Monthly Archives: July 2010

corpses

What might have been are the saddest words in the English language. I spent the week at a workshop given by Natalie Goldberg and the subject of the prompts for our writing practice was relationships. I felt like I was in a graveyard digging up bodies, the bodies of my failures in love. But the corpses weren’t rotting; they were mummified, and that meant a lot to me. The sweet oil of forgiveness was everywhere. The past was desiccated and dry. It meant healing was deeper than I knew; I was looking back on myself and others with compassion. I didn’t like looking back, but I did like seeing the internal movement past grief and recrimination.

The Moving Finger writes, and having writ, nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it….Omar Khayamm translated by Kahlil Gabran.

I find the word, thy, special, moving….a familiar form of you that’s lost…but so beautiful to read.

taos even song

I walk several blocks and cross the main road of Taos to go to the grocery store. From the parking lot, I can see the mountains rising up toward sky and a sunset. The sight of them makes me feel safe, in the presence of something large. How great that a grocery store has such a view, I think. On the way back, I meet one of my fellow artists here. We walk down our dirt road, and she stays to have a glass of wine. We sit on my little front porch. The evening is cool, though the day has been hot. We talk about Taos, the characters we’ve met, the friends we’re making, yoga, the art scene in LA and Santa Fe, the economy here, the drugs, the intricate culture of Hispanic, Anglo, and Native. We talk about God. Is there one? We drink wine and eat cheese and crackers, and the evening begins to darken around us. The hummingbirds who have commandeered the feeder buzz us every once in awhile. We hear the sounds of neighbors talking, pulling garbage cans to the curb because sound travels so far here. Night is upon us, and we part, and I walk into my casita feeling rich. I don’t sit on the porch and talk with neighbors in Houston. It’s too hot. We’re all too busy or have to catch the news. I don’t have news here, unless I summon it up on the radio or internet.

Have you ever lived some place slow and easy? That’s how it is here. My other life is on a shelf right now. I know this won’t last, that I’m in a bubble the artist’s residency has created for me. I’ll be picking my other life up soon, but  it feels so good to be soothed by a slower pace and caressed by the sweet ending of a day.

sense of place

I’ve never had any kind of sense of place. I spent early years in a tiny town in Arkansas before we moved several times to end in Pasadena, Texas. The Houston Ship Channel runs along one side of town, and the structures which process oil and gas are miles of intricate metal piping and holding tanks. At night, they look like fairy palaces of lights. In the daylight, they look like some kind of monstrous ugly invention that overwhelms everything around.  I never bonded with any of it, never processed it even for bad memories, like writer Mary Karr. My real world was in books: fiction, history books, biographies, historicals. It was in England, which I imagined as green and grand. It was in some old house a Cavalier ancestor built. Now I’m in a place–Taos— where I understand what it means to bond with the ground under my feet, the trees over my head, the sky, the mountains. At twilight, I try to watch the sunset, its entire hour of departure, its drama changing each night, wild and colorful if there are clouds, quietly sensual if there are none. There are grand sweeps of pasture land to the mountains themselves. The air is clear and clean. There are adobes both new and crumbling with age. There are abandoned trucks in some yards. Horses or cattle still matter here. Cottonwoods green any creek bed or the river, even if the water is gone; otherwise there is the desert, with its grays and beiges and tough little turfs of sage and pinion. Off the main drag, main street, main highway, all rolled into one road, paved streets quickly give way to gravel or dirt ones. Today I went to a Pow Wow inside Pueblo land. The sun beat down fiercely on me and dancers from all the nations: Apache, Sioux, Navajo, Tiwas…others. They were feathered and belled and beaded into splendor. I loved their stomping, whirling dance….mirroring the heartbeat of the earth, the announcer said. This isn’t an easy place to make a living any more; small farms are a way of the past, though with all the exposure of the terrible practices of our food industry, that just may change. The sale of art and crafts and the service industry for tourists seem to be the two main props of employment. And yet, what beauty there is. But you can’t feed yourself solely on beauty. Beauty is food for the tourists, like me…..

What place is in your blood? If there isn’t one, do you feel a sense of loss, a sense of being a ghost? Are you always looking for home? Is home ever real?