The Matter of Red

June 13, 2016 § 2 Comments

Ghost Ranch New Mexico August 2015 

Ghost Ranch New Mexico August 2015 

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

********

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.

For Me

January 16, 2016 § 2 Comments

Jesup Path, Great Meadow Loop, Acadia National Park,
Mt. Desert Island, Maine

Uncertainty is my new home. I am beginning to love this new home. I am beginning to see the light and the shadows that fall on this earth in the most surprising of ways — the grasses that dance for me.

Field Notes

August 30, 2015 § 2 Comments

Clay Goddess

Clay Goddess, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Field Notes

 ….every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.
There is no place to hide and so we are found.
                  – Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

Rock
Hold me in your hand. Imagine I am language – hold me in your mouth.

Clay
Make me into a body. Place me in the water – return me to the source.

Wood
Build a space for yourself on this earth – build a house for your heart.

Flower
Bloom against the current – you, too, yes – here, now.

Sky
Leap from the earth. Swing in a hammock of stars.

Red
Follow the clay, the scarlet penstemon, the flash of a hummingbird’s wings.

Rain
This is all you need: color, stillness, the burst of breath.

Winter

July 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Winter at Old Mill Pond Road (Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)

Winter at Old Mill Pond Road
(Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)

Aphorism #9
Do not confuse silence as an absence of sentience.

(Found) Aphorism #8

January 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

Sitting on the front porch of "Pott's Pub" Hurricane Ridge South Harpswell, Maine Summer 1966

Sitting on the front porch of “Pott’s Pub”
Hurricane Ridge
South Harpswell, Maine
Summer 1966


Aside: The strong winds last night took me in my dreams back to Hurricane Ridge….

(Found) Aphorism #8

artifice does not improve upon nature
— John C. Donovan, Harpswell Notes, Summer 1980

The complete entry from JCD:
“Still another gorgeous Sunday morning and once again with that almost August-autumn touch in the air and again last night, one of those totally clear but moonless ones, the winds from the west rocked this ancient cottage. The winds took their toll. Last weekend the strong gust not only shook the shanty to its foundation, but also, sad to say, blew away the nest our little friend had built on the front porch. I rescued it twice, the second time with the help of Frank and Ruth, and at Bea’s suggestion even Scotch-taped the poor residue to the rafters. Unfortunately, artifice does not improve upon nature, and so our little friends no longer visit with us. I wonder if they engage in contingency planning so as to have a back-up nest elsewhere?”

Click on the link below to read my reminiscence of growing up on the coast of Maine (which found a home some years ago in Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, April/May 2006):

“Harpswell Notes”

Birches

January 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jesup Path, Great Meadow Loop, Acadia National Park,  Mt. Desert Island, Maine  (Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)
Jesup Path, Great Meadow Loop, Acadia National Park,
Mt. Desert Island, Maine
(Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)

…. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

— Robert Frost, “Birches”

Aphorism #7

January 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey Marker Pott’s Point, Casco Bay, Maine (Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)
U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey Marker
Pott’s Point, Casco Bay, Maine
(Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)

Aphorism #7

Carry yourself across the beach of blue mussel shells, further than the ledges overlooking the sea, beyond, even, the survey marker — that bedrock-embedded, sea-worn sign that beckons you to cross boundaries.

Aphorism #6

December 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hemigrapsus sanguineus (Asian shore crab) (Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)
Hemigrapsus sanguineus (Asian shore crab)
(Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)

Aphorism #6

Don’t overlook the benefit of regeneration.

Aside: Research indicates that the Asian shore crab, which first mysteriously appeared on the Atlantic coast in 1988, is co-existing quite nicely with native species in its rocky intertidal home.
“Are Invasives Bad? Not Always, Say Brown Researchers”

Aphorism #5

December 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Headline announcing the Biological Survey [of the Panama Canal Zone], The Washington Post, April 9, 1911 located at: http://www.mnh.si.edu/onehundredyears/expeditions/Panama.html
Headline announcing the Biological Survey [of the Panama Canal Zone], The Washington Post, April 9, 1911
Article
Holiday postcard Sent from Gatun Canal Zone, Dec. 13, 1911 Purchased at Concord Antique Gallery, Concord, New Hampshire,  December 2014 Holiday postcard
Sent from Gatun Canal Zone, Dec. 13, 1911
Purchased at Concord Antique Gallery, Concord,
New Hampshire, c. Dec. 13, 2014
Gatun C. Z. Dec. 13, 1911 Dear Ones – How we would love to be home at this Xmas time, but the best we can do is wish you all a “Merry Xmas” & Happy New Year across miles. Florence & Herbert
Gatun C. Z.
Dec. 13, 1911
Dear Ones – How we would love to be home at this Xmas time, but the best we can do is wish you all a “Merry Xmas” & Happy New Year across miles.
Florence & Herbert

Aphorism #5

What we discover is often what we least expect to find.

Aphorism #4

November 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

Potts Harbor, Casco Bay
Potts Harbor, Casco Bay
Eighty-Mile Round, Kodaikanal, India
Eighty-Mile Round, Kodaikanal, India

Aphorism #4

Shoal or Shola: The only way through is through.

Credits:
Potts Harbor, Casco Bay: “Chart image courtesy of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), used in accordance with their terms of permitted use. Altered and redistributed charts such as this should not be relied on for navigational purposes.”
NOAA Charts
Terms of Service

[I have swum many times across the shoals to Pinkham’s Island.]

Eighty-Mile Round: Kodaikanal and areas of the “Eighty-Mile Round” – Dindigul, India Topographic Map (compiled in 1954, printed in 1959). U.S. Army Map Service, Corps of Engineers. Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin.

[My mother Beatrice Florence Witter and grandfather Ted Volney Witter hiked the “Eighty-Mile Round” in 1939, before my mother left India for the last time in 1940. My mother noted in her Yale Review reminiscence that they “established a speed record through a leech shola.”]