Letting Go, one of the themes at the Natalie Goldberg silent retreat in Taos, December 2010, collage made of magazine paper, wax crayons, and pen and ink in Moleskine journal, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
It was strange to find myself sitting in the zendo at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, our teacher Natalie Goldberg urging us to Let Go. I had just a few weeks before made the decision to leave red Ravine, although QuoinMonkey and I had agreed to wait until the end of the year to make the announcement. Though not intended as such, the week in Taos could be a test of how ready I was to let go of this special virtual space that had inspired and sustained me for so long.
It was in Taos, after all, that red Ravine was born. The year—2006. QM and I, having already written together for some time, are both participating in a four-season Intensive with Natalie Goldberg. This Intensive is part of a bigger plan I have for myself, a wannabe writer-and-artist withering away inside the body of a corporate manager and breadwinner for my family of four. I am bored and unhappy. I want to write and do art, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to do much with either except to dream about it. QM and I and a couple of others hatch red Ravine over intense working sessions in Taos and through the phone lines while back at our respective homes. Setting up a blog is hard work, but it is also real. For the first time, I am motivated to do more than fantasize about writing and making art. red Ravine promises to be the impetus to actually producing.
Those first two years of creating red Ravine, QM and I worked our butts off and had a blast doing it. The blog was a perfect outlet for the deep, low creative growl that the Intensive seemed to unleash within us. Some days we posted more than once, and often we had to make sure that we weren’t publishing over one another. For my part, I was making art like crazy. After years of being fearful of the lack of control inherent in a brush (as compared to a pencil), I took a workshop at Ghost Ranch and learned to paint. My corporate job changed around the same time, too. I landed an assignment that took me back and forth to Vietnam. I bought myself a slew of different colored inking pens and began using the long trips back and forth as opportunity to take on a doodling practice.
QuoinMonkey and I worked surprisingly well together. We were both committed to the idea of a creating a space where we would each be inspired and where we might inspire others. She brought to red Ravine and to me her strong values around Community and Giving Back. Her thoughtful and thorough turtle complemented my quick and often irreverent spirit. (What animal am I anyway? The brown bird, I guess.) We found ourselves in synch whenever we wanted to try something new or make a change. We pushed each other to do our best.
what I learned
One of the things I love about Taos and Mabel’s place is how they never seem to change. Here I am, early December 2010, and I’m crossing the same flagstone patio that I walked those years ago back when red Ravine was still an infant. Over the past several years, I’ve brought my daughters here, and my husband. I bring my father back each year after we clean his parents’ graves in Costilla, 42 miles north. One summer he laid some of these very flagstones,when he was about 16 and living on Morada Lane in a house with a storefront.
It doesn’t matter what I have accomplished, what roles I have taken on in the years since I’ve been back. Inside the zendo, Natalie reminds us to Let Go. For me this means letting go of my responsibilities, my ego, any self-assigned self-importance. Here, in Taos, I am zero. In my raw, stripped-down state I feel my sadness. It is deep inside me, under everything else I carry.
My heart breaks open.
Letting Go in Taos means being able to clearly see that red Ravine was, in fact, the catalyst for change in my life. It means being grateful for everything I’ve learned as a result of opening up to others. Because of red Ravine, I’ve had a place to publish my writing, to experiment with and share my art, to meet other writers and artists. red Ravine has been Muse, sounding board, supportive audience, friend, family, mentor.
I started a fledging business because of the creativity that flowed out, thanks to red Ravine. Because of this blog I’ve learned to commit to and follow through with my practices; to make jewelery; to turn unpolished writing into finished pieces; to put my creative self out into the world. I used to think I couldn’t finish anything; it took having this blog to realize that I’m an actualizer at heart.
Of course, there are downsides to setting and realizing intentions. Jim long ago gave up complaining when I’d spend hours socked away in my writing room. But I don’t take for granted any more, not since April of this year when he collapsed on the bed clutching his heart, that he will always be there waiting when I need to take a break. And my daughters—full-fledged teenagers! Just today I accompanied my oldest for nearly an hour while she drove us all around town, adding experience under her belt in preparation for graduating from learners permit to drivers license. I don’t have much time left to influence their lives.
At the December retreat, we walk the dirt trail out at the morada, just down the way from Mabel’s place. Natalie often takes her students there. The day we go, boys and men from Taos Pueblo run past us in the cold air. I feel alone and sheltered in my layers of warmth, and for a moment I am homesick for family and our traditions.
My parents are old now. They’ve passed from the stage of old-yet-mostly-healthy to being old-and-frighteningly-frail. I visit them every Sunday. All year long I struggle to keep up with everything I have on my plate. Some weeks it feels impossible to eke out even the simplest of posts.
QM is a rock. Her posts are—like her—consistently high-quality, thorough, and deep. I am honored to have worked with her for this long.
A good friend of mine who a few years back started up his own blog had this to say when I told him I was thinking of leaving red Ravine: “Blogging has no exit strategy.” Which is another way of saying that unless you’re getting paid to do it, blogging is a labor of love. This particular labor has born much fruit.
It has so much more potential, so much yet to become. I’m going to be here, on the other side of the screen, cheering on QM to keep moving it forward. I know I’ll always be proud to say I was a part of creating it.
Thank you for everything you’ve done, QM. Thank you to the friends I’ve met here. So long for now. See you in Comments. 8)
Self Portrait, December 2010, collage made of magazine paper, wax crayons, and pen and ink in Moleskine journal, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.