Archive for August, 2010

This is a typical morning sky at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. That flat-topped mountain on the left is Pedernal, one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite painting subjects. Needless to say, this landscape is still among the most inspiring, and not only for painters.

Each October, for the past few years, I have had the privilege and joy to lead a workshop at Ghost Ranch. It’s happening again this year, from October 10-16. “Read-Aloud Writing: Shapely Short Essays” is the title of the workshop, and that’s what we’ll be writing: short, shapely pieces that are meant to be read aloud. The class meets every morning for a week, and afternoons are free for writing, hiking, thinking, visiting with new friends.

And, each October, I am amazed by the quality of writing that emerges. There’s something magical about the camaraderie at Ghost Ranch, the awesome landscape, the collaborative process, and perhaps the students’ willingness to revise, revise, and revise some more.

Last fall, in fact, I thought that some of the essays my class wrote were so good that, when someone suggested publishing a chapbook, I agreed to edit it. The resulting booklet, published by Village Books Press (Cheyenne, OK), turned out beautifully, as you can see:

The fine cover photography (and Photoshopping) are the work of one of the class members, William Graustein, who also took this picture of our group:

Can you tell that we bonded? I can’t speak for the students, but I would have to say that this one of my all-time-favorite experiences as a workshop leader. I won’t promise a chapbook every year (in fact, it WAS a lot of work), but I do promise you’ll meet some fine people and do some writing of which you can be proud.

There’s something about Ghost Ranch. If you have a yearning to write short essays, to spend a week with a congenial group of fellow writers, and to experience the place that has inspired Georgia O’Keeffe and so many other people, I hope you’ll check out the Ghost Ranch website and search for “Read-Aloud Writing.”

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Flower Power

Looking closely at flowers wows me. All of these were from a morning walk on the carriage trail. Sometimes an infusion of dramatic color is the best part of my day.

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The view from the porch at North Fork Mountain Inn.

This morning I woke up in a spacious pine-paneled room at North Fork Mountain Inn, where innkeepers Carol and Ed Fischer have pampered me so that I really don’t want to leave. At 6:30 a.m. I found the Redman Trail trailhead, which is conveniently beside the Fischers’ porch, and hiked up to the ridge of North Fork Mountain. After last night’s rain, the trail was wet and misty and dreamlike; it wouldn’t take much to believe in leprechauns and fairies here. After a wonderful hike, I arrived back at the inn just in time for a delicious breakfast and two cups of good coffee.

North Fork Mountain Inn is a gem of a place, well worth the seven-and-a-half-mile drive up Smoke Hole Road from Route 33/55. The innkeepers describe it as “an outpost of luxury in the wilderness,” and that’s a pretty accurate description: it’s remote and beautiful, but there’s nothing missing and everything about the inn is first-class. Here’s what the main lodge looks like when you arrive:

North Fork Mountain Inn.

The rooms are spacious and very, very comfortable. Here’s the one where I stayed:

And here’s the front porch, the one with the view:

Front porch at North Fork Mountain Inn.

Did I mention that the innkeepers are fabulous cooks? I arrived here in time for dinner last night, which was a real treat: a savory soup, salmon with a sweet Thai sauce, herbed rice, and broccoli followed by a choice of Carol’s double-chocolate cake or blackberry cobbler. Enjoying Chef Ed’s seafood was a privilege in itself: in just a few days, he will represent West Virginia in the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans, with an original recipe that includes local wines and ramps. Yum.

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