Impressions. Subjective.

Spring                                            Hare Moon

Spread it out this way.  The fields of southern Minnesota and Iowa, the poverty of Missouri, the plains of Kansas, the shabbiness of Oklahoma, the bleakness of west Texas.  Then, Carlsbad Caverns.  An entry way this Orpheus took, singing his own tunes of loss, passing through the twilight zone to the darkness of eternal night, lit only by the U.S. government.  When I returned to the surface, my journey through many benighted places had been purged, my inner world compressed by the weight of the earth over me.  I had visited Persephone only to find her gone back to her mother, her husband the dismal Hades now distracted and grieving.  Charon was not in sight.

After that the trail hit the desert.  Stark southern New Mexico.  New Mexico, of all the states on this trip, has cast its spell on me, its enchantment.  That vast sea of sand and sparse grass so amenable to the spirit, especially a spirit only recently returned to the surface, that combination, had me set up for the Intensive Journal Workshop.

Arizona, I admit, I come to jaundiced.  Sun City was my first experience of it and what the New Mexico desert was to the spirit, Sun City was its obverse, a place where the soul came to die early.  Then there were those 107 degree September days and the concrete irrigation ditches.  Not to mention the sheriff of Maricopa County. And the loony conservatism so wrapped up in flag, guns, chauvinism, xenophobia and homophobia. This is a state that, in spite of its great beauty has a pinched and impoverished heart.  It practices the dark arts.

The Workshop itself I’ll treat elsewhere.  This is a subjective, impressionistic journey.  Arizona grew in appeal to me as I turned north into the mountains, the temperature falling and the conifers and firs beginning to dominate the landscape.  In Holbrook, after stopping briefly to view the sky, I ended up in the motel with no phone, no wifi and no heat.  I stayed anyway.

This stop was a time out from the luxury of the trip, a reminder that many lived nearby in conditions not at all different from this shabby room with its torn lampshade, grime coated shower door and frayed bedspreads.  There is a lot of poverty and it comes in many forms, but that found on American Indian reservations is often its cruelest.  Here the people live on the land they consider sacred, but have been removed from it anyway by television, English, pickup trucks and alcohol.  Life in Indian America is tough and often brutal.

Leaving it behind at 4 a.m and driving under the sign of the sickle moon and Venus has provided the lasting image for this trip full of rich images.  Northeastern Arizona and northern New Mexico have geological, geographic, cultural and historical depth no matter where you glance out the window.  This is our Angkor, the place where the ancient sage-kings held sway, peoples so faded from memory that only their past remains and that impossible to understand.

It is not caverns or catcus here, here it is people and their astonishing and beautiful adaptations to the land they found.  The Chaco Canyon architecture of small sandstone and the pueblo dwellings hung from high canyon walls.  The adobe of Santa Fe.  The hogans of the Navajo.  Their pottery and their blankets and their painting and their writing. There is something special here.

Now I’m out of all that, up here in Denver where the Rockies and skiing and Century Communications and the National Western Stock Show mediate the meeting of East and West, being neither fully, unable to commit.  And I’m more comfortable here.  I fit in better here.  But it doesn’t stimulate me in the same deep way.



Water, Water Everywhere

Spring                                                   Hare Moon

Been on the lookout for water related stories in the newspapers during this trip. I’ve found a few, one this morning in the Arizona Star, the Tucson paper.  It covers an upcoming (very soon) release of water from Lake Meade that will pass through the dam at Yuma into the Colorado River delta in Mexico.  The water that will pulse through in this release amounts to one third of Nevada’s annual water consumption.  But it belongs to Mexico rather than the U.S.

Mexico agreed to store water in Lake Meade and has chosen to use some of it to attempt a restoration of the Colorado River Delta where it used to empty into the Gulf of California.

This is an example of the complicated web of relationships legal, customary, national, state-to-state that have grown up around water use.  There was an example of these in Texas, too, where municipalities and farmers were struggling with a Monsanto plant that had priority rights to water.  If Monsanto used it, either the residents of towns and cities or the farmers would not have enough for their needs.

As the drought out here (the southwest and west) grows worse, these conflicts will only increase, become more hostile and fraught with danger.


Healing Early Wounds

Imbolc                                                              Hare Moon

The gifts people carry astound me.  Tonight at the St. Patrick’s day ceremony of corned Crimapobeef, cabbage, mashed potatoes and Irish soda bread Frank brought in as a guest a friend of his Chholing Taha.  Chholing is a Cree woman who had a difficult road back to her native heritage.  At 3 she was taken from her people and adopted by a German couple who lived across the border in Niagra Falls, New York.  Why this happened was not explained to her.

She grew up full of rage and “culturally schizophrenic” walking in two worlds at once. Through a pull that seemed almost genetic she visited sweats, went to the sun dance, got an Indian name from a Blackfoot medicine man and finally did four fasts over a period of four years.  These were not easy nor were they obvious answers to her bifurcation, but they seem to have brought her to a peaceful place, a place where bitterness and anger do not dominate her.

She is an artist with terrific imagery, color and composition, part of a current generation of native artists that draw from deep within their heritage and themselves.  She dreams her works, whole, then records what she sees.

At the end of the evening she smudged us with sage that had been used in a sun dance Creeand gave us each a seeing.  She believes everything is visible, that the world is transparent and if you look, you can see.  She said Tom was comfortable with life, she saw him clad in flannel shirts and wandering the north country.  To Frank she said, brushing him as she did all of us with her eagle feather fan, “They continue to say not to worry.”

Charlie Haislet reminded her of the light in the meadow; Scott sees things at their elemental level.  To me she said I had a precise mind, able to see something small and learn much.  And that I would do amazing things.  It surprised me, brought me tears to my eyes.  It felt as if she had called my name, a name I didn’t know I had.

Her stories and her presence were, as Frank said, remarkable.

Nature Writing

Imbolc                                                              Hare Moon

On the way to the library this morning, picking up audio books for the road south, Great Wendell-Berry-Quotes-1Wheel came to mind.  This time after I had finished the essay by Wendell Berry mentioned in the post below.

His manner of thinking in that essay reminded me of a great pleasure, reading land and conservation books by authors like Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, John McPhee, Rick Bass, Annie Dillard and Thoreau.  These books are in abundant supply and many of them are American classics.  They focus on land and the natural world in the United States, often at an intimate level, always with the kind of affection that Berry presses forward.

This is another way into the whole question of mitigation and adaptation.  It is the way of affection, of following the land conservation path, of increasing the feeling for the land. Wonderful as they are from both a literary and natural perspective, it has to be admitted that they’ve not changed much with the exception of Rachel Carson.

Why these books and these authors stay with me is the degree to which they have WendellBerryQuote_2013shaped our work here at Artemis Hives and Gardens. (I know, but I like the name.)  The guiding principle for all we do here is to leave this land better than when we got it.  This is in fact one of the chief reasons I don’t want to leave it and would like to leave it to someone, someone who might continue a purpose of land conservation.

All this suggested a different direction, or an additional direction for Great Wheel.  This website may also have a focus on these diverse literary works, quoting from them, reviewing them, linking to the work of the authors.  Perhaps even starting a dialogue with them.

And, to the extent that I can, I plan to add to this literature, right here on the Great Wheel.  All still a muddle, a muddy pond waiting for settling.  Then, clarity.