where art lives . . . .

  What art offers is space — a certain breathing room for the spirit. ~ John Updike     Who doesn’t love venturing into an artist’s studio? Even I — myself an artist — love visiting other creative’s studios.     I delight in seeing the arrangement of materials — some tidy, some chaotic explosions — and the variety of colors, and textures of STUFF, the weird and amusing found objects, snippets of scribble, spills and splatters, dinged up boxes and boards, worn furnishings, rusted bits of whatnot, papers and things piled and pinned and taped and thrown.  It’s like looking into an artist’s wallet or their diary or their bedroom or — dare I say ? — their soul.   There are times when I am happy to welcome people into my studio, and other times when I want to keep it private. The latter is usually when I’ve got a lot of experiments going on. At these stages I’m still feeling my way — trying to find my voice — and feeling perhaps a little vulnerable, unwilling just yet to open myself up to the rest of the world for comment. Funny, as I write this, a studio memory has surfaced: I was in grad school in Philadephia, and a distant relative — some half-cousin removed to the nth degree, whom I did not know — got in touch with me. It turned out his office was just a few blocks from my studio. As I recall, he had a vague connection to art — had studied architecture or urban planning or some such at Penn some...

my hard new year heart

Walk along the Santa Fe River, and most of the year you’ll be walking in dust. Either that, or on pavement. I don’t know if its ever been a continually flowing stream, but I do know that human intervention has changed it considerably from what it once was. When I first moved to New Mexico some 20+ years ago, the river seemed a sad joke, desolate with litter, scraggly weeds and dry dirt. Lately though there’s been an organized effort to clean up and return the river to a natural life force. The river banks have been reinforced, weeds pulled, willow and cottonwoods planted, and a paved rec path now winds along much of its length. Mostly though the river remains dry, as do so many of the waterways out here. It’s an intermittent stream as I learned back in my map & compass days. Meaning the riverbed fills with water only occasionally, as in springtime with the mountain snow melt, and in summertime with the afternoon monsoonal showers. When the river does flow, it flows briefly. Magically. Forcefully. But these days it’s dry. On New Year’s day we walked in the riverbed, my pup and I, drumming up slight clouds of dust, and darting through fans of red fronds, our explorations secluded within walls of willow and banked earth. New Year’s Day is a day I normally feel upbeat. The turning of the year always inspires me, ignites me with desires and goals, destinations and journeys. But these days with so much conflict, so much distrust and destruction and disillusionment in the world, I’ve been struggling to feel...

of walking meditation

Has it really been a month since I hiked off the trail?   ‘Seems impossible that one month ago today I was lying in a tent on a frosty morning deep in the northern Vermont woods 5 miles from Canada….     As I said, my thoughts these past four weeks have been largely hijacked by popular culture and news stories, such that my walk across Vermont seems a lifetime ago. It seems fantasy. Not real.   But when I unplug my devices, and withdraw from the unnerving drone of the news, I find all it really takes is a moment’s stillness and a single deep breath to take me back to the quiet of the trail.   Do it now.   Take a deep breath.   Now look at this photo.     You have come a long way today. You are tired, but content. You are fed, and you are warm, bundled as you are in an old wool sweater, a little cap on your head, a red bandana around your neck. In your hand, a steaming mug of tea. You are alone — blissfully alone … except for the couple of crows who glide in and out of sight … not another sound but their wings, an occasional caw…. You’ll have this night to yourself. In this welcoming shelter.   … with this little table at which to write.   It will be the first night you have spent alone — completely alone — in the woods. Ever. You will sleep well and deep.   And come morning, you will rise to a beautiful day.  ...

lost and found in the [un]real world

Last year when I came crippled off my backpacking journey, I left the trail two weeks earlier than planned. The frugal thing to do would have been to change my travel plans and return promptly home to New Mexico. Fourteen days earlier and just five days into my Long Trail thru-hike, when my knees first started arguing with me, I feared I would have to abandon my walk. Sick with anxiety and the question of what to do, a fellow hiker urged me: Don’t give up. Change your plans if you have to. So you make it a section hike rather than a thru hike? Go take a zero day. Rest and ice those knees. Then come back to the trail. Maybe just for a day hike. Check it out. See how it feels. Then another day hike. Maybe you only make it this time to Killington. But you go back and you try again. You’ve done all this work to get here, you’ve put aside all of this time to be here in Vermont. Then be here. Be here. That’s what I wanted to do, even after leaving the trail: Keep myself immersed in Vermont — in New England. Now. But in a different way. Let my journey continue, but maybe from wheels rather than feet.  Maybe along back roads rather than forest trails. Maybe staring out to distant mountains from the swaddled warmth of a woven blanket and a white rocking chair on a maple leaf garlanded porch while my knees rested….Or from the northern Vermont acreage of an old tree farm and a mowed pathway through...

returning to autumn in new mexico

I love Vermont and I miss it. Though not a physical resident, in the last couple of years I’ve become a resident of the soul of Vermont. I’ve so much more to reflect on and share about my long walk through the Green Mountain forests.   But I am a physical and soul resident of New Mexico. And I’ve returned home in the midst of this land’s richest enchantment. Autumn:  that blessed time of year when dry arroyos and woodland floors fill with the gold coins of cottonwood and aspen leaves. New England is renown the world over for its brilliant autumn color. But autumn in New Mexico dazzles no less. Though we may lack the Northeast’s scarlet seas of red maple, our gilded specie is spun with that quintessentially New Mexico fragrance of roasting chiles and pinon wood smoke. And Blue.  Sky.   Clear and sharp as a jewel.        ...

finishing unfinished business : hiking the last 100 miles of vermont’s long trail

  Journal Entry ~ 8 September 2016 ~ evening ~ Day One Returning to a personally sacred landscape after a long hiatus is an extraordinary experience. In a way, it’s as though you never left. If you’re lucky and your sacred place has not been altered by development, then it’s all so familiar — the terrain, the moss, the breeze and sound of leaves turning, the smell of birch bark and balsam and pine…. It’s as though the year(s) since you left never existed. You were here then, and you’re here now. And that’s all that matters. Today I returned to the Long Trail after limping off in tears nearly a year ago. My knees had had it. My quadriceps had had it. And the pain of these things meant that mentally I had had it. I came off the trail with 100 daunting miles ahead of me. Today I am back to finish those last 100 miles. It has been a good day. I am not without my fears. I have no idea if my knees — my body — will hold up. I don’t know if the weather will cooperate. I don’t know if the terrain will cooperate. There’s so much I don’t know. But one thing I do know: I had to come back. I have to walk 100 more miles. I’m ready.   What’s funny is I wasn’t going to return this year. I’d decided this past winter that I would wait until next year. For planning my 2015 journey was so completely consuming in the months leading up to it last year that I just...