Monday, July 30, 2007

The Glen again

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.


Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

I am relieved, envious, waiting to live it vicariously. Which dorm? Can't wait to hear who else is there, what else you see, and hear, and learn.

Jenni said...

Sorry about your luggage, but everything else sounds divine. I love that part of the country, too. More Glen blogs, please.