Archive for July, 2007

bikini BC71 Greeting Card, http://www.lipinternational.com/Something about the time of year we got married. Thick of the summer. Vacations and camps and just plain heat stroke, but Jim and I recently forgot, again, our wedding anniversary.

This is a streak now. Multiple years of forgetting. No flowers. No gift. Not even a card.

It started with our fifth, which we “celebrated” by watching a water softener demonstration. We should have been out having a nice dinner; instead we were standing at our kitchen sink thumbing a stream of water as if it were fine silk. “How does that feel,” the Culligan lady asked, and we both ooh’ed and aah’ed at the velvety softness of our normally hard water. She must have thought we were a sure sale.

Truth was, we had no intention of buying a water softener. We’d been duped into the demonstration. One day a man called saying he was conducting a simple, one-question survey. “Are you concerned about water quality,” he asked me. “Yes,” I told him, which was true. I was worried about water. And air, and just about anything having to do with the environment. Next day Jim got a call from a woman who said “Your wife is concerned about the quality of your water.” So there we were, playing polite hosts to Lady Culligan and hoping the promised gift — a griddle — would, at least, make it worth our trouble. (It didn’t. The “griddle” turned out to be a thin metal disc that fits over a burner; it’s only use so far as I could figure was to heat flour tortillas.)

We’ve probably forgotten every anniversary since, with one exception. Last year, our 15th, Jim got me the bride-and-groom-on-moped card and a big wooden box from Mexico with saints painted in bright colors. I’m sure he didn’t realize that crystal was the traditional gift for the 15th wedding anniversary, wood for the fifth. Or maybe he was making up for the griddle. In any case, I loved the box; I use it to hold my watercolor paints. I didn’t get him anything being as how I didn’t break my streak.

I’m kind of glad we’re both back to forgetting this year. And, apparently, we picked a good one to forget. According to the people who keep track of such things, once you pass the first 15 years, traditional anniversary gifts are only given for years that end in five or zero.  So, it’s not like I missed out on china (20th), silver (25th), or pearls (30th). Although these days retailers have come up with the concept of “modern” anniversary gifts to fill in the in-between years. Hollowware (as opposed to flatware) is what one gives for the 16th. To which I say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

We did eventually both remember it was our anniversary. Around noon on the big day, Em jogged our memory by asking what the date was. Jim and I laughed as soon as it hit us. Well, here’s to another 16 years! Hopefully we’ll remember one or two along the way.

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Dee called last night. She stayed one extra week in Ghost Ranch with friends of ours we met there a year ago. While I was in Ghost Ranch last week, Dee did the high ropes course. The course finale is to climb a 50-foot telephone pole, stand on it and make what is called “the leap of faith” to catch a bar that’s hanging about eight feet from the telephone pole.

Last week Dee climbed the pole, got to the top, then looked down. I could see the color drain from her face when she realized how high she was. She’d already walked across a high wire and scaled a wall and walked across a rickety ladder. But nothing had been as high as she was then, and she knew that. It took all the courage she could muster to pull herself to the top of the 50-foot telephone pole, sit on it, and then gently slide off to swing on the cable that was attached to her. I could tell she was really disappointed that she hadn’t been able to stand up. She kept saying, I shouldn’t have looked down, I shouldn’t have looked down.

When I left Ghost Ranch, Dee told me she was going to do the high ropes course again, and this time she was going to write on the goals form they fill out at the beginning that her personal goal would be to touch the bar hanging in front of the telephone pole. She figured she couldn’t grab it; she was still too small for that. But she knew she could touch it if she could just manage to stand up on the telephone pole and take the leap.

Well, I could hear in her voice the moment I answered the phone last night that she had big news for me. She did it. She climbed the pole, stood up, took the leap, and touched the bar with her fingers. She achieved her personal goal.

That’s a huge lesson for an 11-year-old to learn. To gaze with such intensity into her own mental and physical ability. To trust herself. To succeed. I’m so proud of her.

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Queen Detail, painting © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedQueen Detail, painting © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedToday is the 12th of July, one of those days smack in the middle of summer where all I can think about is how much I’d rather be doing anything other than working in an office for a living. I’m supposed to be writing about an object from Frederic Remington’s studio, but the place is so packed with stuff it’s hard for me to focus. There are saddles and chaps and spurs, seven paintings of a single horse standing on a Kentucky blue grass lawn, mounted antlers, a mounted rifle, a hat, masks, a bed with Mexican blanket bedcover, chair, easel, desk. I am overwhelmed, and it’s not so much Remington’s space as it is my own filled-up brain. 

Miriam Detail 2, painting © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedMiriam Detail, painting © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedThere’s an analogy that’s been bobbing around with the other flotsam in my head all day. It has to do with physical space and buildings. I want to say that if my brain were real estate, it would be a multi-use complex. Or an outdated apartment building with rooms that are too small; some empty, most filled to the brim, none orderly.  

Miriam Detail 3, painting © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedI have an urge to evict my biggest tenant, Work. Remember, this is my brain I’m talking about, and so what I’m really trying to say is, Work, you take up too many floors. You are at times an over-bearing tenant. You demand all my attention, value efficiency over creativity, and you use way too much white paint. What’s your problem? Can’t you try just once using eggshell or antique white or a velvety cream? 

Queen Detail 2, painting © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedSarai Detail, photo © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedAh, she longs to work with People of Color, you might be thinking, and while it’s true I wouldn’t mind working side-by-side with a blue woman or a green man — I’m not afraid of aliens — I’m really using white paint as metaphor for lack of curiosity. My main tenant — with its miles and miles of gray cubicles (gray is the new white where I work), its Outlook calendars and inboxes, Blackberry pagers, and snazzy teleconference calls — is boring. Even my United and Southwest frequent flier miles have lost their draw.

Rebecca Detail, painting © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedMy heart’s desire is to turn over the whole kit and caboodle to Art and its roommate Writing. Let them spill into the entire building. Give them free rein to paint the walls whatever colors they want. I trust Art and Writing’s aesthetics so much, I’d even let them gut and renovate the place. Make it into a single-story loft with lots of light and natural woods.

But then I ask myself, what am I thinking? I don’t have money to renovate. That’s my Catch-22. The job I’m hating this very minute is the whole reason we have shelter to begin with. Which means my brain’s going to resemble an overcrowded shopping mall for some time to come. Work and Art and Writing, and I haven’t even touched on Mothering or Being Daughter To My Aging Parents or Friendship or Gardening. I won’t mention the three pieces of furniture I want to refinish.

Sarai Detail 3, painting © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedJust now it dawns on me, it’s not work I mind. In fact, when I’m producing art and writing, that’s all I can think about. I’m consumed by it in a way no other job has ever held my attention. I always tell people that if we gave the same amount of energy to our passions as we give to our day jobs (which, for most of us generally are not our passions) then we’d be wildly successful financially speaking. I honestly believe that.

So what’s holding me back? How do I get from here to there without the aid of an art patron? (Art patron, if you’re out there reading this, I will have no compunctions about accepting your generosity.) And here I have to admit, I’m stuck. People keep asking me, when are you going to do art full-time, or when are you going to write full-time? My only answer is, I don’t know when. All I know is to keep producing, one piece at a time. Just keep putting it out there.

Related to Topic post, Remington’s Studio.

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Mabel's Dining Room, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Nexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel’s Dining Room, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s summer at Mabel’s. The wind whipped through the cottonwoods after a hot, muggy day. I was drenched in sweat while giving the presentation on When the Emperor Was Divine. And then, the rain came. A quick shower from blackened skies. The afternoon winds visit each day. And the light. How do I describe the light?

The photograph is from last Saturday, the day I arrived in Taos. I have been so swamped, and dead on my feet at the end of each day, that I haven’t had time to take photos since Day 1.

Tomorrow we walk to the Harwood Museum of Art (it used to be a library and is one of the places where Natalie Goldberg wrote Banana Rose) to see the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit. He’s mentioned in Natalie’s book, In Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World. It’s one of my favorite books by Natalie. The colors are bold and alive; the paper is slick and thick. The book feels good in the hands. The writing speaks for itself.

We’ve talked a lot about the visual aspects of writing this week. How to capture details the way an artist captures color, shadow, form, and light on the palette. There has been community (there are 57 attending) and tons of writing practice. Slow walking and meditation in the morning. Thursday we go to the Rio Grande for a swim. I automatically go into that deeper silent place when I walk from the Gatehouse to the Juniper House where the class meets. It feels like coming home.

It’s almost midnight. And I’m sitting in Mabel’s dining room, clacking away at the keys. I am the only one on the lower floor of the adobe. Writers and artists sleep above. I’m tired. And, in a minute, I will lock up and walk over to my room, hopefully for a good night’s sleep. My dreams are always full here. Sometimes strange. And there are nights when they wake me up.

Natalie says we dream more here because the mind knows we are open to receiving what might come.  So it gives us what we are ready for.  I think it’s that – and the ancestors; they are closer to earth in this place. I am grateful for Natalie’s teachings. And for what she has taught me about teaching. And about writing. Each time I come here, I get closer to something or someone I know is at the heart of me.

Grrrrrrr. I’m gritting my teeth and pounding my heart with balled fists. I want it. I am here. And I want it.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

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Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy, book by L. Luis LopezI first heard L. Luis López read his poetry a year ago at the Ghost Ranch “Coffee House.” Coffee House is an open-mic event held Thursday nights to highlight the diverse talents of that week’s participants. I remember Luis standing at the front of the large hall where Coffee House is held, clearing his throat before reading. The room got quiet, even the kids. As he read his voice rolled up-and-down in the sing-songy way los Chicanos de Nuevo México talk, especially when they’re back home with family.

When I went to Ghost Ranch this past week, I arrived at the open-air studio where my Hebrew Scripture Retablo workshop was taught and there at a table in the center of the room was Luis López. It turns out he not only writes poetry — he teaches a class on mythology and the night sky at Ghost Ranch, he’s taken traditional Spanish Colonial tinware for the past five years, and he was enrolled in the same retablo painting class that I was taking.

A year ago Luis read from his book Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy, which recalls his childhood, ages 6 to 16, in Albuquerque’s South Broadway neighborhood. This past week he read two new poems from a book yet to be published. He gave me permission to publish both poems on red Ravine. What strikes me about his words is their poignancy, their all-at-once sadness and humor.

The cadence in this first poem summons a certain sense of heaviness I imagine one might carry after years of seeing a family member live day-in-day-out with schizophrenia.

          Salvador Quintana
          (for Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)
           by L. Luis López

          When on his meds, Salvador Quintana
          leaves Rosy his Chevy
          in the garage, walks to, sits
          at McDonalds,
          drinks coffee, eats apple pie, smokes
          a cigarette,
          drinks coffee, eats cherry pie, smokes
          a cigarette,
          drinks coffee, eats apple pie, smokes
          a cigarette.
          Salvador Quintana when on his meds.

          When off his meds, Salvador Quintana
          takes Rosy his Chevy
          out of the garage, drives to, sits
          at Joe’s Bar,
          drinks wine, eats chips, smokes
          a cigarette,
          drinks beer, eats peanuts, smokes
          a cigarette,
          drinks whiskey, eats sausage, smokes
          a cigarette.
          Salvador Quintana when off his meds.

          But this was not always Salvador Quintana.
          Before he was twenty
          he played center field for the Gold Sox,
          drew cartoons,
          made people laugh and laugh when
          he mimicked
          Cantinflas, Jerry Lewis, sang
          like Dean Martin or Little Richard,
          loved to dance,
          had his Dulcinea deep in his heart, had
          marriage in mind.
          This before twenty was Salvador Quintana.

          But his Dulcinea chose another,
          Dulcinea chose another,
          she chose another,
          chose another.

          Purity of love began to decay deep in his
          heart, anger festered deep
          in his brain,
          voice upon voice upon voice arose,
          unleashing word upon word,
          talking all at once, all at once, until

          something snapped, snapped
          in his head. He saw giants whirling
          on the horizon,
          saw fearsome knights
          riding out of the dark, dark woods,
          saw giants whirling on the horizon,
          heard from the voices
          that acid licked from the back of stamps
          would make the giants
          heard that sips
          of red liquid from the bottle
          would make fearsome knights
          riding out of the dark, dark woods kindly.

          I have known this Salvador Quintana
          forty years,
          I knew the other Salvador Quintana
          before he was twenty.
          I saw the change from that Salvador Quintana
          to the present Salvador Quintana.

          Today Salvador Quintana and I will
          leave Rosy his Chevy
          in the garage, we will walk to, then sit
          at McDonalds,
          drink coffee, eat apple pie, smoke
          a cigarette,
          drink coffee, eat cherry pie, smoke
          a cigarette,
          drink coffee, eat apple pie, smoke
          a cigarette.
          It’s Salvador Quintana’s birthday.
          I will celebrate with my brother on his sixtieth.

Luis prefaced this second poem by saying it was about his very critical father. Later, when Luis talked about his poetry during a break in our retablo class, he said writers often write about their parents as a way to deal with issues carried from childhood. This wasn’t that poem for Luis, although he has written a lot of poetry about his father. The following poem is light-hearted and captures, I think, a sense of acceptance.

          so I left him fuming
          by L. Luis López

          why do you come here from that South
          saying y’all
          and not hardly speaking no Spanish
          my Dad says

          you went away speaking good Engllish
          and good Spanish
          now you come here with y’all and
          down the holler instead of alla
          or over there
          and I say Dad I just like
          to talk like where I am

          so now I will say ese and alla
          and to get more on his nerves said como esta usted y’all
          mon pere because I spent part
          of my South in Louisiana
          among the cajuns

          and he said I mean he really
          said nada and lit a Chesterfield
          and that meant he said nada
          even more
          so I left him fuming

I asked Luis about his path to becoming a poet. He told me he started writing at age 30 because he liked to describe the people around him. His first pieces were plays. He also wrote short stories before finally landing on poetry.

Luis told me he gets he gets up every morning at 4:30 and writes 2-3 hours. Every poem he writes by hand first then inputs it into the computer, and as he does so he begins the revision process. He said he loves revising his poems and knows when he’s done once the poem “clicks.”

Luis was born in Albuquerque in 1938. He currently lives in Grand Junction, CO, where he teaches English and Classical Languages at Mesa State College. He hosts a poetry writing and reading group that meets monthly at the downtown library. You can catch him at Ghost Ranch most summers, where you can watch the night sky with him or listen to him read his poems at Coffee House. Oh, and if you see Luis, make sure to ask him to show you his retablos. It turns out, he is a wonderful folk artist in addition to everything else.

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Pedernal and Feather, painting by Em, July 9, 2007Em just finished this painting of a white and purple feather with The Pedernal in the background. I hadn’t showed her the post I’d done earlier with my photo of that sacred mountain, but on the drive back to Albuquerque we did take “the back way” around The Pedernal. She asked me to stop at Abiquiu Lake so she could take a photo with her disposable camera of the mountain (which she also did last year on the return trip).

QM might say The Pedernal is an archetype. (Would you, QM?) I’m trying to understand the concept of archetypes. I noticed in the painting on the easel in the Remington studio post that served as our writing topic last week, there was a mountain range in the background with a flat-topped notch that made me wonder whether Remington was recollecting The Pedernal on canvas or simply reproducing an image from the collective subconscious. (I did a Google search on Remington and Pedernal but didn’t find anything one way or another.)

At any rate, Em was pleased to know her painting was about to be posted on red Ravine. Her eyes lit up when I asked her for permission to do so, and just as I was about to take a shot of it with my digital camera she ran to her room and came back with her disposable camera, snapped a shot of her painting for herself, and then ran back to her room. Ah, the joys of self-publishing!

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Pedernal, photo by ybonesy, all rights reserved
Georgia’s Mountain, view of The Pedernal taken from Ghost Ranch main building July 7, 2007, photo © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

In June of 1934, Georgia O’Keeffe visited Ghost Ranch for the first time. She purchased the house where she’d been staying on the ranch in 1940.

Of The Pedernal, the flat-topped mountain in the Jemez Mountains, she once jokingly said:

It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.

Here are some links to O’Keeffe paintings featuring The Pedernal:

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It finally cooled down here in Ghost Ranch. The temperature hit at least 100 a couple of days ago (that’s what the thermometer in my car said, although someone today told me that a meteorologist here told her it hit 106). At this altitude (around 6,000 feet) the air is thin and the sun deadly. Rain came from thunderclouds that appeared in the late afternoon, and now a pattern is starting to form. Cool mornings, the day’s high reaching somewhere in the low 80s, then thunderheads in the late afternoon and light showers before dinner.

Last night’s talent show was one of the highlights of the week. I was telling someone it can start to feel homogenous here at Ghost Ranch. People of a certain age, many Presbyterians, many married couples. But the Coffee House, which is what the talent show is called, is where everyone else shows up. Transgendered, gay, single, Latino, young. Creative people of every stripe and age. I’ll post the poetry of one writer in the coming days.

Today I took time off from painting to visit with my in-laws, who came for the day, and to take Em swimming. We also went to watch Dee do the high ropes course. I’m afraid of heights, so it was awesome watching Dee walk a high wire that looked at least three stories and maybe four high, scramble up the climbing wall, and as a finale climb up a 50-foot telephone pole for something called the “Leap of Faith.” She didn’t jump once she got to the top; she ended up looking down and then had to talk herself in to continuing on. She sat on the very top and then finally grabbed her rope and half slid-half jumped off. But man, I couldn’t even imagine giving it a try. I’m so proud of her!

Most days I’m painting all day long. I can hardly pull myself away from the work I’m doing. Painting with other artists, too, is powerful. We mostly sit without talking, although every now and then quiet conversations take place among different people in the class. Several folks spend all their free time painting in the workshop space, even though they could be out hiking or taking side trips or even resting. It’s a dedicated group. In fact, I bet they’re up at the studio painting right now, which I’d be doing, too, except I have three girls asleep in the room (one for a “sleepover”) and I figure I’d better get to bed myself.

-Related to post A Taste Of Ghost Ranch, NM

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I found these haiku in the pages of a notebook I was rereading from August of 2006. Has it really been almost a year? They were written at Ghost Ranch when I got separated from the writing group after lingering too long at the pond. I sat on the prickly ground, alone and silent, chewing on a bite of apple, steam from a soggy T-shirt rising in the dry heat.

I sat for 10 minutes. And then wrote these haiku. I’m posting them in solidarity for my friend at Ghost Ranch. I have a clear visual of the open space where she is painting, the yellow pond (it’s green to me), and the path up Box Canyon. The wind – it’s swirling around in my head. I’m racing around trying to get packed. I’ll be in Albuquerque sometime tonight. Then on to Taos.

It will be good to be back in New Mexico. And at the same time, I long to be home.

 13 haiku

the cottonwood wind
floods by me in an instant
shade next to my back

the dragon fly flits
over the lime green water
my back to a tree

lizard on a rock
doesn’t seem glad to see me
ducks into a hole

red rocks rise skyward
desert breeze shakes the cedars
next to the green pond

gold fish swims by me
startles my shivering breath
then leads the way home

leaf winding slowly
yellow wasp on white flower
bobbing to and fro

leaf lands on the pond
the cottonwood is silent
a ripple swims out

big hole in the sky
a dragonfly flew through it
and left me alone

the twisted bark wraps
its thigh around the red ghosts
soaked next to dry bones

blue sky sparkles green
through wind in the cottonwoods
ants fight for a crumb

the wind smells like sage
I sit next to an ant pile
pray not to get bit

rock towers flood through
the blue dragonfly’s four wings
I watch from the side

hairy bumblebee
black diamond down its soft back
sucks on a flower

-haiku from a writing practice at Ghost Ranch, August 2006

Friday, July 6th, 2007

-related to posts, What I Remember About Writing A Taste of Ghost Ranch, NM

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Kitchen Mesa at Sunset, photo © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedThis is the second year in a row (which I suppose is long enough to call a tradition) that my daughters and I are spending a week at Ghost Ranch. I lived 44 years in New Mexico before ever laying eyes on Kitchen Mesa. I don’t know what took me so long to get here, except New Mexico has many beautiful places, several of which I guess kept me away. But here I am now, so late on the 4th of July that the night is turning to morning.

Here’s how my day went today. I got up with the girls at about 7. We’re staying in a block of rooms built in a U-shape around a grassy courtyard, sleeping with doors and windows open. There aren’t locks or keys at Ghost Ranch. I took a shower while Dee and Em headed out to breakfast. Dee’s friend from last year spent the night with us; her parents are in a different set of buildings on the ranch. (BTW, it’s called a ranch, and it has 21,000 acres, some set aside for cattle-grazing, but the main area where we are looks and feels more like a retreat center. Which it also is. Picture lots of adobe-style buildings scattered throughout a green valley surrounded by red-and-yellow cliffs.)

I made it to breakfast, sat with folks I knew from last year. There are maybe 200 people here this week. Lots of families and older folks. Ghost Ranch is owned by the Presbyterian Church, and while there are plenty of Presbyterians here, there is not an overly religious feel to the place. Spiritual, yes. But the religious make-up of the retreat attendees is eclectic.

For me, Ghost Ranch is about being able to take art classes (although there’s so much more than art classes) in a remarkable terrain with remarkable instructors while having my daughters with me. I get to nurture my soul yet do so without spending time away from them. Not many places where I can do that.

I know I should go into some of the history of the place, but besides mentioning that Georgia O’Keeffe had eight acres here and was inspired by the sandstone cliffs and the bleached skulls and whatever else she saw, I can’t do justice. Besides, I’m tired.

After breakfast I had a class in Hebrew Scripture and retablos, which I’ll talk more about over the next several days. Just know that my teachers are a rabbi and a Catholic santero. We’re studying the female figures from the Old Testament, starting yesterday with Sarai (Sarah) and then today Rebecca. Our class started at 9a, and we studied for about one hour and then moved into painting. Took a break at lunch, then had time off until dinner. Back again together at 7 until 8:30p.

My girls were in their own classes — Em in a youth camp, Dee paleontology — that mirror, from a time standpoint, my course. Which means we sleep and eat together plus have a big chunk of time during the day where we can do whatever we want together. Except my girls are into running wild around the place being independent. Today during the afternoon off Em went to Echo Canyon with friends, and Dee made dinosaur eggs. So I ended up painting in the studio and finishing my second retablo.

Today culiminated with a 4th of July parade where the kids rode in floats they made in their classes. Dee’s had a smoking volcano; Em’s was called “The Fuzzies.” There was a fireworks display late; it didn’t start until 9:30 or so.

So much more I’d like to say about the place; I’ll only be able to do so by posting it in snippets. Nothing terribly polished or thought out. But that’s how Ghost Ranch is. It’s so beautiful and grand, you can’t feed it all at once else it comes out like water from a fire hose. It has to be experienced in small pieces. This is what I offer, for starters.

Kitchen Mesa at Sunset and Sun Setting on Chimney Rock, photos taken July 4, 2007, photos © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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Mabel's Place, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel’s Place, Lawrence windows, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

A friend of mine told me she’s been rereading her old writing practice notebooks. She said it took her splat into the face of Monkey Mind; she also discovered a few gems.

Inspired, I started reading over notebooks from an Intensive writing retreat in Taos last year. It’s hard to reread the dribble and drat of writing practice. I’m glad I remembered my wading boots. It was getting pretty thick in there.

I found passions and complaints, all the frustration and fear, the rawness of sitting in silence. There was a whole paragraph on an ant crawling through a patch of light and into a crack in a floor plank. Another two on breathing in and out, the workers talking in the distance, the wind through the small corner window hitting the side of my face.

The same things kept popping up over and over again. But once in a while, there it was – a refreshing moment of clarity.

Natalie Goldberg teaches the practice of rereading in Writing Down the Bones. She devotes a whole chapter to it. She says time should pass, space between writing and rereading. Then there is a meeting of the minds:

The continuation of writing through all your discursive thoughts is the practice. A month later you recognize consciously the good writing when you reread your notebooks. At this point our unconscious and conscious selves meet, recognize each other, and become whole. This is art.

In the pages of that old notebook, I discovered a 10 minute practice from February of 2007, one of the last practices we did as a group in the zendo. The topic was to make a list of what we remembered about the last year of writing in the Intensive.

There was a strong feeling of intimacy, and of something ending. And at the same time, a fresh start.

What I Remember About Writing – 10 min

  1. Details. Write details. They bring the work alive.
  2. No sentimentality.
  3. Stand on the backs of the writers that came before you.
  4. Read everything by an author.
  5. Be grateful for writing connections.
  6. Give back to your community. Don’t just take.
  7. Have compassion for other writers. Study their lives.
  8. Study good literature, essays, and word counts.
  9. Ask questions. Listen for the answers.
  10. Don’t be afraid to look dumb.
  11. The more personal it is, the more others can relate to it.
  12. Love good books. Love other writers. Go where they lived and worked.
  13. Insights aren’t always followed. Sometimes they go back inside.
  14. Seeds from a Birch Tree, James Baldwin, John Cheever.
  15. Sugar Nymphs, Caffe Tazza, Ghost Ranch, the Harwood.
  16. Suspend judgment.
  17. Keep writing practice at my back.
  18. Writers labor over books.
  19. Do not waste this precious life.
  20. Study the minds of other writers.
  21. Practice and sitting teaches how to hold creative energy.
  22. The energy of resistance turned is awakening.

-list from a writing practice in Taos, February 10th, 2007

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

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It’s a low, slow, pre-holiday. I was feeling uninspired until Liz came home and threw the summer print edition of Rain Taxi on the living room table. I quickly ran my eyes down the list of authors and found a review of Brooke Davis Anderson’s book, MARTÍN RAMÍREZ.

Anderson is curator of “Martín Ramírez,” a retrospective that features 97 of the artist’s works on paper. I’m constantly running into reviews of the show, starting with a Sunday Morning a few months ago. I tend to pay attention if something keeps bopping me in the face.

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Ramírez (1885-1960) was a self-taught artist, who after a series of hardships, spent the latter half of his life in California mental institutions. Rain Taxi reviewer, Eliza Murphy, gives high praise to Anderson’s book:

Curator Brooke Davis Anderson has not only orchestrated a phenomenal retrospective of Ramírez’s impressive output, but here gathers scholarly essays that offer a range of perspectives on the artist, inviting “critics, curators, collectors, dealers, and writers to move beyond the ‘sound bites’ of the past fifty years to a more holistic understanding of his work.”

The Ramírez retrospective continues to tour, and recently moved from an extended stay at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, to the San Jose Museum of Art. The only Midwest date begins October 6th, at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

All this is driving me to think about a short trip east when the leaves turn. Like Minnesota, Wisconsin is beautiful in the Fall. Liz says it’s 5 hours, 34 minutes, and 345 miles, a long drive for a weekend stay.

But I’ve never seen the Milwaukee Art Museum’s white concrete Quadracci Pavilion designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. The building alone looks like a work of art.

Two for the price of one; maybe it would be worth the drive.


-related to post, Joan Didion & Martín Ramírez



American Folk Art Museum, MARTÍN RAMÍREZ

By Brooke Davis Anderson, with essays by Víctor M. Espinosa and Kristin E. Espinosa, Daniel Baumann, and Victor Zamudio-Taylor, a foreword by Maria Ann Conelli, and an introduction by Robert Storr.

  • Published by Marquand Books in association with the American Folk Art Museum, 2007 (192 pages, 137 full-color illustrations, hardcover, $55).
  • Available exclusively at the American Folk Art Museum Book and Gift Shop or through the publisher, Marquand Books.

MARTÍN RAMÍREZ Travel Schedule:

  • Mexican Heritage Plaza/San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California
    June 9–September 9, 2007
  • Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    October 6, 2007–January 6, 2008

Outside In, Art Review | Martín Ramírez by Roberta Smith, New York Times, Art & Design, Jan 26th, 2007

Art Brut , Phyllis Kind Gallery, Self-Taught Art

Martín Ramírez at Marquand Books: “Martín Ramírez … is my favorite outsider artist. Come to that, he’s one of my favorite artists, period.”  Article by Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker.

Silent Artist Has Voice After Death: Confined To A Mental Ward, Martín Ramírez Refused To Talk, But Spoke Through His Art by Caitlin A. Johnson, CBS Sunday Morning, March 25, 2007


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

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Offering, drawing © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedOffering, drawing © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedOffering, drawing © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reserved

Jim went to the Taos Solar Music Festival for the weekend; I stayed behind with the girls. I needed to get us ready for a week-long trip of our own. Besides, I enjoy time with them alone. We ate soupy spaghetti for dinner, and they slept with me. I woke up throughout the night, although nothing to do with them. We kept the window open, and all night I heard a bullfrog outside, his lonely vibrating call floating in and out of my dreams.

The last time Jim was gone I did the Pablo Neruda reading. I was relieved Jim couldn’t come see me read. One glimpse of him in the audience and I would have been struck by “inappropriate giggling syndrome.” As it was, when Christopher, one of the male performers, and I read the early love poem “Juegas Todos Los Días,” he had a smile on his face that looked like he was about to lose it, so I kept my eyes on the page or the audience from that point on to avoid cracking up.

I read “Solo La Muerte” with a woman named Enid; we wore black shawls and sat with straight spines in our chairs. The words came out in eerie monotone from somewhere deep inside. Later, someone in the audience asked us each which was our favorite poem from those we read. I told her mine was “La Muerte.” “Me, too,” she said.

We covered Neruda’s life from his early, tortured love to his exploration of existentialism, then political activism, mature love, and, finally, acceptance of death. A woman left agitated at intermission and we wondered if she was offended by the political nature of the poems. Each of us who read Neruda’s political works did so with passion. It was cleansing in many ways to assume Neruda’s fury at the corrupt governments and corporations of his time; doing so was an outlet for our own, current discontent.

It’s Sunday night; I’m preparing this post to publish tomorrow. I wish I would have written up something when it was fresh. Yet, it’s taken me weeks to let Neruda sink in. His voice (I tried to find a recording but couldn’t get one that worked) is haunting. I feel haunted, truly, but rather than him haunting me, I feel like I’ve crept into him somehow and am swirling about, sniffing him out for something I’ve forgotten to take away.

And now, I hear the sound of Jim’s Harley. He’s back from Taos. It’s always good when he’s been delivered home safe after a long ride.

Nace por Pablo Neruda
Yo aquí vine a los límites
en donde no hay que decir nada,
todo se aprende con tiempo o océano,
y volvía la luna,
sus líneas plateadas
y cada vez se rompía la sombra
con un golpe de ola
y cada día en el balcón del mar
abre las alas, nace el fuego
y todo sigue azul como mañana.
It Is Born by Pablo Neruda
Here I came to the very edge
where nothing at all needs saying,
everything is absorbed through weather and the sea,
and the moon swam back,
its rays all silvered,
and time and again the darkness would be broken
by the crash of a wave,
and every day on the balcony of the sea,
wings open, fire is born,
and everything is blue again like morning.

Offering 2, drawing © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedOffering 2, drawing © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedOffering 2, drawing © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reserved

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Kendall from Splice Heretagged” us at red Ravine to share eight random things about ourselves. “Tagging” (aka a meme) is kind of like those chain letters you get via email — send this note to a dozen other people and you will get showered with joy — except without the prognostications of happiness, good fortune, or money if you follow through. It’s also a great way to learn about blogs/bloggers you didn’t know much about before.

The rules for this particular tag are: 1) Post eight random facts/habits about yourself; 2) Tag eight people who are to write their own blog entry about their eight things and post these rules; 3) Leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged.

So, in no particular order, here are eight personal factoids about QuoinMonkey and me:


  1. I was in the glee club in grade school. I’m completely tone deaf.
  2. I was part of a Tri-Hi-Y in high school named the Zodiacs.
  3. In my early thirties, I went on a month long canoe trip in the Arctic on the Nahanni River in Canada. It was the first time I had ever canoed. We flew all our gear and the canoes in a small plane and landed on a sandbar in the middle of nowhere. There were five of us and I didn’t know what I was doing and felt like an outcast half the time. On the other hand, it’s one of the greatest things I ever did for my self-esteem and what an opportunity to see the rugged beauty of that part of Canada.
  4. I swore I’d learn to ride a motorcycle by the time I was 50. When I turned 49, I picked up the book, studied for my permit, and bought a purple Honda Rebel. The rest is history.
  5. I once owned a turquoise Ford Econoline van with shag carpeting. But my favorite car was my first, a ’63 red Austin-Healey Sprite convertible with a black roll bar. My step-dad helped me get the engine running (it had been stored in my uncle’s barn). My mom helped me fix up the inside. I wish I still had that car. It had a wooden dashboard with flip switches and a muffler that kept falling off in freeway traffic. I’d have to stop and wire it up with a coat hanger. It was all worth it. If I had photos, I’d post them.
  6. In high school, I was voted athlete of the year my senior year. I think Title 9 was still in the works sometime around then and Billie Jean King was on the Virginia Slims tour. We’ve come a long way, baby. But not far enough.
  7. I lived in Montana during most of my twenties. I loved it there. And have been saying I’m going to move back ever since. I never have. Turns out, I love Minnesota, too. And somehow, this place has held me.
  8. I knew I wanted to write in 8th grade. That’s when I had Mrs. Juarez, my 8th grade English teacher. I never forgot her and the literature she taught me, especially Dickens. A few weeks ago, after almost 40 years, I decided to look her up. I found her living only a few miles from where my mother lives. We met for two hours and I got to tell her how much she meant to me, and how key she was in shaping me to become a writer. She told me she never forgot me either. In fact, she said, “Did you honestly think I’d forget you?” We were kind of teary when we left each other. For a writer and a teacher, does it get any better than that?



  1. I married a man I first met at age 16 (even though we didn’t date until I was 27).
  2. I gave birth to both our daughters at home, with my husband and midwife attending. Em had the cord wrapped around her neck and was purple, but the midwife fixed that with no hitch.
  3. I have a tracheotomy scar from when I almost died of pneumonia at the age of 18 months. A female doctor from Mexico saved my life.
  4. My dad calls me “ma-di-nes.” It’s a word he made up.
  5. When I lived in Santa Fe, the land of second homes and the super rich, I joined a dart league called The Dancing Pigs just so I could meet regular folk. The only team we cared about beating was the one from Los Alamos, who all wore matching shirts with a mushroom cloud as their logo. We never beat them.
  6. My favorite job was working at Japanese bath house Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe. The owner and I dated after I quit.
  7. I’m afraid of heights, but to overcome my fear of heights I rode something called The Skycoaster at the NM State Fair. I still dislike heights.
  8. My mom played poker for 30 years with a bunch of viejitas who smoked cigarettes by the pack, drank 7-UP, and knew games like “Spit in the Ocean” and “Chicago.” I have three letters that Dad wrote 30-40 years ago pleading that she stop playing, threatening divorce, even. She wouldn’t stop, and now that Texas Hold ‘Em is so popular, Mom regularly beats the pants off anyone who invites her to a game.


OK, the bloggers we tag are:

Starting Over
mimbresman (mm, you haven’t updated your blog for about a month…)
jaggedeye (OK, Ron, this means you have to do a new post on your blog!)
Ritergal (Congratulations on the book!)
Anuevue Studio

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Remington's Studio. May 2007, photo © 2007 by Skywire. All rights reserved.

Remington’s Studio, Cody, Wyoming, May 2007, photo © 2007 by skywire. All rights reserved.

The photograph is of the 1890’s studio of the artist, sculptor, painter, and writer, Frederic Remington.  You can get a sense of how he liked to create while surrounding himself with found objects, paints, artifacts, and sculpture. Though based in New York, his studio was alive with the energy of the American West; the place and the people held great meaning to him.

Remington was also a writer. And along with producing more than 3,000 drawings and paintings, and 22 bronze sculptures – cast in editions, he wrote two novels – one of which was adapted to the stage – and over 100 magazine articles and stories.

Artist or writer? Many times, the two remain forever connected.

The writing topic this week:

  • Choose 1 object from Remington’s Studio
  • Start with a 15 minute writing practice on the object
  • Take an idea or paragraph from the practice, and write a short piece, 500 words or less

If you want something more complex, choose 3 of the objects and weave them into 1 practice. If you only get as far as the practice, that’s okay. You will have started. And the object you wrote about will have meaning to you, resting in your mind and body until you are ready to do something with it. Or maybe you never will. And it will simply have been an exercise in wild mind.


Below are some facts about Remington that I didn’t know before researching this Writing Topic. It’s good to open to a writer or artist as a person, with a living, breathing past. A person who is much more than the historical image or soundbite, projected in our minds.

  • Remington went to Yale, majored in art, and played football, but did not graduate.
  • Later in his career, he experimented with the perception of color. He lightened his palette and placed his colors as they would be affected by light.
  • He failed as a sheep rancher and then as a saloon owner in Kansas.
  • Remington made his first visit West to Montana in 1881; many more trips would follow to New Mexico, Arizona, and elsewhere, west of the Rockies.
  • In the mid-1880s, after discovering there was a market for his drawings, he turned to magazine illustration full time. His images were of American Indians, cowboys and the West that he believed to be rapidly disappearing, if it was not already gone.
  • By 1887, he was sufficiently famous that another Easterner who loved the West, Theodore Roosevelt, hired him to do the illustrations for his book, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail. Roosevelt became a good friend.
  • In 1891 he illustrated an edition of Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.” He also did the illustrations for his own first novel, Pony Traces, in 1895.
  • In 1898, Remington traveled to Cuba for the Spanish-American War as a journalist and illustrator. It was not a good experience, and the artist never got over the horror he saw. In “With the Fifth Corps,” his essay about his wartime experiences, he wrote of the Cuban campaign: “One beautiful boy was brought in by two tough, stringy, hairy old soldiers, his head hanging down behind. His shirt was off, and a big red spot shone brilliant against his marblelike skin.”
  • In 1900, a year-and-a-half after he returned from Cuba, Remington produced his first two night paintings, The Wolves Sniffed Along the Trail, But Came No Nearer and Pretty Mother of the Night White Otter Is No Longer a Boy, as illustrations for his second novel, The Way of an Indian, a brave’s coming-of-age story.
  • In 1908 one of the most prominent writers on art of that time observed in his comments on Remington’s very successful exhibition at Knoedler’s Gallery in New York City that “the mark of the illustrator disappeared and that of the painter took its place.”
  • Frederic Remington was 48 years old when he died December 26, 1909 from complications following an appendectomy.

-from the following articles:

– Insight on the News,  May 27, 2003  by Stephen Goode
Frederic Remington and the American Civil War: A Ghost Story
Frederic Remington Biography from the  Buffalo Bill Historical Society in Cody, Wyoming

If you want to know more about Remington, visit the websites; they are loaded with information. The studio reproduction can be found at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. The Center is a combination of five different museums, including the Draper Museum of Natural History and the Plains Indian Museum.

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

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