Archive for the ‘Ghost Ranch’ Category

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.

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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.


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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.

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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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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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One of my favorite places on earth is Ghost Ranch, in northern New Mexico. To hear why, follow this link to my essay at West Virginia Public Radio:


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Rainbow over Orphan Mesa at Ghost Ranch

Rainbow over Orphan Mesa at Ghost Ranch

The weather changed, and a storm came up, on the last day I spent at Ghost Ranch this year. Most people were in the dining hall when we began to hear people saying, “Go outside! Go outside!” This is what we saw. It was the perfect ending for a perfect week.

Did I mention that my students wrote wonderful essays? I was so proud of them all!

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Ghost Ranch in October

Hurray! I’m back in New Mexico once again, teaching a class in writing short essays as part of the Ghost Ranch Fall Writing Festival. Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and worked, is one of my favorite places on earth, and also — as I learned from a large-screen film I saw recently — one of the world’s richest sites for dinosaur fossils. Here’s a picture of the top of Pedernal, the mountain O’Keeffe painted many times.

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