Posts Tagged ‘Ghost Ranch’

Moon over Kitchen Mesa, the moon at dusk at Ghost Ranch, August 1, 2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved
Moon over Kitchen Mesa, moon at dusk at Ghost Ranch, August 1, 2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

silent Moon hovers
dreaming of New Mexico
she sits for us all

off in the zendo
friends dancing in the middle
slow walk to the end

irrational mind
each day a new beginning
Summer wears your face


In honor of our friends sitting in Taos with Natalie this week and last; photo by ybonesy and haiku by QuoinMonkey.


-related to too many posts to mention them all, but here are few: Birthday Of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Sunrise On Taos Mountain (Reflections On Writing Retreats), Sitting in Solidarity, A Taste Of Ghost Ranch, and haiku 2 (one-a-day).

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I sit between two windows, writing. The furnace clicks, gas whirrs, the blower turns on to warm the house. I opened the glass door when Liz went off to work; it took my breath away. Back to the WeatherBug on the desktop, -6. Mr. StripeyPants digs in the Iams Veterinary Formula we buy for Chaco to pull out a few choice morsels. I tap the keys, stare out the Northeast double-hung window to my left. It’s all sky, bare branches, and the tops of oaks. To the right, another window with blinds closed faces Northwest. It’s slightly behind me. Bad chi to have someone sneak up on you from behind, so I don’t open it when I’m writing. North by Northwest. I remember Hitchcock.

Windows remind me of freedom, peace. When I moved to Minnesota from Montana at age 30, I was new to the Twin Cities. I did not have a job. I didn’t know my way around. I got depressed for a time, took on the role of housewife. I’d get the chores done, watch As the World Turns (the only time in my life I have ever watched soap operas), then sit in a pine rocker and stare out the big picture window of our small apartment, the bottom of a two-story vintage 1920’s house.

The outside was white stucco. It was across from a castle-like church with a lawn that formed a triangle. Every day at 10am, children whose parents sent them to the 140-year-old St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran for elementary school would run out on the lawn for recess. The kids were noisy and happy, the teachers would circle them, blow their whistles, sometimes chase balls that dribbled out into the city street. At the bell, everyone lined up and went back inside, exactly on time.

There was a huge maple tree, tall, tall, tall, with a wide bushy crown on the side of the church next to the playground. Every Fall that tree would turn the most magnificent shade of golden red. It always took its time turning. Day by day I would watch it. I could not believe how absolutely perfect that tree was. It must have been over 100 years old. Years later, I would drive by the old apartment, the triangle, and the tree was gone. They had cut it down to make a parking lot. I cried.

The past never stays the same. It is always changing. Only memories keep it alive. What was, was, at least to us. What will be, we can only guess. Windows are a grounding point for me, a focal point. When I was a child, I used them as a form of escape when times were unpleasant. I have always rocked, from the time I was a little kid. Mom told me I used to rock and watch The Perry Como Show. She said I loved Perry Como. Windows hold freedom, escape. And sometimes they become walls. When we never go past the inside glass.

When I sit in Taos, I try to find a spot with facing windows across the room. Even if I don’t look out them when I meditate, I know they are there. And that’s the thing about windows. They let in the light, even when we forget they are doing it. Last night, the end of the March Full Moon shone through the bedroom window and landed on the pillow between Liz and me. She was sound asleep. The house was silent. I held my hand up so that the moonlight hit the tips of my fingers. There was no glow from the inside out, the way the sun shines, the way Liz came out of work yesterday with the bright winter sun blasting her windshield and said, “I feel like a mole!”

No, moonlight is reflective, subdued. And when shining through a Winter window, muted and glorious. How does it sneak past the blinds? What is it trying to tell me? When I moved to Minnesota, I didn’t have good job-hunting skills, though there was plenty of work. Now I have the skills and jobs are scarce. The Moon reminds me, don’t let that stop you. Don’t let anything stop you. If you could do anything in the world, even staring through windows, what would you choose? Within reason, within physical capacity, within the bounds and scope of a person your age, with your family genetics, in this time, I believe you can do it.

Easy does not enter the picture. Nothing worth dreaming about is easy. It’s easy to forget how many who are rich, famous, privileged worked hard to get where they are, to follow their dreams. With privilege and wealth come expectations. Families are families, rich or poor, the 1920’s or the 21st century. It’s not money that makes dreams come true. It’s taking the risk. I had a dream earlier this week. I was walking at Ghost Ranch, hiking the red iron soil in the beating sun near Box Canyon when, in an instant, I was raised off the ground, hanging on to the hand of a man with a black umbrella. He was rising in the sky next to a gray elephant. I kid you not.

A trail of other objects and animals ran behind us like a kite tail. The elephant was weightless, not a care in the world. I remember the bodily sensation of flying, of my stomach dropping when we hit a wind current, a down draft. Then came the next thermal. I felt like the raptors I so love, riding the thermals, floating on air. In that minute, I knew that anything was possible. And all the windows that once guarded and protected me were nowhere to be found.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 12th, 2009

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — WINDOW

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Antique Stove (Fire), D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Antique Cooler (Metal), D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.View From The Lawrence Ranch (Air), D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Frieda Lawrence's 1930s Home (Wood), D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Turtle Window, D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.OKeeffe From A Distance, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Memory Of Georgia (Earth), D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Attention To Detail, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Elements: Fire, Air, Earth, Metal, Water, & Wood, Kiowa, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, all photos © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I have lived most of my life near major rivers: the Savannah, the Susquehanna, the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot rivers that run through the deep mountain valley of Missoula, Montana. But for the last 24 years, home has been near the Mississippi in a Midwest state that boasts the river’s birthplace – Lake Itasca, Minnesota.

Liz and I explored Itasca State Park a few years ago and stood at the source, the Mississippi Headwaters, on root clusters of some of the oldest Red and White Pines in this country. Closer to my Southern roots, I recently started reading Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, part of The Family Twain published in 1935, an original volume bought at a garage sale last summer.

If you follow the river’s flow, you will gain a whole new respect for Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) who published more than 30 books, hundreds of short stories and essays, and gave lectures while touring the world. That’s part of the reason my ears perked up at a recent NPR piece, Finding Finn, when I heard writer Jon Clinch plea for financial support to help preserve the financially-strapped Mark Twain Home in Hartford, Connecticut.

Clinch, author of Finn, and a host of other writers gathered at the home in September and read from some of their favorite Twain books to show their support. The list of authors included such heavy hitters as Tom Perrotta (The Abstinence Teacher), David Gates (Jernigan), Arthur Phillips (Angelica), Tasha Alexander (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Philip Beard (Dear Zoe), Kristy Kiernan (Matters of Faith), Robert Hicks (The Widow of the South), and Amy Mackinnon (Tethered).

Maybe you’re thinking, what’s this got to do with me?

Everything. Maybe for you, it’s not Mark Twain. But have you ever seen Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, then longed to visit Abiquiú or the Pedernal near Ghost Ranch, New Mexico? It throws a whole other perspective on a lifetime of painted desert. What about Hemingway’s early days in Kansas City, Missouri. Or Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home in Savannah, Georgia.

D. H. Lawrence Cabin at Kiowa, the Lawrence Ranch near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Maybe for you, it’s visiting the home architect Frank Lloyd Wright built, Fallingwater near Mill Run, Pennsylvania, or a few nights in the Willa Cather room at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House (did you know ybonesy’s dad worked there one summer as a teenager?) in Taos, New Mexico. We had one red Ravine Guest who dreamed about the home of Frida Kahlo. It was such a powerful experience, she felt compelled to travel to Mexico and see it for herself.

Why? Because Place matters. Ground where writers, painters, architects, artists and visionaries lived, worked, and died matters. The places we call Home shape who we are, who we want to be, who we will become. North, South, East, or West, the geography of land, water, and sky influences our work, filters into our vision, helps us hone our craft, whether we are aware of it or not. And the preservation of these places is paramount to our own development as writers and artists.

Turtle Window, D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.OKeeffe From A Distance, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Memory Of Georgia (Earth), D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Attention To Detail, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

While researching On Providence, Old Journals and Thoreau, I stumbled on the Walden Woods Project which was founded in 1990 by recording artist Don Henley. At the time, 60% of Walden Woods – a 2,680 acre ecosystem surrounding Thoreau’s Walden Pond – was protected from development. But two large tracts of land were endangered when developers sought to construct an expansive office and condominium complex in the mid-1980s. The National Trust for Historic Preservation twice listed Walden Woods as one of America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places.

But the story has a happy ending. The Walden Woods Project embarked on a national campaign to raise public awareness and the funds necessary to purchase and preserve the endangered areas. In January 1991, the Project bought the 25-acre tract that had been slated for the development; a few years later, the second tract of land was acquired. Since then, they’ve protected 150 acres in and around Walden Woods and provided quality programming for hundreds of researchers and more than 200 high school teachers and students.

Just Sitting, D. H. Lawrence Chair at Kiowa, the Lawrence Ranch near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I’ve walked around Walden Pond, stood in the doorway to Thoreau’s cabin. I’ve been to Hibbing, Minnesota, in the living room of Bob Dylan’s childhood home. And a few years ago, ybonesy and I took a day trip to Kiowa, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch outside of Taos, New Mexico. The place was given to Lawrence and Frieda by Mabel Dodge Luhan. Dorothy Brett lived there for a time using Aldous Huxley’s typewriter to type Lawrence’s manuscripts.

Georgia O’Keeffe sat under the giant pine outside the Lawrence cabin and immortalized it in paint forever. Would you rather read about the Lawrence Tree? Or touch its barky skin, slide your feet through the pine needle beds beneath it, stare upside down at the New Mexico stars and sky.

To be able to go back to the place a writer or artist worked and lived is an inspiration. The authors calling attention to Mark Twain’s home in Hartford are sounding the alarm. Not everyone has the resources to donate money, but we can all work to raise awareness by spreading the word. Or visit the homes of writers and artists in the areas where we live and travel.

Those who blazed the trail before us are our mentors. For Jon Clinch, it’s Mark Twain. He’s willing to donate time, money, and energy to save Twain’s home and preserve the literary legacy of place. Who is it for you?

New Mexico Homesteaders, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corrugated Ice (Water), D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Love Triangles, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Mark Twain House & Museum
351 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105

Other links to explore:

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 24th, 2008

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Ghost Ranch Labyrinth, with prayer rocks under Kitchen Mesa, Ghost Ranch, NM, August 2, 2008, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

with right foot forward
in step with the searing heat
we walk in circles

prayer for healing
prayer to Kitchen Mesa
slow walk of courage

-related to posts haiku (one-a-day), Labyrinth Walker, and labyrinth haiku.

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By Bob Chrisman

Pond at Ghost Ranch, Ghost Ranch, NM, April 2008, photo © 2008 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.
Pond at Ghost Ranch, Ghost Ranch, NM, April 2008, photo © 2008 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

Who can forget that fateful trip to Abiquiu, New Mexico to visit Ghost Ranch? A brief recounting of the experience appears in Natalie Goldberg’s latest book about writing memoir, Old Friend from Far Away, but I didn’t recognize her account even though we were both on that same trip.

Twenty-four people left Taos in silence for Abiquiu that hot, August morning, drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration. The journey took at least three hours.

At the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge we slow walked to the middle and peered over the railing. Our teacher told us to leap over the short walls of the pedestrian walkway and hurriedly slow walk across the busy highway to the other side. I still can’t figure out why we crossed the road. One side of the Rio Grande Gorge looks pretty much like the other side except for the appliances and cars that people have thrown into it.

We took a “short cut” on a packed dirt road with a washboard surface. Add a few thousand potholes, more dust than you should swallow in a lifetime, and speeds of up to 60 mph. When we reached the highway, one of my kidneys had dislodged and the other one was traumatized.

We stopped at Bode’s where twenty-four overly hydrated people visited the two bathrooms. Twenty-two of the people were women. One women’s bathroom with one stool made for a long line that moved very slowly.

Outside our teacher ordered people into cars for a short trip up the hill to look over the adobe wall of Georgia O’Keeffe’s former home and into her former front yard. O’Keeffe had a nice lawn from what I could see. That whole process must have taken another 45 minutes.

When we arrived at Ghost Ranch we drove past the main buildings to a parking area near a “long house” with no walls, three floor fans, and a soda machine. We piled out of the cars for slow walking to the pond, where we would swim.

As the group disappeared down the trail I noticed a sign: “PLAGUE PRECAUTIONS.” I stopped to read the fine print.

Because plague is endemic in New Mexico and fleas and rodents with plague have been found at Ghost Ranch, we ask you to follow these guidelines when hiking here:

  1. wear insect repellent and dust pets
  2. absolutely stay away from alive, sick, or dead rodents and their burrows
  3. report any sick or dead rodents to the office at Ghost Ranch.

The rest of the sign explained how plague was transmitted and described the symptoms.

Plague Precautions, Ghost Ranch, NM, April 2008, photo © 2008 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.Now, really, I don’t dust my house let alone my pets. Who actually believes that insect repellent works on rodents? And you don’t need to tell me to “absolutely stay away” from rodents in any state of health. I fantasized about how I would report sick or dead ones.

Well, sir, I saw this sick rodent holding its stomach and frothing at the mouth at the cactus about 20 feet past the hogan.

Which cactus?

Well, one of the 6,000 near that place.

I caught up with the group as some members were jumping into the jade green water of the pond. Being from Missouri I do not swim in water where I cannot see the bottom, because unpleasant things live in murky water. I sat on the ground amidst the rodent burrows, and who knows how many sick and dead creatures, to have my lunch, which consisted of a hot plum and a warm pork sandwich. I couldn’t eat. Then someone broke the silence with an ear-piercing scream.

“EKKKKKKK!!! There are big black snakes!!!”

Our teacher calmly said, “Leave them alone and they won’t bother you.” On that note, I abandoned the hike for the shelter of the long house where I joined three other people to await the return of our classmates.

Three or four hours later the happy hikers returned in silence. We made a stop at the Visitors’ Center to use the bathrooms, buy trinkets, and purchase more water for the journey home. We climbed in our cars and waved good-bye to what I will always remember as “Goat Ranch.”

The journey home only took a couple of hours — for some of us. The lead car turned onto the highway and disappeared over the horizon. Since no one else knew how to get back to Taos, we all put the pedal to the metal and caught the leader, temporarily. We lost her again at a critical turn. Three cars turned left and two cars turned right. Those of us who turned left made it back to Taos in an hour. The two cars that turned right wandered in the desert like the ancient Israelites, finally arriving in Taos about two hours later, mad and not speaking to any of the rest of us.

The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth, or maybe that was the dust. I vowed never to return to the Ranch.


Several weeks ago a writing friend talked me into a stay of a few days at Ghost Ranch. I balked, but she finally convinced me.

I knew this trip would be different when the journey from Taos only took 1½ hours. We stayed in lovely rooms atop a mesa with a panoramic view. We enjoyed quiet meals in the cafeteria. We took pictures. I returned to the plague area to see if it was as bad as I remembered. It wasn’t, but then it was April, the temperatures cooler, the drive not as long, my kidneys weren’t traumatized, and the rodents seemed healthier and, I assumed, less plague-ridden.

I’m glad that I re-visited Ghost Ranch. I have a new feeling about the place — but deep in my heart I will always remember the trip from Hell, the trip to Goat Ranch.

Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer whose pieces Hands and Growing Older have appeared in red Ravine.

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Skin Of A River Birch, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Skin Of A River Birch, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

haiku (one-a-day)

This post was created for a very specific purpose: writing a haiku a day. Some of our readers have expressed an interest in haiku. And some have left haiku in our comments on various posts. I wanted to create a space for our readers to come back to, anytime they wanted, and drop in a daily haiku.

Last year for the 4 season Writing Intensive in Taos, we read Clark Strand’s, Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey. It is a book I go back to often to support the practice of writing.

Clark Strand is a former Zen Buddhist monk. In 1996 he left his position as senior editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review to write and teach full time. In Seeds from a Birch Tree, he describes haiku as the following:

A haiku is a seventeen-syllable poem about the season. Arranged in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables, and balanced on a pause, a haiku presents one event from life happening now. However much we may say about haiku, its history or its various schools, it is difficult to go beyond these three simple rules: form, season, and present mind.

loving its whiteness
I walk around the birch tree
to the other side

haiku practice

When we did our post a few days ago on the release of Natalie Goldberg’s new book, Old Friend from Far Away, one of our regular readers, breathepeace, made several comments on haiku as a practice:

Natalie introduced me to haiku poetry. This year, I am committed to write one each day (or more if I choose).

Haiku is a precise way of working with words and I have found that it does lead me to other writing: poems, essays, etc. I’ve also learned that it helps me to focus on detail, finding just the right word (with the right number of syllables!) and, yes, it is a bite-sized writing practice. I’m happy to hear others exploring and playing with the haiku form.

According to Clark Strand, all you need to write haiku is some familiarity with the form and a simple notebook:

The correct way to use a haiku diary is just to be very free and open. Don’t set a single format. Don’t organize the book five haiku to a page or limit it to poems and dates, excluding prose. You may even find that you jot down an occasional phone number or appointment in its pages when no other book is handy, or — if you are an artist — a sketch of some interesting scene.

Write down your haiku just as they come to mind, without too much deliberation over whether they are good or bad. Improvement takes place slowly, so set them down the way they come and stay alert for the next opportunity to write.

Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

haiku walk

In the summer of 2006, Natalie took us on a field trip to some of her favorite places at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. We wrote, swam, and took a haiku walk up Box Canyon. For me, Ghost Ranch was one of the most inspiring trips of the year. Natalie had us follow Clark Strand’s outline for walking and writing haiku:

In the simplest form, writing haiku is closer to collecting shells than searching for the proper word. When you go to the shore to collect shells, you just walk along in a relaxed way, now and then stooping down to look at something interesting or beautiful. Sometimes you pick up a fragment for its shape or color, and sometimes a fully formed shell. If you take a daily haiku walk in this same spirit, soon you will find that haiku come all by themselves.

Loosely, Strand’s haiku walk goes something like this:


  • make sure your purpose is only to walk, to be outside in nature
  • you’re not trying to get somewhere, or even to write haiku
  • relax into the feeling of being outdoors
  • notice weather, plants, animals, but keep walking


  • let your body loosen and relax
  • let nature displace the ordinary day to day concerns
  • take time to pause over things that strike you as beautiful
  • pauses create space in your life for something to enter

end (beginner’s mind)

  • let that something come in
  • take your notebook out of your pocket and carry it in your hand
  • the space you created in your life a few minutes ago now becomes the space to write a poem

Last year, I walked a local labyrinth in St. Paul to write haiku. But it can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood. Or walking around the block. After a while you won’t need to structure your walks anymore. You’ll know the right moment to write.

haiku – looking out, looking in

Haiku as a poetry form provides a way to be present to the outside, in order to go deeper within. Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, is known for his haiku. In the year before he died, he wrote the following verse:

Chrysanthemums bloom
in a gap between the stones
of a stonecutter’s yard

Near the end of Seeds from a Birch Tree, Strand speaks of Basho’s greatest work, The Narrow Road to the Deep North:

Haiku, in many ways the most outward, most concrete, and most perpetually grounded form of poetry, is also the most inward. It requires a lot of inner work.

Basho titled his greatest work Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North). Basho traveled a long way north on a journey with his student and fellow poet Sora and kept a diary of his travels. The diary contains some of his most famous haiku.

The way north is the way within. This kind of understanding comes when we realize that in looking out, we are also looking in. We learn it by looking carefully at the world.

Basho said:  There is one thing which flows through all great art, and that is a mind to follow nature, and return to nature.

Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Feel free to drop a haiku into the comments in this post, any time, day or night. Tomorrow, or 52 days from now. It doesn’t matter.

Write a haiku a day for a month. If you wish, break structure and form. Be playful with your writing. With practice, you’ll find your way home.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

-one writer’s review of Seeds from a Birch Tree, Hyperion, 1997 (including more haiku from the book)Tony Lipka on Clark Strand’s Haiku of Mindfulness

-short bio of Clark Strand: World Wisdom

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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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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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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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