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Happy 4th Birthday red Ravine!


In Gratitude for another year of red Ravine, with much appreciation to our readers and guests. You keep the community going strong and inspire me every day with your courage, grace, and humor. red Ravine was conceived in Taos, New Mexico, born on November 3rd, 2006, and launched as an Aries, April 7th, 2007. It seems important to mark the passing of time, to reflect and remember how far we have come.

On the first anniversary in 2008, we were living dangerously. The second year, we celebrated poetry with a Postcard From Billy Collins — Kicking Off National Poetry Month. Year three explored the range of horoscopes of our readers. Here we are at the end of year four. I saw my first butterfly this afternoon signaling the birth of Spring. It held all the promise of a passionate year five. Thank you for all you have given!


-posted on red Ravine, in celebration of her 4th Birthday & Blogiversary, Thursday, April 7th, 2011

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shadow auto 2

Moon Over Taos Mountain, Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, Tri-X black & white film print, photo © 2003-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


December marks a time of darkness and silent reflection leading up to the Winter Solstice. Most Decembers, Natalie holds a writing retreat around the time of December 1st through 8th. In Zen, this time is called Rohatsu Sesshin and marks the enlightenment of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. For those heading to Taos to write, it’s a time of community solitude, an opportunity to go within.

sherpa 2 auto

Slow Walking, Natalie Goldberg, Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, Tri-X B&W film print, photo © 2003-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

This week ybonesy and several other writing friends will be making the jouney to Taos to sit in silence. I find comfort in knowing they will be there under Taos Mountain. When they sit, they sit for all of us. The zendo casts a wide circle. Everything is connected. We can sit and write in solidarity.

There will be long nights under Mabel’s lights and slow walks into Taos. Some will walk the morada, visit the graves of Mabel and Frieda, soak up places that Georgia walked on her first visits to New Mexico. Notebooks will be filled with Writing Practices, later to be reread.

Whatever’s at the surface will fall away. What’s important is what is underneath.  Underbelly.


Sit, Walk, Write. With Gratitude to a long lineage of mentors and teachers. For all that has come before. And all that will be.


Note: ybonesy and I met in Taos at a Writing Retreat. We’ll be forever connected by that thread. And the practice that became red Ravine. We’ve written many pieces on our time spent in Taos. To learn more about Sit, Walk, Write or our experience of studying with Natalie Goldberg at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, check out the links in this post. Or click on any of the posts under Taos. With Gratitude to our readers, those at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Natalie, and all the writers and artists who keep showing up to brave the silence. We are all in this together.


–posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 5th, 2010

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Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County

Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Bob walking 10,000 steps on the beach, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sitting, walking, writing with the Midwest Writing Group on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. This is the 7th time we’ve met. The first was October 2007 at McCreedy’s in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Somewhere in the middle, there was Kansas City, Missouri. The last retreat was on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota.


We arrived on Thursday; the Moon was new. The mornings and afternoons are silent. Here’s our daily schedule:

  • Wake up in Silence.
  • 9am to Noon — Sit, walk, write.
  • Noon to 1pm — Lunch in Silence.
  • 1pm to 4pm — Free Time. Read, write, walk, sleep, stare out the window.
  • 4pm to 6pm — Sit, walk, write.
  • 6pm — Dinner. Free to talk and break bread.


 

Writing Home, Lake Michigan

Writing Home, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


If you’d like to join us, here are the first 14 Writing Topics. During Day 1 of Sit, Walk, Write (Natalie Goldberg style) we wrote 14 practices at 10 minutes each:

  • Reading under a blanket
  • Fortunate life
  • Friend of the family
  • Piano lessons
  • I’m waiting for
  • Bits of garbage
  • Should I stay or should I go
  • I guess I’m doing alright
  • Walls
  • A path through the weeds
  • Cries for help
  • Don’t tell me it will be alright
  • Distractions
  • Luckiest person in the world


 

Sit, Walk, Write

Sit, Walk, Write, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


Observations:

  • Took all of Day 1 to debrief & unwind from busyness
  • Travel days take a lot out of you
  • Resistance high on Day 2
  • Breathing deeper on Day 3
  • Staring at the lake calms me, blood pressure drops
  • Walking the beach spurs fresh creative ideas. I’m part of something bigger than me.
  • After 3 years, I feel comfortable & safe with these writers. We’ve worked out the logistics of living, eating, sleeping in close quarters.
  • Everyone holds the space
  • Grateful to the timekeeper who holds the structure
  • Writing about family, place, home, writing projects
  • Free time is essential. Sleep & rest without guilt is essential. Silence is essential.


Back next week. Get out your fast writing pens and spiral notebooks. We follow the Writing Practice rules. And try to Make Positive Effort For The Good. Sit, walk, write.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 10th, 2010

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By Judith Ford
 
 

You’re Invited, lang•widge, March 27, 2010, Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.




Poetry is a lot like music. Music evokes visual images; visual art can stimulate poems. Read that backwards and it’s true that way, too.

Last March, while visiting a friend in DC, I had the opportunity to experience all three — music, my friend’s paintings, and a spontaneous poetry happening — mixed together for one entertaining evening. The event: lang•widge. The setting: Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.

My friend, artist Freya Grand, paints landscapes. Not your ordinary landscapes. Landscapes filtered through Freya’s vision and open to interaction with the viewer. In Freya’s words, “Painting landscape begins as an internal process. As in abstraction, forms transmit a mysterious secret life, exert a presence.”

Presence was abundant on March 27 at Gallery Neptune, even before the rest of the evening’s events unfolded.  I’ve always had my own strong responses to Freya’s work, partly because I’ve traveled with her to some of the locations she later painted. More because her work is emotional, full of motion and light. Like me, the lang•widge participants responded in their own unique ways.

So here’s how it went: A few weeks before lang•widge, Freya and gallery owner Elyse Harrison asked jazz musician Steven Rogers to preview the paintings and compose short pieces of music in response. Once everyone had had a chance to walk around and see all the paintings (munch on cheese and crackers, drink wine), we were asked to gather in front of a podium and listen to a short poetry reading by Charlie Jensen, poet and director of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and the poet, Reb Livingston.








            



                            



                                       


Works by Freya Grand, Rock at Low Tide, 48″ x 60″, 2008, Burning Fields, 30″ x 30″, 2009, Cotopaxi, 48″ x 60″, 2006, and Fog, Benbulben, 30″ x30″, 2010, paintings © 2006-2010 by Freya Grand. All rights reserved.




Suitably warmed-up, we were each given a clipboard, a few sheets of paper, and a pencil. As Steven Rogers’ techno-jazz music played, we looked at the paintings again and quickly jotted down short lines. Whatever came to mind.

I was surprised by how much I liked the music. I am not a big jazz fan, but looking at Freya’s work and listening to this weird contemporary music, I found myself enjoying the way the visual and musical bits blended together. Whatever it was I wrote in response — I didn’t preserve any of it —  was full of the light and movement I’ve always seen in my friend’s work.  Hope, change, powerful natural forces, awe, wonder. 

When the four short pieces of music had finished, we reassembled in front of the podium. Volunteers did most of the reading, but first Charlie Jensen and Reb Livingston demonstrated the technique. They chose two from a diverse collection of colored dice. The number rolled determined the number of pieces of paper to be read together to create a spontaneous poem.

The results were surprising, to say the least. Where I had seen light and life, others had seen darkness and death, despair and violence. Sexuality. New life forms. Being lost, being found. Memories of blankets, clouds, and chaos.


 
 

During lang•widge, poets Charles Jensen and Reb Livingston explain the process, draw poem pieces, then read the resulting poetry, photos © 2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.



Here are some of my favorite lines:

smiley in foam, red glee

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

I’ve made a mistake coming here

I’ll never eat butter cream frosting again




When my husband, Chris, who loves to perform for an audience, volunteered, things got even stranger. He happened to pick a very long series of lines that were written in five different languages. Chris speaks nothing but English. His courageous attempts to pronounce Spanish, Italian, French, German, and, I think, Swedish, were sidesplitting.

Afterward Chris sought out the writer of those lines, and, yes, she did speak all those languages. She told Chris he’d done a pretty good job at guessing the pronunciations.

I sought out Freya. “Did you realize how much pain and despair was hiding in your paintings?” I asked. Freya is not prone to darkness or despair. She told me she was actually more surprised by the butter cream frosting than the pain. She said something like, “People project into my work whatever is up for them at the present moment.”

Not sure about that butter cream.



Freya Grand and Chris Ford, photo ©
2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.




So here’s an idea:  How about trying a little mini da-da poetry writing sans Steven Rogers’ music? Take a look at any of the Freya Grand paintings in this post (or visit her website). Pick out a piece of music you currently like a lot. While the music plays, quickly, without much thought, jot down five (or so) lines or phrases.

Email them to me at pinkeggs@gmail.com.  After two weeks or so (about August 9) I’ll randomly pick out lines, type them in the order I’ve picked, and post them here in the comments section. Let’s see what we come up with.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Here are two poems created during the lang•widge event; these are also posted on The Writer’s Center website.




1.



this is reversal

clouds coming up through earth’s crust

all my orange drizzles around in dust

I fly over this, I needn’t touch down

Earth is melting

manna comes down

my wings are lifted by

heat from the ground

Lift off!

Earth Burnt and Fractured

Evaporated Anger

Unexpressed Blindness

earth’s breath

greeny pastures of ooze

trudging uphill I see my shadow and a whale

I’m near a synthetic ocean

one that’s flat and even dry

cured epoxy cement

fake lily sky

but here’s where I swim

and here’s where I’ll die

your piano carries me anywhere

you play

standing stones

scottish shore

volcanic mist

walk to the top edge

as above, so below

coolness rising

You and me

never the same

mountain ranges between us

ocean depths……storms

air that we breathe

the only media

that unites

I lived there so long the ocean was like a person to me.

A giant meatball rolling towards its destiny.





2.



East coast sunsets

are less brilliant

but the sand between my toes

feels more like home.

Scary golf course littered laced

and smoking with traps sandy

silken tofu nowhere is there a

flag or a hole to crawl into

Dark fog charcoal wall

surrounding me give me grass

but it wriggles this grass

maybe the rocks will protect me

marshmallow antlers and steamy pea soup

There’s a smiley

in the foam

red glee

misty canyon aerie wheat

volcanic atmosphere rock strewn beach

geyser rivulets

yves tanguy

shadows

cliff hanger

steam

heat

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

wash of creation

thrum

pure thin air

Moses parts a red and vanillas sea

A single, persistent surfer.

I’d made a mistake coming here.

bleed





___________________________________________________________________________________________

Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with her 25 Reasons I Write post. Judith’s other pieces on red Ravine include Mystery E.R., I Write Because, and PRACTICE – Door – 20min.

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Night Fog (0) Emptiness – 19/365, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 

One seagull feather
hairy sculptures of seagrass
piled up on the dunes;
lady bugs and beetles land,
shelter from the cold, coarse sand

found in the sand
someone lost a loved one–
this wedding band,
years of what could and could not
happen in a span of life

life’s changing seasons
happy, sad, up, down, laugh, cry-
stay or go away;
underneath the roiling waves
calm moonlight draws me back in

breathing in bath salts,
I think of the tears I tasted
when you said goodbye
bitter wind off oceans spray
turns my heart cold like that day

bare truth, bald faced lie,
why does nothing satisfy?
how fickle my heart
swinging between trees
like a hammock

creaking bending trees
crying out pains agony-
red eyes of grief’s lava tears
into the wind I let it go
a feather across the sand

between power lines
the crows can’t decide whether
to leave or stay
feet hold fast to whir of wire
head says run to shifting ground

from the earth
a crack
of fresh earthworms
slither through the pouring rain
clinging to last bits of life

the soccer field–
a marshland for herons
after the rain
reminds me of Nebraska
slow drum of Janis Ian

naked oak and birch
still in the November wind
haiku for the sky
only my breath caught
in the branches

birdsong–
my dog echoes the warbler
with her sore throat;
the trill can be heard for miles,
is the bark worse than the bite?

from the birch tree
I peel away the bark
and write this haiku
I find the sap sweet, congealed
While my tears remain bitter

The backyard rubble
Holds wisps of waylaid dreams It’s
Slim pickings for birds;
they are dreamcatchers
tying each nightmare to bare branches.

crows light on the wing
Raven holds November court
while hummers fly South
dipping in the sunlight
they pull away the clouds

Sun sextile Saturn
Thanksgiving relationships
may take a quick turn
family feuds holding still –
peace returns, if just one day

on the corner, the Raven
returning for a quick meal
dissolves into night
The autumn also takes wing,
A snowflake heralds winter.

trees crawl toward the sky
ochre moonlight silhouettes
dreaming of Solstice
The nights are long and heavy
but soon the light will lift us.

trenches around fire
reflected deep in your eyes
labyrinthine pools…
I think of the night we held
each other from our own shadows

Your softest caress,
each tremble and kiss of tress,
a single raindrop,
creating dry dust devils
littered with blurred distinctions.

on the windshield
cracks become softer
in the fog —
-1 freezes in place,
fingers draw cold words–your name.

linked crescents–
I fitted your faded last name
around my lip print –
morning sun, and it’s still there,
remnants of what used to be.

the future so uncertain
as I drive through
the Monday car wash –
when I pay, their parrot talks,
Cackles “I love you” out loud.

 
 

________________

 
 

for every life
there is a reason to live
and there is an end
And in this divine resort,
God grant us late, quick checkout.

soulful salvation
a rest of quiet peace; not
exasperation.
Still, I wonder what happens
to our dreams after we die?

Perhaps they live on,
in the hearts and minds we touch,
then eternity.
Or disappear like the wind,
ideas whose time never came.

All is illusion.
so say the masters of Zen,
and whispers the wind.
Monkey Mind clings to what’s “real”
while life passes by in zeal.

Our earthly moment,
gestation for mind and soul,
to transcend mere time.

 
 

________________

 
 

devouring time
underneath the work ethic
wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Toss a coin into a pond,
the ripples subside quickly.

That which glimmers bright
quietly fades from our sight,
we race the sunset.
Full throttle, going nowhere –
What remains? An empty shell.


________________


It has come to this:
An ad on a vomit bag.
Is nothing sacred?
Sacred cow branding?
Or designer-stigmatas?

Open your hands and hearts,
Brand all with love and kindness,
lest they wander lost.
Besides, emetophobes won’t…
I repeat, won’t read puke bags.

Suggestive powers,
A greasy pork chop and fried octopus,
from dirty ashtray.
These are mental images,
to cure one of mal de mer.

Yet, on second thought
one might not regain sea legs
while eating frog’s legs.
And speaking of splayed legs,
we’re covering quite a spread.

jumping through mind hoops
e.e. cummings comes to mind;
humor of Mark Twain
Whole lotta jumpin’ go’n on
In Calaveras County.

Sliding through worm holes
Ol’ H. G. Wells comes to mind;
Brakes would be handy.
Invisible man flees scene,
hoping someone will see him.

Twain is consarned wry,
“Such happy rascality”,
is his catchphrase child.
Left to fend laughs for itself,
in his novel “Roughing It”.

Or Aldous Huxley,
Seer of socialist folly,
Eyeless In Gaza.
A voice for Albert Hoffman
or at least his Problem Child.

Aldous knew O’Keeffe
typed books at Kiowa Ranch
under Lawrence Tree
Look up! Reach toward the tree top
but don’t forget the journey.

A naughty dream date,
Aimee Semple McPherson,
and Sinclair Lewis.
She was Sharon Falconer,
penned in “Elmer Gantry”.

Another Sinclair
was also interested,
He was an Upton.
Then there was Pete Seeger whose
ballad belied her scandal.

‘Twas Seeger’s refrain,
that “the dents in the mattress
fit Aimee’s caboose.”
and bared the dented psyche,
of our “modern” pop culture.

they’re turning in graves
What’s with Dylan sings Christmas?
he does what he wants.
And much like a rolling stone,
‘becomes a complete unknown.

disjointed puzzle
Springsteen’s Santa comes to town
all dressed in bright red
Hark! The Big Man’s ho-ho-ho’s
Crack The Boss up near the close.

Lady Greensleeves sings
‘Twas the night before Christmas –
hot broadside ballad


________________


New Year’s Eve Blue Moon
cookin’ up the black-eyed peas
always takes me back
Lawd, thas’ whole lottah peppah,
this etouffee gonna hurt.

need that New Year’s luck –
in the North, it’s pork loin
sauerkraut in tow.
Comfort food takes time and love,
so keep stirring and we’ll drink.

Oh tiny bubbles,
like the kiss of a hot fist,
you knock me out cold.
Milk goes with chocolate cake,
champagne, with everything.

Milk lovers unite!
milk fluffs the mashed potatoes
wraps the egg in nog.
How about slow-cooked grits?
A hominy homily.

All GRITS learn to love
hushpuppies fried in hot grease
not a dog in sight
“What are grits?” asks a Yankee.
Honey, it’s like hot ice cream.

Southern scratch biscuits,
then, there’s the red-eye gravy
smothering the plate
‘Jes add a chonk of cornbread,
and a ‘lil “Who Shot Sally”.

Lawd I am hongry,
‘Looks like the rooster dies tonight,
Chicken on Sunday.
Not if Foghorn Leghorn crows,
Or Looney Tunes Barnyard Dawg!

Oh Creme Brulee,
Immortalized in menus,
struck down by the spoon.
How fallen are the mighty,
The weapons of chefs perish.


________________


haiku, senryu, tanka, & renga


Part II of community poetry — the nature of renga. Year two of our Daily Haiku explored the intimate connection between haiku, senryu, tanka, and renga. In gratitude to all who participated, we wanted to post the year in renga. Renga is a form of collaborative poetry, written in community.

At the beginning of the year, the poetry leaned toward haiku, senryu, and tanka; renga was slow to develop. By year’s end, the renga spanned weeks, and the trend moved to longer strands of poetry. For that reason, we are dividing a year of renga into two posts, in the order they were written.

You can find helpful links, definitions, and read more about the relationship between the poetry forms in haiku 2 (one-a-day). Deep bows to Natalie and Clark. And to the poets who visit red Ravine, and help keep poetry alive.

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early laughter-green
grows between a warm change
time never walks past love
it is written in the skies
a heart shaped moon in your eyes

I think of your eyes:
like the winter sea, and shape
my heart by the moon…
sirens wake to crashing waves,
eerie melody haunts me.

heartstrings cut shorter
the distance of your voice
alluring in charm, bliss
will I know, upon some far,
galactic shore, surfing still

nights I write away
damp smudges sealed in bottles:
puckered fish in nets;
the loss is too much to bear,
floating behind hollow eyes.

weaving from afar
is how we travel through dreams–
koi in silver lakes


________________


the darkening sky
carries the promise of rain
with each shade of gray,
the sun shines from the center
of a wounded cottonwood

wrapped around hands,
one finds rings of promise
broken tree bark;
skin wrinkled and creased with age
releases bountiful seeds

buried deep,
seeds take root and stretch,
circling a pond
February snowstorm drips
concentric rings, wheel of life

lonely morning fish
ripples the quiet pond,
breaking sunlight


________________


chasing jackrabbit
tan mongrel trots through sagebrush
following its scent
the seeking can offer more
peace of mind than the finding

cave bear hibernates
two cubs spring from her loins
February birth
cycle of life continues
once again, all life reborn

fresh perspective
between gnarls of trees, sieves of leaves
sunrise meets the lake


________________


heavy snow, strong winds
just last week the smell of spring
winter packs a punch;
thawed dreams of black-eyed susans,
restless thoughts of wanting more.

dreams of longing
tucked under lashes and lips–
words run towards margins,
black and white letters jump off,
mind stops — scrambles to make sense.

following signs (blindly),
racing around cul-de-sacs
the mind, unnerved
reaches for a sense of peace,
silent shelter from the storm.

faint rainbow
storm leaves the sun in its wake
upon the relieved brow;
blue sky streaked with rainwater
prism changes everything.


________________


vernal equinox
morning freshness through the soul
sunburst in our eyes;
New Moon, stars out of hiding
blink across the Milky Way.

tangible yet far,
fantasies pinned on a star
like spilt milk…
crying for what has been lost,
yearning for that yet to come.


________________


dark and overcast
day before the holiday
a lawnmower growls;
clouds perch on the horizon
wanting nothing more than rain

storm clouds tease us
passing through the jeweled trees
on this side of life –
nothing taken for granted
will stay with us very long

cool sun at midday
life is full of suffering –
followed by moonlight
but then comes the promised dawn
when life is full of wonder


________________


black cat sleeps on couch
shadows fall near the full moon
eyes droop with the weight–
these heavy bags
that the heart carries

sun hides behind gray
burdens are what we make them
dark hinges on light

a forty watt sun
brings only hues of comfort –
false hope arises;
100 ways of seeing
the unpaved roads less traveled

on this journey
I collect many sticks and stones–
all for a bonfire
trailing in the wake of stars
yet untouched by human hands

on a stargazer lily–
a mantis praying
to the sun…
is it that I am not worthy
enough to touch the heavens?

winter sun–
snow angels catching
the snowman’s tears;
drops glisten, Icarus wings
doused by the cries of children


________________


opaque midday moon
creates halo above earth
yet darkness falls fast –
what’s lurking in the shadows?
Fear numbs, leaves no time to dwell.

fierce wind starts and stops
returns cold and leaves no doubt:
summer is over;
biting frost wilts the Spirit,
reflection ignites new spark.

by the fireplace,
the candle and I
dance to pages in my notebook —
letters expose obscure words,
teach me to read between lines





_______________________


haiku, senryu, tanka, & renga


Year two of our Daily Haiku explored the intimate connection between haiku, senryu, tanka, and renga. In gratitude to all who participated, we wanted to post the year in renga. Renga is a form of collaborative poetry, written in community.

At the beginning of the year, the poetry leaned toward haiku, senryu, and tanka; renga was slow to develop. By year’s end, the renga spanned weeks, and the trend moved to longer strands of poetry. For that reason, we are dividing a year of renga into two posts, in the order they were written. Part 2 will follow this week.

You can find helpful links, definitions, and read more about the relationship between the poetry forms in haiku 2 (one-a-day). Deep bows to Natalie and Clark. And to the poets who visit red Ravine, and help keep poetry alive.

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the desert is no lady, C-41 print film, driving across
New Mexico, January 2003, photo © 2003-2009 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Yesterday our blog friend from Seeded Earth was reading her journal from last October and posting snippets on Twitter. One journal entry caught Liz’s eye:

 

Is a wash different from an arroyo, or a gully, or a gulch? We drove over a wash (looks like a dry creek bed) called Car Wash. Really. True.

The entry reminded Liz of last May when we went to see Patricia Hampl and purchased the book Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape. She tweeted back to Bo that she would look up the words arroyo, gully, gulch and wash.

This morning when I got up, Liz was placing Post-it notes on those sections of the book before driving off to work. Curious, I thumbed through the bookmarks and started reading. Our Word Of The Day multiplied to four. I was so fascinated by the subtle differences that I was inspired to post excerpts from the Home Ground definitions on red Ravine.

 
So is a wash different from an arroyo, or a gully, or a gulch? Before you read the answer, what are your definitions? They are powerful, visual words that might even make good Writing Practices. Write one of the words at the top of your page — 10 minutes, Go!

 
_________________________________________________________________

 

arroyo

The Spanish word arroyo means “large creek.” Often steep-walled, an arroyo may be flat-bottomed sand or laden with boulders and gravel. Arroyuelo and arroyito are the diminutive forms and mean “rill” or “brook.” Arroyos are ephemeral streams, carrying water only briefly during such events as spring runoff of the summer monsoons. In the American Southwest the words arroyo and wash are sometimes used interchangeably, as are arroyo seco (meaning “dry”) and dry wash — though the English terms often describe shorter or abbreviated water courses stretching less than a mile and not necessarily part of a specific arroyo.

 –Arturo Longoria from his home ground, The Texas brushlands, Zapata County, Starr County, Texas

 
 
gulch

In the western United States, gulch is a word for a small ravine. Deeper than a gully, generally narrow and steep sided, shallower than a canyon. Miners often found gold or other minerals concentrated in a gulch’s swash channel. The Blue Cloud Gulch and the Old Dominion Gulch in Montana each yielded gold, silver, and copper for many years. Artifacts of ancient civilizations are also sometimes exposed in a gulch. In Grand Gulch, Utah, for instance, the Anasazi left their mark in red sandstone. In the profusion of gifts offered by gulches, none was more spectacular than the one discovered by a miner in New Mexico in 1987. He saw the tip of tusk in a gulch; the remains were later identified as those of a Columbian mammoth. Public and scientific interest brought about a full excavation of this site, now known as the Dry Gulch Mammoth Site, exposing a grail of bones.

 –Elizabeth Cox from her home ground, Chattanooga, Tennessee

 
 
gully

A channel worn in the earth by a torrent of water carving out a deep ditch is called a gully. Gully erosion happens after a rill, a high-velocity rush of water, has moved large amounts of soil along a depression or drainage line. As water wears away the land, the rill — the geomorphic feature — becomes a gully; cutting farther down, the headlong water makes a gulch, until the cellar doors open into a canyon. Geographers distinguish between gullies, washes, and arroyos on the one hand, and cañadas on the other, according to the materials involved. Cañadas — like cañoncitos — slice through bedrock. Arroyos and washes cut through flat layers of valley deposits; and gullies and gulches erode hill-slope materials.

 –Elizabeth Cox from her home ground, Chattanooga, Tennessee 

 
 
wash

The word wash is used to describe areas where subtle contours allow water to flow, or “wash,” from elevated sites to lower zones, like the bottoms of canyons or along gullies or next to ponds. Carrizo Wash in Arizona and Hunters Wash in New Mexico are examples of washes that run for many miles. A dry streambed or creek is often called a dry wash. In some areas of the American Southwest the words arroyo and arroyo seco are used interchangeably with wash and dry wash. In Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey writes: “Streambeds are usually dry. The dry wash, dry gulch, arroyo seco. Only after a storm do they carry water and then briefly–a few minutes, a couple of hours.”

 –Arturo Longoria from his home ground, The Texas brushlands, Zapata County, Starr County, Texas

 

-partial excerpts from Home Ground — Language for an American Landscape, published by Trinity University Press

 
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-For more information on the Home Ground Project or to purchase your copy of Home Ground — Language for an American Landscape, important links can be found in the post and Comment conversation at Home Ground — Back In The Saddle. 

Gratitude to the writers of Home Ground, to Bo from Seeded Earth for asking the question, and to Liz for responding. Together they became the inspiration for this Writing Topic.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

-related to post: Midwest Poets & Writers — When Can You Call A Place Home?

 

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