Saturday, August 11, 2007


Although mid-Missouri is not mentioned in Beldon Lane's "The Solace of Fierce Landscapes; Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality", one of the books I picked up from Eighth Day Books at the Glen, upon my return from 80 degree Santa Fe to a car reading 108, I had to wonder which landscape is fiercer. That, the fact I'd inadvertently parked in the most expensive short-term lot when I left resulting in parking fees rivaling my plane ticket and the dead car battery that greeted me on arrival seemed a fitting re-entry into the fierce landscape I now call home. The desert was a walk in the park.

But between the lost luggage on the front end and the dead battery on the back end, the week at the Glen was immensely rewarding. Having attended the year before for the first time, I had the pleasure of arriving to some now familiar faces. There were 5 of us who returned from Scott Cairns' workshop last year and though none of us were in the same workshop this time, we caught up with each other at the various events and around the bountiful cafeteria tables of St. John's College. Scott, my workshop leader last year and recent new neighbor in Columbia, was back again with his family, as well as his brother, sister-in-law and nephew who, the last morning over breakfast, appointed me an honorary member of the Cairns clan, dubbing me Fiona, and privileging me to all future family reunions.

The workshop I attended this time was led by Daniel Tobin of Emerson College from my old stomping grounds in Boston. 14 first time Glen attendees of various levels of experience contributed to one of the best workshop environments I've had the pleasure to experience. There was a great spirit of camaraderie and encouragement alongside meaningful critique. Dan's wife Christine Casson, also a poet at Emerson with her first book "After the First World" coming out this January from Star Cloud Press, did not attend the workshop but joined our class after Dan's Wednesday night reading for a post-reading gabfest which surveyed everything from the X-files to Coney Island to the Monkees. She's one of those people you feel like you've known forever after a conversation or two. I hope Dan and Christine are back next year but regardless, I count them new friends and plan to keep in touch.

Just days before I left for Santa Fe, my former (and first) boss out of college called from Massachusetts. He's since given up his design firm to become a full time photographer and wanted to send me an invite to some of his upcoming shows. When he learned I was bound for Santa Fe, he insisted I contact HIS first boss, then at Polaroid and now back home in Santa Fe and running the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, which I did and received a personal guided tour of a fabulous collection of antique and contemporary Spanish religious art. The museum is part of Museum Hill, in walking distance from the campus I stayed at. Another one of those treasured little serendipities of life.

On our day off I opted to forgo a return to Taos and Chimayo for something a bit more off the beaten path. At events like this I become so over stimulated by the plethora of input: from landscape to conversations to book browsing to seminars that I can't wind down to sleep or rest and end up blathering on maniacally like a character stuck in a Dostoevsky novel. So Kristina from my workshop who also craved some quiet and I headed to Bandelier National Monument and spent most of the car ride and the ensuing hike in much needed silence.

Although we'd decided to hike alone, it was hard to avoid each other on the one main trail so we ended up walking along together much of the way. Good thing, too, as my worst phobic nightmare greeted me on arrival in the park: along with the park map, the ranger handed me a flyer warning of RECENT BEAR ACTIVITY. And where was the bear activity? On the one main trail, at the Alcove House at the end of the trail, and the picnic area. Which left no area where the bear activity had NOT been. A stop in the bathroom before setting out featured posted color copies of recent digital photos of the "blonde" brown bear. My bear phobia had germinated in just such a way years ago in the dark of night in a ranger station in Yosemite. As I waited for my friends to sign up for our back country camping passes, I perused the gruesome series of posters lining the perimeter of the station: cars peeled apart like sardine cans and campsites devastated by bear attacks in oversized technicolor. I never camped with the same abandon again. But I was determined to take my hike, even alone. I put on my I-pod to distract myself then worried I would not hear a bear approach. I sped up if I saw hikers ahead and slowed down if I heard them behind me, closing the gap between me and other bearmeat choices. I figured a crowd lowered my odds and I proceeded to visit the native ruins.

The circle back to Santa Fe brought us through the town of Jemez, featuring Victorian hot springs, indoor hotsprings, outdoor hotsprings and dilapidated hot springs. We had coffee next to the hot springs shown above and shoved off down the road only to pass streams of parked cars at the Jemez pueblo. Hoping we'd stumbled upon a pueblo dance, we tentatively parked and made our way down the dusty road where we encountered Dan and Cristine who gave us the thumbs up--we were not trespassing but this was, indeed, a corn dance. We stood in blazing sun and wondered at the stamina of the dozens of costumed dancers who'd been performing for hours in the hot sun and at what the various shells, skins and colored pastes that adorned them signified. Then we wandered the booths that stretched on street after street, selling wares and foods not unlike the stands you'd see at any American carnival or fair.

That night, Jeffrey and Anne Overstreet hosted their traditional "Thomas Parker Society" gathering in which each attendee brings something, anything, to read. I missed the beginning (again) but got to hear quite an impressive sampling of what people have been working on in their various genres as well as the first chapter of Jeffrey's own first and long awaited novel, "Auralia's Colors."

Other highlights include the final evenings' concerts by Pierce Pettis and Over the Rhine, my cache of books from Eighth Day Books (poetry by Daniel Tobin, classmate Ned Balbo, Scott Cairns and B.H. Fairchild, Elaine Scarry's On Beauty, and the aforementioned The Solace of Fierce Landscapes), a trip to Trader Joe's (and 2 dollar tote bag), FANTABULOUS tacos from Maria's (I can still taste the salsa), Santa Fe Hemp where I bought a (hemp!) jacket for half price, the Tea House on Canyon Road which features a maize of luscious indoor and outdoor spots to plunk, a Michelle Bloom CD, hanging out in Cairnsville, reuniting with Bob, Jeff and Anne, Nicole and Tara from last year's workshop. Seeing again the faces that remind me we're a community: Mark Wiggs, Mike Capps, Julie Mullins and Greg Wolfe of Image, Lil Copan of Paraclete Press, Ginger Geyer, Luci Shaw, Leslie Leyland Fields, Barry Moser. Meeting SPU's MFA grads (and delivering a graduation gift from mutual friends to) Nancy Nordenson and Meg Sefton who I "met" through Stacy Barton (though I have yet to "meet" her in the flesh.)

Again, I'm forever grateful I was able to attend, that there is such a thing to attend. A week in the desert can change everything. I think that's the point.


Jenni said...

You take the most beautiful photographs.

I want to go next year! Keep reminding me months in advance, please.

Jenni said...

I've been meaning to read On Beauty, too...

Jeffrey Overstreet said...


We miss you already. Thanks for sharing the photographs. (I'm posting a bunch of my own Glen shots over at But they're not as beautiful as yours.

I love this part of the Glen... finding the reports, photos, and echoes of the event which reverberate throughout the year.

Thanks for spending so much time with us. I hope you'll make it out to Seattle sometime so we can keep the party going.

And by the way, it was "The Thomas Parker Society," although for all I know Thomas Parker might have had a brother named Robert. Maybe you were thinking of Robert Clark, who attended? ;)

allison said...

I'm holding you to it!

Oops, sorry Jeffrey!
Mangling and transposing words is a factory installed feature of my DNA. My mother, upon introduction to Dorcas, a fellow RA in college, greeted her with a loud and happy, "Hello Dorky!"

As I was sharing with Karen who could not attend this time, a second Glen visit turned a great "experience" into the realization of a great "community." As Scott Cairns would say, "My peeps." My tribe.

You and Anne are one of the many gifts of the Glen. Mi casa es su casa, hermano.