Thursday, July 27, 2006

From the Boonies to Santa Fe

I'm not sure where the phrase "in the boonies" originated, but everything around here is named after Daniel Boone so after visiting some of the little towns that surround us, I have my suspicions. I live in Boone County, the next town over is Boonville, and Franklin, half a mile west of the Boonville Bridge, features a salt lick called Boone' s Lick which launched Daniel Boone's sons, Nathan and Daniel Junior, into the salt business.

And Franklin is where William Becknell and his party, in 1821, started out for Santa Fe on an extension of Boone's Lick Road, originating the Santa Fe trail. I'll be following that trail by air this Sunday as I head to Santa Fe for The Glen, a workshop for the arts put on by Image. I'm looking forward to spending a week in community with artists of all genres in a spectacular setting, having some good Mexican food (it's been two months!), catching up with my friend Karen, and learning from the poet Scott Cairns. The icing on the cake will be the music of a favorite, Over the Rhine, who I haven't heard live since Cornerstone in the early 90's.

I decided I needed a good dose of fiction for the plane, something trailblazing to go along with the timbre of this new/old landscape in Missouri, and picked up, "A Sudden Country" by Karen Fisher. Sadly, I think I'll be finished before I board as the book is a scrumptious read, full of gorgeous prose. It takes place in 1847 on the Oregon Trail and though I've never been overly drawn to historical fiction, I'm halfway through and already ruing the fact the book will end. If you like Cormac McCarthy, you'll love this. Walker, are you out there?

More posts post Santa Fe!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Sky from Here to Marfa

Although it's been a while since I've had time to write much more than posts to this blog, things have finally settled down enough, or I've been desperate enough, that I have made time to dive into some good books. One of the volumes I've enjoyed is a new book of poems by Linda Gregg (Graywolf Press) entitled, “In the Middle Distance.” I took a workshop with Linda in the early 90’s at the University of Houston and it has been a while since I’ve read her work. I keep coming back to this poem called “Marfa”, maybe because I'm homesick, and rereading these lines in particular:

...I keep thinking that if I go
alone into the size of this silence, we can
straighten things out. To know what to question,
and what to believe. How to let my heart
split open. To print in clear light
the changing register of this grand world.

I think coming here, stripped of all places and people familiar, we’ve entered another kind of silence. A certain conversation has not yet started. In some sense, I am still peeping out at this landscape from a train window, not quite knowing how to enter it.

This weekend we drove country lanes and rambled past old and tiny towns and silent prairies. Sometimes a small town had a cafe of some sort and sometimes, actually once, the cafe was open. Cafe meaning a little four table room with hand sewn potholders and kitchen mitts for sale adorning every inch of the wall, serving tuna and pimento cheese sandwiches, iced tea, and coconut, apple, pecan and lemon pies baked that morning, the sewing machine idle in the corner. The town was old, the people were old and the landscape we traversed seemed suspended in time, like a nineteenth century American pastoral painting, despite the appearance of the occasional modern (somewhat) signage or building. Had I been only a tourist, I would have found the scenes charming and sweet with nostalgia. Being now a local to these parts, I feel a certain displacement. Only time can bestow belonging though this is now my home. So I’ve encountered a certain quiet, an absence of familiar chatter from my surroundings, which seems an apt place to investigate the changing register of this world and to entertain the hope for clear light.

Monday, July 17, 2006


As I write this, I am upstairs. I have a roomy study that looks out over our front lawn where I can partially see one neighbor’s house over the tops of some cedar trees, a log cabin home they built themselves three years ago. Usually there are bunnies all over the yard and sometimes a fox, and hummingbirds at the flowers outside the window. The room faces east and gets the morning sun which I rarely witness due to the fact that I am working downstairs and facing west.

Having a room like this, and the time to use it, is a big reason we shipped out of Houston. So far I’ve not spent much more time in this room than it took to unpack it. Turns out we’re still going to have to fight daily to achieve a slower pace and find room to unwind our souls. The phone rings as if we’d never left and clients can’t see that as they speak a deer meanders past the window. The clock ticks just as fast here as there. Still, we have an ideal we’re working toward—a balanced lifestyle in a world that requires we pay the mortgage and medical insurance and relegate any pursuit of higher living to our spare time. So it will be up to us to navigate our souls and bodies through the demands of corporate enterprise and come through not only unscathed, but whole and spiritually healthy. Meanwhile, whether I am downstairs working or upstair dreaming, I have my rooms with a view.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In search of nourishment

I’m sure my forebears would find it amusing that practices carried on for basic survival for thousands of years have become exotic accomplishments slated to allotted leisure time for many of us in the 21st century. When our neighbors told us they were going on vacation for a couple of weeks and for us to help ourselves to their garden, I was more excited than if they’d presented me with a gift card to a spa. Why does eating food you have yourself pulled from the vine, that you have carefully cleaned and prepared, taste so much better than anything you can buy in the supermarket, even from the high priced organic produce aisles? And why should this have become such a bygone activity? To plant and harvest your own food, to nourish your body through the work of your manicured hands, the sweat on your well coiffed brow? Though in my youth I picked apples from the trees in our yard and tomatoes from the fields where I rode my bike and the generosity of the earth was pervasive and apparent, I have lived most of my adult life oblivious to the fact that the food that sustains me has been culled from the earth, the earth buried so far beneath our asphalt streets and steel high rises we can no longer feel it under feet or detect its fecund scent. The food we eat arrives from factories in sterile boxes and plastic wrap, symmetrical, scentless, spotless, from who knows where or what. But always dirt free.

We came from the earth and to the earth we will return. When we fully succumb to a Jetson’s-like existence, disconnected completely from our relationship to the land, to the source of our sustenance, what will have been gained and what will have been lost? Having now left my concrete existence behind, I hope to eventually find out.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Last evening, actually it wasn’t even dusk yet, I was headed into town musing about the different rhythms of rural living, me a city girl or at least a townie girl all my life now navigating silence and dark skies, dwelling with foxes and deer and rabbits and snakes when a deer ran out in front of my car. We both panicked; my foot flew to the brake while the deer wheeled in place before darting back off to the meadow he’d sprung from. My heart did quite a tap dance as I proceeded down the road wondering which of two of us really belonged here. I confess I was homesick.

We’ve been here exactly one month, long enough to have settled all our things in, hung pictures, met the neighbors and gotten back to work. In some ways life goes on as it always has. Except. I still wake up wondering when this extended vacation will end, the new house is not yet Home. Last night I missed the familiar: the old streets and noise, the neighbors puttering in their yards or chatting on the sidewalk, the friends born of years of late nights, bottomless cups of coffee, laughter and tears. Home can’t be bought off the shelf, it is crafted and honed with love, with time, with sweat and shared hope, like this nest we discovered over the garage. Right outside my window now a baby rabbit nibbles the flowers. My family, where my heart finds Home, sleeps with open windows, in peace. There is abundant beauty at every turn and one day this house, without notice, having reached some unspoken quota of love and laughter, will have indeed become Home.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Chez Bertrand

While shopping for sheets and drawer liners yesterday, I came across the perfect house warming gift for my friends Laurie and Mark Bertrand. Now they just need to find a house. As he has been blogging from the road regarding his search for the perfect roast, I thought this exquisite painting had his name on it and thought it should one day adorn his sometime future red study. Mark is the last of the four original LiT members to leave Houston. Perhaps we should write a mystery: And Then There Were None, except a newer member, Deeanne, remains in Houston so that would not be totally accurate. Last summer Karen lead the Houston exodus when she left for Dallas, Anthony left in the fall for Columbia, MO and then based on his reconnaissance we, too, packed up for Columbia, arriving about three weeks ago. Now Mark has sold his house and is planning a move to Souix Falls. What hailed this sudden suction to the Midwest? At this point, it’s still a mystery...