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.