photographs of the zendo and grounds at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. When you spend a year in community with other writers, it recreates the dynamics of family — for better or worse. Healing. Or letting go.

The Last Time I Was In Taos — The Great Mantra - when you sit with other writers over a period of a year, babies are born, mothers and fathers die, relatives pass on, people fight and forgive, all right here, right now. Silence creates space to receive, and let go. More about the Great Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra.

If You Could Go Back In Time – Mabel headed to Taos in the 1920′s. It was a New Age when many writers and artists were co-creating artists’ colonies and writing spaces all over the globe. A fotoblog of Mabel’s and some history about the writers and artists of that time. Explores the value of place and home, including Kiowa, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch just outside of Taos, New Mexico.


‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾


     Welcome To Mabels, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Welcome To Mabels, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

  Welcome To Mabel’s, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2009
   by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Taos Mountain — the Mountain is sacred to the Taos Pueblo Indians. You can feel her presence always there, sitting, walking, writing — rain, snow, wind, and hail. Summer heat, freezing nights, spring mornings, cottonwood afternoons. She is there. You can see more of her in: haiku for the years , mountain haiku , Taos Mountain Haiku, Missing The Mountain. Or in the photo set Taos.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 21st, 2 days before the beginning of the 3rd year-long Writing Intensive with Natalie Goldberg

-related to posts: Make Positive Effort For The Good, haiku 2 (one-a-day)

Read Full Post »

Giant Red Wing Boot, Red Wing, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Giant Red Wing Boot, Bay Point Park, Red Wing, Minnesota,
August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights
reserved.



We didn’t travel much when I was growing up. Maybe a weekend trip to the beach in Charleston or Savannah. Or taking a drive through the Great Smoky Mountains along winding roads of the Tennessee hills to visit my grandparents over Easter. But for the most part, we stayed close to home.

It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started to criss-cross the country by Ford Econoline van, vintage Karmann Ghia, yellow Mercury Capri, and powder blue VW Squareback. Those were the years I discovered my wanderlust and the uniquely American, Roadside Attraction. Though their heyday may have been the 1950′s and 60′s, if you keep your eyes peeled, Roadside Attractions still pepper America’s highways and byways.

In Minnesota, they might take the form of an 18 foot tall, 2 1/2 ton Paul Bunyan, and 5 ton Babe the Blue Ox. South Dakota has the Corn Palace (thanks to Bo’s comments for the great postcard link). And Texas has Cadillac Ranch creating by eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh, 3 who in 1973 invited a San Francisco artists’ collective called the Ant Farm to help him turn 10 used Cadillacs into a landscape work of art.


Sassy Red Chrome Boot, Saint Paul, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.Sassy Red Chrome Boot, Saint Paul, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.Sassy Red Chrome Boot, Saint Paul, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.


Are car and seed art not your cup of tea? Head East and check out the Giant Koontz Coffee Pot in Bedford, Pennsylvania (built by Bert Koontz in 1927). In 2003, rather than have the coffee pot meet an untimely demise, Bert’s great nephew Dick Koontz, and a group of Lincoln Highway supporters, relocated the Pot to the Bedford County Fairgrounds across the street. Or perhaps your direction is West; you might explore the haunted Garnet Ghost Town at the head of First Chance Creek, 6,000 feet up in the mountain forests east of Missoula, Montana.

Ping-pong back to the Midwest for a gaggle of giant boots dotting the Minnesota landscape near the southern river town of Red Wing (named after a distinguished Indian Chief named Hupahuduta, meaning a swan’s wing dyed in red). Red Wing shoes were the 1905 vision of Charles H. Beckman. The Red Wing No. 16 boot was issued to World War I soldiers; during the Great Depression, the factory workers burned scrap leather to stay warm.


Red Wing Boot (Size 638-D), Saint Paul, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.Red Wing Boot (Size 638-D), Saint Paul, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.Red Wing Boot (Size 638-D), Saint Paul, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.


For their 100th Anniversary, Red Wing spent $100,000 and 1 year building a supersized “638-D” replica of their classic work boot No. 877. The world’s largest shoe, it’s 16 feet tall, 20 feet long, and required 80 cowhides, 1,200 feet of rope and 300 pounds of adhesives. The shoelace is 104 feet long (here’s a shot of Norm Coleman next to the boot).

Do you have childhood memories of a favorite Roadside Attraction? Big Critters, 2-Story Outhouses, the Jolly Green Giant? Where was it located? What age were you when you visited there. Who was with you? Have you passed a giant Mauston Mouse and just had to stop and take a photograph?

Or maybe you seek out Roadside Attractions wherever you travel like the creator of one of the best sites I’ve found on the subject, Debra J. Seltzer’s Roadside Architecture. Debra travels around the country documenting disappearing Roadside Attractions (she’s heading to South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida in March).


Flip-Flop Travel Bug, Redwing, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Red Wing Palms, Red Wing, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Flip-Flop Travel Bug, Red Wing Palms, Bay Point Park, Red Wing, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Get out your pens and do a timed Writing Practice on Roadside Attractions. Using all the senses, write down as many details as you can. Choose a specific amount of time — 10, 15, 20 minutes — set a timer, and Go!

Stop when the buzzer, bell, or alarm goes off; read what you’ve just written out loud to yourself. You might be surprised at what you discover. And if all else fails, there’s always the Tom Robbins version of life on the road — Captain Kendrick’s Memorial Hot Dog Wildlife Preserve in Another Roadside Attraction.



Resources & Inspiration:

  • Roadside Architecture – Debra J. Seltzer’s wonderful roadside site, created in 2000. No ads or pop-ups. Check out her Flickr sets from across America. She’s got passion for this subject!
  • World’s Largest Roadside Attractions – Roadside Attractions from around the world. Based in Minnesota. No ads or pop-ups.
  • Roadside Photos — Great photographs and postcards. Site of Doug Pappas with no advertising. Another person with passion for the road.
  • Roadside America – Lots of ads but some good info there.
  • Legends of America – Again, lots of ads. But good detail in the descriptions.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, February 20th, 2009

Read Full Post »

By Linda Weissinger Lupowitz



Our Preserve, a sign in the Corrales Bosque Preserve, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Our Preserve, a sign in the Corrales Bosque Preserve, which is part of the Rio Grande Bosque, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.




The Rio Grande supports a ribbon of green oasis along its length, from its beginnings in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, to its junction with the Gulf of Mexico. In New Mexico much of this oasis is a native bosque (Spanish for woods) of Rio Grande cottonwood, together with a few other shrubs and trees, alongside a burr-reed and willow marsh. The marshland was once extensive along the river, sustained by the yearly floods which replenished the water table and fertilized the soil. Now this marshland is rare, found only in places where mudflats persist and drainage from diversion channels keeps the soil relatively moist.

~from Jim Swan’s Rio Grande Bosque




Footprints on North Beach, Corrales Bosque Preserve along the Rio Grande, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reservedWinter walking in the Corrales bosque is cool and quiet—I hear only the sound of my shoes on the forest floor, and my own breathing. Wind vibrates faded yellow leaves hanging high above—now and then a leaf twists off, clatters down, bumping through branches to land in the path. The trails are private and winding, at times damp with snow in the shade, or most often deep, soft chalky dust, pocked by paw prints, hoof prints, bicycle tracks.

Horse – Bicycle – Pedestrian – who yields to whom? The triangular sign shows the walker yields to both.

Towering above are the textured trunks of twisted cottonwood trees, adorned with mistletoe, sometimes raucous with hundreds of crows, chanting among rattling old leaves.

On gravel bars along the river, the geese sun themselves, all facing south; a laughing duck, or the shadow of an intruder disturbs the peace. At once, a hundred Canada geese flap up in procession, wheeling into the western sun, their white breasts reflecting gold, dark wings working. Circling over the bosque, formations gather, call and respond—flying shadows ripple across the sunlit canopy.



Geese gather on the Rio Grande, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Geese gather on the Rio Grande, photo ©
2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.




‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾


Seasons change: a reminder that I have been here, walking and watching, for what seems like a very long time. At about age 40, I found out I could stroll out the back door without anyone hanging on my leg. I walk dogless these days.

Once in a wet year a giant hollow tree fell across the path, roots rudely exposed, grubs and ants and toadstools, stacked like dinner plates. Little kids clambered the slippery trunk: a mossy bridge, a balance beam. Now decades later a part of the architecture of the forest, silvery and smooth, the worn log is carved with hearts and names and charred like an old bone.

New green leaves of foresteria unfold, the orange-blossom scent of Russian olive penetrates. Cotton flies on the air, puffs and piles on the understory like a summer snowfall. We watch for signs of rain, we wish for rain. Glorious yellow Pecos sunflowers, multi-headed black-eyed Susan, preside over summer meadows, as brilliant purple asters endure long after frost has bleached the tall grass.

Here in the shelter of the bosque, the howling wind on the mesa is tamed to a smart breeze, tamarisk petals spray a soft pink glow in early spring, or, in autumn, Hallowe’en-orange flames contrast with black trunks silhouetted against the tangled underbrush. It is an evolving landscape, weeds and waters never the same for long. One flush spring I wade through high runoff to reach the small patch of silky sand, watch the clouds change and shadows slip across the face of Sandia—but now that wash is dry, a thicket of red coyote willow. The beach yields to mud and cockle-burrs, the sand shifts south.



Bending Cottonwoods, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Bending Cottonwoods, photo © 2009
by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.




Rio Grande: a big nombre, this shallow stream does not seem worthy of, but it’s all we’ve got. Mud-olive brown, rippling with mystery, source in the clean headwaters of the Colorado High Country, way above Taos, up in the meandering creeks and bogs of Creede. All the way down to Mexico, it rolls on by us.

Two Sandhill Cranes, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reservedIn winter, the mirrored surface gleams an ice-blue reflection of the sky. Sandia sparkles with new snow, while I soak up the white-hot light on a bright beach—safe, miles from anyone, minutes from home. “So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, / Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn.” (Wordsworth)

The bosque is home to roadrunners and snakes, lizards, cottontails, turtles and peeping quail. Sandhill cranes, like feathered dinosaurs, walking absurdly on stick legs, clumsy taking off, and stunning in unlikely flight, wings creaking just overhead.

 
Rope swings out over the shallows, promising cool breezes on a hot day, sun and shadow, shadow and sun. Boys whack sticks, dogs chase sticks into the currents, chug smiling with a slimey log, shake on the shore. Step around coyote scat and green horse piles. Sleek bicyclists in their brilliant bodysuits speed by the slow walker.

(The rope-swing cottonwood tree, snapped and graffiti’d, lays on the bank now, with only the fading notes of children’s voices—the home-schoolers and the unschoolers and kids just let out of school for summer—reminding us that this was once a grand tree, to swing up, out and over a grande river.)


Rope swing by the Rio Grande, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Rope swing by the Rio Grande, photo ©
2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.



‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾


Last winter I was surprised by a locked gate at Romero Road, so I hiked in along the lateral ditch. A huge truck loaded with trees and brush drove by me, while from the north came the whining machine sounds of saws and chippers. What could be going on? I was afraid to ask.

Months later, on a March afternoon, I headed south on foot from the North Beach and was shocked and saddened beyond words at the recent clear-cutting and scraping of all non-native species, dead wood and brush from the bosque, for “fuel load reduction.”

In the dry Southwest, fire danger is a legitimate concern. Sadly, in the name of safety and conservation, an aggressive attack has been sustained against the ecosystem of the undergrowth…so much is gone.

At what price do we protect property, but abandon the beauty and peace of nature that sustains this fragile life?

Where have the animals and birds who lived here gone now? You can drive a semi through the woods; nothing but chipped mulch, stumps, and silence.




Cleared out, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reservedBridled weasel, found in the bosque dead, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Cleared out (left) and Bridled weasel (right), a section of cleared bosque and recently dead wildlife, photos © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.




‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾


At the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission meeting last year, February 14, the mayor and several Village Council members heard pleas from villagers distressed by the excessive clearing of brush, dead wood, and non-native vegetative species in the preserve.

A temporary stop-work order was given based on public outcry, but has not halted this ongoing effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, despite the severe loss of habitat in what is supposedly a “nature preserve.” It seems the title is negotiable.

The jetty-jacks—those triangulated metal spikes linked by cable, installed in the bosque decades ago to protect the levees from debris in case of flood, are now ecologically unwanted, prevent big trucks from moving around, and it takes a “Little Giant” to remove them—along with all the vegetation that has grown up around them. Flood control has caused disruption in the natural cycles, so they say.

They say this old deciduous cottonwood forest is dying, anyway. That it needs to be flooded and managed, control-burned and levee’d, systematically scraped and rid of noxious trees and wildflowers. New cottonwood trees need to replace the aging generation, but the seedlings are not surviving. Councils clamor about waste-water, septic, sewers and salinization, as the bosque becomes a battleground for groundwater.


linda-10-small

Beware of tree, photo © 2009
by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.




They say that tamarisk and Russian olive are illegally drinking, and ducks have no business roosting in the cattails. That the cottonwood giants, lightning-struck and mistletoe-bedecked, will fall into shattered hollow logs, in my lifetime, if I live to see the day. Maybe my kids, or my grandchildren, will see this happen. Maybe they are right, I admit, I don’t know. I hope not.

This Rio Grande—it’s just a narrow strip of life through the wide desert, source of irrigation for the valley: Without it, there would be no apple orchards, chile fields, cornfields or lush pasture with beautiful horses. From the air, the bosque is a green snake in a sere, windy brown world—we call with irony, upon landing at Albuquerque: Planet Dune.


Clear ditch afternoon, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Clear ditch afternoon, photo © 2009
by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.




‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾




Via Oreada

Walking out through the south entrance to the Corrales bosque on a Sunday afternoon, I pass by a Mexican family with a KFC picnic, fishing the clear ditch; giggling children chasing a chihuahua; two lovers arm in arm talking softly in Tewa, on a bridge over a culvert of rushing brown water.

A cartoonish Roadrunner cocks his yellow eye and scolds me for getting too close to his perch on the business end of Little Giant, a yellow machine with a toothy maw: what we used to call a “steam shovel.”

I stop to look at the posted signs. “Flora and Fauna of the Bosque Preserve” illustrates an idyllic scene of happy co-existence—Coyote and Beaver, wild Turkey, Muskrat, Toad and Frog, Weasel, Hawk and field Mouse, Skunk and Owl … There is no human in the picture, I recall, except my own reflection in the glass.

The sign says:

Our Preserve is home to a fragile plant and animal community which needs our consideration. Please remember that these living things depend on us to leave their habitat undisturbed and unimpaired for future generations.

This area of thirty acres, Via Oreada, is slated for extensive clearing by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start this spring 2009.



Ready to rumble, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Ready to rumble, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.






Linda Weissinger Lupowitz lives, works, and writes in Corrales, New Mexico. She has been walking in the bosque since 1982. You can see the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fire Restoration map and plan for the Corrales Bosque Preserve here. And you can read more of Linda’s writing on her blog, C. Little, no less, or on the red Ravine post The Face You Wore Before You Were Born.

[NOTE: A shorter version of this essay will be published in an upcoming issue of the Corrales Comment, a local newspaper for the village of Corrales.]



Read Full Post »

Hanging By A Thread, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Reflecting, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Hanging By A Thread, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Hanging By A Thread, Reflecting, Taos, New Mexico,
February 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.









how true Cupid’s aim?
one arrow, a dozen hearts
hang in the balance

 










Note: Single, married, dating, abstaining, none of the above, there is always someone to love; someone who loves you. And so many more different kinds of love than romantic. Tell a friend or family member you love them today; hearts hang in the balance.

Gratitude to all who have loved. And Happy Valentine’s Day to our readers, straight from the heart. A few more related posts, and more thoughts on love:  Valentine (Nebraska), Goodnight Valentine’s, valentine haiku, WRITING TOPIC: KINDS OF LOVE, haiku 2 (one-a-day).


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Read Full Post »

Nikki Giovanni At The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, January 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Nikki Giovanni At The Fitzgerald Theater, along with MPR host, Kerri Miller, St. Paul, Minnesota, January 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It’s the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln and celebrations are going on all over the country. We watched a couple of PBS programs last night on Lincoln’s youth in Indiana and Illinois. The tall man with the high-water pants lost his mother from “milk sickness” at the early age of 34. I was struck by how much he looked like Nancy Hanks Lincoln. He helped carve the pegs for her coffin.

Lincoln loved and understood the importance of words and there have been no shortage of books written about him. I listened to an NPR program on the way home from work this week: Three Books Explore Lincoln’s Complex Genius by Eric Foner. In his reviews of David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln, James Oakes’ The Radical and the Republican, and Richard Carwardine’s Lincoln, Foner dives into Lincoln’s relationship to power and passivity, and his complex friendship with black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

In a couple of lines, Foner, author of Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World, sums up why Abraham Lincoln is still one of the most important figures of our modern times:


Every generation of Americans reinvents Abraham Lincoln in its own image. Politicians from conservatives to communists, civil rights activists to segregationists, have claimed him as their own. Lincoln is important to us not because of how he chose his cabinet or what route his train took to Washington, but because the issues of his time still resonate in ours — relations between the state and federal governments, the definition of American citizenship, the long-term legacy of slavery.

Lincoln was also a key player in the execution of thirty-eight Dakota Sioux on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota. The hangings followed trials which condemned over 300 participants in the 1862 Dakota Conflict, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The complexity and controversy of the decisions he made while president are a testament to his own internal battles and the time in which he lived.

In Birchbark Books last weekend, I picked up Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. She won the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. And one of the most fascinating sites I found is The Abraham Lincoln Bookshop with historic and rare authographs and photographs of Lincoln.

The site also offers a whole section on Women’s History, from the women’s point of view. There I found Catherine Clinton’s, Mrs. Lincoln: A Life, a chronicle of Mary Todd Lincoln:


Born into an aristocratic Kentucky family, she was an educated, well-connected Southern daughter, and when she married a Springfield lawyer she became a Northern wife—an experience mirrored by thousands of her countrywomen.

The Lincolns endured many personal setbacks—including the death of a child and defeats in two U.S. Senate races—along the road to the White House. Mrs. Lincoln herself suffered scorching press attacks, but remained faithful to the Union and her wartime husband. She was also the first presidential wife known as the “First Lady.”

I think the women in Lincoln’s life are as compelling as the man. Catherine Clinton will have a virtual book signing on Valentine’s Day if you’d like to join in.



Love Poems, St. Paul, Minnesota, January 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Bicycles: Love Poems, on stage at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, January 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



After all this, the event closest to my heart is a Birthday Tribute and Wreath-Laying Ceremony on February 12th, 8am EST at the Lincoln Memorial. President Barack Obama has been invited to commemorate the 16th president at the Memorial erected following Lincoln’s Centennial. He invited poet and author Nikki Giovanni to recite her new work, written especially for the Bicentennial.

When Teri, Liz, and I went to see Nikki read at the Fitzgerald last month, she hinted at the contents of her poem, something I don’t want to miss. Teri sent the following email out to our Poetry Group a few days later:


Poetry Hounds,

Following closely on Elizabeth Alexander’s reading at Obama’s Inauguration, another poet is being called upon to read her work.

February 12th, 2009 is the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. At the Lincoln Memorial on 2-12, there will be a special wreath-laying ceremony with a program that includes poet Nikki Giovanni. It will be at 7:00 a.m. (Minnesota time). I’ve included a link; I presume it will be broadcast widely.

Last week, QM, Liz, & I heard Nikki Giovanni live at the Fitzgerald in St. Paul. She blew us out of the water. She’s 65, was active in the Civil Rights Movement, teaches at Virginia Tech (where the massacre occurred in 2007), and was like seeing a touch of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks rolled into one.

Keep poetry alive, man.

Love, Teri

I’m going to try to get my Night Owl self up early! Happy 200th Birthday, Abe. Your life and legacy are alive and well in the year 2009. And when we attend our Poetry Group tonight, we will all be celebrating the poets and poetry honoring the day you were born.


-posted on red Ravine on Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday, February 12th, 2009

Read Full Post »

Coneflower, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Coneflower, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



This is the sequel to red Ravine’s haiku (one-a-day), a practice born from reading Clark Strand’s Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey during a year-long Writing Intensive with Natalie Goldberg in Taos, New Mexico. Last year we had a great response from our readers to the practice of writing a haiku or senryu each day, and wanted to continue the practice into the New Year.

The idea for the sequel post came after doing further research on the history of haiku. This year’s challenge is to co-create and build on the poems of other haiku writers, a kind of word play running through the poetic forms of tanka and renga.



haiku & senryu (part one)


Haiku uses simple, direct language, words that evoke a season, and usually incorporates a cutting or pivot word, so that one half of a haiku seems to speak to the other. According to Patterns In Poetry, haiku is closely tied to the Japanese aesthetic of Yugen and the spirituality of Buddhism. It is written in a 17-syllable form (usually three lines of 5-7-5) that looks deceptively simple. Yet if you read the work of the masters like Basho, Buson, and Issa, wandering poets who lived during Japan’s Edo-period (1600-1868), it becomes clear that the practice of haiku can take years to master.

Senryu is similar to haiku but strays from seasonal or nature themes. According to Simply Haiku, senryu focuses on people and portrays characteristics of human beings and foibles, and the psychology of the human mind. Senryu can express human misfortunes or the hardships of humanity, and even when they depict living things or inanimate objects, human attributes are emphasized.

What both haiku and senryu have in common is that they derive from a form of Japanese court poetry called tanka.


Characteristics of haiku:

  • 17 syllables, 3 lines (with variations for language differences)
  • Simple, direct, non-metaphorical language
  • Captures a transitory insight or moment in time called satori or the aha moment
  • Contains a kigo, an image of nature that evokes a particular season
  • Contains a cutting or pivot word that turns the movement of the poem
  • Based on experience, speaks of the common, in the moment, just as it is

 

tanka (part two)


Tanka, the oldest Japanese poetry form, was often written to explore religious or courtly themes and had a structure of five lines with a  5-7-5-7-7 syllable structure. One person would contribute the first three lines (5-7-5) of the tanka, and a different author would complete the poem by composing a 7-7 section and adding a pivot point such as in this tanka from George Knox at Aha! Poetry:


in the check-out line
a worn face ahead of me
turns tentatively. . .
realities of desire
fade in final reckoning

-tanka by George Knox


There is an excerpt from an article, Come Pivot With Me by Jane Reichhold which explains the pivot point or bridge in this way:

The use of a pivot word is a beloved technique from tanka, still being used after 1,300 years, in that form and its much younger grandchild — haiku (only 3 centuries old).

One of the trademarks of a tanka (besides the traditional five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 onji — syllables) is a short poetic statement depicting nature (here it may seem much like something you could call a haiku) which is linked to a designated feeling or emotional attitude of the author. This latter aspect is a basic one dividing the two forms today.

By expressing emotional feelings tanka affirms a connectedness between something unseen but real — our feelings — with the observable world around us. Tanka gives the mind a picture which can, if it is successful, joins for and evokes a felt emotional state.


Characteristics of tanka

  • 31 syllables, 5 lines
  • Write the first section of a tanka (5-7-5), similar to a haiku.
  • Another person picks up the first 3 lines and writes a response (or continuation) by composing two lines of 7-7 syllables.
  • Can reflect nature or lean toward senryu
  • Emotional, contemplative, imaginative, reflective, written to be chanted


Here’s a final example of classic tanka from the same site, translated from the Kokinshu by Donald Keene, and written by Anonymous:


Because there was a seed
A pine has grown even here
On these barren rocks:
If we really love our love
What can keep us from meeting?

-tanka by Anonymous
 


renga (part three)


Renga (linked elegance) is a form of linked poetry which evolved from tanka, the oldest Japanese poetry form. In renga’s 800 year history it has gone through many ideological changes. (And it was Basho who, after 500 years, snipped off the first three lines of renga to form haiku.)

In renga, one person would often contribute the first three lines (5-7-5) of the poetic chain and a different author would complete the chain by composing a 7-7 section. Then another author would build on the previous 7-7, with another 5-7-5 passage. This chaining of verses or renga, could sometimes add up to hundreds of linked tanka.

The first part of the poem, called hokku or “starting verse,” frequently sets the tone for the rest of the poem, and the authors of hokku often earned the respect and admiration of their fellow poets. By the 19th century, largely through the work of Masaoka Shiki, hokku began to be written and read as individual poems. From the word hokku derives our word haiku.


Characteristics of renga:

  • Write the first section of a tanka (5-7-5), similar to a haiku. Hand this poem to another person.
  • Second person writes a response (or continuation) by composing two lines of 7-7 syllables. Then the second person hands off the completed tanka to a third person.
  • Third person writes another 3 lines of (5-7-5), beginning a new tanka
  • Continue in this way until you run out of time or feel that the poem is complete.
  • Contains a bridge or pivot point that links to the emotional element
  • Don’t try to force the storyline. When writing a response to the previous poem, focus only on the last section of the tanka, not the whole poem.
  •  Think of each stanza as a springboard from which you are going to jump. The important thing to watch is what happens between the links. 



Petals, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Petals, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Petals, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Petals, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



haiku practice


Feel free to drop a haiku into this space anytime, day or night. Or join the word play and collaborative effort of tanka and renga. I’m a novice at the latter two; the first time I read about tanka and renga was when I started the research on this post. I thought it might be fun to explore these ancient forms of linked poetry, and see where the journey takes us.

Also, it’s okay to experiment, break form, and move out of the traditional structures. English syllables translate differently than onji. And according to Richard MacDonald (from his essay What is Tanka?), Japanese poetry is syllabic by nature and not metrical or rhymed, because like the French language, the Japanese language lacks stress accents.

There are different schools of thought about how rigid one should be in counting syllables. From what I have read, it is a matter of personal taste whether to stay close to the Japanese model, or stray from it for personal reasons or aesthetics in order to incorporate the heritage of the West into poetic work. The most important thing is to have fun with it. Last year’s practice was so enjoyable, I can’t wait to see the new collection we have by December!


Option 1 – haiku

  • Drop in a haiku or senryu, 17 syllables, 3 lines (with variations for language differences)

Option 2 – tanka

  • Grab another poet’s haiku, and write the 2 additional 7 syllable lines to create a tanka

Option 3 – renga

  • Grab a tanka created by 2 other poets, and, focusing on the last 2 lines, start the beginning of a new tanka (5-7-5) to be completed by the next poet


Petals, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Petals, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Petals, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Petals, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

DEFINITIONS:


bridgeword, or words leading the reader from the nature image to the statement of emotion

cutting (kireji) Punctuation mark or word that divides a haiku into two parts. A cutting can be a hyphen, ellipses, colon or a word.

kigoA seasonal reference in haiku. Usually a kigo has accumulated resonances and associations with earlier haiku and Japanese aesthetics about time.

onji Japanese syllables. The language differences between Japanese and English are vast and complex. Converting onji to syllables may not always be a one for one process.

pivot word A word in a haiku poem that changes, or turns the direction of the poem

rengaJapanese poetic form made up of linked tanka verse; the word renga means “linked elegance”

satori A moment of insight or reflection that emerges in a Haiku poem (usually around the cutting or pivot word)

tanka Japanese poetic form that is made up of 5 lines with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count. Haiku derives from tanka.

yugenJapanese term for beauty that suggests mystery, depth and a tinge of sadness


RESOURCES USED IN WRITING THIS PIECE:



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, February 9th, 2009

Read Full Post »

Dee and me, detail from a Mother-Daughter mural that our Moms-Daughters group created

dee and me, detail from a Mother-Daughter mural
that our Moms-Daughters group created.




Last night Jim and I attended a meeting for families who will be hosting exchange students from Mexico City starting next week. Our oldest daughter’s school has a two-week exchange program with a bilingual school in Mexico’s capital, and we signed up to be a host family.

Our exchange student is a twelve-year-old girl who has an older brother and younger sister. She loves animals—her menagerie includes a dog, rabbit, turtles, birds, and fish. I wrote last night to her father to let him know that we are also animal lovers, with three dogs, turkeys, a horse, and a bullsnake. (I made sure to tell him that the bullsnake lives outside.)

We’re excited to host this young girl. The exchange program coordinators have planned activities of all kinds to give the students a taste of the best things to do and see in Albuquerque and surrounding areas. The host family’s job is to provide three square meals a day, a private room, and a comfortable, safe, and stable environment. Of course, the mother in me is also prepared to provide love, support, and a wonderful experience—in short, a home away from home.



dee and me (two), detail from a mural created by our Mother-Daughter group    dee and me (two), detail from a mural created by our Mother-Daughter group





Benefits of Exchange Student Hosting

  • Gain a lasting friendship: While two weeks might not be long enough to bond for a lifetime, foreign exchange is built on trust. The parents of the student send their child to another country with faith that she will be kept safe and cared for. In turn, we embrace the student into our family. Assuming all goes well, we enter this as strangers and walk away knowing that we each took a leap of faith and met one another’s trust.   
  • Learn about another culture: Having an exchange student is immersion into another culture, except instead of you going to another country, the country comes to you. We’ll plow this child with questions about her life, family, school, traditions, foods, friends, home. You name it, we’ll want to know about it. She’ll be her country’s ambassador, and we’ll be ours.
  • See your family and your life through someone else’s eyes: There is nothing like putting the mirror to yourself to help realize how fortunate you are. And to remind yourself that if you can create the family you want to be for this student, you can be that family always.
  • Do the things you love most about the place where you live: With almost all of our family living in our city, we don’t do enough of the things tourists do in our town.
  • Be reminded of the importance of community: I hope to introduce our student to my parents and Jim’s, and to have her get to know Dee’s friends. Also, Dee’s best friends’ parents, who are all part of a common carpool, offered to accommodate this new rider in our carpool. Doing so wasn’t easy and involved a couple of people loaning vans to those of us who were limited by car size. Once again I was struck by the generosity of friends.



What to Expect (and Tips to Handle the Unexpected)

  • Homesickness: This girl is still a pretty tiny person in the world. This is her first exchange, and I’m prepared for her to hit a wall. (My gosh, I do whenever I travel abroad, and I’m an adult!) If it happens, we’ll do everything we can to help her get through—cook a favorite meal or ask her to show us how to cook something from her country, let her sleep with the girls’ stuffed animals, hug her, take her somewhere fun to distract her, let her call home (although that can make it worse), or meet up with another exchange student if she has a friend in the group.
  • Illness: I’m not the world’s best caregiver of sick people, but the good news is I’m better with children and animals than with my husband. (smile) Although, last night when the program coordinator asked us what we’d do if our host child woke up in the night with nausea, I whispered to Jim that I’d throw a towel over her head and run get him. But in all honesty, I can cope. We’d have to call the coordinator before administering any medications, even over-the-counter, although we can provide ginger ale, Saltines, and anything else that might provide short-term relief. And I will sit by her side and soothe her.
  • Conflict: Even though 12-year-olds are less likely than high schoolers to rebel, we’ve been advised to expect that conflicts might arise. Perhaps the student will want to do nothing but listen to her iPod or be on email or want to go somewhere that we can’t accommodate. Maybe she doesn’t like the food or gets up late every morning. Who knows? What I do know is that it will be important to let her know our schedule and our expectations. We have routines, practices, and traditions, and while we’ll be flexible we also need to maintain sane, healthy lives.
  • Exhaustion: Immersion in another country can be exhausting—all that thinking and speaking and living in a different language, not to mention that fact that you never really let your guard down. We were advised that our student might become withdrawn, expecially with all the activity, and if this happens to not take it personally. We’ll give our student down time, let her take naps or go to bed early. And of course, we love to sit quietly and read. Exhaustion we can handle.


Our temporary family member arrives this Saturday afternoon. We’ll let you know how it goes.

In the mean time, I’m curious if any of you’ve hosted foreign exchange students or have been an exchange student yourself. If so, what was your experience? And if not, have you ever entertained the idea of either role? Did you long to be an exchange student in high school? Do you toy with the notion of hosting a student now? I want to hear about it.

Read Full Post »

Wet Cement, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Wet Cement, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.








Wet cement,
Opportunity.
It only takes a second
To change this spot
forever.








Another poem from the streets of Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk. I wrote the first piece about the project a few months ago (Sidewalk Poetry — Public Art At Its Best) after attending the opening in Frogtown last October. The project is a collaboration between Saint Paul Public Works and Public Art Saint Paul. It was spearheaded by Marcus Young, Artist In Residence of the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The untitled poem in the photograph Wet Cement was written by Zoë Jameson. I ran into Zoë and her family at the opening; they were celebrating on the sidewalk near her poem. She kneeled on the cement next to “Opportunity,” and smiled up at her mother who proudly shot photographs of her daughter, the poet.

To view Zoë’s poem in person, here’s a link to the map of the place in Saint Paul where the poem is located. I can’t think of a better way to stay warm this Winter. Or if you’re a teacher, you can print the map out for your class in preparation for a Spring field trip during National Poetry Month this April.

Oh, and one of our readers spotted a poem near the Fitzgerald Theater. She left these words about the project in a comment on red Ravine:


It was absolutely freezing when I ran two blocks from my parking spot to the Fitz; I couldn’t wait to get into the warm lobby. But I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw one of these poems in the sidewalk. A few steps later, there was another one. When the weather is more cooperative, I’d love to spend a lazy day walking and reading.

It’s really quite lovely to have poetry in our lives this way…coming up from beneath our feet.

Poetry rising from the Earth. If you are heading into downtown St. Paul to see a show, keep your heart open, eyes to the ground, breath connected to the bottom of your feet.



Zoë Jameson has always enjoyed literature because it helps her get inside other people’s heads. When she isn’t reading, she enjoys running, traveling, playing the viola, and spending time with friends. She attends Central High School and has lived in Saint Paul with her parents and her dog, Perk, for over a decade.

— bio from the book Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

-related to posts: Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)Celebrate Poetry (Let Me Count The Ways

Read Full Post »

My best friend from graduate school is coming to New Mexico from her native Brazil week after next, and in honor of her visit—women in Brazil are notorious for their beauty, not to mention she’s married to a plastic surgeon—I’ve put together a list of bodily facts that I need to own up to on account of my DNA.

And if I can’t get over them, well, then I need to have a long talk with my friend’s husband while he’s here.

  • Flabby arms (also known as bat wings, arm wings, and jello arms): While these can be caused by weight gain, muscle loss, and natural aging, one of the main factors is genetics. If your grandmother and mother had upper arms that were prone to flapping in the wind while hanging laundry on the line, chances are you do (or will) too. Which is why I never became a teacher. (Chalkboards.)
  • Nose and ear growth: It’s not known why, exactly, that noses and ears continue growing as one ages, although some theorize that since noses and ears are made of cartilage, they continue to grow long after the bones have stopped. Or, it could be that cartilage simply loses elasticity over time, causing the tip of the nose to lengthen and droop. Which I should have known would be especially problematic for our family back when Uncle Pat used to like saying: When God was handing out noses, we thought he said “roses” and asked for His biggest red ones.
  • Female pattern baldness: This can be genetic, so if Aunt Mabel’s scalp was visible through her 28 strands of black hair (check), you might want to explore gene therapy. (Right.)
  • The accumulation of fat in the neck and jaw: Generally genetic and generally unrelated to body weight, meaning that no amount of dieting, exercise, and weight loss will affect their reduction. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the gift of jowls.)
  • Senile acne: Yep, genetic, although its presence is generally a good indication that wrinkles will be postponed. Which, for those of us predisposed to having zits in our old age, just be glad that even though your 82-year-old mother still uses Noxema, most people think she’s not a day older than 70.
  • Facial hair: Those thick black hairs springing out on my chin were probably an endowment from my Aunt Olivia. And the ones that I’ll eventually sprout from my ears and nose—well, thank you Great Uncle Narciso (and Grandpa). Which is why I’m thinking of teaching my daughters how to use sharp trimmers.
  • Earwax: Scientists recently discovered that whether you have wet earwax or dry depends on the ATP-binding cassette C11 gene. Generally people from Europe and Africa have wet earwax and people in Asia have dry. The gene also correlates to armpit odor in that gooey earwax populations sweat more than dry earwax ones. The gene that keeps on giving.
  • Dowager’s humps (aka old lady humps): These often run in families, especially where there is a tendency toward osteoporosis. At least I can go a long time without needing to empty my bladder. (Kidding.)

 

Although I’m not a proponent of plastic surgery, I do think it would be lovely to go to Brazil for a couple of weeks and come back looking really refreshed. I doubt my friend’s husband can do anything for the old lady hump, but perhaps he can tuck those bat wings and jowls.

Hypothetically speaking (since I have a feeling most of our regular readers are pretty content with what Mother Nature bestowed) what genetic gifts might you consider losing if you had the opportunity? Hey, maybe we can get a group discount.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,581 other followers