The Matter of Red

June 13, 2016 § 2 Comments

Arroyo after the flood

Ghost Ranch New Mexico August 2015 Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan

Scarlet Penstemon 2

Ghost Ranch New Mexico August 2015 Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan

Field Notes from Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico. 13 August 2015.

I went toward a wall of light and then a wall of red – I went to the edge of devastation – the edge where the waters had raged – Attracted by the greens of a sea before a wall of red, I found my way to the edge of the devastation – trees uprooted – leaves lodged, trees lodged in the wedge, the embrace of trees – I stood at the edge of the ravine – This is where I belong ­­– facing the devastation – standing at the precipice and looking down – but I had been given a task – Find red – I didn’t want to leave, yet there was the matter of red – As I shifted my weight, I noticed at my feet flashes of red – and I laughed out loud – there, in this sea of sand and silt – in this heavily eroded arroyo, there at my feet, a delicate flower – the red blossoms like birds caught in flight – barely tethered – just barely attached

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Notes on these Field Notes:

In August 2015, I was fortunate to have been chosen to join nearly 120 accomplished women writers from across the United States to spend time musing and writing in the high desert of New Mexico at the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s “Writing Against the Current” Retreat for Women Writers. This was my third consecutive participation in this biennial retreat. While there, I joined a small group of women as part of Bhanu Kapil’s magical “Write Yourself Out of One Life and Into Another.” As part of the pilgrimage we took collectively and individually, we each spent a day wandering in search of the color red.

A flash flood had screamed through the ranch just shortly before our arrival. I found my way to the edge of an arroyo where the devastation of that flood was written in the landscape. I was so focused on the wreckage there that I almost missed the beautiful flower blooming at my feet. As I crouched down to take a photograph of trees wedged in a sea of sand, staring me in the face was the color I had gone seeking. I laughed out loud. I thought of Georgia O’Keeffe: “When one begins to wander around in one’s own thoughts and half-thoughts what one sees is often surprising” (Some Memories of Drawings). After the currents that ravaged there, this flower rose up, reminding me of the power of resilience, the persistence of beauty.

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