Posts Tagged ‘longing for home’

Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009
by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


We’re back after a 2+ week blogcation. How time flies. On Sunday ybonesy sent me an email titled: Getting Back in the Saddle. We both agreed that the vacation from blogging was refreshing; we needed it. We also took a hiatus from electronics, with the exception of learning a bit about Twitter. It’s a whole other world that moves at lightning speed and (like blogging) has its own protocols, courtesies, and idiosyncrasies. But there are some good, smart people on Twitter including a whole slew of writers and artists.

We’ll keep using Twitter for updates, to stay in touch from the field, and to add links we find of interest or that relate to red Ravine. So keep watching our sidebar for the latest Tweets. If you see an RT, it means we picked the link up from another Twitter user and are giving them credit. Oh, and the bit.ly and tiny.url link shorteners we use are perfectly safe. We test them first and wouldn’t steer you in the wrong direction.

But what should I post today? ybonesy’s back from Vietnam and has a few posts in the works; I survived Art-A-Whirl and am excited to be in the studio. I’m leaning toward something simple for our first day back. While on vacation, I didn’t do much writing, but I did go hear Patricia Hampl at the Highland Park Library in St. Paul. I had already finished The Florist’s Daughter and made the commitment to read all of her work; she is my kind of writer.

Her talk in St. Paul did not disappoint. She was there to promote the new book, Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape from Trinity University Press. The book is edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney and contains an A to Z history of words about the land written by famous writers like Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Hass, and Franklin Burroughs.  Lopez gave each writer a list of words for which they wrote a definition using a combination of research and wordsmithing; the result is over 850 terms—from `a`a to zigzag rocks—defined by 45 American writers. It’s beautifully written with pen and ink illustrations by Molly O’Halloran.

Hampl explained that Barry Lopez had asked her over a glass of wine if she would be interested in participating in the project; she agreed. And after being initially uncertain about the words she received, she ended up loving the project. In addition, each writer was asked to choose the place they considered to be their “home ground.” Patricia Hampl chose the North Shore of Lake Superior, womb of the earth, a Minnesota landscape completely different from the urban setting of her home in St. Paul.

What place do you consider your “home ground?”


Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.            Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.             Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape is a historical map drawn by writers — word geography with cairns that weave through centuries of the American landscape. Liz and I fell in love with the book; she purchased it that evening. When I took the photograph at the top (that’s Liz’s finger holding the book up), Patricia Hampl had just walked out of the library and we chatted for a few seconds about the bloom of Spring on the Minnesota landscape and how well the book sold that night. I’m certain it will find a prominent place on our reference bookshelf.

Thanks for hanging in there with us on our red Ravine break. Thanks for reading. We’re back in the saddle and I’m going to wrap it up with a little taste of Home Ground. There is a short essay on saddle written by Conger Beasley, Jr. where he refers to the twin summits of the Spanish Peaks outside of Walsenburg, Colorado (though it’s closer to ybonesy, I did eat dinner there one evening on a drive to Taos). According to Beasley, because of their resemblance to the torso of a woman at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Spanish Peaks are called Wah-to-yah, “Breasts of the World,” by the Ute Indians and locals refer to the saddle as “the cleavage.” Conger Beasley considers the beautiful and nurturing Spanish Peaks his “home ground.”

Here’s a final excerpt from a word near and dear to our hearts: 

Ravine is French for mountain torrent, and comes from the Old French rapine, or “violent rush.” Larger than a gully or a cleft but smaller than a canyon or gorge, a ravine is a small steep-sided valley or depression, usually carved by running water. The word is most often associated with the narrow excavated valley of a mountain stream. A rarer usage denotes a stream with a slight fall between rapids. In A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, Isabella Bird writes: “After descending about two thousand feet to avoid the ice, we got into a deep ravine with inaccessible sides, partly filled with ice and snow and partly with large and small fragments of rock which were constantly giving way, rendering the footing very insecure.”

      -Kim Barnes, from her home ground, Clearwater Country in Idaho


Home Ground Resources:

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

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Catching a ride, passenger riding backwards on a motorcycle in downtown Saigon, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

It’s Saturday morning, and like many locals I’m heading out for the weekend. Some of them are taking Monday off; Tuesday’s a national holiday, and there’s a whiff of excitement in the air. They say the beaches will be full.

I’m going for people and culture. I’ll be taking a boat cruise to the Mekong Delta, bringing along little more than my camera, mosquito spray, and clothes to spend the night. (A much lighter load than the woman in the picture above.)

So much swirling through my head over here on this side of the world. Yesterday I frantically tried watching Barack Obama’s speech from work, but the video streaming was more like video constipation. Instead, I called home every 15 minutes to get Jim’s impressions. He and the girls watched the whole thing; Em’s fourth-grade teacher assigned it as homework.

I’m at that point in this trip where I long for my home. All of it. Last night a work colleague invited me to dinner at his home with his family. He has four daughters, ages 17, 15, nine, and six. They’re beautiful, as is his wife. It was Shabbat, and so the dinner was extra special, with singing and challah, candles and wine. By the end of the evening I wanted to take the nine-year-old, who stayed by my side most of the night telling me everything there was to know about everything, and just squeeze her. When I hugged her good-bye I told her that I missed my girls.

This is a short post. Not focused, more stream of thought. I feel more than ever that we must elect Obama. Every person I talk to, from every nationality—they hate the U.S. They hate W. So much damage has been done to our reputation, our credibility, our influence.

We are one world now. We’re like those contraptions where you pull the ball on the pendulum and it hits a whole bunch of other balls, causing the one on the other end to jump out. We are the main ball, reverberating on every other one.

After I finish this post, I’ll call home. I’ll talk to the girls once for the weekend until Sunday night, their Sunday morning. It will be hard to not have at least twice-daily conversations with them. I call them every day when I get up to wish them Good-Night, then again in my evening to wish them Good-Morning.

I want them to come to Vietnam with me some time in the coming year. I want them to be able to see the world when they are young, when their minds are open and they can understand how each individual is connected to the whole.

Off to the Mekong Delta. Should be fascinating.

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