Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for December 13th, 2006

THE VALUE OF PROCESS


Blog #1 Make a numbered list of 25 things you want to do before you die. (they don’t have to be in order of importance and don’t labor over it) Go ahead and post the list as a blog entry.

Blog #2  Choose 1 out of your list of 25. Do a 20 minute writing practice on that 1 topic. Time yourself. Stop after 20 minutes. Post your raw practice as a separate blog piece.

Blog #3 In a 3rd blog entry, list the practical details (in numbered order) of how you are going to make that 1 dream happen (the one you wrote about in #2) before you die.

 HAPPY WRITING!      )


-posted on red Ravine Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Read Full Post »

It was a Friday morning in late July, 2004, when I left for Taos. And it was my birthday. I spent the whole day travelling. I blasted Joni Mitchell out of the Alpine as I drove down I-35 through southern Minnesota, tipped my hat to the Hawkeyes in northern Iowa, and bowed to the sandhill cranes as I hurtled across the Platte River plains of eastern Nebraska.

I travelled all day Saturday, too. shooting under a vibrant sunrise near the Hampton Inn in Kearney, Nebraska. And I sat paralyzed as metronomic wipers slapped time to a vengeful thunderstorm south of Denver. Blinding sheets of rain pelted the pavement so hard I had to stop under an overpass until the turbulence died down.

The storm made me late to meet Wordraw.

I remember sitting in the Camry behind torrents of streaming water, fanning my breath away from the steamy glass. Since I was stuck, it seemed like a good time to call Wordraw. But instead of a soothing connection, his deep voice was barely audible, buried under crackle and static –

“Hello, this is Wordraw….crakcakcak, ssssshhh, or leave your number and I’ll call you back as tickkkpoptic soon as I can.”

Beeeeeep.

I lost service after the 10th word and stared helplessly at the phone. It was worthless. I threw it in my leather bag, then turned to wipe the window clear with my sleeve. Cars slowed to a crawl, nearly hitting each other as they vied for position to get off the road. Hail the size of melons hit the highway in a fury and pingponged 6 inches off the macadam.

Aroused, the Over and Underworld gods exploded in electric tension between thunderous cracks. I jumped high off the seat. It was time for a rumble.

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared.

Storms on the passes in Colorado put the fear of god in me. They strike in every season. And seem more violent than the disturbances I remember in the 70’s when I lived in western Montana at the geological point where five valleys collide. Or the swollen summer sky that broke open in 1992, flooding our campsite (swallowing my Eureka dome tent) near an arroyo in New Mexico.

The No. 9 cloud is the culprit, the fluffy cumulonimbus.

People speculate that the saying “walking on cloud 9” may have originated from the National Weather Service’s fanciful and popular No. 9 cloud. I rather like to think the phrase was inspired by the Beatle’s Revolution #9. Or the Norman Whitfield penned, Grammy winning 1969 rendering of the Temptation’s Cloud 9.

You can’t grow up in the hometown of James Brown, Godfather of Soul, and not be inspired by late 60’s funkadelic. I can hear the backbeat now – “Cloud 9! – ba boom ba ba boomp ba boomp ba boomp boomp ba”.

Music to my ears.

When I arrived at Taos Plaza late Saturday, I didn’t know it was Fiesta. It was dark. I took the back way in and found my way to the La Fonda’s pock marked parking lot and chain-link fence. The Taos De La Fonda Hotel is the only hotel in the Plaza. That night it was packed with restless people and rust-less vintage cars.

In Minnesota, auto bodies are eaten away by ice-busting winter chemicals and salt. The corrosive action melts through paint like battery acid. You don’t often see Minnesotans driving models older than 10 years. That’s what I love about going to places like New Mexico and Montana. You’re more likely to see a 1962 VW bug, ‘72 AMC Gremlin, or Ford Pinto than you are a Lexus or BMW.

I turned the corner to park in a tight muddy spot by the cable wire barrier, muttering to myself, “How in the hell will I ever find Wordraw?” The next minute, there he stood, big as life, tapping his knuckles against my window, wearing a brassy shit-eatin’ grin. He had seen me coming.

That night after dinner, Wordraw and I sat on his twin bed by an open window in a tiny room above Taos Plaza, peeked out from behind the curtains, listened, and watched as hundreds of people shouted, cheered, and danced along the covered sidewalks under the cottonwoods. They seemed happy. In fact, jubilant. All of Taos was there.

Friday, July 23rd, had been the beginning of Fiesta.

Las Fiestas de Taos is a celebration of the Patron Saints, Anne (Santa Ana), a model of virtue and grandmother to the Messiah, and Santiago, the man who rose from fisherman to warrior. Mother and Father. They are holy days. And it’s a community celebration for all cultures, of the people, by the people. That’s what I read in an article in The Taos News by Larry Torres. The Saturday I arrived was the second day, the day designated to celebrate Saint Anne and the children.

On Sunday, after walking around Fiesta in the Plaza, Wordraw and I visited the D.H. Lawrence collection of “forbidden paintings” on display by permission only in a small temperature regulated room in the back of the La Fonda. If I remember correctly, that was the same trip we visited the 160 acre D.H. Lawrence Ranch on Lobo Mountain, formerly Kiowa ranch. Mabel Dodge gave Lawrence the 8,600 foot perch for a song.

More like a story.

I heard from a historian that Mabel gifted the ranch to Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, for free. But then Frieda didn’t want to be beholden to Mabel. So she gave Mabel Sons and Lovers as payment for Kiowa. And Mabel later gave the manuscript to a friend in New York as payment to her psychiatrist.

This is what happens to writing. You create it. You let it go. You never know where your writing is going to end up.

The Bonewriters met that fateful weekend in the dining room at Mabel Dodge. There was a birthday cake. I huffed and I puffed and I blew out 3 fat candles. I remember how embarrassed I was. And how excited. Both, at the same time. I knew it was going to be no ordinary writing retreat. And it wasn’t.

Ybonesy came up to me the last day and asked if I wanted to write across the miles, from South to Midwest. Wordraw and I ended up looking at New Mexico real estate outside of Questa where the estimated population in 2003 was 1,927. The 3 of us went swimming with other writers in the Rio Grande. When we sat in silence, I could hear the Fiesta drums pounding from the Plaza into the Zendo where we wrote, hungry, beating skins flying through summer air, down my fast writing pen, and on to the page.

The next 4 days, I wrote in the spaces between reverberating squeals of laughter and pounding toms – present, listening. I didn’t understand what I was listening to. Or for. Only that it had been passed down for generations. It was tradition. A time for celebration. The music was free. You only had to stop what you were doing and pay attention. All you had to do was listen.

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – TAOS

Read Full Post »

A dust of rose blue floated off Taos Mountain. It was hard to see the stars for the full light of the moon. I slushed along in $16.99 calf-high boots I purchased from Walmart after I arrived in Taos. The gray-haired woman bustling around the shoe department seemed harried in her dark blue smock. She wasn’t happy to be working. I resisted the urge to swoop her away. New Mexico in December. I was grateful to be in Taos.

The writing retreat was everything I imagined. Even more. The “more” part is important. Because sitting in silence means making more room. More space to receive. Writing rises out of silence.

I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and got up every morning for meditation. My routine went something like this:

wake up five minutes before alarm goes off, turn the black switch on the Westclox travel alarm to off, plant two feet firmly on the floor, peek out the window to see if the morning light is hitting Taos Mountain, turn on the wobbly brass table lamp beside the twin bed, head to the high ceilinged bathroom, rub the sleep out of my puffy eyes, flush the toilet, stand up, walk to the carved oak dresser and gather my clothes for the day: a pair of Jockey For Her underwear, Hanes cotton bra, a pair of SmartWool socks (made from New Zealand’s specially bred Merino sheep), baggy flannel pants with loose waist, and a long-sleeved cotton T-shirt from Target washed 1000 times.

The shower was one of my favorite parts of the day. I could feel the water hit every cell of my body. The last dark morning of the retreat, I looked up through the slit of window below the adobe ceiling and saw the full moon high and shining between blowing branches of cedar spread low and wide along the outside wall.

I showered by moonlight.

Moisture is what I crave when I go to New Mexico. Water – inside and out. The 7000 foot altitude gives me headaches and dehydrates my body. Or maybe it’s the Taos Hum. I took a long shower every morning. Then I brushed my teeth, slapped Crew Fiber in my hair, dressed, donned a corduroy jacket and Liz’s “Itasca State Park – Mississippi Headwaters” sweatshirt (that smelled like her), and crunched over the frosty ice, across the gravel parking lot, up the wooden stairs, by the black and white sign tacked to a post that said Silent Retreat In Progress, past the Mother Ditch and the giant cottonwood with seven heads, and over to Mabel’s log cabin.

At 7:30, the meditation guide for the morning would say, “Sitting.” And I’d sit for 30 minutes before breakfast. Some days it seemed like 10 hours. Other mornings, I was disappointed when the bell rang – three taps on the rim to start meditation, one to leave the Zendo. Then breakfast.

Breakfast at Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Don’t get me started.

I’d have a large helping of Jane’s scrambled eggs, 3 pieces of sausage (the bacon is too crispy and overdone for me), 2 tablespoons of sweet applesauce to balance the salty meat, 5 to 8 quarter cuts of  honeydew melon, fresh strawberries, a 16 ounce glass of whole milk, a juice glass of OJ, and a medium cup of coffee with half and half.

If there was a special Southwestern breakfast dish, I would add a taste of it to the plate, picking out the bits and slices of mushroom. I love the flavor but hate the rubbery texture. Otherwise, I stuck to my purist routine of scrambled eggs.

After breakfast, I’d slow walk to my room, staring at Taos Mountain against the clearest cerulean sky, unlock the two latches to enter Door 6, use the bathroom, tidy up, floss and brush my teeth, and get ready for the 9:30 sit, walk, write and the dharma talk that followed.

That was my morning routine from Monday to Friday, December 4th to 8th, 2006.

Heaven. It felt like heaven. But Buddhists don’t believe in heaven. There is only practice. Anchoring the mind to breath, tip of tongue, soles of feet, sound, hands.

And emptiness. 
 
Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – TAOS

Read Full Post »