Archive for July, 2007

Part I:

It’s Tuesday evening. I’m not inspired. When I feel this way, I look to other writers and artists to pull me up. We’re all in this together. No need to compete. There is room for everyone. I’m a strong believer in abundance. I feel a spiritual obligation to pay it forward.

I’m thinking about last May. Me, Liz, and two of our friends met for dinner at Acadia Cafe . We were just finishing our meals, when it started to pour. We ran across Nicollet Avenue through the pounding rain (without umbrellas), and sloshed across the parking lot, dodging puddles.

When we finally slipped into a crack between two open doors, we were soaked to the bone: stringy hair, dripping palms, wringing wet. In the soggy line, we handed the smiling ushers our tickets, and stepped into an architectural dream. The place was packed, buzzing with energy. I’ve been meaning to write about that night ever since. But I just didn’t know what to say.

Sometimes things have to sit inside a while. I have to hold them tight to me. Until I know what I’ve got.

Angle, pipe organ, stained glass, inside Plymouth Congregational Church, night of Mary Oliver, May 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Angle, pipe organ, stained glass, inside Plymouth Congregational Church, night of Mary Oliver, May 7th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. 

Part II:

After a glowing introduction, and with a half-smirk that never left her face, Mary Oliver slowly walked up to the podium at Plymouth Congregational Church. Steady and sure, she had me from the first step. She was funny, witty, wise, and sometimes sarcastic. She made me laugh, something I highly value in a writer. She seemed to have lived a long, good life – a life not without sorrow.

She woke me up.

Liz took a few notes that night in a black, 8×10 sketchbook she had hidden deep in her pack. I asked her if I could take a look at it tonight, to help me unearth buried treasure. I chuckled when I saw a little thumb-sized pen and ink sketch of Mary Oliver in Liz’s notebook, near the left corner, by the spiral binding.

It’s a great reproduction of the way Mary looked that night. I wish I could scan and post it. I carry everything the poet said in my heart. But there is something about looking at handwritten lists, thin-lined sketches, and short words on a long page, that jogs the memory.

At the top of the toothy, unlined paper was a list the four of us made, things we wanted to do: go camping together again, hang with pre-Dr. Ruth (the name of one of our friends), ask questions at the end of Mary Oliver, practice pranayama (i.e. don’t forget to breathe), always carry a mint

At the bottom were shards of memory, dots connecting the thin, wispy lines of Mary Oliver to snippets of words from the past.

Part III:

  • Mary Oliver, on the many poems dedicated to the dog, Percy:
    • dogs remind us of the joy of the unexamined life
    • dogs (pets) teach us to appreciate what we’ve lost; it’s the other life we no longer have that we must cherish
  • On advice for writing students:
    • it’s all in the way you live your life
    • be disciplined
    • pay attention!
    • cultivate astonishment and tell about it
    • never use a computer
    • lose your drafts, they are only learning material
  • On poetry
    • poetry carries stories of us, community, culture, nation
    • poetry is one of the bedrocks of culture
    • poetry helps us feel
    • poetry keeps the good stories going and makes us human – from Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person by Mary C. Richards
  • On being sustained in difficult times:
    • reach to be sustained
    • have faith
    • read other poems, other poets
    • remember life is a gift
    • love and work
    • embrace the natural world
  • On writing:
    • keep it simple and clear
    • accessible, no more than what you need
    • have fun cutting away
    • write fast, 30 or 40 drafts
  • On the podium:
    • “Oh, what a nice podium. How nice for the preachers.”
  • On titles:
    • “I have trouble with titles – there’s a Spring in every book.”

  • Epilogue: 

                Writer's Hands, Mary Oliver's hands, signing a copy of Thirst, May 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

               –Writer’s Hands, hands of Mary Oliver, signing a copy of Thirst,
                May 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey.
                All rights reserved.

    At the end of her epic reading, we went out to the lobby to buy books for Mary Oliver to sign. I purchased a CD of Mary reading At Blackwater Pond. Liz purchased Owls and Other Fantasies. We had regretfully left Thirst at home.

    Liz walked up to the table, and opened Owls to an unconventional page for signing. Mary paused, a little taken aback. Liz was quick to recover. “I like this image,” she said.

    “Did you know it’s a photo of a feather?” Mary asked. Liz said, “Oh, no, I didn’t. That’s amazing.”

    There was a pause while Mary ran her pen across the page. I watched from the sidelines. Liz smiled and said, “My Mom’s an Oliver. I like to think we’re related.”

    Mary glowed with an impish grin, handed Liz the book, leaned forward, and I could have sworn she winked when she said, “Let’s say we are.”

    Mary Oliver – On Paying Attention posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

    -thanks to WomenSpirit, The Loft Literary Center, and Plymouth Congregational Church for sponsoring Mary Oliver’s visit to Minneapolis on May 7th, 2007

    -related to post, The Uses Of Sorrow – What Is It About Obituaries

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    By Laura Stokes

    Casa Azul, photo by Laura Stokes 2007, all rights reserved
    Casa Azul, the home where Frida Kahlo was born, lived, and died; July 2007, photo © 2007 by Laura Stokes, all rights reserved.

    Acting on dream and impulse, we found ourselves in Mexico City last weekend at the Frida Kahlo Centennial Celebration at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. I had read about the exhibit but never thought we would go until I told a friend whose passion for Frida is even larger than mine, and somehow momentum took over. So we booked a flight and arrived late on a Friday evening, very hungry after passing on an option to buy “dinner” of potato chips and Mars bars, the current American Airlines cuisine.

    Frida Kahlo Exhibit at Palacio de Bellas Artes, photo by Laura Stokes 2007, all rights reservedThe town was quiet and all the restaurants in the area were closed by 10:30. Our hotel dated from the 17th century when it served as a monastery — old, quaint and spare, as opposed to the luxurious Sheraton across the street where most Americans must have been staying, as we saw only Mexican families in The Cortez. This suited us perfectly and was consistent with our wish to melt into the life of the city. We were pleasantly surprised to see few tourists in the Zocalo, the restaurants, and the museums — selfish of us, I suppose, because I am sure the Mexican economy could use the tourist trade.

    Casa Azul Garden, photo by Laura Stokes 2007, all rights reservedI had expected to be touched and inspired by Frida’s actual work, but so much more came to the surface as I stood in the long queues of Mexicans waiting for this unique opportunity to pay homage to one of their most beloved cultural heroes and icons. The works were chosen to exhibit Frida’s life-long dedication to and use of indigenous Mexican folk traditions and popular arts in her work and lifestyle. And by the snail’s pace of the crowd of visitors as they crept along the walls devouring each word of the descriptions and studiously examining the detail and imagery of her paintings, it was obvious that Frida must have been successful in honestly evoking a genuine connection with her audience. Frida’s reverence for the indigenous people and culture permeated her work and was transmitted to those who could most recognize and appreciate it.

    Partially constructed in Frida’s garden, photo by Laura Stokes 2007, all rights reservedAgain, at Casa Azul, where Frida was born, lived and died, I continued to notice the reverence of the Mexican people for her work The same long lines of Mexicans were there as were at the museum and the same thoughtful and thorough scrutiny of the works and the memorabilia. I was struck with envy and resentment, as I have often been before, at the lack of heritage and story in my own white Anglo-Saxon protestant background, the poverty of tradition and influence and cherishing of what has passed.

    I ponder the social consequences of such a lack of understanding of the significance of belonging to a culture rooted in centuries of custom and tradition and language and how that ignorance and insensitivity is manifested in my own country.

    Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, photo by Laura Stokes 2007, all rights reserved

    Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, July 2007, all photos © 2007 by Laura Stokes, all rights reserved.

    About Laura:  Laura Stokes lives in the Rio Grande valley, outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she works with great passion on matters of peace and social justice. She is also active in her community and with her daughters and granddaughter, who she happens to presently be keeping up with in Ghost Ranch.

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    Las Dos Chicas, doodle © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reserved
    Las Dos Chicas, pen and ink on graph paper, doodle © 2007 by ybonesy.
    All rights reserved.

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    First Strawberry, July 28, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    First Strawberry, out on the deck, July 28th, 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    Liz and I like to plant our perennials in pots on the deck, then transplant them later into the gardens. It gives us the advantage of enjoying a summer full of thriving foliage, bursting blooms, and wispy green stems close to our living space. I am loving gardening like never before. It’s an endless source of pleasure and ground for me.

    It’s also something we do together that makes the humid Minnesota summers bearable (I’m a winter girl all the way). To me, it is gardening, motorcycling, and geocaching that make summer fun. This year, the thing I’ve done the most is gardening and yard work.

    I discovered the first strawberry yesterday in the pots at the top of the stairs. When I photographed it, I noticed the naked white that will soon turn to crimson.

    Saturday, July 28th, 2007

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    For writers and artists, blogs can be a curse and a blessing. A curse when you spend hours of your time clicking your way through one blog then another, all the while not getting to the essay or the canvas or the slow walking, sitting, or writing practice. A blessing when you find like-minded souls and inspiration in the works they publish.

    These two blogs have been a blessing for us at red Ravine: Walking Turcot Yards documents the author’s relationship with “the world’s largest abandoned space,” Turcot Yards in the south west of Montreal. (neath of Walking Turcot Yards also provides these photoblog links to other unusual and highly inspirational sites, including d e s o l a t e   m e t r o p o l i s.) Anuvue Studio is written by Heather, who says in one of her posts that “‘normal’ isn’t part of my vocabulary.” Normal isn’t part of her imagery, either.

    One theme that stands out in both blogs is “abandoned.” Abandoned buildings, playgrounds, homes. Abandoned industrial areas and overpasses. The photos evoke dreams of yellow-lit tunnels, desolate desert, wind whistling through broken glass. Being abandoned — such a dreadful thought. And yet, here are these left-for-good places, living on while the rest of us think they’re dead.

    What does the word “abandoned” mean to you? What feelings does it bring up? Take a tour through these six images. As soon as you’re done, write a ten-minute practice on Abandoned is…


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    When I look at the photograph of Remington’s studio, I don’t see clutter. I see inspiration. I imagine that every object held meaning for him and inspired him to paint. And write. He was a prolific writer and artist.

    Objects have power. Energy. Drive. Objects evoke memories. Memories connect to the heart. The heart stirs passion.

    When I had a studio in the Ford Building in the heart of the warehouse district, then in Northrup-King in Northeast, it had the same kind of feel; I surrounded myself with sensual objects.

    At any one time in my art studio you could find:

    • rusty wheel hubs to photograph (decay is inspiring)
    • bags of cattail leaves and day lilies (to beat into handmade paper)
    • hanging replicas of human spines bought from a specialty store at the Mall of America (to study and create my own clay models of backbones)
    • clear, rectangular, plastic bags of red clay from Minnesota Clay
    • rolling pins, camel’s hair brushes, lime plastic triangles, heavy wooden rulers, every size
    • butterfly & moth wings gathered from their dead corpses, a lynx tail from a fur trapper given to me by a friend, a tawny snapping turtle shell the size of two breadbaskets
    • photographs of sandhill cranes flying in formation over the Platte River in Nebraska
    • an easel, a life-size black & white mural print of me & my art classmates taken by a locally famous photographer
    • brown suitcase from the 50’s with brass hardware filled with old magazines (images for inspiration)
    • candles, a Taos drum and rattle I bought at the pueblo in the 80’s
    • fine-lined Staedtler ink pens, two shoeboxes full of Grumbacher acrylic paint tubes, a black leather portfolio of black & white photographs
    • sandpaper in all grains, Craftsman screwdrivers, a small metal hammer, brass nails, steel tacks, a hand-rivet fastener, odorless paint thinner, miscellaneous cans of spray paint, cardboard stencil set, hanging lines of tiny beads from Bearhawk Indian Store, a small red sewing kit containing thread, scissors, buttons, needles, that my ex-partner’s parents brought me from a trip to China
    • rusty woodstove parts from a half-buried, half-exposed land dump (everyone did this on farms back then) on the land of an artist friend’s grandmother in Thief River Falls
    • rolled and stained, off-white canvas with ragged edges (used to roll out clay tiles)
    • stretched canvas for painting, erasers of every type, size, texture
    • red framed metal shelves, loaded with art books, giant hooks and pulleys, top shelf full of antique cameras, bottom shelf with a plaster mold of the snapping turtle shell that I used to make a papermaking sculpture (that mold is the coolest; I still have it)
    • plaster mold of my face (at 39) when I still had the 2 moles on my cheeks, fewer wrinkles, and more time ahead of me
    • 1 bees wax & 1 red clay cast of my face from that same plaster mold

    The list could go on and on and on. But I’m running out of time. What I want to say about Remington’s studio is that the objects I am drawn to are his easel with the half finished painting, the round drum on the square wooden stand, the leather chaps lined up in a row on the wall, and the round-edged hat hanging almost smack dab in the center.

    I imagine that hat on his head when he had lunch with Teddy Roosevelt. And I get a hunger to visit the Badlands.

    Thursday, July 26th, 2007

    -10 minute practice on Topic post, Remington’s Studio

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    Rein Nomm is an artist who works with water-soluble dyes and raw egg to create a visual feast of color. I saw a poster on his Flickr site for an upcoming show in Plymouth, Michigan. You can check out his Flickr profile at nomm de photo.

    His photographs are best viewed in their original size. And be sure to stop by the Plymouth Community Arts Council Gallery if you are going to be in Michigan over the next month.

    If Michigan doesn’t fall into the geographic latitude/longitude of your part of the world, Flickr might be the next best thing to being there.

    Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

    Fluid Moments Show

    Image originally uploaded by nomm de photo

    Links to three of my favorites:   Out of the Blue, Primal Fire, Overwhelmed

    note:  first viewed Rein Nomm’s work in the Flickr group Art is Art

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    Breakfast At Beto’s, doodle © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reserved
    Breakfast at Beto’s, pen and ink on graph paper, doodle © 2007
    by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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    By Annelise

    It was a good day for this writer. I spent time this afternoon talking to a college classmate. I’m the secretary of the class, and write the classnotes in the alumni magazine. I didn’t know this woman when we were in school together, but she welcomed my call.

    “What have you been up to since graduation?” I asked.

    Timing is everything. On July 9th, she’d received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit – one of the highest honors given to non-citizens by the German government. The award, generally given to diplomats and government officials, was awarded to her for the contribution to international goodwill accomplished by hosting 22 exchange students! Fifteen of the young men had initiated the nomination, given by the president of Germany. (It could only be given to one person, though her husband was equally praised.)

    “On our 25th anniversary, my husband and I had a starter house, no children and a dog,” she tells me. “We decided to take in a foreign student.” She taught fourth grade, but neither she nor her husband knew a thing about teenagers. They now have 22 “sons” who have become family.

    “Number 15 is coming back this summer to be married to his high-school sweetheart,” she says proudly. “He’s asked me to do a reading. Maybe I’ll wear the Cross,” she laughs.

    Based on her “learn as you go” record, my classmate ran for mayor of her town (no previous political experience) after she retired from teaching. Now in her ninth year, she’s a great success. The town of 7500 is thriving, with shops and restaurants, an art gallery – and a movie theater that offers two shows a day for $2.50. Restoration of the town’s historic façade and streetscape is about to begin.

    I haven’t always been so enthusiastic about my college or my class. I didn’t attend the reunions for a number of years. I did, however, check out the classnotes when the alumni magazine arrived. I was often annoyed by the lack of substance in the reports. “I’m the president of my trade association.” “I’m enjoying golf and my grandchildren.” “I’m tracing my ancestry.”

    What happened to the teachers and social workers and ministers who graduated with me? We were politically motivated by the Civil Rights movement and John F. Kennedy. We were among the first to join the Peace Corps. What are my classmates thinking, I wondered. Where are the stories?

    Classnotes detail, photo by Annelise, July 21, 2007I went to a reunion ten years ago and declared that it was mandatory that the class secretary correspond via e-mail to maximize contact with classmates and expand the subject matter via more personal contact. I got elected. I started calling and interviewing people. I also sent out questions for discussion to people on my growing list of e-mail addresses — questions like: “Is your political affiliation the same or different from your parents? Why?” “What do you make of Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth?” “Do you participate in ‘lifelong learning’?”

    What do people who were in the same place as I once was think and do now? Lots, I think as I write the stories.

    About Annelise:  Annelise is a writer who lives with her husband in a converted downtown Chicago storefront/building that used to be site of a legendary bar in the area. Her daughter, son-in-law, and their children live adjacent in a separate yet connected space.

    Annelise says this about writing:  I have never had any professional training in writing. My writing career just evolved. After organizing an ethnic cooking school, I wrote articles on the subject. That led to being a magazine food editor. I did a stint in PR, then spent 15 years writing health and nutrition materials for the general public and co-authored three books. Most recently, I have been “writer-in-residence” for a small company that does sensory-based food product development. I write articles, presentations, and promotional materials, plus I run the website. I also participate in what our company calls “innovation sessions,” where we do exactly that — brainstorm, generate ideas, innovate. Using those sessions as a launching point, I create concepts to move the company forward. You might say that I’m more creative now, in this phase of my life, than I’ve ever been before.

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    Near the end of the evening, I felt like posting something. I looked at my book case and grabbed Kerouac’s On the Road. I’ve been wanting to read it for years. But there it sits, untouched. Occasionally, I pick the book up and roll the soft cover over in my hands, take my time running through the bio; I never read the book.

    Tonight started out the same. I ran across a quote I liked and was going to post. But then something strange happened. I opened the book to a place near the end, the beginning of Part 4, and started to read.

    He’s got my attention. I’m listening. And I think I might just finish the book.

    “That’s only Ed Dunkle. He came back from Galatea, they’re gone to Denver now. They spent a day taking pictures.”

    Ed Dunkle, his compassion unnoticed like the compassion of saints. Dean took out other pictures. I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance. “Good-by, good-by.” Dean walked off in the long red dusk. Locomotives smoked and reeled above him. His shadow followed him, it aped his walk and thoughts and very being. He turned and waved coyly, bashfully. He gave me the boomer’s highball, he jumped up and down, he yelled something I didn’t catch. He ran around in a circle. All the time he came closer to the concrete corner of the railroad overpass. He made one last signal. I waved back. Suddenly he bent to his life and walked quickly out of sight. I gaped into the bleakness of my own days. I had an awful long way to go too.

    The following midnight, singing this little song,

    Home in Missoula,
    Home in Truckee,
    Home in Opelousas,
    Ain’t no home for me.
    Home in old Medora,
    Home in Wounded Knee,
    Home in Ogallala,
    Home I’ll never be,

    I took the Washington bus; wasted some time there wandering around; went out of my way to see the Blue Ridge, heard the bird of Shenandoah and visited Stonewall Jackson’s grave; at dusk stood expectorating in the Kanawha River and walked the hillbilly night of Charleston, West Virginia; at midnight Ashland, Kentucky, and a lonely girl under the marquee of a closed-up show. The dark and mysterious Ohio, and Cincinnati at dawn. Then Indiana fields again, and St. Louis as ever in its great valley clouds of afternoon. The muddy cobbles and the Montana logs, the broken steamboats, the ancient signs, the grass and the ropes by the river. The endless poem. By night Missouri, Kansas fields, Kansas night-cows in the secret wides, crackerbox towns with a sea for the end of every street; dawn in Abilene. East Kansas grasses become West Kansas rangelands that climb up to the hill of the Western night.

            -excerpt from On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Part Four, end of 1, beginning of 2, p. 254-255, Penguin Books

    In my old age, I intend to collect all my work and reinsert my pantheon of uniform names, leave the long shelf full of books there, and die happy.   

         – Jack Kerouac

    Submissive to everything, open, listening.   

      – Jack Kerouac, from Belief & Technique for Modern Prose

    -related to post, Kerouac Goes To War

    Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

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    Mercedes Trees, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 20, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    Mercedes Trees, near Lake Calhoun, South Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 20, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    A few days ago, we did a post on Everyday Art. A lot’s happened since then. I added the tag to my Flickr account and ybonesy set up a Flickr account with her drawings and photographs. She was going to add a Flickr group called Everyday Art but, alas, someone beat her to it. So we both joined AgentOdd’s group Everyday Art as the 3rd and 4th members.

    This is my first post in our Everyday Art category on red Ravine. There is so much going on around us in the everyday world at our feet. You don’t have to go far from home. Just be open to another way of seeing.

    There’s a book called Ways of Seeing by John Berger. If you haven’t read it, it’s thin, short, sweet, and chock full of insight into the way we look at our world. The visual has a big impact. Writing is a visual medium, just like art.

    If you want to see more of our images, photographs, and art, click on our Flickr accounts under QuoinMonkey and ybonesy. And check out our Flickr Contacts. There is a whole community of artists, photographers, graphic designers, and endless creatives from every country on the planet. Whole worlds open up.

    Saturday, July 21st, 2007

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    What have we done with them? Stuck them in closets? The backyard? Where, oh, where are red Ravine guest writers and artists?

    Well, we keep a sidebar widget — Guest Writers & Featured Artists — that has guests from the past three months. Guests whose posts are older than three months are rotated off the widget. You can still locate their pieces, however, by clicking on either the Guestwriter or Guestartist link under the Contributors sidebar widget. It’s a bit confusing, yes, but given the limitations of our WordPress template, it’s at least workable.

    So, our April guests are now located within the Contributors widget, and come August 1, our May guests will be there, too. Stop in and say hello once in a while. Otherwise it gets lonely in there.

    And, just to remind you how brilliant, exciting, and provocative our guests are, here are links to our April sojourners:

    Also, while we’re on the topic of Guest Writers & Featured Artists, red Ravine will soon be coming out with new submission guidelines so we can continue to solicit and publish writing and art from friends and strangers alike — kindred spirits of all stripes. Watch for those guidelines in the coming weeks. And if you just can’t wait until then, drop us a line at info@redravine.com anytime to find out how you can become a guest on red Ravine.

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    So Ugly It’s Beautiful, mask detail, photo by ybonesy, July 19, 2007Ever notice how artists and designers surround themselves with beautiful things? Not necessarily fine arts, but beautiful everyday things. Found objects or practical objects with a flair. Out-of-the-ordinary salt and pepper shakers, plain-yet-colorful plates, vintage scarves, oddly shaped rocks, pieces of gnarly wood. Do you save great-looking postcards just because they’re great looking? Or buy cheap-but-handsome trinkets and souvenirs? If so, you probably have an artist’s eye — that certain aesthetic sense.

    Zigs and Zags, Mexican rug detail, photo by ybonesy, July 19, 2007To celebrate The Beauty of the Little Things, we have a new category on red Ravine called Everyday Art. We’ll upload photos of the objects in our lives that are striking, unusual, luminous. To remind us that you don’t have to have a lot of money or hold a big job with a fancy design firm to enjoy beauty in your every day.

    Update: Last night QM and I stumbled across a new group on flickr called Everyday Art. Click here to check it out. Synchronicity…

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    By Shira

    The Discovery of Poetry
    dedicated to Joan Logghe (but only my own responsibility)

    You who are not imagination impaired
    Imagine a life without poetry
    A tea party set with sweet dainty biscuits, delicate cups of tea and no guests
    A single bed in a grey-walled boarding house

    Imagine a world without music or song
    Monotone monologues, precise words with logical meanings
    Meanings exactly as they sound.
    No more

    Imagine logic and testtubes for wall decorations
    Dark plaid skirts on a little girl because they don’t show dirt

    Imagine no home for longing and no place for love
    A brown paper bag hiding death and anger
    Matching table cloths, napkins, dinner plates and cups

    You who love poetry
    Don’t need a telephone or master
    Friendship, wisdom and laughter
    lie as close as your pocket
    and your shelf.

    She Loved Rosebushes and Fruit Trees
    (a pantoum)

    Four rosebushes line the path
    The lemon tree she planted
    Straight stairs up to the doorway
    At 90 she still climbs

    The lemon tree she planted
    The house with ripe plums and apricots
    At 90 she still climbs
    Freeway’s steel stole her cherished home

    The house with ripe plums and apricots
    The California Dream
    Freeway’s steel stole her cherished home
    Far from the Old Country

    The California Dream
    Home of young Jewish men for her daughter to marry
    Far from the Old Country
    My mother slept above the dressing room

    Home of young Jewish men for her daughter to marry
    The retail shop in Ocean Park
    My mother slept above the dressing room
    No quiet place to study

    The retail shop in Ocean Park
    Worth the ocean crossing
    No quiet place to study
    Always reading books

    Worth the ocean crossing
    Wishes for a better life
    Always reading books
    A one bedroom apartment

    Wishes for a better life
    Some granted, some not
    A one bedroom apartment
    As frugal as my grandpa

    Some granted, some not
    Straight stairs up to the doorway
    As frugal as my grandpa
    Four rosebushes line the path

    About Shira:  Shira lives in New Mexico and wrote these poems, her first, at Ghost Ranch in a poetry workshop taught by poet Joan Logghe. 

    Of the workshop, Shira said:  The workshop was as much about appreciating poetry as it was writing poetry. Our teacher mostly referred to the teachings of Robert Bly and Natalie Goldberg. Joan read to us poems by many poets that deeply inspired her, both structured and unstructured forms. Each time we wrote, we would first do a brief meditation then write in ten to fifteen minute writing blocks. Then we read out loud. The students ranged from very experienced poets with Masters degrees to those who’d never written a word in our lives. I was inspired by the group and our teacher. I also appreciated the kind of feedback we did, which was “Recall,” where listeners repeated back certain lines that resonated. It was a way of saying that something was good without actually inserting judgment into the process.

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    Sunflowers, growers market, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    -Sunflowers, July 2007, growers market, Albuquerque, NM, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    ybonesy: What is it about being able to hang out in person with someone who you normally do so much with — write, start a blog, plan and produce — via telephone and email?

    QuoinMonkey: Oh, it was such a relief to be able to just sit and have a cup of Joe on the patio in the morning, instead of having to plan for different schedules and time zones. I also got to see your expressions and your smile. And the space where you live. It was so relaxed.

    Room With A View, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. yb: Yeah, I felt the same way! We never seem to have time to just hang out, get to know each other better. Although, after writing with you for how many years now, I feel I know a lot *about* you. Is that the same as knowing you, though?

    QM: That’s the question of the century. I used to think you could know someone through writing practice. But all you really know is the inner workings of their mind. Not who they are day-to-day. That’s what made it so great to be able to hang out together in the same town. And to do day-to-day things, as well as planning for the future of red Ravine.

    yb: I’m glad you met my family and vice versa. They liked you a lot. The candy surprises you left the girls helped ;-). Really, though, Jim doesn’t get to talk motorcycles with any of my other friends. I’m curious, after “hearing” about them all these years through my writing, are they what you expected?

    Emerald & Rose, the backyard, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. QM:  LOL. That Liz, she was so thoughtful to remind me to bring a little something for the girls. I loved talking motorcycles with Jim. He’s so knowledgeable and hands-on. If we lived in the same town, I’d sure love to take the bikes out sometime. I know from experience that my Honda Rebel can even keep up with a Harley!

    Your family is a delight – even better than the way I pictured them from your writing. Honestly, I had a pretty good idea about each one of them from the details of your writing practices over the years. But now the visual is grounded in something solid. A whole new realm.

    Cherries Of Gold, growers market, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  yb: It was good for them to get to know you, too. I just wish you could have stayed longer. I would have liked to do some writing practice with you. This is the first time we’ve been together in person where we didn’t do writing practice, right?

    QM: Right, I kept thinking we’d have time to practice. But it took us quite a while just to catch up on my week in Taos and your week at Ghost Ranch. I think we were both so excited about our work. And then there was the need to do some planning for the blog. Next time, I’d make it a 3-day weekend, if you could stand me that long. 8)

    yb: Absolutely!! Hey, I realized when I dropped you off at the airport that you were going to be starved by the time you boarded your plane. I should have sent you with plums from the grower’s market, at least. Did you get to eat at the airport?

    Swirl, growers market, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  QM: Ah, the grower’s market was great. Everything went like clockwork that day, didn’t it? I checked my baggage and went straight to the gate. There was a Quiznos right there. But after I stood in line, I realized the heat had shrunk my appetite and I wasn’t hungry enough for a sub. So I grabbed a bag of Sun Chips and a chocolate chip cookie which I only ate half of because I’d forgotten that Liz had arranged a bump up to First Class (for the same price). They fed me a full meal half way into the flight.

    All this to say, not to worry! I came home quite satisfied. Oh, BTW, what was it you made Saturday night? Homemade enchiladas? They were so good. Where did you say you learned to cook?

    yb: Oh yeah, those were enchiladas. With an egg on top. (The way the locals eat ’em.) My mom taught me how to make the red chile from pods. Everything I make that’s any good, it’s because my mom taught me. Next time you come, bring Liz. We like having visitors.

    Retablo, Chair, Broom, on the back patio, Albuquerque, NM, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  QM:  I will be back to New Mexico in the not too distant future. Of that I am sure. Liz and I have been wanting to get away together for some time. With her in school and me traveling as much as I have for my writing, it’s been about 3 years since we took a week off together. So maybe next time we’ll come through New Mexico!

    You know, I was thinking this morning that in 2008, I want to take a writer’s retreat in northern Minnesota. Or maybe a few hours north in Duluth. Then my mind extrapolated and thought, why not invite ybonesy? We could have shared time together and then separate time to write alone.

    Or you could paint the North Shore, which is stunning. It’s all about the water here in Minnesota. What do you think?

    Hey, I was also wondering, now that you’ve had time to sit with your week at Ghost Ranch, how do you think it changed your painting and writing? Or even your idea of the direction you want to head on red Ravine. What do you think was the biggest thing to come out of our meeting?

    Bamboo, Wings, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  yb: I love that idea! I’d like to do a retreat somewhere outside NM, and I want to see your part of the world, too.

    Let’s see, on your two questions, Ghost Ranch gave me the opportunity to dedicate an entire week to my painting and to see that yes, I am an artist. I have all the experiences inside me. I rarely devote that much time all at once to producing, so the gift was having the time, the materials, inspired teachers and students, and a beautiful setting. It all came together.

    And our meeting, well, I think I realized how much I gain from having creative people in my life who I can talk to about writing and art. Our conversation generated good ideas for my own work as well as for the work we’re doing together. That’s huge. Inspiration is huge. How about you? What do think was the biggest thing?

    QM: Hmmm. I felt really comfortable in Taos this time. I was tired from the work I was doing, but the experience and Apricot Green, over the patio, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. learnings were deep. On the Twin Hearts shuttle between Taos and Albuquerque, I realized I need to do a writing retreat in 2008. Give myself time to go somewhere alone or with a few trusted writing friends. It was the first time I had that feeling so strongly.

    (BTW, there were only two of us on the 11a.m. shuttle from Mabel’s in Taos, and I was the only person after we passed Santa Fe! It felt like a limo!)

    About our meeting, the biggest thing was to bounce creative ideas and projects off a trusted writer, artist, and friend. The road is a hard one. And it’s difficult to find a person who not only shares a mutal vision and is willing to do the work, but supports me in my individual projects and dreams. I’m so awake to that kind of listening. And you want to know the biggest and most simple thing? I ask questions about your life and you ask questions about mine. It’s an equal exchange. Refreshing!

    Shadow Shifting, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    -Shadow Shifting, July 2007, Albuquerque, NM, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

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    Em Holding Baby Turkey, photo by ybonesy on July 17, 2007
    Em Holding Baby Turkey, photo by ybonesy on July 17, 2007, photos © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

    Jim and the girls almost had me fooled when they told me that baby turkeys are called “turklets.” So I googled the word “turklet” and found this entry in Urban Dictionary:

     turklet isn’t defined yet, but these are pretty close:

    1. gobblet  
      A baby male turkey. As opposed to a turklet, which can be either male or female.

    I would kill that turkey, but think of its poor gobblets.


    Our brown girl turkey, Eagle Eye, has six freshly hatched babes, and our slate gray turkey, Azul, is sitting on another eight or so eggs. We might end up with a “rafter” of turkeys, which, in case you’re not familiar with that word, it’s what you call a bunch of turkeys.

    Oh, and baby turkeys — they’re actually called “poults.” Here’s a link that tells you what other animal babies are called, now that you’re surely dying to know that information.

    Eagle Eye with her Babies, photo by ybonesy, July 17, 2007

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     Taos Mountain In Summer, July 2007, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    Taos Mountain In Summer, July 2007, behind Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

    Taos Mountain summer
    wraps hard rain around soft bows
    I’m drenched to the bone

    black clouds in blue sky
    slatted swing over the ditch
    creaks slowly, I write

    rain crawls through roof cracks
    gusts blow open my notebook
    words scatter to wind

    cottonwood splashes
    through the lens, afternoon rain
    breaks open the sky

    end of a long day
    in the middle of summer
    I start to wake up

    green sky through laced glass
    and a mourning dove’s red eye
    swallows the noon sun

    walking the back path
    Mabel smiles from the window
    I wink and then nod

    black spider shimmers
    cottonwood squeezes soft wind
    through a glistening web

    sweat drips from my arm
    I don’t sit like the mountain
    the sun sits on me

    Lawrence and Brett stroke
    painted windows in the light
    camel hair bristles

    the Pink House once held
    summer rain, live wires that dodge
    breakfast at Mabel’s

    fancy dancers run
    lightning drips through the pow wow
    under Taos Mountain

    Monday, July 16th, 2007

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