Archive for May, 2007

Some consider Memorial Day the first weekend of summer. At red Ravine, we’re celebrating spring and summer by sliding in a new masthead.

Thanks to Wallinga Design, the logotype and tagline pop against a palette of bright lemon yellow. The photograph in the masthead is a detail of the larger image below, Yellow Rose. It’s a telephoto shot in natural light on our deck, straight into the petals from the Ecuadorian roses I gave Liz a few weeks ago.

The logotype font is Dead History. For more details, see our About red Ravine page under the section on red Ravine Graphics & Design.

Those who handle the administration and graphics “behind the front page” know the kind of detail work that goes into maintaining a blog on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. We are grateful to those with the expertise to make our behind-the-scenes work a little easier.

Happy Summer. Walk to the bottom.

           Yellow Rose, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

           –Yellow Rose, May 9th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey,
             all rights reserved

Monday, May 28th, 2007

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It’s the day before I leave on a two week trip to Georgia and Pennsylvania to do some research for my book. A memoir. I talked to my mother this morning, a short check in before I fly out tomorrow. I told her I am keeping my heart and mind open and looking forward to the time I will get to spend with her. Since we live in different towns, different states, the visits become important. Every minute counts.

I’ll be excavating information, excavating lives and people and roots and history. Untangling loose ends. I don’t remember so many things that my mother remembers about the South. And I have my own memories that I now get to ask her questions about. I just thought of that Baldwin quote from that 1973 interview with Nikki Giovanni:

“Because the responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him. The act of writing is the intention of it; the root of its liberation.”

Liz is down in the garden, pulling a few last minute weeds. I’m having French Roast on the deck. The clouds have lifted and the sun is peering through the oaks and ash that surround the house. It’s quiet. All the garden and yard work we did yesterday made my back sore. I’m no spring chicken anymore. In fact, wasn’t it just this morning I was noticing the spaciness of hormonal shifts and laughing about them with my mother? She confirms the craziness of aging because she walked it before me. More history. More bones.

I’m thinking of ybonesy near Taos with her father on their annual pilgrimage. Soon my mother and I will visit the graves of close loved ones and distant relatives in Georgia and South Carolina. We always go to my Aunt Cassie’s and my Grandmother Elise’s gravesites. I visit with them quietly there, spread out on the grass, and ask Mom the questions I might not have asked before. For me, this is memoir – excavating memories. Questing for truth. I want to hear her stories. And skirt the edges of the places I’ve come from.

There may be Myrtle Beach and Savannah. I’ve never been to Savannah. What writers are from Savannah? Flannery O’Connor for one. Maybe we’ll walk past the Cathedral of St. John, the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Georgia, and then one block south is where Flannery grew up. Maybe some of my relatives know of her. Maybe not.

I’m sad to be leaving Liz for so long. And our gardens and home. And Mr. Stripeypants, Kiev, and Chaco. I am fortunate to have a partner that understands. She is loving and supportive of me and my writing. She gets what it takes. I’m lucky that way.

I am lucky for a lot of reasons. I feel a great abundance in my life this morning that is hard to describe. This practice doesn’t do it justice. And there are next to no details. It’s mostly about feelings. And anticipation. And gratitude. For everything that has led me here.

Mom said my step-dad had read a piece on the blog and said, “I didn’t know she felt that way. I didn’t know she had positive memories of that time.” It’s true. Some of my memories used to make me sad. But I’ve done tons of work. It’s in the past. The river keeps flowing. And on the first day of summer, it feels like these steely memories make me who I am. Some writer from the Northwest and Southeast and Northeast who now lives in the Midwest. And once in a while, travels back for a visit.

Monday, May 28th, 2007

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Evening clouds from the patio, ybonesy 2007, all rights reserved

Every evening the clouds gather. I read in the newspaper today the question on people’s minds is, Is this the monsoons? No, the meterologists say, the monsoons don’t come until July. The weather is cooler, cooler than average. This is the fourth wettest May in Albuquerque since 1913, I read yesterday.

I’m living in the new house. It was such a drawn out move. I had time to mourn our little house, then get tired of it, then finally almost hate the sight of it. Now I walk out on the patio and see the Sandias. Before I moved to this place I couldn’t see the mountains for the trees. It’s louder where I live now. I hear the city, the sirens that make all the dogs in the vicinity howl. The trucks that shift into low gear as they climb the hill. I wonder what this place was like before any big boulevards were even there. I wonder if the original family moved when civilization encroached.

I should put links in this piece, but I know I won’t. What to link? I’m writing it almost like a practice anyway. I’m starved for writing. We don’t have internet connectivity yet at the new place, so I have to come to cafes to get connected. For the past four days, you can find me parked outside a cafe with my computer screen glowing pale green in my face. I must look ghoulish to anyone walking past the car. But most times I’ve wanted to connect, it’s been late. Bands playing in the cafes, lots of people. It’s quiet in my car, and besides, I’ll be back online Tuesday.

Right now the sky is pretty clear. I have a feeling it’s not going to rain tonight. I have a feeling the clouds won’t even gather as much as they have been. Maybe they’ve been called to a convention in Amarillo. Who knows. What do clouds do when they’re not hanging out around here?

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I am sitting on a burgundy leather couch in the Satellite coffee shop. I used to come here and write with a small group of people, we did Bones-style writing, and I remember how much the music bothered me. Today, now, it’s a bluesy piece with an organ played low and a woman’s smoky voice. Lounge music. It all sounds the same to me. I wish they’d turn the volume down just a hair or two.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day observed. I think Wednesday might be the real Memorial Day. Is it May 30? I go tomorrow with Dad to Costilla, to the graveyard where his mom and dad are buried. It’s our tradition for this day. I told someone about this and she said, Isn’t Memorial Day for soldiers who’ve died? I don’t know, I told her. All I know is this is what we do, me and Dad. Not always, but for the past several years. Maybe seven or eight, I don’t know. Dad has done it for a long time. I joined him back when I realized it was a time to get to know Dad better. To get to know where he came from. I spent so much time knowing Mom and her parents. Dad’s were dead by the time any of us came around.

And now that musician with the head of curls, the one that Julia Roberts married for a while. What’s his name? That’s who’s playing over the speaker now, and I’m trying to think what I might have to say about Memorial Day that this song is preventing me from getting to. Nothing, perhaps. Nothing except Memorial Day seems to have become a holiday for grilling steaks or hamburgers, drinking beer. Opening up the pool. That’s fine. It’s good to have a day off, and for most people, when they have a chance to finally sit back and not think of much of anything, they think about their grandparents or parents or uncles or whoever it is that’s passed on and out of their lives.

Dad will meet me at my house at 7 in the morning. The girls went home tonight with Mom. This is about the first chance I’ve had to just sit down and write. To check on the blog. To do much of anything besides unpacking and organizing and staining those cabinet doors I took off the cupboard below the bathroom sink over a month ago. And now we’re living in the new house, things are all over the floor, paintings and photos. We have so much stuff. I thought we were getting rid of things along the way but somehow we didn’t lose enough.

And now an upbeat song by one of those young female vocalists like Avril Lagrine, or whatever her name is. I keep thinking my alarm has gone off, there’s so much noise in here now. Someone ordered an icy drink, the blender is blending, and the guitar accompanying the singer is going wild. I suddenly feel a sense of melancholy. Like maybe these trips I take for granted aren’t going to last forever. Dad is 83, and as I left him today after dropping off the girls I noticed the tremor in his hand was worse than ever. I love that man so much. Isn’t it just like life that you realize how much you love someone as the time they have left with you starts to get small, like a dot in the distance as you move away.

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-Shadows, May 26, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Shadows, May 26, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

She planted the deck flowers: tickseed, Meadow Cranesbill geraniums, Oranges and Lemons, red poppies, Fragoo Pink strawberries, and leaf lettuce in the garden. In between: cloudy gray rain, fall gusts, striated slats of sun, stunned clouds propelled by 25mph winds. It doesn’t feel like summer. Drove by the cemetery to see 100’s of flags in honor of Memorial Day. Thought of the uncle I lost in Vietnam

Listened to NPR, a show on Cody, Wyoming, about America and hunting and killing. The man being interviewed said if a person goes out to hunt only to pull the trigger, he’s not a hunter – he’s a killer.

I listened carefully and thought about the practice of hunting: waiting in the fog and misty rain, stalking the herd, firing the rifle, skinning and quartering the elk, packing the meat out of wilderness in three, 11-mile hikes, then on to the table for food.

Ancient ritual. Shared generation to generation.

I visited with a friend. I watched a movie with Liz on the couch. The hours fly by. Everything is green. We looked at Liz’s aerial photos from her trip to Cody last weekend. Around the Snake and Cheyenne, lime patches twist and turn next to the furrowed Big Horn Basin. The prairie in the distance is a rusty chocolate mixture of dry glacial ruts against puffy blue skies.

The view over Minnesota – bedazzling emerald streaks and anthropomorphic sky puddles amount to corn and cattails and soybeans and thousands of widemouthed lakes.

Dragonfly landed on the porch next to the screen door. “Grab your camera,” Liz said. Snap, snap, snap. Dragonflies were flying when dinosaurs roamed the earth – 300 million years of history, sitting on the doorstep.

-Aerial, May 26, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Aerial, May 26, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

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Icon Painting, May 19th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Icon Painting, May 19th, 2007, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

A week ago, I was at Art-A-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis, where I spent most of the time in the Casket Arts Building (see Casket Arts Photoblog).  ybonesy asked in a comment if the building had a funeral home during the time it was a casket factory.

The answer is no. But what I did find out was there were whole floors of needle-clad seamstresses who sewed quilted silk liners and cushions for the caskets.

I had pictured the factory as mostly men, a likely scenario for woodworking factories during the late 1800’s. According to John, one of the owners, that’s far from true. He said he thought the energy of the building was so good because of all the women that were there every day, honing their craft.

No funeral home. Mostly women. The building produced custom made caskets up until it was sold a few years ago.

I could imagine it – a woman of the time taking great pride in her needlework softening the loss of a family member (and the ride to the other side). John also said that some of the rosewood and cherry leftover from building the caskets had been used to patch the floors up on the 4th level. They discovered it when they sanded and refinished them.

I don’t know about you, but details like this light up my nights. The history of century-old people and architecture gives me something to hold on to, a thread of continuity, a place to stand. Buildings are living, breathing places we walk in and out of every day. We spend so much time there. We take them for granted.

      All That Glitters, May 19th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Pigment, May 19th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

      Mary, May 19th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Origins, May 19th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. 

One of the best parts of Art-A-Whirl was walking down the street a few blocks to St. Mary’s Russian Greek Orthodox Catholic Church built in 1905. Haunting melodies echoed between solid oak doors and out into the late afternoon sun. I couldn’t help but imagine some of the casket workers from the early 1900’s walking down to a summer service.

As part of their participation in last Saturday’s community art event, St. Mary’s had been giving painting lessons on iconography . Rows of jars of handground pigments graced a short table at the entrance to the service. When we arrived, they were breaking for a 30 minute service. Incense filled the air.

The man who established the church, Rev. Alexis Toth, was a rebel. What artist wouldn’t like that? The history is rich. You can read the whole account in New Advent. 

Here’s a snippet:

The first great impulse to the establishment of the Russian Church in the United States on a large scale was given in 1891, when the late Rev. Alexis Toth, then a Ruthenian Greek Catholic priest in Minneapolis, disobeyed the instructions of Archbishop Ireland and, when threatened with a recall to his native country, left his parish, went to San Francisco, turned Orthodox, and submitted to Bishop Nicholas, and on returning to Minneapolis took over his whole parish to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The guy was on fire. And so were the artists I supported last weekend. I had a peaceful evening, full of art, friends, and the creative spirit. At the risk of sounding overly romantic, these kinds of connections sustain me.

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

-see Because Sometimes Catholicism *Is* Scary for another perspective

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Chewing Gum Doodle, ybonesy 2007, all rights reserved

This week sit outside one morning. Take your notebook and pen and your coffee or tea or glass of water. Drink the whole thing. Take your time. Try not to think as you sit. Use the time to clear your mind of all the thoughts that invade. Use the time to just be. Notice how the drink tastes. Notice what’s in front of you and around you.

Then open your notebook and make a list of topics you want to write about. Anything. As many as you can think of. I’m not even going to give you examples. But do me a favor: share some of them via the comments. One or two or the whole list if you want. We’d like to use some for red Ravine as the year goes on. Your inspiration and our own.

Thank you, and have a safe weekend.

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