This time last year I flew from our brand spanking new home in Rocheport, MO to Santa Fe, NM to participate in an arts workshop offered by the folks who publish Image Journal. I’d signed up to take a poetry workshop with Scott Cairns who I then discovered to be my new neighbor back in Missouri. It was a great experience. That the conference, known as the Glen, is held on the grounds of St. John’s College in Santa Fe is no small part of the reason I signed on for a repeat performance. Since my first visit there as a college freshman, New Mexico has been my single favorite place out of some pretty good competition.
Anticipating a big dose of the splendor of my coveted open spaces, particularly the desert spectacle in and around Santa Fe, I dove into Rebecca Solnit’s “wanderlust” as I flew from St. Louis to Dallas to Amarillo to Albuquerque, the landscape beneath me morphing from green treed hills and rivers to softer swells of fields ribboned with streams of asphalt to gridded flat lands to mountains pinched skyward in a landscape whirled in vivid blues and ochres, dotted with sage and tufts of deep green. I first read Solnit a year ago after picking up “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” while in Taos on our workshop’s free day. No one I’ve come across has so eloquently articulated the lure of open spaces, the particular ache and yearning induced by uncluttered skies and an endless horizon. I picked up another one of her books prior to this trip to whet my appetite (as if it needed whetting) for the vistas to come. Wanderlust focuses on walking, on what propelling yourself through a landscape on foot engenders for body and soul, and the physical narrative walking creates. The body moving through time in space is “ a mode of making the world as well as being in it.” And where better to do that than a desert landscape “stark, open, free, an invitation to wander, a laboratory of perception, scale, light, a place where loneliness has a luxurious flavor, like in the blues?”
As visions of the desert danced in my head I realized part of my attraction to such a landscape. And I mean the empty desert where no imprint of the human has intruded--no stores or roads or radio towers. To enter an unaltered desert landscape is to plunge into timelessness. Mountains evoke the ancient and immutable in their grandeur and immensity yet they color with the seasons; they leaf and flower, they snow and melt, they evidence time passing. Alterations in the desert landscape are subtle, change is minute and therefore the inexorable passage of time is not perpetually obvious. You arrive to find the world standing still. That stillness beneath a vast theatrical expanse of lightplay soothe and smooth the jangly, staticy, crinkled bits of the soul.
Such was my pondering as my flight was delayed, my luggage lost and my chances of arriving for the beginning of the conference shot. Once again I found myself in a strange deja vu of last year’s arrival: late, frazzled, and sporting an extreme case of the jangles. I got to my room luggageless and in the dark where I spent a mostly sleepless night, cold, uncomfortable in binding clothes and worried I’d oversleep because the battery on my alarm had run out of juice and it’s charger was in my luggage. As the sun rose this morning I stood on the road opposite the dorm in the chilly morning air, the sky to the west lightening though the sun had not yet breached the mountain opposite me, waiting to flag down the car that would eventually deliver my bag. My shadow stretched 50 feet westward across the road as the sun crested the hill and the desert slowly awoke. It’s just as I left it: swept, expansive, shimmering. And just aching to be walked.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Last evening saw a huge turnout for the opening at PS Gallery. Wayne's work was greatly received and it was a special thrill to hang out near his work and eavesdrop. It was a lively crowd, peppered with lots of the friends we've met over the last year in Columbia. A proud night.
Friday, July 06, 2007
It's been a great month since school let out, filled with friends old and new. Some we drove over a thousand miles to see, some drove twice that distance to see us, and some live right here in town. And on the fourth our yard was filled with the lot of them as we shot off fireworks worthy of a small city. It was quite the Rockwellian occasion: our table laden with burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, watermelon, fragrant homebaked rosemary bread, chocolate cake and red, white and blueberry starspangled shortbread; kids catching frogs, sunfish, perch and bass in our pond; friend meeting neighbor; chigger meeting ankle before the sky above us ruptured in sound and color.
The day before we canoed the Missouri River (finally) between Rocheport and Huntsdale with longtime friends from Massachusetts. The river is amazingly undeveloped and we were the sole partakers of its wild beauty. Apart from the I-70 bridge we floated under (to the sounds of roaring 18 wheelers' envious horn blasts) there was no evidence of civilization. It was not hard to imagine ourselves viewing the banks and bluffs we passed through the lens of Lewis and Clark or the native Americans whose heiroglyphics are still visible on the rock face. A brush (literally) with poison ivy was defused by a rinse in a nearby waterfall after we scrambled up a rocky bank to investigate a cave. Happily smeared with Missouri dirt, we stopped for a supper of bread and cheese atop a scenic bluff and a round of ice cream cones at the Rocheport General Store. As the sun lowered over the hills, we headed home with tired limbs, full tummies and fuller hearts. Welcome to our chunk of Missouri.