Archive for the ‘New Mexico’ Category

It’s the middle of a hot, hot summer in West Virginia, which makes me long for autumn. And I cannot even imagine autumn without a trip to my other favorite place, New Mexico. Again this year, if the fates allow, I will be teaching a weeklong class at Ghost Ranch. The title of the class is “KISS: Keep It Short & Shapely,” and it’s a week of writing short essays, this year from October 7 to 13. We’ll hear some wonderful essays, mine our own beliefs and experiences for inspiration, write amazing essays, and then make them even better by editing them.

Year after year, the quality of writing in this class thrills me. Part of that, I think, has to do with the atmosphere at Ghost Ranch. There’s space and time and a special camaraderie here that encourages one to open up, take risks, and work at a higher level. It’s a gift we give one another and one that can remain long after the class has ended.

So…meet me at Ghost Ranch. Sign up for the class at http://www.ghostranch.org. Quick instructions: Go to the menu for “Courses and Retreats,” choose “Online Catalog,” and then search by my name or the week, October 7-13. (Sorry about the complicated  procedure, but their website won’t allow me to link directly to the page.)

Hope to see you in October!

Read Full Post »

At the end of the afternoon, the setting sun lights up Kitchen Mesa so that it looks as if it were a huge mound of molten gold. It’s so bright that even its reflection glows in the windows of the Agape Center. It seems a fitting image, now that I have made the long shuttle ride from Ghost Ranch to Santa Fe, now that I am contemplating tomorrow’s flight back to West Virginia. Once again, I see Ghost Ranch only in reflection. Of course, I anticipate next year. And, most important, try to be in the present.

Goodbye, mesas and sage. Goodbye, cottonwoods and coyotes. Goodbye, Ghost Ranch. See you next time.

Read Full Post »

This picture looks dim because the only available light was moonlight. This is the labyrinth at Ghost Ranch, and two nights ago I had the privilege to walk it under the full moon with Laura, one of my Ghost Ranch pals. After we emerged, we stood and watched our moon-shadows facing west, leading us out of the labyrinth.

Here’s a morning picture: The Agape Center, perhaps the most serene and beautiful (man-made) place of worship I have ever seen. If you are inside, looking through the wide front windows, they frame a view of Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite mountain, Pedernal.


Read Full Post »

Coming Home to Ghost Ranch

I have actually quit counting how many times I have come to Ghost Ranch. The number is officially “many” now. And I have quit apologizing to myself for taking the same pictures over and over. It pleases me to do it, and that’s reason enough.

And it thrills me to hear and read the essays my students are writing. In our small group, we have come to tears together more than once and laughed so loud that the adobe walls rang.

And it heals me. This is a protected holy space, ringed by great giants of mesas, where the sky is wide enough to absorb my little sorrows and pains. Where the ravens and coyotes tell stories better than anything I could invent. Where chamisa waves in the wind and cottonwoods catch the last rays of sun. Where dinosaurs rest and where, tonight, a full moon will shine on me while I walk around the alfalfa field without a flashlight.

Read Full Post »

Chocolate Heaven

As you can see by the signs lined up beside their door, the Santa Fe’s Chocolate Maven has many fans. Yesterday I joined their ranks, when Vera took me there for a final Santa Fe feast before I caught the shuttle bus to Ghost Ranch. The warehouse-like exterior is a bit misleading: inside, it’s cozy and full of wonderful aromas. There are bakery cases loaded with loaves of bread, croissants, almond wheels, cakes, cookies, scones…you get the idea. And small tables covered with white tablecloths.

The Chocolate Maven has one more fine feature: a gigantic window through which the workings of the kitchen proceed like a complex dance. A huge machine flattens pastry dough, and skillful bakers cut and roll and pull and pinch it into all sorts of shapes, filling them with various good things, including substantial squares of excellent dark chocolate. (I know, because we shared one of those.) I could not resist taking pictures while these cinnamon rolls were being formed.


Read Full Post »

New Mexico Autumn

It’s wonderful to be in New Mexico! I am so lucky to be able to come here to teach a class at Ghost Ranch this year. I’m not quite in Abiquiu yet, but am spending a few days in Albuquerque and Santa Fe before the class starts. It has been a joyful, restorative few days, visiting with dear friends and soaking up the sights and sounds of the Southwest. Here are a couple of my favorite sights: chamisa and desert aster. More soon.

Read Full Post »

A few days ago I got an enthusiastic e-mail from a woman named Cathy, who told me, “My husband just gave me the best possible birthday gift: an all-expenses-paid trip to the Fall Writing Festival at Ghost Ranch!”

Cathy signed up for my class, KISS: Keep It Short & Shapely, which meets October 9-15. It’s a workshop on the art and craft of the short essay. We laugh a lot, sometimes shed a tear, hear some great essays, and write some great essays. My last class did such fine work that they published a beautiful chapbook together.

I hope you will consider giving someone (say, yourself) the gift of being part of the Fall Writing Festival at Ghost Ranch. Visit here to access the whole online catalog.

Read Full Post »

Dervish Days

I’m spending a week in New Mexico! Last night, thanks to Vera’s friend Dave, I watched Baraka, an amazing movie without words, or at least without scripted words. Near the end is a beautiful scene of Sufi whirling dance, which particularly moved me.

By coincidence, we had already decided to spend this morning hiking at Tent Rocks National Monument. I had heard that Tent Rocks was a spectacular place, but I had no idea that the rocks would so resemble the Sufi dancers. Fabulous reality!

Here are some more pictures from Tent Rocks. The hike is not too demanding, less than two miles one way.

Read Full Post »

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.”

Read Full Post »

A walk around Santa Fe

Yesterday, on my last full day in Santa Fe, I simply walked all over town, beginning with the relatively long trek north (well, an hour’s walk) from Vera’s house. This time, looking for an alternative to the rail trail I have used before, I followed the route of the #6 bus, walking north on Botulph, through the St. Vincent’s Hospital complex, then continuing northward on Galisteo to Paseo de Peralta, which circles the downtown. On or near Canyon Road, I encountered this wonderful wall.

I don’t know why adobe fascinates me so.  I have always admired the way it looks — its organic, rounded contours — but I never really thought about it much until I visited Taos Pueblo a few years ago. There I saw the dwellings that have been continuously occupied for a thousand years, and learned that the building, adobe, is made of two things: straw and mud.

A thousand years. Think about that. Where will your house be in a thousand years? I’m pretty sure mine, which has lasted for almost a hundred years, won’t make it that long. How about the Empire State Building? The U.S. Capitol? The county courthouse? Or the local Wal-Mart?

This particular wall may not last for a thousand years, either, but it certainly is pretty. Makes me want to build something of adobe.

Santa Fe’s walls, with their lamps and shadows and windows (often blue or turquoise) fairly beg to be photographed. And I couldn’t resist, so here are a couple more snapshots from one of my favorite cities:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »