Archive for October, 2009


I spent the past week at Cedar Lakes Craft Center, only about 40 miles from my home, leading an Elderhostel (AKA Exploritas) class in memoir that was titled: “From the Inside Out: Your Own Story, Your Own Words.” My seven writers humbled ┬áme: not only did they write well, but their life stories were so varied and rich that I came away feeling they had taught me more than I taught them. This is the best kind of workshop experience, I think, when the so-called teacher is learning along with the class, and the so-called students each bring their own expertise to share.

No one would call Cedar Lakes a dramatic landscape. But what it lacks in drama, the place has in charm. Cedar Lakes is tranquil, cozy, friendly, comforting, quintessentially West Virginian in its personality. The lodge rooms are simple but comfortable and very clean. The cafeteria food is better-than-average (especially the salad bar) and abundant. Well, the coffee’s not great, but it’s not awful, either.

Gloria Gregorich, who directs the craft and Elderhostel/Exploritas ┬áprograms at Cedar Lakes, is perhaps the sweetest and most accommodating person on earth. She went all out to give my class everything we needed. When our first room was not quite right, she let us move to a better space. Did we need more paper, a quick printer repair, more comfortable chairs, a tape dispenser? Whatever the request, she responded quickly and cheerfully. I think she’s a gem.

On two of the evenings during the week, Gloria had arranged for evening entertainment. Monday evening, we heard the lovely harmonies of Mountain Thyme. On Wednesday evening, it was the Zucchini Pickers, and the high point of the evening was a dramatic recitation of “The Highwayman” with all the lights out. In the darkness, in the voice of an accomplished teller, that poem is still thrilling.

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A Literary Tea Party


Elena’s neighbor Grace (the person in the middle of this picture) read my unpublished children’s book, and liked it! So Elena did the loveliest thing: she planned a tea party to introduce us. Grace brought a friend (on the left) who has also begun reading the book. Both of them, and Grace’s mother, had good feedback and many questions.

Elena went all out with the tea party. There were pretty teal-colored cups and saucers, delicious tea with cream and sugar (the British way!), cucumber sandwiches with no crusts (in fact, cut into circles!), a beautiful plate of sushi, fresh fruit and vegetables, and a platter of jam-filled cookies. Everything was delicious!

At Elena’s request, I read a chapter of the book aloud, and was pleased and surprised that the girls chose the chapter that included references to Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Even if that book never gets published, I felt as if I were being honored as a great author. Thank you, Elena!

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These storm clouds cleared away by the next morning, and the skies were a brilliant, cloudless blue all day October 9. One of the people in my class, Bill, said it would be a great evening for star-watching and invited several of us to join him just after the evening reading, after dark but before moonrise, for a brief star party.

We made our way out into the middle of the alfalfa field. The Milky Way stretched in a great arc from Kitchen Mesa to somewhere north of Pedernal, and grew milkier as our eyes adjusted to the darkness. Bill guided us as we found the North Star, then several other constellations (including a couple of new ones for me). Then he showed us the approximate place where the center of our galaxy is, and a hazy brightness that he identified as Andromeda Galaxy, the furthest thing that can be seen with the naked eye. Millions of light years away.

In the middle of the night, much closer than millions of light years, coyotes yipped and yowled and keened from the mesa just above our casita. The next morning, in the hazy dawn, I came upon a small rabbit as I walked from our casita to the library. I stopped. It stopped. I sang it a little song that I have been trying to learn from a Freyda Epstein recording: “Love is little, love is low, love will make my spirit grow.” It sat there and listened, then slowly hopped away, its tail glimmering in the dim morning like that faraway brightness, Andromeda.

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Last time I was at Ghost Ranch, in early August, I could not stop taking pictures of hummingbirds at the feeder outside our casita. Now the hummingbirds are gone, and my focus has widened somewhat. This year, it’s the skies over Ghost Ranch that are thrilling me and compelling me to lift the camera and click. And I’m having a lot of fun playing with the Photostitch tool. This combination of two pictures is from this morning.

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This was the view at about 9:00 this morning as I wound my way up several switchbacks to meet my students at Coyote residence at Ghost Ranch. The day has been windy with occasional spatters of rain, clouds shifting and sometimes settling over Georgia O’Keeffe’s Pedernal. The temperature’s cooling. There is no place on earth like Ghost Ranch in autumn.

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Jane Taylor and I took a walk around the alfalfa field at Ghost Ranch last night, the first night of the Fall Writing Festival week. The gibbous moon was big and bright, and the clouds made a path across the sky. This picture doesn’t do it justice, although it’s not bad for a six-second exposure using a fencepost as a tripod.

A doe and her fawn skittered across the alfalfa field near us, stopped to look at us, ambled away. It’s so beautiful here. I always feel that I am coming home when I get to Ghost Ranch.

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Santa Fe in October


I’m back in New Mexico! How I love this place. This morning, I walked on the Santa Fe Rail Trail from near Zia Road all the way to the South Capitol Station. Along the way, the Rail Runner passed me! I’ll get to ride this new-ish train next week, from Santa Fe to Albuquerque.

The weather here in Santa Fe is glorious, as it often is in October. The skies are so blue and the cottonwoods and chamisa so golden. I’m headed for Ghost Ranch this afternoon, where my class in short essay writing goes from October 5 to 11. Very much looking forward to meeting my students and enjoying the air in Abiquiu!

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