Saturday, December 29, 2007

desert dreaming & Ellen Meloy

Can I first say that a Luka Bloom song just came on to the music channel entertaining me at the moment...I've adored Luka Bloom's music since grad school. Probably because he's a darned romantic, like me. Well, and it's good music, too!

Anyway. So I was cruising around on my hotmail last night, looking askance at the 30 or so emails sitting in my in-box still awaiting some response or other (sigh...), and saw the Ellen Meloy Fund attachment, and thought, Oh yeah! You meant to apply to that. It's due...oh. Oh, dear. It's due December 31. As in, Monday! Hmm. And, because of my tendency toward slackerness in saving files prior to the original laptop crash, I have to rewrite part of a piece I've been slowly, sporadically working on for two years, almost. I plan on using that piece, along with another (recently rejected by, nothing personal, natch, although the rejection letter said I had "nothing new" to offer in the way of desert lit--excuse me, but I doubt skin walkers are all that common in desert lit), and I need to work on it, oh, today and tomorrow. I was planning on skiing tomorrow, but considering that I'm still in pain from my day of skiing on Thursday with friend Robin (well, she went and hit all the powder stashes in her super-cool teles on her own, while I suffered an impatient and rude instructor in a ski "improvement" class along with other hapless students), and I have another deadline on Wednesday, and I also return to the temporary day job on Wednesday, I'm thinking perhaps skiing tomorrow is out. Until New Year's Day, when I definitely plan on ringing in the new year on the snow!

Anyhoo. So. Have I mentioned Ellen Meloy in here before? Maybe, can't keep track. She was an amazingly good writer, based in Bluff, Utah, close to my dear "homeland" of Wayne County. Her books included Raven's Exile, Last Cheater's Waltz, The Anthropology of Turquoise, and Eating Stone, which was published posthumously after she died of a terribly sudden heart attack at her home three years ago. She was a guest teacher at a writing workshop at Robber's Roost Bookstore back in 2002, when I was managing it, and I'd planned on attending. However, after working about every frigging day for a month, when I had the weekend to myself, I decided to bag the workshop, which of course took place mainly at the bookstore, and I wanted as far away as possible from my workplace at the moment. Meloy had just published Turquoise, and I'd bought a copy, but of course didn't get it signed since I didn't attend the workshop. And I never got it signed. Or got to hear her read.

Lesson? Carpe diem, of course.

At any rate, when I discovered the competition, back in September or so, I thought, Excellent! Sounds perfect for me! Love the desert, want to write about it, and I do have some unique ideas about it. I think. And I have ages before I have to apply.

Typical words for me.

I am, however, dreaming about the desert a bit of late. Finally had time to breathe, after all the madness of the past few months, and can settle down a bit. It's been close to two months, and I am in withdrawals from my fabulous redrock country. I have a poster of Capitol Reef National Park on the wall above my closet, and the glorious deep russety red colors draw my eye every morning, and every afternoon when the light almost hits it through my west window. And it is wonderful and unique and special and remarkable and a whole host of other adjectives. The whole of the desert, I mean. Especially the magic that happens in it.

Ahh. Okay. I need to get writing! At least I have a hard copy of that piece I didn't have saved anywhere else... The old-fashioned back-up system: paper & ink! ;)

Friday, December 28, 2007

does the setting count?

Back on the fast-paced sex-and-money bestseller concept. How much does setting matter, I find myself wondering? Silly question, in a way, because as the wildly addicted reader I am (don't even ask how many books I've read in the last several weeks--completely read, mind you, not just skimmed), I know that good writing can be set anywhere. Bad writing can be set anywhere. And sexy, fast-faced books (romances, thrillers, mysteries, what-have-you) can be set darn near anywhere, and it doesn't really matter as long as the writing, concept/plot, and characters are compelling, have essential conflicts, and make you want to keep reading!

Sigh. I have so many freaking ideas rattling around in my head, it's no wonder other things get lost in there at times. Anyone else have that issue? Ever? No? Of course you do! It's the chattering monkey-mind, as Buddhists would call it. It afflicts all of us. I think we writers get especially afflicted, however. Drat it all. I do meditate, not as often as I perhaps would like, but I do on occasion. And it helps. On occasion.

Anyway. Back on my tell-all bestseller. I finished reading one of those this morning, a bestselling novel from several years ago, from across the pond, as they say. God, so many of those "women's fiction," "chick lit," whatever you want to title them, bestsellers seem to be from the little isles in the north sea! What does that mean about folks from the UK? Are they more bored, is that why they write (and read) those kinds of books so much? Or did they just jump on the bandwagon first? Anyway, I can't say for sure this particular novel was a tell-all--but parts of it definitely sounded like some of the characters and stories were ripped from the life of the author, or her friends, perhaps. I should look it up online and see what the real back story is.

Anyway. So, if my story has sex, betrayal, lies upon lies, smooth-talking back-stabbing corporate baddies, psychotic bipolar-esque women and soul-less freak show men, a 33-year-old male virgin who obviously had high heels near-fatally stab his heart when he was young and foolishly impressionable, corporate thievery, sexy babes on skis, hottie guys in hot tubs, lawsuits, and a host of other similar themes/events/characters, and it's set against a sexy metropolitan background, that should mean instant success (depending on the actual quality of the writing and storytelling, of course), right? But what if it was set in small-ish town Durango, Colorado? What if instead of being set in a hip New York publishing house with Jimmy Choo-wearing Carrie Bradshaw-esque agents and writers, it was set partially in an up-and-coming wilderness therapy program that featured characters more like hippie Carhartt-wearing Chris from Northern Exposure? (Loved him.) What does that sort of setting do for a book? Does it label it too soon, does it make readers immediately pigeon-hole it before they open the cover?

Hmm...I wonder.

Or perhaps some of the details ought to be changed more. To protect the guilty, natch.

It's all fiction, anyway. ;)

But curious for comments from the peanut gallery. What makes you pick up a book? I don't mean the type of book, the genre or subgenre. I mean, what about the cover, story, characters, etc., makes you want to read something? What helps you make that decision in your 3.5 seconds of examining a book in the bookstore or library? (And yes, I do believe it is indeed something like 3.5 seconds. Probably less, in our ADHD, glut-of-choices, information-overload world.)

Why do you read what you read? And, more importantly, why do you not read certain things?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

the day after...

..and all seems returned to normal. Although it's still a bit quiet in town. Shoppers are shopping, I suppose, and families are still reveling together in some places. I am sitting in one of my favorite coffeehouses, writing (okay, distracting myself with the endlessly fascinating Internet), people-watching, dreaming, and considering different things. Like, doing other blogs. Making this one much more specific to the Southwest, red rock country, etc.

I'm also looking at the laptop the woman sitting across the way is using--it's tiny! Like, really tiny. Well, I love my BRAND-NEW, sparkling shiny silver-&-black laptop, even though it seems monstrously big compared to that woman's little itty bitty machine. Hers is literally half the size of mine. What a wired, technological, wild world we live in.

Okay, just wanted to say ola to the world (the non-listening world--sigh). Hmm. I need to write more interesting posts, no? Maybe I should start gossiping on here...sharing all the wicked little tidbits that are going to make it into my novel. Have I not mentioned this sooner? I finally decided on a direction to take at the moment, a writing direction. A romance, maybe "chick lit," novel, one that is cathartic for me in many ways. Perhaps I'll start to share the details on here as I write it...

Off to conspire with myself on the writing of my tell-all! Heh heh heh.... As I have noted many times before in my life, never piss off a writer. We have long memories. Long, detailed memories. And we keep journals. And save emails. And are great at making up all the rest to fill in the blanks where they crop up...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry HannaChristmaKwanzstice!

Or whatever holiday tradition it is that floats your boat!

I am *thrilled* to announce that I have a laptop in my life once again. And it all came about by, really. It works, it's amazing. Believe or not, it does. I believe! I wrote it down...a specific date and all...truly needed it, pictured it, cut out an actual picture of it, wrote down the brand make and model...and then the money just appeared out of nowhere...and I bought my laptop on the very day I said I would. And it actually arrived today, Christmas Eve! I feel totally blessed, and humble in the face of how everything really works, if you want it enough. Wild....

Have also joined Facebook, like a bazillion other people out there, and it's wonderful fun. I encourage it highly!

To all the celebrations out there, light and love and caring, perhaps some shadowed by darkness and despair and a sense of lack or loss--to all and everyone, send and receive all the blessings in your life that you can. Taste the snowflake on your tongue, pamper yourself even in some small way this holiday season, tell yourself YES I CAN!, give something to someone else, even if it's as simple as a smile or a thank you. Throw your arms around what part of the world you can, and hug it, and feel it hugging your back. (If that was too schmaltzy for you, oh well. It's Christmas Eve!)

Blessings of joy & contentment to you & yours tonight. Tomorrow and the next day come soon enough. Enjoy it all now, and smile.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

writing at 6a.m.

Okay, I wasn't really writing at 6a.m. this morning--but I was awake, believe it or not. Of course, I also went to bed before 8p.m., so that helped considerably with the early morning rising! I did do some writing this morning, though, which is unlike me--I usually write in my journal, but this was other writing. Interesting...but I must remind that I went to sleep so early! We shall see if this continues.

Do you ever get the impression that there are all sorts of messages for you, everywhere you look, that focus on the same subject? For me, for the last several months, it's all been about WRITING! Even this fun read I just finished last night was about a woman dumped by the love of her life, who went on to discover herself--that, namely, she was a writer who actually, finally, started to write. Hmm. Very interesting.... And I saw the movie Becoming Jane a few months back--same theme--writing....

Anyway, just noting that when one is supposed to be doing something, the universe does indeed encourage it--whole-heartedly, and relentlessly.

Friday, November 30, 2007

sex & violence & big bucks?

In a conversation with my mother last night, she rather plaintively (yes, that's an adverb, and I don't care. Love 'em!) asked why I don't just write a book with lots of violence and sex and sell it for lots of money. After I remarked that I am eschewing the propagation of violence as much as possible (except for the occasional imagining of nasty ends coming to those I don't like...heh heh heh), I also said that sex & love are fine by me, and I am writing one containing just that...very, very slowly. Especially since I still have not manifested my laptop, although I'm working on that.

Say, anyone out there want to gift me a brand-new laptop? Preferably a good Dell? Just checking. Feel free, at any time. I will happily provide you with an address to which to send it! What a way to pay it forward, gain good karma, help out a struggling writer....

Anyway. Sex & violence does sell in our culture, indeed. I recognize that, and for quite some time I thought I might write mysteries set in southern Utah's red rock country. I still might---a "cozy" mystery, at least.

But I digress. Part of me agrees with my mother, that I certainly have the capability to write such a thing and get it sold--especially when I regard, horrified, all the dreck published in this country. So then I have to look at basic procrastination, that old bogeyman that has chuckled at me all my life. Well, much of it. Especially those parts related to me, rather than to others (i.e., working for others). And then I have to look at available time, and the frustration of working all the time, and trying to make time to write. A dear friend of mine said, in an attempt to kick-start me, that she has a friend who gets up at 5:30a.m. every day to write. Yes, those people do exist. However, I am not happily one of them! I'd be more likely to get up at 6 or my morning routine...then write...then go to work at about 10a.m.--sounds great to me! However, there aren't that many jobs that begin that late in the day that would actually support one and not be so draining and time-consuming that one still had energy left over to be creative.

My other writer friends, weigh in here. Am I alone in this viewpoint? Dan? Jenna? Anyone?

Okay, well, as I write in here, I do not write my romance. (Which, come to think of it, does contain death and a bit of mayhem. Hmm.) So. Off through the sleet & rain & snow (no, I'm not joking) to the coffeehouse in town I like, to sip tea and write long-hand in my journal--how bizarre, still, a bit, to write long-hand. And how is everyone out there doing on their own creative projects?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

some thoughts on family

Family's been on my mind lately. My grandmother is doing better, residing with my mother still. My mother sounds well too, despite getting tired at times from the extra care she is giving her mother now. The mother of a friend of mine died recently, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. That definitely rattled my friend's world, and it made me ponder mortality, again. Another friend is going through some issues around her family as well. It's never-ending, really, isn't it? Family, how they affect us--and how we affect them, which cannot be forgotten either!

Family. No matter what our relationship with them, they mean so much to us, and we miss them when they are not around, even if they drive us nuts when they are around. And as a species we are still so excited to reproduce, to raise young ones, and to continues that cycle of family. Almost mind-boggling, no? Must mean it's working out for some people. That, or the younger ones are determined that they will do things differently. Or some combination thereof.

Anyway. I do believe in families, and champion them, no matter what form they take, as long as they are created and operate in true, giving love. Not all families are from blood, nor even from raising. Some families are created with those whom we love, but would technically be required to label "friends." There are so many differing categories. Frankly, I am blessed in all areas, and grateful for it. Even in the trickier moments...certainly gives me more material for my writing! ;)

Now, back to manifesting my new laptop.... So that I can post more often on here, of course!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

thanks a-plenty

I don't know about all of you, you secret readers out there, but I've been very thankful for so much in my life lately. I have wonderful family members, who are supportive and loving and HEALTHY (!). Pets I adore, and who make me laugh, even from miles away at the moment. I have my own health, a beautifully-running (and great looking, I must say) truck, and money in the bank (not tons, but definitely enough to keep me going right now!). I have friends who are so generous to me, through laughter, stories, opening their homes, and gracing me with their presence. Beautiful landscapes wherever I go. A sharp mind that is busy designing the latest projects for me to embark upon (and ooh, do I have some neat ones planned). An active spiritual life that is unfolding more and more every day.

This is the time of year to be thinking about thanks, and I certainly have it in spades. If you need a little nudge, I found this bit about gratitude journals on that might appeal. There's always something to be thankful for!

Right now, I am also grateful simply to be alive and experiencing this moment. Even though it's clouding up outside, and cooling down, I get to go on a run in gorgeous country in just a while here--and I am so happy that I have the lungs and legs for that! And the knees, which I've realized are essential parts of our ambulatory bodies.

Okay, enough of the sweetness and light, eh? But just remember to open your own hearts to it, and pass some on as well. Our world can always use more! Peace.

Monday, November 19, 2007

the writing biz

Let's face it. Lots of Americans can't write very well. No surprise there, really, although one would think we are awash in writers, given the ridiculous number of books published in this country every year. A large chunk of those books, however, are not all that well-written, now are they? Or they are ghostwritten by someone else--someone who really knows how to write.

I just checked out this "top 20" list of consulting businesses on, and guess what? Five (count 'em, five) of the slots involved writing and/or editing. Hmm.... Intriguing, no? So, you wonder, why is my own writing & editing consulting business not up and running all that spectacularly just yet, you wonder? Lots of competition out there. Gotta find a niche. But wow, when you do--watch out. That's quite a niche to carve out.

Pretty cool, eh?

My public service message of the day. Now, back to writing that racy Harlequin back cover copy....;)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

autumn...sort of

This weather is very warm for the Southwest in November. Hmm, global warming, anyone? I, for one, am enjoying it while it lasts. Today I walked by a beautiful (albeit low) river, jumped into a pile of raked-up fallen leaves, and swung on a swing set by the river path. All in all, a good day!

Besides, when it finally gets cold and starts to precipitate again, there is skiing...although it may be somewhat paltry for a while. But I'm anticipating it nonetheless!

Check out the National Book Awards, for which the ceremony is happening this Wednesday. Some cool stuff out there...okay, okay, I haven't read any of them--but I am familiar with the work of some of the authors, at least. How cool, one day, to see my name on the nominee list...hmm....

Babcia update: still doing okay, fielding lots of visits from daughters and calls too, at least from me. See, I told you she's tough.

Now, back to writing....In my journal, by hand, since I am still in the process of manifesting a new laptop... :)

Monday, November 12, 2007

ode to a laptop

Well, my laptop has had it. It croaked pitifully a few weeks back, and I sent it to a computer guru friend who very generously looked at it for me despite a very busy life of his own. He regrets that he cannot pull my data from the laptop. Unfortunately, I had some photos and some unsaved writing on it. Lesson learned: get a thumb drive.

Do you hear that, all you wild computer users out there? If your work is important to you, get a thumb drive and use it!

Anyway. There is a way of retrieving my data, one which involves great expense and time, two things of which I do not have in spades at the moment (although they are on their way to me right now, heh heh--the power of manifestation). So all is not lost. Just at the moment, it seems, I must be patient. Which is never easy for an Aries.

So until my brand-new laptop arrives, I store all my stories in my head, that great laptop attached to our bodies, and try to keep them simply filed. But, oh--how hard it is for a writer to be separated from her laptop. Yes, I can and do write by hand, but it's a different proposition when one looks to getting those words into electronic form. Hmm...challenges today. Although oddly enough, I'm feeling quite optimistic. Perhaps it's because it's a beautiful day, my Babcia is doing much better and should be going home tomorrow, and really--what good is it to whine and complain and feel beleaguered? That only generates more of the same.

So. Go out and think positive thoughts, and prosper, all of you. And don't forget to store your data in at least two places. I had a bunch of mine on a CD if only I can find it....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

powder is reality

Funny story to relate here: a friend of mine, who has worked in the wilderness therapy industry, began to date someone who had no experience in this industry. Her partner had Grateful Dead stickers on his truck, is a skier, works in a totally unrelated field, etc. etc. Oftentimes we get judged by our covers, no? Anyway, my friend had to take her partner's truck to work for a variety of reasons, and asked him if she could remove the Dead stickers so the students wouldn't see them, because that really is inappropriate and unprofessional in this profession. He didn't understand why at all and thought today's teens really would have no idea what those stickers stand for, but, being the loving man he is (yes, my friend has a good 'un!), he allowed her to remove said offensive stickers.

So there my friend is in the field, riot-inciting stickers gone, and two students are near the truck. They peruse some of the other stickers and start to chuckle a bit. There was, unfortunately, one sticker there from a ski resort, which read, Powder Is Reality.

These two students were cocaine addicts.

My friend declared her day done and drove away.

I am not telling this story nearly as well as my friend did, and if you are not in any segment of this industry you may not get it, but trust me. There is a certain existential humor in it. Sometimes, you just can't win!


Found this inspiring comment about writing on a PW blog from yesterday. Okay, I perhaps wax a bit sarcastic. Writing is necessary for writers, however, rather like oxygen is necessary for mammalian life. I must, and do write. But this blogger correctly paints the very challenging picture of getting published, and making a living off it, in this mad, mad world! However, I will keep trying. My work has been rejected more times than I care to count (and I may not be able to count them again, if my files holding that information are not retrieved--maybe that would be a good thing?), yet I do keep plugging away, although perhaps not as regularly as I might. Rejection does get very tough. I need to post, sometime, some of the crazier rejection letters I've received in the past. The one from Gordon Lish was almost longer than whatever it was I'd submitted.

Anyway. Future project! Happy day, all. And remember to COMMENT! If you want. :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

your secret's out

Okay, it seems all you readers out there have a little secret: you are actually reading this blog! I was wondering, as no one's left comments for the longest time, if I was just babbling into a vacuum. I may still be babbling, but there are plenty of readers of Red Rock Writer--you're just being secret readers. Which is okay, really, but it would be waaay more fun if you all left a comment now and then! No fewer than about eight people have mentioned to me in recent weeks, "Oh, you said in your blog...," which I found interesting. So. Feel free to comment!

Anyway, in other news, my grandmother is not feeling too well again, which makes me a bit nervous. (She had pneumonia back in May and was hospitalized for it.) She was, as she said to me in a tired voice this morning, dragged off to the doctor again today by her pesky adult children, who are also concerned about her rather fragile state at the moment. I will keep you posted on the health of my very cool grandmother, my Babcia. I personally believe she is very strong and healthy.

At the moment, I'm enjoying the offerings of Salt Lake City, which is fabulous except for the inversion (bleh--makes me feel as if I'm in L.A.) and the traffic. Not that the traffic here is horrible, by any means, but for someone used to living in rural Wayne County and in relatively small Durango over the past eight years, any city traffic is intense in comparison. However, I was interested to discover, on a walk this afternoon with my friend's little wiener dog, a mini-ranch complete with horses right next to her enormous (really), sprawling apartment complex. The West. It just can't shake its rural roots! Fine by me, of course. The horses were clean, pretty, and relaxed in the warm afternoon light. And they smelled, like, well, horses. It's a clean, warm, living, just wonderful smell (no, it does not smell like manure), and it will send horsey types everywhere into paroxysms of delight. If you are a horse person, you will understand. If not, just believe me. Makes me realize I need to get horses into my daily life again--or at least weekly.

In the writing world, this intriguing article called The Democratic Approach to Slush appeared in the latest Poets & Writers. Check it out, if you are a writer--quite interesting. Will remain to be seen if it's viable--sounds a bit dicey, letting the opinions of readers control the destiny of one's work--but then again, it does seem much more democratic than the whims of one editor. Having worked as an editor myself and read and rejected many manuscripts (I recommended a few, some of which actually got published, in case you fear I was all bad), I do understand that personal taste truly does come into the decision-making process, naturally. We are still human (well, most of us are), after all.

I also found a new magazine website, called, which is really cool, if you are into reading about the earth, place, the environment (both natural and constructed), etc. Really good work on there. I submitted something to them recently--will keep you posted, naturally, as a prime aspect of my blog is to self-promote my writing! Which is growing, slowly but surely...especially when I get a working laptop again, and my files. (Thank you, David, in advance, again!!!)

I leave you with this quote, which perhaps more of us might live by (myself included):

"Eating words has never given me indigestion." --Winston Churchill

Friday, November 02, 2007

wonders of all kinds

Been reading Barbara Kingsolver's Small Wonder: Essays, and am delighted by her writing, which I only recently discovered. Very inspirational to me in my own writing, which, I have realized, is strongest when I pen creative nonfiction, or essays, or whatever you want to call them. My current focus (well, that focus tends to hop all over the place, I admit--there is just too much fascinating stuff in this world!) is essays about place, particularly about this place, Wayne County, southern Utah, this general area, its landscape, its creatures, its people, its history, its potential futures. So much to discuss--so little precious time--yet so much of it, as well, oddly enough. Bizarre, no?

At any rate. Today is another gorgeous day in canyon country, crisp blue sky, rich colors lighted by the sun, still and perfect. I am about to head out to explore, to adventure, to find all the small wonders of this place that never fail to amaze me, and to say good-bye as I prepare to leave yet again. It's a tiresome thing, leaving, and I am well and truly sick of it. Yet, go I must, for many reasons. But, I console myself, I will return, always. And this land will not change too drastically--I hope.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

dusting oneself off & movin' right along

This whole laptop-has-crashed-and-burned-in-a-mighty-conflagration thing is, as usual, providing me windows of opportunity I might have otherwise missed. (Despite the fact that I really did not want this sort of window--or maybe, come to think of it, because of it? Hmm...philosophical brain twisting in the morning.) Some of the windows include these gems:

1) Forced to either write on my friend's computer (which is okay, but I tend to keep my writing very private and secured), or by hand, such as journaling more. Ah, the old-fashioned way. It does bring the writer closer to the words themselves, makes me think about my choices more carefully, because there is no delete button, nor a backspace....There is only commitment.

2) Strongly encouraged to stop freaking out about this potential loss and simply enjoy what I do have, which is plenty: loving family, generous friends, a spectacular place in which to live at the moment, my mind and its endless machinations & cool new ideas, on and on the list goes. I really am blessed--just have to remind myself of that at times.

3) More time to read! Watch movies! Hike during this amazing fall weather, which is perfect! Talk to friends and acquaintances! Visit and play with my horse! Practice yoga & meditation! Etc., etc. Gifts, indeed.

4) Space to explore the quiet, patient side that I generally lack. I have been a downright hermit lately, and it's been grand.

A friend (thanks, Dan) sent me a quote I want to share here, because it's really apt in this moment:

"Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito wing that falls on the rails." --Thoreau

I'm letting nutshells and mosquito wings veer me off-course, which is silly. Things happen, and we all really do go on--just perhaps not in the way we expected before the calamitous event. Another friend pointed out my ability to find gifts in the challenging moments, which was a great compliment and meant a lot to me (thanks, Shelley!).

One last gem, the kind that will nurture me for years to come: the other day, I was sitting in a local coffee shop with a friend, grousing a bit about the unpredictable nature of the wilderness therapy industry and proclaiming my own personal doneness with it. Then one of my recent students from the field, one I'd worked with for two shifts (16 days), came in with his parents. He'd graduated, and they'd just finished up their family workshop. I met his folks, noted how centered the student seemed, and we had a brief conversation.

And during that short time, he said to me not once but twice, "Thank you, Julie." And I heard and saw the sincerity resonating through his every fiber, and it just meant so much to me, and brought that sort of smile to my face that can only come from the recognition of right action, of having done something well that touched another life in the most positive of ways. And my last week out with that particular group had been so, so difficult! You never really know how your presence affects another.

At any rate, I want to thank broken laptops (sigh), unforeseen opportunities, a young man named Thomas, and my dear friends, all of whom have helped me in these past weeks to get up, brush off the dust, and just keep going, even if the smile has sometimes slipped from my face.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween & technological woes

Happy All Hallow's Eve to you. Wherever you are, I hope you rise above the commercial mockery this day has become, ignore all the candy, and just enjoy yourself. Found this fun quote:

Sly does it. Tiptoe catspaws. Slide and creep.
But why? What for? How? Who? When! Where did it all begin?
“You don’t know, do you?” asks Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud climbing out of the pile of leaves under the Halloween Tree. “You don’t really know!”
—Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree

This is one of my favorite times of year. A magical night, the leaves changing, winds gusting up, deep blue autumn skies, the time about to rock backward, and the season well and truly turned. The Welsh call it a "spirit night," and obviously our culture agrees, although in typical Western fashion, the idea behind the holiday has been bastardized, cleansed, and commercialized beyond recognition.

The veil between the worlds is supposed to be thin, and tonight is your best bet for uncannily accurate tarot readings, crystal ball predictions, or other forms of scrying your future. Let the games begin, I say! Have a blast, and do wear a costume if so moved. Why not, after all--it's also the only time of the year adults are allowed to be more childlike, to play, to dress up, to show their pent up wildness. As a culture, we really do suppress that, don't we? And then look what happens: little boys playing with warships and soldiers, except that they're real ones, and not expecting them to really get hurt, or little girls cat-calling at each other and playing the cruelest tricks, except that they change lives in hurtful ways, because grown-up games can often be much more devastating than those we played when we were truly children. So let out your inner child/faery/demon/angel/ghost/etc. tonight, engage in laughter and gentle tricks, and express all your sillies.

And please send me and my mom your best healing Halloween thoughts, so that my laptop (my connection to the world, as well as the way in which I am attempting to make a living!) and her computer, both separated by several states and both choosing to get all persnickety at the same time, heal themselves. Sigh.... Maybe it's just the spirits playing tricks on our technological crutches!

Have a glorious Samhain (“summer’s end" in Celtic), and enjoy that spiced cider simmering on your stove...I know I am.

Friday, October 26, 2007

indian summer

The weather here right now is perfect for hiking the southern Utah back country, and let me tell you, I'm doing just that. Went on a great 6-hour jaunt yesterday to a mesa-top I'd never visited before--it requires ascending a rugged horse trail to achieve the unparalleled views and unsullied terrain up there. Clearly, very few people venture into that area, and after slogging up the wrong little canyon crack to get up there, I understand why. I'm quite grateful that such remote areas still exist in abundance around here! I found a tremendous amount of chipping beds, arrowhead pieces, and other really cool stuff. And almost no human footprints, although plenty of critter prints.

On a more disheartening note, a friend of mine told me that some modern-day pot hunters (illegal looters of protected archaeological sites is the more correct term) are using helicopters to get to the most remote back country sites, where they can quickly loot, remove, and fly away. Luckily, people on the right side of the law have a description of the helicopter, and are on the lookout for it. It's a genius idea, although of course also totally morally reprehensible.

I understood, on some level, however, the allure of seeking out and actually finding such ancient sites with their treasures still intact. I was gripped by similar fever as I wandered around the high mesa, eyes scanning for telltale signs of previous human occupation or at least traversing. I, however, am not going to loot. Arrowhead pieces, yes, I admit to taking some that I've found, and I'm sure it's also a justification. We each have our own system by which we live, do we not? However, I have too much respect for ancient spirits, ancient peoples, and the laws of this country to do more than that. Yet so many out there do not! It always amazes me at how selfish this society--Western civilization--is. There is no group, there is no community, there is only I, and how much I can profit. It's very saddening, on multiple levels.

Anyway. A beautiful photo of a southern Utah desert sunrise to inspire whatever. Writing. Protection of the land. Joy. A smile!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

writing from life

Okay, here is what I am focusing on while my homeland (SoCal) is burning down: writing from life, from the people who inhabit our daily or at least semi-daily lives. I just today finished (hooray! oh rarity, finishing a short story--especially since mine are usually looong) a story based on real-life events that happened recently here in Wayne County. I don't actually know any of the players, except one only superficially, and I totally made up most of the details, not actually knowing them besides the bare bones. Which is why we call it fiction! But there is still the dilemma inherent in such situations: how much to disguise, and how, and why indeed, to be truthful.

Pam Houston, a writer who taught three workshops that I've attended and someone whose writing I've liked, has said that fiction is more truthful than nonfiction. Her own fiction draws heavily from her personal life, and I think she's pissed off some people in her tiny town where she lives part of the year by some of her portrayals. But what she was meaning to say is, We tend to be more truthful in our fiction, more unabashedly honest, because of that very label, fiction. It ain't true, folks! Nothing to see here, it's all make-believe, these characters are just that--made up. So with that accepted cloak of anonymity, we can skewer all the sacred cows (and humans) we want, while getting away scot free.

Anyway, it's a subject I find interesting. It's one I usually play with, writing from life, or at least from the lives of those I know, whether closely or from a more reserved distance. Not always! But enough. I mean, come on. Life presents the most interesting, outrageous, "no way!" moments and story lines and people we could ever want. Truth is stranger than fiction, etc. It's true, no? What do you all think?

And by the way--if I'm ever going to skewer you as a sacred cow, perhaps you'll know--and perhaps you won't...heh heh heh....

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

autumn winds

Winds of change, or something like that, no? I love this time of year. It's a bittersweet love, to be sure. Things are changing, summer is winding down, people leave, there is a slight sense of melancholy in the air. Or maybe it's just me! I must say that autumn in Wayne County is spectacular. The air is certainly crisp but not dreadful (although over the weekend there was a snowstorm that seemed to be a blasting harbinger of winter). The colors on the aspens on the mountains are glorious russets and glowing yellows that are almost iridescent in the direct sunlight, framed so sharply against the stark white of the tree trunks. Elk are bugling on the mountainsides (or so I'm told; haven't heard them myself), the sky is that unbelievably deep Utah blue, cobalt or even navy in the evening light. There are still visitors here, but everything is slowing down a bit as creatures human and otherwise start to prepare for that inevitable winter thing, hibernation.

If only we people did hibernate! I'd love it, right about now. I think that's my thing in the winters: hibernation like a bear. Along with skiing! Right now I'm hunkered down in one of my favorite bookstores, Robber's Roost, and I'm wishing I could just stay here for the next several weeks, writing quietly and with purpose. Tomorrow, however, I head into the field, so there will be another weeklong dearth of writing, here and elsewhere. I do bring my journal into the field, so that remains constant in my life no matter what.

This amazing, often infuriating, endlessly eye-opening thing we call life is so interesting, is it not? What we set up for ourselves surprises us so, at times. I still get surprised, although I have really created every moment that led up to this one. I have created this very moment in my life, whether I consciously planned it or not. Rather humbling to remember that when I start complaining about things.

I must say that I am still so happy to be here right now, in what is perhaps my favorite place on earth, surrounded by the land that nurtures and sustains me so. When I walk by the river later, and take out my journal and write in it to the melody of the water tripping and rippling past, I know already that I will feel so secure, so safe and familiar and held, in a way, by the red and cream rocks and the big blue sky and the birds of prey that circle and swoop far above. It hugs my soul close while simultaneously letting it soar free, and isn't that all we want? A paradox there, but what we want: to be held and to be free at once. And to live in a place we adore.

What is your place that you adore? How and why does it hold you? And how, if you will, do you hold it while also letting it be free?

Time for me to head out to visit my horse (with a bag of apples! He and his pasture-mates will be thrilled) and then the river. Till next week, then.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

words o' wisdom

Sorry about the time lag. Went into the field a few weeks ago, spent 8 days wandering the high (and chilly) mountains with students and llamas, and then exited the field to rest, hike, and not get online really until today. I return to the field on Wednesday, so expect another time gap....

I have nothing of terribly interesting note to note today. Just the words of several friends and myself: Feelings pass. Actions are remembered. Be cautious when the two merge!

With that, I leave you to ponder your own feelings and what, if anything, you will do with them on this Sunday. Happy day!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

saving the planet one step at a time

Got some news from SUWA this morning about the off-road vehicle depredations in southern Utah. Check out their website and see how the BLM office there is slowly bowing to pressure from activists and concerned citizens. Off-road vehicles have been illegally damaging a place called Recapture Wash, endangering archaeological sites, trampling the local sparse vegetation (think desert), and probably really annoying hikers, bicyclists, runners, and others trying to enjoy the peace and quiet of such a place.

See, we can make a difference, one voice at a time, one step at a time. I can't stand it when people go belly up or hide in their turtle shells, whining that the world just doesn't work that way. Hello, it does. There is tremendous power in belief, in positive thinking, in imagining a better world for oneself, for the future generations, for the animals, for the planet itself. And there is tremendous power in speaking out, even if it's just once. You never know if you're going to say just the right thing to just the right person. It may not affect anything at the moment--perhaps you are speaking to a child who will change the world, even in a small way, in 20 years. My point is, you never know. So why give up? That helps no one at all.

I am feeling particularly aggrieved this morning, I think, because I am here in Los Angeles (well, thank goodness, South Pasadena, which is far better in my mind), where the message seems to be ever-bigger vehicles (Ford F-550s? Are they joking?), more spending, keeping up with the mythical Joneses (who are probably broke, disillusioned, and divorced by now), and building over every possible play area for kids, every natural nook or empty lot. And usually putting up ugly, non-energy efficient buildings. Blehhhg.

Don't just sit on your asses, folks. Do something, anything, for this world. And that includes finding out about it, checking out what's really going on, and doing something, rather than just sitting before the TV spouting its pablum for the masses. Do your own research, make up your own mind, don't believe everything you hear, but don't be such a cynic that you simply throw up your hands and say, That's the way it is.

Because it doesn't have to be that way.

Public service announcement for the day! Have a lovely one. I'm going to go decompress now....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

rare book mania

Okay, back here in L.A., I am being completely gripped by book fever again, and I love it. Have been perusing the used stores around here (Goodwill, etc.) for misplaced literary treasures, re-read Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, and lost myself for hours today at The Bookhouse in South Pasadena and Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. Ah, heaven! It is so, so fun. I attended an antiquarian booksellers convention here in L.A. last year and saw old books that were selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars (yes, really), and also had a lovely conversation with a Salt Lake bookseller who knew of Everett Ruess and was amazed that I did as well.

When I am ridiculously wealthy, I am collecting books. I already do. I will simply be able to collect more and afford the ones I really want!


Anyway, I'm off to dream about old books, new books, any books. And, uh, write a book. Ahem. Time to get serious about that, eh....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

wild green parrots

I'm currently in South Pasadena, CA, visiting family, enjoying the warm, smoggy air, and listening with a happy smile to the crazy squawks of the wild green parrots that seem to be everywhere in the San Gabriel Valley. They fly in hordes or in small clusters, land on phone lines, treetops, in the large fronds of palm trees, and endlessly chatter about everything under the sun that seems to affect their days here. Who knows what parrots discuss?

"Hey, Jean, there's a great-looking perch in that jacaranda tree. Let's go check it out and squawk at those silly-looking people rushing about below."

"Sure, Elsie--and look, Martin and Bill are there too! We can catch up on the latest while we snack on the leaves."

(I can't say that parrots eat jacaranda leaves, by the way. I really have no idea what they ingest. Bugs?)

There are differing stories on the original arrival of the parrots, ranging from ship escapees to illegal pet store escapees to who-knows-what. However, they have been here since the 1940s or so, are absolutely everywhere, are not native, and they really startle people the first time they open their beaks in mid-flight overhead. You'd think we were in Belize rather than a huge West Coast sprawl.

I've adored the parrots for a long time, although not everyone agrees. If I can get a good picture this time, I'll post one, but so far I've only managed blurry, far-away snaps (my camera isn't super-special). In the meantime, I'm going to take a stroll around the neighborhood and keep an eye out for those distinctively loud imports as they zip and swoop around their adopted home. One does NOT see wild green parrots in Colorado!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a tale of two towns

So I am feeling a split lately that is somewhat disconcerting, yet also not unexpected (love the double negatives for their poetic quality). I feel equally at home in two places, both Durango and Torrey, to the point where it is a bit maddening. I went to Durango over the weekend and couldn't wait to return to live there, considered it one of my homes, and realized that I love it, to the point that as I drove back to Torrey (last night), I actually felt resistance to returning to Utah! Then, today, as I walked over the bridge leading to Robber's Roost Bookstore across the water canal channeling Fremont River water, I also felt at home, comfortable, loving this place, and knowing that I could settle here again.

Feh. I fling up my hands in delighted frustration. I know I am returning to Durango, I really like it there. But the moment, here in Torrey among the storm-tossed cliffs and the striving rainbows, I am enjoying myself and will explore, live, and stay in the moment, for as long as I have it. Not too bad, eh?

And when I head to California tomorrow, I plan to thoroughly enjoy the places and people there too! I can't wait to go to the farmer's market and be utterly whomped by all the colorful sights and sounds and smells of the people there, and hike in the heated foothills rising through the haze above Los Angeles, and browse the public library bookstore and lose myself in a thousand possible tales.

Who says one cannot call more than one place Home? I certainly can, and I do. Besides, for a writer, it adds spice, creativity, new experiences, and a never-ending font (fount?) of ideas. Such as, at this moment, there are two separate couples sitting here at the Roost, each sipping coffee, perusing books or maps, and speaking English with voices not from here--not even from this country. I can sit and unobtrusively examine them, and make up stories about them, and perhaps one day see them creep into a character or tale, adding their own piece of life to those I create with this keyboard. Then in Durango, I can laze by the banks of the Animas or fly (not completely gracefully, yet) down the slopes at Purgatory and see other people, other lives, and learn or guess from them and create yet more people for my stories.... Pretty cool, really.

And then there's my own family, which sometimes gives me drama close to Home! Such as discovering that my cousin's wife may have ties to a criminally-inclined family in a southern country.... So bizarre, really. And for a writer, endlessly fascinating.

Although I also am ready to settle into one place again, more permanently. And set up my little writing nook, and create, create, create....

Sunday, September 09, 2007

on home

What makes a home? What creates the place one calls home, and how does one decide and know when that magical, safe, glorious, beautiful place deserves the appellation "home"? I have been rolling this concept around in my brain and heart recently, as I travel between two places that are dear to my heart, one for years now, and one more recently and unexpectedly: Torrey, Utah, and Durango, Colorado.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Torrey--Wayne County--is my home in many ways. I was not raised there, and I have only known it for eight years now. But it is dear to me, it calls to me, and the human inhabitants know me. I feel secure and safe as I tool around there in my truck--I know where I am, I know what to expect, and the very land speaks to me in way that breathes and murmurs, This is home. The hidden, secret spots. The ridiculously gorgeous views that can be had from almost any vantage point in the county. The bright blue sky (well, not so much as of late, due to fires up north, but still) framing the red rocks. The way you can go on a hike and not see another single person for miles, literally. Golden and bald eagles circling or feasting on roadkill (yep, not too pretty, but that's the truth of those great birds). Walking up to the bank teller, who calls you by name. Or the grocery store clerk. The postmaster. The restaurant owner. The woman who cuts your hair. If you were raised in a small town, this will sound familiar, perhaps too intimate. I was raised in Southern California. For me, this is really cool.

The other place that has grown on me in the past year is Durango. I had an interesting time there overall. Happy times, rocky times, in-between times (like everywhere, no?). Over the winter, I said, This is not the place for me. This is not my home. This is not where I belong. Yet slowly, it creeped up on me. I really began to appreciate this place and its unique spots. The Animas River walk, where I spent many a leisurely hour strolling, alone or with friends, watching the rushing water. Junction Creek, where I have spied a raven's nest and smiled congenially at other hikers or runners or bikers (when I didn't frown because the latter tried to plow me down as they came zipping down the trail at inhuman speeds). The two health food stores here that I haunt, Nature's Oasis and Durango Natural Foods. The local, independent bookstore, Maria's Bookshop, filled to capacity with books, posters, cards, journals, and other happy browsers lost in many different worlds. And here, too, I can be walking or driving and see people I know, people who call my name and say hello.

How cool is that?

Something else I like about Durango is that it reminds me of South Pasadena, where I spent my high school years and where my mother still resides. Some of the downtown Durango streets are leafy, shady, filled with turn-of-the-last-century homes, graceful and reminiscent of the East, and also of South Pasadena. I noticed that right off the bat when I moved here last year, and immediately felt soothed by it.

Hmm. So I don't know if I've clearly articulated what home means. But you get the drift. And so what makes a home for you? Or rather, what makes your home?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

stranger than fiction

Okay, so home is also sometimes very strange. Recently, in this little area plunked in the middle of nowhere, Utah, there were two events that perhaps more often happen in larger population centers: a murder-suicide; and a woman who accidentally ran over her husband and dog with their car.

This is all, of course, more fodder for the Wayne County novel/short stories I have been idly threatening to write for years.... No laughing matter, of course, but still. One must say, there is a lot of drama inherent in these events, and that makes for interesting reading.

The murder-suicide, by the way, involved a couple not from this area. It occurred in one of the local motels, where the owner discovered the bodies after the man did not show up for work and his boss called the motel to see if he was there. I hear it involved a love triangle. The motel owner is cleaning up the room. I should hope he smudges it as well (although knowing this guy, it seems doubtful he would be familiar with the cleansing idea behind smudging, much less actually do it). I would not want to stay in a room tainted by the energy of something horrible like that.

Maybe I should stay here and write all winter. Seems to be a bubbling well of stories available here, ready to leap from real life to my pen (keyboard).

Nah. I want to ski. And eat decent food.

Off to write! I have stories to tell....

Sunday, September 02, 2007

back from the field

The field was amazing, as usual. We were up on Fishlake National Forest and Thousand Lake Mountain (part of that forest), right above the desert, which gave us spectacular vistas and awesome views of the huge storms about to descend upon us with all their furious might. I have some pictures to share, next post.

And when I came back out today, and I went to grab some food at the Country Cafe, the local diner in Loa, and the owner Don said, "Hi, Julie, how's everything today?" I was just reminded of the true nature of the term "home." Home is where people know you by name. Home is where people wave at you with recognition. Home is where people are genuinely happy to see you.

Home is also where you sometimes know too much about the people around you, and they about you. Home is also where people know your background (although maybe not all of it, if you weren't raised there, as I was not here). And home can be where you are thrilled to be and exist--and also thrilled you are not so tied to it that you cannot leave.

Well, that's the extent of my philosophy for the evening. Time to read High Tide in Tucson: Essays From Now or Never by Barbara Kingsolver (wow, is all I can say--love it), snuggle my totally ecstatic cat, and sleep hard.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

more on flow

Another glorious morning here at the Park. Yesterday it looked like the grim reaper had descended, with huge dark clouds, lots of rain, and awesome displays of lightning bolts. Hurricane Dean wreaking what little havoc it still could. Today--all gone, and I bet a lot of the smoke from the fires up in northern states that had drifted down here is gone as well.

It's a good day to be outside, and a hard day to spend writing inside! I will be out a fair amount today, but my laptop urges me to spend some time with it as well. I have some deadlines I'd like to make. I will be going into the field for a wilderness program tomorrow, and so will be out of writing (and posting) commission for a week.

Going into the field is always an interesting experience for me. I have jumbled thoughts, all involving varying levels of anxiety about what I am leaving behind (pets, family, daily minutiae), what I am going into, and the oddness of being in the field again, even though I love it. This program is not one I have worked for before; it's called Passages to Recovery and is for adults. It is in the same general gorgeous area as I am in now, although the course area is one I am not as familiar with, so I am really anticipating the exploring I'll get to do.

Flow. I'm in it right now, and I'm just letting go and riding easily with the current. Hmm...such a nice way to do it!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


It's rainy and thundery in Wayne County today--very lovely. Someone said it was from Hurricane Dean, the last hurrah trying to stir something up. Thanks, Dean. The smell of dampened sage is filling my nostrils and sending me in paroxysms of delight at the familiar, much-loved scent. Have I mentioned before that this is home, and always will be for me, no matter what other changes I experience?

Yesterday, as I ferried about a visitor to this place, I was struck again by how much I love it here, and how tight the community is, and how many different little microcosms of community there are here, and how diverse this area really is, which few would believe on first glance. For a county of about 2500 people, and then in a town of about 150 (Torrey), there are communities upon communities, blending and merging and never mixing and shifting and reshaping as the years and the people all go on, stay, leave, and change. I was reminded of how many people here I know, and how many I truly care for, and how supporting this place can be to those of us displaced, either by choice or suddenly.

I am not feeling particularly verbose today, nor eloquent. I want to go out and take a walk in the rain, and smell the wet sage, and look across the immense, sky-darkened landscape, and simply feel my way into the next step of my journey.

Friday, August 24, 2007

fruit-picking and more canaries on the rim

My friend Michelle from Durango is visiting me here in Fruita, Utah. (Yes, the Capitol Reef National Park employee community is located in a place called Fruita, after all the fruit orchards the pioneers planted a century or so ago. I'm in Fruita. Isn't that cool? Although since I have screwed up the cooling system in my friend's house and can't figure out how to make it work again, it's actually not cool at all, which is a pity this time of year.) We went to one of the open fruit orchards a while ago to pick some ripe deliciousness off the trees. Apples and plums were available in that particular orchard, although the plums seemed not quite ready yet--perhaps for canning? There were also peach trees, which not quite ready either, but we sneakily picked a few because they were so pretty.

What a lovely experience...picking fruit at the height of summer, the perfect lazy Friday afternoon activity. And only $1/pound, you can't beat that. And waaay better than supermarket fruit, for sure.

Seeing this area newly through a friend's eyes is also, well, eye-opening. (Snort.) I realize again how spectacular it is, how pristine, how stunningly gorgeous, with the red and cream rock walls framed against the impossibly blue sky with just a few little puffy white clouds drifting about for maximum effect. Photo opp indeed! We're going to Panorama Point and the Goosenecks in a bit for sunset, to really dazzle her with this place's beauty. Then to the Patio, the local pizza and (3.2%) beer joint, for dinner and perhaps some tunes as it's open mic night.

I was just sitting in the living room and watched the neighbor across the street put out her cats, on leashes so they could safely roam the front yard and chew on grass till they threw up, just like good felines are supposed to do. They're on leashes because companion animals cannot roam the Park unleashed, especially not those belonging to employees. My cat, stuck inside, watched them through an open (screened) window with utter fascination. She looked back at me a few times as if to say, Check it out, Mom! Cats on leashes. Weird!

I'm just enjoying this afternoon, sitting here in a glorious little red rock corner of the country, listening to the sprinklers (yes, it strikes me as quite odd that a national park in the desert has grass lawns in its housing area and the employees use water around the clock to ensure the attractive verdant color--and this in an area where there's been a moratorium on water rights in the local selling community for a few years now), and being quiet and peaceful and accepting of it all.

Not too shabby.

Wanted to add too that I'm almost done reading Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West by Chip Ward, which I mentioned a few posts back. It becomes more and more horrifying, almost stupefying in its endless, eloquently written litany about the unthinkable idiocy that has been wreaked upon the West and its peoples by our lovely government and, even more so, military. Nuclear waste, scary stuff. I strongly, strongly recommend reading it. Then letting your blood boil. Then doing something productive with that anger. Some other recommended sites to check out, which I also list in my links, are Downwinders and HEAL Utah. Do something. Anything. Don't just sit and let this sort of shit happen ANYWHERE in our country, or, indeed, the world.

I am still deciding what to do with my horror and rage. But I won't let that freeze me into inaction, facing such a large, sprawling mess. One I am doing is right here, in blogging about it. Every little tiny bit is a start!

All right, off to watch the sunset. The sunset over the raped landscape. Hmm. I must say, as I read Canaries on the Rim while lolling (love that word!) by the favorite river the other day, I wondered what sort of horrors might be lurking in that favorite place of mine, beneath the waters. Hmm, something to investigate!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lineage Holders of Dysfunction

Okay, had to use that as a title--isn't it great? Thanks to a friend who shall remain anonymous on this post--who's perhaps afraid of karmic retribution for being sassy! In a nutshell, there is a group in this little part of Utah which practices its own brand of spirituality, which is open to all, and it's wonderful that they do it, indeed. Diversity's a great thing. The occasionally frustrating issue is that the leading members of this group have a tendency toward, ah, being the enlightened ones, the ones who are mindfully living their lives of great understanding and have been given the burden of being the teachers of others. Therefore, these lineage holders are better than you and I. At least, that's the impression some of them give at times. Many times. Lots of times.

So they've been dubbed the Lineage Holders of Dysfunction, because their group is really full of quite dysfunctional people! (As we all are, bless our varied uniquenesses.) Or perhaps it's just that they're sort of teaching dysfunction? Hmm...ideas to ponder. Anyway, I just thought that was fun, and I was moved to put it as today's post. Plus, I see a short story forming...heh heh heh.

Anyone else out there have their own experiences with lineage holders of dysfunction?

Okay, enough of this. I'm off to pick peaches in the Park! Persecuted Mormon pioneers settled this place (it's called Fruita) originally, and they planted lots of fruit trees--self-sufficiency and all that. The Park staff tend to the orchards all year, and the public benefits at harvest time by being able to pick said fruit for nominal prices. And is it ever good.... A friend of mine and I tried to get some last night, but they locked the gate on this particular orchard at 5pm. I suppose to keep out all those marauding deer?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

writing challenges...sigh

So I'm noticing that I'm sitting here this morning (fast turning into afternoon) reading other people's blogs, checking out the news, and thinking about writing. Oh, and I'm inside, which is a tragedy in this beautiful area. (Shall I mention again that I am house-sitting in Capitol Reef National Park, which is divine and gorgeous and in the hot height of summer, which does not bode well for hiking but bodes very well indeed for lolling around by the river?)

My cat, however (Bella, see her picture on the right somewhere), is totally thrilled to have me here with her, and she's been showing off her great skills as a hunter of toys and dustballs in the house this morning. And I'm listening to Diana Krall, and I'm enjoying this very moment of being in this place, lucky me!

So. I'm having an issue dragging myself outside just yet. But I will soon enough!

Now, to attend to the writing.... I do have a call for submissions that I want to check out, so that's encouraging. Off I go, writing away. No procrastination for me, uh-uh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

on floating and being in the flow

My friend Dan told me that when unmoored, we should float. Well put, Dan, and true. So I am attempting to merrily float down the stream, feet in front of me, simply watching the passing scenery and just letting myself be while in this vast unknown space I am currently NOT navigating!

Being in the flow has many interpretations (see here, and here, and here for just some examples). I generally see it as accepting where one is in life and just letting go, letting that present state of being just, well, be. Ah, so simple to hard, sometimes, to practice! I live in flow a lot of the time and often counsel others to live that way too. (It's a heck of a lot easier than being constantly stressed out.) And then there are other times when I abandon ship, panic, and flail around like a really pissed off and disoriented cat suddenly finding itself in water.

Now is one of those times for me, a chance for me to practice being in flow, just existing right in this moment and believing that the right things will happen. Trusting, and enjoying every moment! Just letting the current take me, and enjoying the ride.

Lesson for the day. A spiffy one indeed....

Monday, August 20, 2007

high country news & other Western-type things of note

Just noticed this on the High Country News website:

We've Been Postaled!
Dear HCN Reader:
On July 15, 2007, HCN got an unpleasant notice from the US Postal Service - a $28,000 increase in our annual bill for mailing the news magazine. For a small, independent newsmagazine this is a big unforeseen expense. $28,000 is enough money to fund five cover stories, or a half year's worth of travel to investigate and photograph stories from all corners of the West.
A timely contribution to the Research Fund will help High Country News to continue providing you with independent, feisty, and necessary reporting about the West that we all care so much about.
HCN's subscribers have proven over the years that they want to support journalism that is passionate yet fair. If you have ever thought of giving a contribution to the Research Fund, we could use your help now.
Thanks for your continued support.
Paul Larmer Publisher

The HCN is very cool. They should get support. Just throwing that out there.

Also wanted to note that I am currently sitting on the deck of a great mountain home in Durango, CO, watching my friend's dog get all tense every time some car drives by slowly (slowly drives by?), breathing in the super-fresh piney air while listening to the wind chimes and the ravens and the rustling tree branches, and again counting myself lucky that I have friends who live in such amazing places who will put me up while I house-search again. (Thank you, Jamie, and her housemates Kelly & Jordy!)

Had a moment earlier in which I felt stressed and had a few snively moments of self-pity, wondering where my house, job, and mate all were, in no particular order, all in some jumbled up mess of need in my head! Then I pulled myself together, remembered by surroundings and all my abilities, and promptly sat down to write again in my blog. Which I need to get publicized so someone out there is actually reading what I write, which is what every scribe craves, no?

Anyhoo, enough on the personal sappy stuff. Also wanted to bring attention to the whole Desert Rock debacle-in-the-making. One blog about it, which I just found, should provide enough info for the newbie, but here's also how it was portrayed in the New York Times recently (have to pay to read). Basically, it's a proposed power plant to be built on Navajo Nation land southwest of Farmington, NM, which is southwest of Durango, which means really close to where I choose to live, which might be really, really scary. There's all sorts of debate about it, and it has locals around here really riled up. I don't even know all the specific details, but I do know it's a huge decision that will likely affect the lives of many, many generations of people, let alone the creatures and the land.

Naturally, it's being built in order to supply power to lovely Las Vegas and even lovelier Phoenix, those two blights upon the Earth. Supposedly it will generate income for the Navajo Nation as well, but my question is, for whom exactly will it generate said income? All the people? And at what true cost?

Anyway. More food for thought, as usual.

Now, back to house-searching....

Thursday, August 16, 2007

canaries on the rim etc. etc.

It would seem obvious that I already read Chip Ward's Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West years ago, as it came out in 1999 and I moved to the canyon country he discusses in the book in 1999. However, I did not--but I am now, as it is one of the many books scattered around my friend's place here in the middle of Capitol Reef National Park. So far, I am enjoying and learning from it. And of course it's always fun to read about those places which we know and call home ourselves, especially if they are not well-known. I also want to read his Hope's Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land. Hallelujah for people willing to take the risk and speak out, eh?

Well, as every reader knows, there most certainly is not time enough to read everything published. Listen to this factoid: one company tracking these things estimated the number of books published in 2006 was 291,920. Good grief, eh? Ah, the state of literature, etc. etc. When one considers all the drivel published out there too, the sheer numbers truly become overwhelming. Not that I can really picture nearly 300,000 books in the first place. I can barely make it through lists I've already had for years. And some writers wonder why their books don't sell. Look at the insane amount of competition out there! You have to be your own marketing team, usually.

Other fun factoid: supposedly, about 50% of the mass paperback market in the U.S. and Canada is claimed by romances, which shouldn't really be surprising. I write back cover copy for Harlequin romances, which is a total hoot and harder than one might think, sometimes. I have toyed with the idea of writing my own romance novel for a few years now, and it's time to take action on that plan. May sound silly to some, and it offended my "high literary" aspirations for years--but what the heck! Fun and profitable, and romances always have happy endings, etc. etc. I'm gonna go for it. That doesn't mean that I won't be still writing my own high literary work--I am. I'm a bit of a Renaissance woman when it comes to writing, I suppose.

Off to soak in the gorgeous scenery here and compose great works of literature!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

rising writing talent

This is a bit old, from the July/August issue of Poets & Writers, but their First-Fiction Annual showcases new voices, which I always find interesting. One day, I vow, my voice will be among them! Praised for my amazing ideas, unique style, perfectly imperfect characterizations, witty turns of phrase, heartbreaking moments of prose that bring our occasionally senseless world into greater clarity--ah yes, I can hear all the accolades now.

Although, such imaginings are essential to us all: see, for example, some work by the author SARK, whom I adore and who validates dreaming and scheming: SARK. Oh dear, that's on Let's go back to Powell's, whose selection is smaller but should still be wholeheartedly supported: SARK. There, now you have a shopping choice.

Back to my visions of published glory now....

Hmm, what? Oh yes--I'm daydreaming again. Time to get back to writing. I'm off to Panorama Point this morning, in the Park (that would be Capitol Reef National Park, where I have the luck to be temporarily ensconced), to watch the interplay of morning light and clouds and journal about it all while sipping on my yerba mate.

And what are you doing about your chosen art this morning? (Or, should I say, that art that chose you.) Off with you, go create.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

lightning and thunder and clouds, oh my!

So I'm out here in the wilds of Utah again, just about my favorite place on Earth, and the last two days it's been very stormy--monsoon season, it's called out in the desert Southwest, believe it or not. Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out to my favorite spot by the river (see the main picture--that's it!), wandered down the trail for short ways, then sat somewhat close to a juniper tree to watch the show.

Lightning, thunder, swirly underclouds colored brick and purple beneath one of those towering "grim reaper" type large dark gray monstrosities that just about covers all the sky you can see--ahh. Gorgeous! The lightning was particularly incredible, leaping cloud-to-cloud or from the ground up, in huge, long spiky flashes, followed by that enormous CRACK! and BOOM! that can still send shivers down my spine, even though I know (in theory) how to take care of myself outside.

I'd brought a book to read (The Pictograph Murders by P.G. Karamesines), but despite the fun of that book (which is set in the general area and is about ancient ruins and skinwalkers and archaeologists, three of my favorite topics), but the natural show was too spectacular, so I just watched that instead. Made my heart thrum and split a wide smile across my face. I am home.

So. I encourage people to sit out in thunderstorms (safely, of course!), turn their faces up to the sky, and open up to the show. You never know--it might be a catalyst for the next masterpiece you write...or dream up...or otherwise create....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

we're not as long-lived as we'd like to think

Just had to bring attention to this tidbit: US Life Expectancy Slipping in Rankings, says NPR.

See Michael Moore's Sicko, anyone? Just awake are we, anyway??? I do love living in this country, and sometimes I am so disturbed by how we have chosen to have it managed. Remember Rome, the Mayans, and all the other mighty fallen empires, eh?

Remember: sleep well & lots, exercise mightily, eat beautiful & colorful food, and ENJOY your life! (And, uh, make sure you have health insurance....)

And don't forget to cherish our natural world, read interesting things, love & be loved, and make your voice heard.

Your public service announcement for the evening. Now I take my leave to go for a mind-clearing walking meditation in some of the world's most beautiful countryside, here in the good old American Southwest. Bon soir!

summer afternoons

The heart of lovely here in canyon country! I am fortunate enough to be house-sitting for a friend who works for a national park, so I'm in the Park's housing area at the moment, which is in easily one of the world's most beautiful areas...I get to write and sip yerba mate under the morning light reflecting off the red-and-cream cliffs surrounding this lush green canyon, sitting outside at a picnic bench, listening to birds twitter and whatever else they do, and amaze myself all over again that such beauty still exists in mostly untouched state...not yet completely destroyed by the mindless and greedy, or by the merely stupid and ignorant and careless.

Which is worse, the careless swipe that eradicates a species, or the calculating decimation that fattens the pockets of a few and brings tears to the eyes of many? Deliberate cruelty, or the destruction that stems from utter my mind, both are of equal culpability. Is there excuse for ignorance?

Philosophical thoughts to ponder and twist the brain into spasms of confusion. Hee hee!

The creative fires are lighting under me in this space, which of course for a writer is an excellent symptom. Do I turn my hand first to the short stories that always, always beg to tumble out when I am here, in this land rich with place and people and event that all demands to written down and embellished for the ages? (Or at least for a good laugh, in some cases.) What of the essays that languish half-finished on my laptop, filled with lilting phrases and acerbic viewpoints and perhaps, sometimes, startling clarity? Mm, there's also the screenplay I'm writing with my friend Dan--that, indeed, needs to be worked on, as he often reminds me of late!

Choices, choices. Then, there's also simple lazing by the river...passing time at the local bookstore and catching up with old friends and acquaintances...watching the fawn and its mother grazing outside my friend's back door...apples to be picked from the orchards...Dreamtime to be had!

I love summer. It doesn't seem to last nearly as long as it did in childhood, when it stretched on into an unimaginable eternity...I mean, really, it seemed to be forever, didn't it? This growing up business...puts a dent in time, doesn't it....

Well. Onward to lazy summertime activities today. Namaste, and have a lovely, lazy summer afternoon yourself.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

SUWA Victory

I am on the SUWA (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance) mailing list, and they emailed great news today (for those interested in preserving our land, that is). I'll insert the entire text here:

July 3, 2007
Contact: Heidi McIntosh, 801.428.3980

Federal Ruling Reaffirms Protection for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Court Dismisses County Suit Claiming that “Roads” Ignored by Land Managers

SALT LAKE CITY -- In a ruling with broad implications for federal public lands, U.S. District Court Judge Bruce Jenkins on June 29th threw out a lawsuit brought by two southern Utah counties which claimed that managers of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument disregarded their so-called R.S. 2477 “highway rights-of-way.” The suit also claimed that monument managers illegally interfered with county water rights.

The suit sought to enjoin the implementation of the Monument’s 1999 management plan, which protected the fragile natural resources of the area by carefully limiting travel to a 1,000 mile network of roads. ORV use on these routes was banned. SUWA and The Wilderness Society intervened in the case, and joined the federal attorneys in asking the court to dismiss the suit.
The plaintiffs, Kane and Garfield Counties, have long relied on the assertion of right-of-way claims under a now-repealed statute known as R.S. 2477 to claim that dirt trails, dry stream beds and faint tracks are actually highways. R.S. 2477 was enacted in 1866 and provides that “the right of way for the construction of highways across public lands, not reserved for public uses, is hereby granted.” This statute, repealed subject to valid existing rights, formed the basis for the counties’ lawsuit.

Judge Jenkins ruled that the counties could not require the BLM to base its management plan on R.S. 2477 claims until the counties, which have the burden of proof, establish the validity of those claims in federal court. Because the counties had failed to do so, the judge reasoned that the suit was premature. Moreover, Judge Jenkins ruled that the counties could not require the BLM to decide whether the counties’ R.S. 2477 claims were valid before the BLM completed its management plans. The court’s opinion also found that because there was no evidence that the BLM had denied county requests to develop water, the suit was not ripe.

According to Heidi McIntosh, “the court’s ruling reaffirms that counties may not undermine the protection of unique and scenic public lands like national monuments by simply uttering the “magical” phrase ‘R.S. 2477.’ And it should put some steel in the spine of the BLM, which has too often allowed the counties who do so to get away with it.”

Promising implication for other landscapes worthy of protection: The court’s basic holding that counties have to prove they have valid rights-of-way first, before bulldozing or staking road signs applies to all public lands and should bolster efforts to protect areas proposed for wilderness designation as well as National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, also the site of thousands of controversial R.S. 2477 claims throughout the West.

So, I say this is very, very cool news. I bet some people in Kane and Garfield counties don't think so, however! Having lived in Wayne County, which borders Garfield county, for years, I have an appreciation for much of the local sentiment. By saying I have an appreciation, I mean that I recognize both the pretty side and the ugly side of this sort of debate, as well as all shades of gray in-between. I've ridden on ATVs myself (not much, and only on real roads!) and I understand both the fun and the necessity they are to some people. All this ruling is stating is that REAL roads need to be used for ATV use--not drainages, washes, almost disappeared two-tracks, etc. Not in protected monuments, at least.

You can bet, however, that the fight is not over. Tell some rural Americans that the law (i.e. their government, big and bad and not fully understanding) is "threatening" some of their "God-given rights," and you've got a sneaky battle on for years! Trust me on this one. I mean, not many rural law enforcement officers always, every single time, enforce the law on their own relatives and friends and fellow church-goers. Ooh, part of me loves it. Think of all the writing opportunities this provides me now...more fodder for my pontification on such subjects.

People. What would we do without them? :)