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Posts Tagged ‘Mabel Dodge Luhan’

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
860-247-0998



Other links to explore:


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

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Mabel’s Lights IIII, third in series, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008, by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel’s Lights IIII, third in series, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos,
New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2011, by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.



When we were sitting around the fire at a writing retreat a few weekends ago, someone threw two questions out on the floor — If you could go back in time, who would you want to meet? What period in history would you visit? The answers stirred up a lively discussion — and 30 minutes of time travel.

Last Friday at the art studio, same thing. We pulled musty old boxes of albums out of storage — Neil Young, Van Morrison, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Joni Mitchell, Olivia artists, Meg Christian, Margie Adam, and Cris Williamson (women who blazed the way for female musicians, Women’s Music, and Lilith Fair), Aretha Franklin, Prince, UB40, Bob Marley, and Two Nice Girls. We played analogue music on a refurbished turntable; the three of us reminisced about the days before Internet, cell phones, and pagers.

People used to sit around in college dorm rooms and spend hours talking about literature, art, music, women’s rights, civil rights, the environment. When we walked into a room, and the first thing we did was throw a scratchy album on the stereo, light candles (when candles still dripped), and plop down on the nearest sofa to talk. We painted blue skies and puffy clouds on the wall of the 1800’s apartment we were renting. Hours passed; we didn’t notice. Yet every second we talked, the world kept changing.


Mabel & Tony, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel & Tony, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

That’s why I’d go back to the 1920’s, to the salons of Paris; to Mabel’s heyday in Taos; to the likes of Gertrude Stein, D. H. Lawrence, Frieda Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Dorothy Brett, Aldous Huxley, Alfred Stieglitz, and Carl Jung. In the 1920’s, a creative renaissance was booming; the second wave of feminism was rolling across the country, women could finally vote.

Photographer, Berenice Abbott studied with Man Ray in the early 1920’s. Amelia Earhart took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, and in six months managed to save enough money to buy her first plane (Hillary Swank will star in the lead role of the upcoming feature film “Amelia” along with Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor. Shooting is taking place in Toronto and the film is currently scheduled to be released sometime in 2009.)

In 1922, Frida Kahlo attended the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, with a goal of studying medicine at university. She admired Diego Rivera as he worked on a mural at the prep school. In 1925, Zora Neale Hurston became Barnard’s first black student, studied under anthropologist, Dr. Franz Boas, and received a scholarship through novelist, Barnard founder, and Harlem Renaissance supporter, Annie Nathen Mayer.

During the 1920s, Hurston was dubbed “Queen of the Renaissance.” She was good friends with Richard Wright until their differences in philosophy, and a dispute over a mutual project they were working on, drove a wedge between them.

For me, it’s the 1920’s, hands down, for time travel. But if I had to choose who I would want to meet, there are three people who come to mind: Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, and James Baldwin.


As a writer, I find Baldwin inspiring. According to Literature, the Companion Website for Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, Baldwin published:


The man was on fire.


If you could go back in time, where would you go? Who would you like to meet?



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

Mabel’s Place II, The Early Days, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Mabel, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Tony, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mabel, Tony, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – BAND-AIDS® & OTHER 1920′s INVENTIONS, The Vitality Of Place — Preserving The Legacy Of “Home”

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Not I But The Wind, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. 

Not I, But The Wind, tombstone of Frieda Lawrence, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





 Emma Maria Frieda Johanna Freiin
(Baroness) von Richthofen


In Memory of twenty five years of incomparable companionship – Angie




Emma Maria Frieda Johanna Freiin (Baroness) von Richthofen was a distant relative of the “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen. But she became famous as Frieda Lawrence, wife of the British novelist D. H. Lawrence. Married to David Herbert Lawrence for 18 years, Frieda returned to Taos after his death in Vence, France in 1930, to live with her third husband, Angelo Ravagli.

After Lawrence’s death, she wrote Not I, but the Wind about her nomadic and turbulent years with D. H. Lawrence. It was released by Viking in 1934 and sold for $2.50. The book title is from the poem, Song of a Man Who Has Come Through, and contains many of Lawrence’s unpublished letters. 

In a Time magazine article, D.H.L. – Last Word, published Monday, October 8th, 1934, Frieda admits the relationship was stormy, and that Lawrence would sometimes lash out, and hit her in rage. She did not remain silent. It wasn’t her way:

“I did not want to write this book,” says she. “I wanted to give Lawrence my silence.” Then, with refreshing candor: “Do I want to blow my own trumpet? Yes, I do. . . . I will try to write as honestly as I can. Lies are all very well in their place but the truth seems to me so much more interesting and proud.”

ybonesy and I visited the D. H. Lawrence Memorial in February of 2007 on one of our “free days” at a writing retreat at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. She read Frieda’s epitaph out loud and we chuckled when she mistook incompatible for incomparable.

It is said that Mabel traded Kiowa (the D. H. Lawrence Ranch) to the Lawrences for the manuscript, Sons and Lovers. And she welcomed them to stay at her home when they were in Taos. But according to the Time article, Mabel’s and Frieda’s relationship was strained:

As for Lawrence’s women worshipers, Frieda put up with them as long, as she could, then made a scene.

One day in Taos, N. Mex., whither they had been invited by Mabel Dodge Sterne Luhan (Lorenzo in Taos), “Mabel came over and told me she didn’t think I was the right woman for Lawrence and other things equally upsetting and I was thoroughly roused and said: ‘Try it then yourself, living with a genius, see what it is like and how easy it is, take him if you can.’

If Frieda’s epitaph is any indication, she found a kindred spirit in Angelo Ravagli. The day we walked the winding path to her headstone was blue and chilled. Ice dripped off the tin roofs. Crows swooped in over the power lines. Dorothy Brett’s blue chair sat motionless in her cabin; the typewriter she used to type D. H.’s manuscripts was gone.

Near the Lawrence’s cabin, knotted branches of Georgia’s pine rose in spiky swirls to the sky. Not much had changed. Time seemed to stand still. We walked step by step over the same land they had walked in the 1920’s. The same sun beat through the oxygen-thin altitude.

I thought of everything I had read and heard, including the uproar over Lady Chatterley’s Lover and D. H.’s rocky relationships with women. Frieda answered those questions, too:

“In his heart of hearts I think he always dreaded women, felt that they were in the end more powerful than men.” And her indignant denial that in Lawrence there was anything of the pornographer: “Passionate people don’t need tricks.”



         Frieda Lawrence, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Frieda Lawrence, photograph on her tombstone outside the D. H. Lawrence Memorial, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Well, not quite. Between the two lovers, flows a river of contradiction. Through letters and words. Even in death.

As Lawrence lay dying he said to her: “Why, oh why, did we quarrel so much?” She answered: “Such as we were, violent creatures, how could we help it?”



-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 16th, 2008

-quotes are from the original Time magazine article, D.H.L. – Last Word, Monday, October 8th, 1934

-related to posts: The Name Game (What’s In A Name?), Giants Sat Here

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The story begins like this…Five hundred years ago, the large petroglyph rock that marks the border of the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos was placed there by the Tiwa Indians to help anchor the energy of the Pueblo Mountain, from whose Blue Lake they trace their origins as a tribe.

The petroglyph rock has had an additional function over these years. It has been used as a navigational guide for extraterrestrial visitors because the site also marks the entranceway to other dimensions.

— Lois Palken Rudnick, Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture


Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


This rock that sits in the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos was the inspiration for the formation of a writing group by four participants of Natalie Goldberg’s writing workshop, Living Color, held at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in July of 2007.

The four women — Jeanie from North Carolina, Melissa and Katherine from Houston, and Sally from Rome, Italy — now come together by email the first and third Monday of each month to share their writing.

They follow the rules of writing practice as Natalie Goldberg teaches it. They write for ten minutes without interruption, their hands move across the page without stopping. They don’t comment on each other’s work; they provide a short recall of what they remember after they read each piece.

They call themselves the Petroglyph Practitioners in recognition of what writing practice, and the rock in the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House are meant to offer — flight into other dimensions of the self, of the mind, and just possibly, the Divine.

But it’s best if the writers speak for themselves. Below are quotes from their writing practices on how they formed the Petroglyph Practitioners.



Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



On my first night in Taos at Natalie Goldberg’s writing workshop, I walked out to the quiet courtyard for a view of the night sky and was hit with the aloneness of being with the crowd of ancestors who have written and painted in the Mabel Dodge Luhan home. As I opened the screen door I expected to see many people with writing notebooks, books, paper, and paints expressing their dreams yet there was a silence that haunts the breeze. I find the evocative colors of lanky hollyhocks, the dust of these faded red walls, and an empty wooden bench that calls me to sit a while and meet these ghosts that stay here because it is the place they call home.

—Jeanie Bernard


When I went to Taos I thought I needed a break, but what I really needed was to meet the mountain — and to meet the immutable within myself. I needed awareness of my interconnectivity with ants, sun, dust, hollyhock, and, yes, even other humans. I was already traveling with Katherine, but I learned her on a whole new level — what was before an intellectual friendship became also a spiritual friendship. I met Jeanie and Sally, and Sally helped me make sense of a meditation experience I’d had years before.

—Melissa Studdard


We wanted the practice to do what the stone was meant to do — open a portal into our minds, into our hearts, into places we needed to go. We finally hit upon a name. The Petroglyph Practitioners. We set rules. We would each submit a piece on any topic we wanted the first and third Monday of every month. We would each provide recall of each piece and share that response with the entire group. We would not edit our writing practices beyond punctuation and spelling errors. We would stay true to the practice as Natalie had taught it. If we wrote shit, that’s what we sent that day.

—Sally Sontheimer


That was an amazing night as Sally took us by flashlight and led us to the rock that had been there all this time. I had no idea it was there. I do know that Natalie always had us do walking meditation near that rock every year I had been there. Now I understood why. I felt a deep connection with Sally and Melissa that night. At the end of the week we decided to join together as a virtual writing group along with Jeanie, Sally’s friend, and we formed the Petroglyph writing practice group.

—Katherine Reynolds



Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



We sit that last day anchored to the idea that we need each other to ground our practice and navigate beyond. For us, this solid rock shores us up for more writing. We talk of ways to sustain our desires, to witness our words and to prop us up. We make our plans: we write, we read, we recall and we dream…alone and together.

—Jeanie Bernard


She said petroglyphs were believed to be portals to other dimensions and that the Natives believed this and this is why the petroglyphs were considered sacred. I remember her telling me that that is why I always felt like I was home at Mabel’s. She told me that I didn’t need to move to Taos, but that it was always good to visit these places around the world because all petroglyphs feel like home. They connect us to the Source, The Over Soul, or as I choose to call it: God.

—Katherine Reynolds


I find that the rhythm we have set for ourselves is good; it’s neither so frequent that we feel stressed about it, nor too distant to lose interest. We all submit on time. We share emails in which we say how much we enjoy the sharing. We aren’t supposed to comment, but we do, just a little bit. We share support for one another, share a thought, give a pat on the back. Did the name live up to our expectations? For my part, I’d say so and I think the others would agree. Something new and unexpected always comes through for me. I discover myself, and I also discover the others by reading their work.

—Sally Sontheimer


Since then, we have all kept our obligation to the practice — we have shared humor, shame, defeat, happiness, spirituality, intellectual obsessions, family secrets, dreams, beliefs, insecurities, friendship, and respect. I have learned from these women how to listen, how to share, and how to grow my heart.

—Melissa Studdard


I’ve learned to honor the writing that comes out in each of us because it connects us. Katherine, Melissa, Jeanie, and I — we are the Petroglyph Practitioners, united in being there for each other, united in wanting to explore every other week together what it means to be human.  

—Sally Sontheimer

   


      
            Petroglyph Practitioners in front of the petroglyph rock, Taos, NM, July 2007
            Petroglyph Practitioners in Taos, NM, in front of the
            petroglyph rock for which their group is named, July 2007,
            photo © 2007 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-Related to post The Petroglyph Practitioners On “I Want To Let Go Of…”.

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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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There were many chairs holding the ground at Kiowa Ranch in the 1920’s. This one was Dorothy Brett’s. It is smaller than the Giant’s. But has a sturdy seat. Strong foundation.

At the round table, she typed Lawrence’s manuscripts for St. Mawr and The Woman Who Rode Away (based on Mabel Dodge Luhan) on a typewriter once used by Aldous Huxley.

A knight of the round table. I like the sound of that. Aren’t we all searching for some kind of Holy Grail?


Dorothy Brett’s Chair - D.H. Lawrence Ranch, February 8th 2007 - photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved 

Dorothy Brett’s Blue Chair, detail inside Dorothy Brett’s 9 x 11 cabin at D. H. Lawrence’s Kiowa Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 8th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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I’m drinking a cup of French Roast in a black ceramic mug that I reheated in the microwave. I wasn’t thinking when I took the first sip. My tongue and the roof of my mouth are burned. I write anyway. No, red gums are not keeping me back. Nor pink, fleshy ripples on the roof of my mouth, nor the size of my gut, nor the overwhelm I feel on a Monday morning, a week after the last Intensive in New Mexico.

I remember in the zendo, we were to write something on a piece of paper and put it on the altar for the week. Something we wanted to let go of. When I walked over to grab a piece off the pile of cut and stacked used paper, on it was a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca:

“I remember what’s in front of you.” – Baca poem

In the silence, I thought it was so profound. Like Natalie telling us to follow the person behind us. Now I can only think of following the person behind me as the writers that came before me. I stand strong on their backs. And they watch mine.

What is holding me back? Me. I like Baca’s words. Because they remind me that other people can see me and where I am going much more clearly than I can see myself. We are all in this together. Whether we are writers or astronauts. We all live on this planet. Though we sometimes travel to others.

I feel like I am on the edge of something, a steep precipice, some cliffhanger on Mount Hood. I’ve been hearing a lot about Mount Hood lately. Climbers falling and rescued. They take great risks, great leaps of faith, because they love climbing. That’s what I have to do as a writer. My life is not in danger but my character is hung out there to dry, for all to see.

I’ve still got some of those old wooden clothes hangers my mother used to use to hang wet clean laundry on three strings of clothes line. I use them to clip Rice Krispies and Doritos packages closed so they don’t get stale. I used to love the smell of sundried clothes when I would take them down, fold them, and stack them in the plastic turquoise laundry basket with hundreds of cut vents in the sides.

There is nothing like the smell of clean laundry. Unless it’s the smell of the first mowed grass in early spring. Or the scent of fireflies in a summer pickle jar of emerald cuttings.

But what is holding me back? Fear. I’m afraid I will fail. And I will only succeed if I am fearless of failure. That’s what my teacher says. And I believe her. But I have to find out for myself, don’t I? Yes. I have to make my own mistakes.

To be honest, I have no idea what is holding me back. I feel like I am moving forward. I don’t exactly know the plan. But I have a loose outline of the year ahead, structured around writing. I want to start work on my memoir and I have an outline that came to me in a dream five years ago. Can you believe that? A dream. Not much has changed on the outline. I’ve decided to let the book unfold – I want to let the story tell me. When I go back to the places I will write about, I want to listen. And write down what I hear. Like we did at Ghost Ranch, writing haiku in the steaming sun.

I have a plan for my writing and consulting business. I have a plan to teach. I have a plan to start my first memoir. Maybe there will be many. I was reading last night that Haven Kimmel is on her second memoir, a sequel. I like the idea of that. Mabel Dodge Luhan did that, too, wrote a series of memoirs. Were there four? It doesn’t matter how good they are. What matters is that I get them out. I can do the editing later. I have to make time and money to travel, research, get the words down on paper, the first draft.

It’s going to take years. In the meantime, I practice. There is nothing holding me back but me. Everything is in place. Because, slowly, over the last 6 years, I took risks at looking dumb and exposed and allowed myself to show me to other writers in my life. I have a big writing community. I do writing practice nearly every day. I have strong writing bones. I didn’t always have those things. Not that long ago, I only had me. I know how to teach other writers to practice and create community. Those are not the things that are stopping me.

It is fear. The same fear arises every time I finish a piece. I gear up to write, I am lost in the process of writing, I am feeling great joy, that writing euphoria every writer knows. I am done, I edit, it’s ready – then the let down. After every high of writing comes the big let down that it’s done. And the next piece awaits me.

I have to stay strong and steady in the middle of the pendulous wave. I can picture it on a graph, x/y coordinates, like a big tsunami, aftershock, and then falling down to bone level, kind of like the even wave I saw at the Science Museum of Minnesota the week before I left for Taos.

There was a 30 foot long rectangular tank with a continuous wave, perfectly even at the top, undulating from one end of the tank to the next. There was also a vertical tornado chamber in which a spray of fog whipped itself into a frenzy when you spun a wheel. I do all those things when I write. And then it’s over.

What keeps me back is knowing that when I finish one piece, or a practice, the next calls out to me. Eventually, I have to get up the gumption to keep going. No matter what. Even when I am afraid. Even when every bone in my body is telling me I can’t write. I keep going.

Because somewhere, some other strong, tired, worn out writer is saying, “I remember what’s in front of you.”

It’s scary to think I might have forgotten. Yesterday I cried. On Friday, I felt a great joy at the largeness of my life. Saturday I was tired and feeling under the weather. Sunday I slept most of the day. Monday is solemn. So I take the next right step. What’s in front of me. Just like this writing practice. And the ritual of French Roast. And now my morning shower.

Monday, February 19th, 2007

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