Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Well, I feel that way about this year. It feels like we've been visiting The Day of the Dead for many months. I started 2008 New Year with a big party at my house, lots of people, the pool heated. I had a boyfriend. By the end of the year, now one year later, drastic changes have occurred. My boyfriend broke up with me not long after that party, but we have remained steadfast working partners and friends, although it's been a rocky damn hike in the desert badlands between us, as well as a joyous stroll through some wonderful literary terrian - see: Ocean Park Small Press, where Petroglyph Books was THE hit of the day; the Palm Springs Book Festival, where we had a kick-ass open microphone reading; and more than anything, the hard work on the forthcoming California desert literature anthology from Heyday Books (fall 2009.)
Since that party, my life seems to have been an "on"-"off" switch. This has been the year of my life coming completely unglued and crumbling, one weird hinge at a time, in ways I could not have anticipated nor prevented. It's been the year of amazing experiences as well as an intensification of "empty nest" symptom that has made me go more than a little off my rocker. I entered into a new relationship with a much-younger man and fell deeply in love with him, and came to cherish my time spent with a live-in housemate, the intimacies of day to day life, until it all came crashing down and suddenly he was gone. The love never left, and pain and sadness walk hand in hand with my strong feelings for him and for his absence. But this experience seems to magnify my understanding that I have changed dramatically this year, too, and it's time for me to leave home. Summer, 2009 will mark my 10th year here, a fine time to leave. THE time to leave. Tarah was turning 11 then and entering 6th grade. Now, she'll be turning 21 and is thinking marriage and career.
It's as if, to borrow and reshape the phrase of a friend who recently ended her longtime marriage, "my life grew up and left home." The clothes in my closet don't seem to be mine anymore. I suddenly feel trapped and claustorphobic in what once made me proud, owning my own home, taking care of the yard and dogs - it's all added stress now, and I'm irritated at anything and everything that takes me away from my fledgling, but burgeoning, hard-earned writing and literary career. I have the urge to downsize and simplify - in this retro-20-something feeling of where and how I was before my daughter was born - I lived in a small adobe cabin with very little. I long to return to that simplicity now and sort my life out. I came to Palm Desert in 1999, having just been hired at COD, knowing nobody, and I will leave here feeling like I've spent the past few years getting unplugged.
I'm ultra-aware, as the year comes to a close, that my life as I once knew it has run its course here in Palm Desert, in owning this home that once sheltered magnificent and ancient sand dunes and now cowers in the shadow of an obnoxious country club whose landscaping has eradicated my mountain views - not to mention the sand dunes and all plant and animal life once thereupon. A live-in lover has come and gone, my daughter comes and goes, depending on when her boyfriend is home from college, and I sit here alone and alone, re-gathering my shredded garments and figuring how to pattern the new. The places I visit feel ghostly. Walking the halls at College of the Desert haunts me. My semester began with violence and agony and asking my lover to move - and I am still reeling from the loss and pain of that. I'm not over him and don't know when I will be. His absence magnifies the emptiness of the house that once felt so much like home, and I can only find myself planning how to get out of this burden now.
I also realize, like all other Americans in the U.S., have watched with horror and shock as the economic crisis has gripped our country and the globe this year. How hard to digest that my house value has fallen $60k or more, since I refinanced my house in March. What I felt was a soft cushion of investment, in my house and 403(b) has now become half or less of what it was, and I admit I've fallen into fear and worries that I wish I didn't have to think about. But there are other bizarre and unexpected changes and losses too. A longtime friend who attended my New Year's 2008 party is no longer a friend, due to an unfortunate professional falling out which pains me greatly, as a colleague and friend. (His choice to cut me off for reasons I'll never fully know.)
I've begun to hike again. Yesterday, I circuited one of my longtime favorite hikes to Pushwalla Palms not far from my house, a longtime Cahuilla and other desert Indian usage area. A beautiful day, warming to 70 degrees, a respite from the recent several weeks of intense cold that have gripped the desert - the cold, an enjoyable novelty, and what a pleasure to see our mountains as thick with snow as they've been for the first winter since 2005-06. I also hiked a portion of the new Hopalong Cassidy trail that flanks the Cahuilla Hills near Palm Desert - I'm mixed on my feelings for this trail, as a lot of pristine desert has been cut open for this, and the trail wasn't really well planned out - already, water and flood damage is intense on parts of it. I'm also annoyed that other trails I've loved have been blocked off, such as the Bump n' Grind and Dead Indian Canyon, the old trailhead to the Art Smith Trail, as well. Not to mention that from many of the views, the desert floor looks like Irvine - ie., golf courses dominate the place. Blessed be the winter months, for as you know, if you've read my blog since July, we suffer from intensive heat here for weeks and weeks for half the year.
And I've begun to mark the walking with introspection - looking deeply into myself once again, and asking the hard questions - how can I find the joy and inspiration for my writing? I've had such an intense fall semester at the college, all the while battling loneliness and an anxiety disorder with a whammy of depresssion that nailed me all of Christmas week. Thank goodness for the love and support of my family, who helped me cope with that. Exhaustion caught up with me big-time. I enjoyed my creative writing and poetry classes so much, with wonderful writers, and produced an amazing desert literary magazine, Phantom Seed, which has been very successful so far and generated a lot of enthusiasm. I'm amazed, myself, that I pulled this off and hope I can keep the ball rolling. I have worked endlessly on the desert literature anthology, hours and hours and days on end pulling it all together, and a lot of work remains to be done, though there is a lot of light peering through the end of this thing. I've given numerous poetry readings, put together and hosted events, and taught various seminars and lectures - I enjoyed presenting at the California Indian conference in October, and also the California desert Indian literature class I taught for Desert Institute in November. I also networked wonderfully with the Desert Committee, and made a lot of new friends and connections who are involved in working with many issues and stories of California desert conservation and literature. I also have published more poetry and have a number of wonderful events coming up, such as a new creative writing class I'm teaching at the Riverside Library starting January 8th.
I can't question things too much - just go forward with my instincts. I have to let go of a lot of what I did in 2008 and who I did it with. I have to calm myself down and remember that love is always coming from every corner of the universe - it's being open to listening to it and embracing it and not giving too much attention to the fear and darkness that's overwhelmed a lot of us, understandably. Sure, I'm hurting because I feel I've lost a lover who once admired me and inspired me, and I feel foolish to keep hoping I can win him back, but also know I have to be brave and keep my heart open to all possibilities, and to courageously move forward with my plans to pursue my writing career. Which seems far - the clothes in the closet aren't mine anymore, and this house feels big, bulky, odd. I want to shed it all, and reach for my laptop and write my heart into words. I want to leave behind my ghost job, and the ghost town that this life and town have turned into, for me, and move on - to what? I'm not quite yet sure, but I do know that it's my only recourse, and hope I have the courage to continue to do so, even while feeling so very alone.
Here is to 2008 - a very fruitful year, but one that's taken a lot of labor, a lot of tears and sweat on my part - but so necessary, no other choices but the ones I've made. Some good, some awful, some inevitable, and much, too, beyond my control. One more day to this year, and I will be creating a whole new paradigm, a fresh start. I hope my spirit, creativity, and energy endure, because so much of what I feel we're all collectively facing sags heavily on the heart. How to continue to believe I have a right to pursue my dreams and lovers, when the economy crashes all around us, and we're driven to what is most fundamental - though in there, I know that my dreams and lovers are among the top priorities. What else do we have, when systems fail us?
The grapefruit are yellow and weigh down the branches on a citrus tree in my yard now, with oranges soon to follow. An entire year it has taken them to ripen, and it's intriguing that they come to the point of harvesting now, in the dead of winter - oh, pink fruit, my hands are open to the bittersweet of your offering - full of vitamin C, and probably the last year I'll take from your tree - next to the huge, but once small, live Christmas tree I planted, which will survive and endure when I'm gone, and touch the sky a little bit more each season, for no particular reason that that you are blessed with the will to live, and grow, and stretch your arms higher and higher, savoring and transforming every bit of rain with a new sprig of pine needle. Like you, I'll continue to unfold tight fists into widening limbs, even when drought and heat wear me down; I'll savor the joy of a thunderstorm and spread my branches wider, just, because, that is what we do, those of us who live on earth and weather storms and welcome wind and stoic silence with our fullest embrace. The evergreen tree, in the desert - so much possible in this paradise.
Please submit work that reflects the essence of the desert: particularly, but not limited to the California desert region.We especially like writing that transcends the everyday with mystique desert visions induced in such activities as UFO sighting; speaking up and taking a brave stand against the corpo-terrors of proposed windmill and solar panel farms, mega-watt voltage lines (as if we need more - the desert is already maligned with them,) and toxic and urban landfills that threaten some of the last sacredness and spiritual purity of what is left in California's southeasternmost wedge; the alt-magic occurring in the vibrations of middle of nowhere raves, in the loneliness of a desert refugee, in the bravery of the art of disappearing into the desert...most of all: what can you tell us without telling? What shadows comprise the heart of your "desert" love and "experiences" and "spiritual renewal" or "country-club-loving, Mojave and Western Colorado/Sonoran Desert sunrise magic?"
That is what we are looking for, here at "The Seed." What you can write about by not-telling, not selling-out, not-telling people when you find an amazing hot springs on a gun-shooting outing with an ex-Army ranger who later becomes your boyfriend; when you find sleeping circles in a place far off any map; when you actually live in some crude, ramshackle old homesteader's shack lacking plumbing and floorboards, in a remote area where old hippies sip peyote tea 24/7 and long-subdued members of the Manson family stop by with bags of oranges en route to cultivating their small marijuana crops in little canyons spilling from the coastal mountain ranges, whose locales I shall never name, when you live sans A/C in your house or car and just take naps in the hot part of the day....
So, to all you new "desert lovers" - more advice on your Phantom Seed submissions from this "indigenous-gangsta" desert girl who grew up hiking places like Rattlesnake Canyon and chillin' at Cock Rock, watering a lone juniper out near the Lucerne Valley cutoff (dirt road 20 miles from "town,) with her little baby in a backpack; working the fire crews to protect immensely imaginative crags of brittle mountain near Slash X Ranch - back when the desert wasn't yet "in vogue," wasn't yet picture smeared (think: "the Joshua Tree album by U2) across album covers, mass produced in advertising campaigns and trashed during major film-making (which, to be honest, began way back in the 20's with silent movies and, epitomically, Cecile B. De Mille's "Old Testatement" movie, even before my time, though we all believed it was Israel....).....and now, with the Internet.....way too easy to figure it all out!
So, that's what WE WOULD LOVE FOR YOUR WRITING to be about, for the Seed: bring on your best work and get real about writing the landscape you think you wanna love (woo your supposed crush) and call your own.Do it well: with top-notch writing and select words that an only come from the random desert experiences such as hugging creosotes after the rare rain, doing something bad like burying a few obsidian arrowheads so that the obvious petroglyph-thieves in a sadly neglected BLM archaological site don't get ahold of those, too...getting stuck 40 miles off-road near some unmapped volcanic plug far, far from Barstow on a cold February day and....walking that 40 miles when the distributor cap on your '72 Toyota dies out and flagging down some guy close to midnight on the closest entrance to the I-40 who wants to take you to a cheap Hinkley hotel (sorry, can't go there)....help clean up myriad meth-lab remains while on fire patrol in places NOT protected by the loving little wedge of the ever-precious and immensely "cell phone safe" designer Joshua Tree Park and surrounding hamlets of trendy, Sedona-in-the-making Joshua Tree, 29 Palms, Yucca.
Well, it could all go in 2012, or if firearms are once allowed, loaded and concealed, in the Park, or if the smog gets too bad, or the rock climbers go on strike but....it's pretty good for now, albeit all the darknesses on the fringe...I
challenge you. Be real. Write about what you are really doing, seeing, thinking out here. If you are manifesting the California desert to fulfill your inner search dreams, you aren't the first. Others have come to mine its gold, seek its austere God-gaze - nothing quite like it to set your spirits right and wash your urban sins away. If you are here to make a buck, yada yoo ha. Write about it! If you're manufacturing, perhaps use a peusdonym, but we want your story! If you want to come clean about shotgunning a covey of raven, this is the place to do it. Did you drive your car today, say, from Palm Springs to Victorville, to shop up there at Home Depot for the best deal on your new "energy saving" solar panel that you'll install in the Morongo cabin? Write about it!
If you are involved in desert activism, i.e., "Stop the proposed ower lines across Anza Borrego," or "Green Path....Isn't," or if you were at the Pappy & Harriet's music fest fundraiser to stop Eagle Mountain Dump, good for you - treat yourself by seeing swanky NYC-snooty art exhibits at the Palm Springs Museum (well, we used to have a desert exhibit, but with all the mid-century architecture here, ahem, that doesn't suit our needs, we need "real" art for "educated" people).....but above all, remember that "the desert is OK - you are OK. It will be here long after the human sillinesses rise and fade. There is a silver lining, after all, to life in the land of the enduring and brutal sun.....and stories galore that need to be written to make it all the much richer....
Take the bold approach. Pretend that the desert is ALL that you have, that manifest destiny did NOT bring you here, that this is everything, no going back, there is no Jersey shore or Michigan lake-safety, and all you have left in your tiny human-ness measured meekly against this austere and centuries-old homeland of the timbisha shoshonee, chemehuevi, cahuilla, kumeyaay, serrano, halchidon, paiute, mojave, and many other indigenous peoples who were smart enough to learn to live at one with the land (that is, with utmost respect for the powers that be in those volcanoes and in those sandy wastelands, knowing the waterholes and not giving 'em away for golf) long before the desert was a fashion statement, a blank screen for Hollywood, proving grounds for the US military and Ford Corp and Nuclear Warheads, United, and lately, the giant maw of the Enron-inspired, desert-whoring energy-corps, old-school president style (yeah, it's almost over! Just a few more weeks.)
From Your Editor
HOW TO SUBMIT
Email submissions preferred: include your name, contact information (email, phone, address) on each and every page of your submission. Please submit as attached document or copied/pasted into the body of your email. Subject line: Submission - Phantom Seed. Submit to:firstname.lastname@example.org OR land address: Ruth Nolan/76530 California DR, Palm Desert, CA 92211. We regret that submissions cannot be returned. EMAIL SUBMISSIONS ARE PREFERRED. Thanks.
Phantom Seed, Issue #1 available for $5 per copy; Issue #2 (Sept 21 issue) also available for $10 (it's much bigger than issue #1.) Contact editor at above email. Upcoming issues soon to be available at venues throughout the California desert., including Borders, Barnes and Noble and amazon.com
Phantom Seed Issue #2 has been a PHENOMENAL hit! Please submit your work and partake of this amazing and successful desert literary venture. We had full-house readings October 4th at the Riverside, CA library and on Oct 27 at the Palm Springs, CA library. We also had a beautiful reading at Kath Abela and Rick Wilson's literary salon on December 18th in Pasadena. Thanks to EVERYONE who contributed their wonderful work and to those who have hosted our readings.
Next Phantom Seed Reading: Pasadena Library, Catalina Branch - hosted by Don Kingfisher Campbell. Saturday, January 31. The public is welcome. We will have another reading at the Gypsy Den in Costa Mesa in February and at California State University, San Bernardino in February. Check my blog again in early to mid-January for more information on upcoming readings.
Editor: Ruth Nolan, M.A., College of the Desert professor, anthology and book editor/publisher, and author of: Negotiating With Testosterone (1995, Northern Arizona University;) Wild Wash Road (1996) and Dry Waterfall (2008) (Petroglyph Books.) From age 13 on, after exile from southern California's "Inland Empire," Ruth grew up in the Mojave Desert, worked for the BLM as a helicopter hotshot and engine crew firefighter in the California Desert District, and has extensively hiked, traveled, and embraced the essence of her desert homeland. (hey, it's better than San Bernardino.)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Love and Light to everyone!
Blessings and abundance and a bit of desert clarity.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
of old pizza pans and tupperware from 1983, ziplock
baggies in my drawers, I criticized your shopping choice
when you cut a sharp turn into the driveway last summer
in my Toyota RAV4, always digging your heel so hard
into the carpet beneath the clutch that you eventually
wore a small hole there, you with your size 13 feet-
bounding into the house all excited, after having tossed
the majority of pots and pans and storage containers
of mine away on that way hot July day I couldn't contain,
you were excited and alive and said, here, is what you need:
snapware from Costco and I used your ATM card to pay!
It's December, a few days short of winter Solstice
and the desert is locked down in an unusual
several day spree of icy rain, dark days, a stillness
not infrequent in summer but odd in its gray appeal
and insistence on flooding the Whitewater Wash a block away,
all those meals I didn't guard, before you came into my life,
leftovers given a new lease on their expiration dates.
Cold, dark, wet, firelogs burning in the faux-Santa Fe place,
I drink hot tea and contemplate braving the cold rain
that will streak down my face and plaster my hair
against my head the way you have done with your wide hands
wet, the two of us in the pool, laughing at hot stars after heated days
And many extra portions of food are snapped and locked away
in those hard plastic containers of many different shapes and size,
broccoli, a bit of smoked salmon, leftover turkey chili with corn
I can barely finish a can of food alone and the appetite is thin,
I just put in a new pool motor, the old one broke when you moved.
Snapware, perfect for organizing and stacking my expensive life
as though there were some kind of order that will make up for you
not being here to share the darkest coldest nights of the year
the way you were last year, supernova vegetables, inoculated against
damp spoilage, protected from the sharp cuts of your voice
while around me, the sky turns the world into puddles, flash floods
and in the nearby mountains, a mute burial under many feet of snow
Dec 17, 2008
Take Your Pill
Monday, December 15, 2008
Ruth Nolan presents Desert Poetry & Film
and Phantom Seed Magazine!
buffet dinner, poetry workshop, presentation & music!
LOCATION: Kath Abela & Rick Wilson's Literary Salon
439 SO. Catalina Ave #306 Pasadena, Ca 91106
press 027 (on the call box) (or press R.Wilson) call button to be buzzed in.
cell phone 805 886-9384
print out directions from the Internet:
Time: arrive anytime starting at 6 pm - buffet dinner at 6 pm,
followed by poetry workshop at 6:30 pm (bring poems with theme of "Desert"
if you'd like to have your poetry workshopped + 20 copies to share)
Ruth Nolan - presentation: 8:15-9:00 p.m.
This Thursday evening, December 18 we will have a special program on Desert Poetry by Ruth Nolan, a native of the Mojave Desert circa Apple Valley, and Associate Professor of English College of the Desert near Palm Springs, CA. She is also a poet, writer, and book editor/publisher.
The poetry highlight will be followed a film with commentary, of desert photographs, "Escape to Reality", and poetic commentary by Ruth Nolan. Her program will include short interludes and accompaniment by Rick Wilson on Native American flute.
Ruth publishes the beautiful journal "Phantom Seed" and will be interested in poems for future issues. Any poems you have already submitted to her are being considered for the next issue, in March, and new poems are welcome.
The optional theme for poems this evening, will be "Desert". For Thursday's workshop bring 20 copies of a poem on his or ANY theme (whatever you are working on) for friendly commentary. Each poet directs their own 5 minute (hourglass timed) session as they like.
More information about how the "workshop/critique" part of the evening runs....
Timing of our evening- 6 PM buffet dinner starts and continues throughout the evening, if you come late it is always there. If you come early, enjoy relaxed comfortable conversation with poets for a half hour before the start. Please make copies on our copier during this time if needed.
When you arrive: 1. If you need copies please try to come at 6 PM or before, to use the copier. 2. Pick a reading number from the bowl on the buffet table when you arrive, to read in the workshop session. Write your number clearly on the top corner of the poem.
3. There will be clipboards at each table place setting, and extras. Add your poem in the correct numerical ORDER onto the clipboards. Everyone including latecomers will have all poems. *Each poet directs an hourglass timed five minute workshop on their poem. Poets are encouraged to really maximize this opportunity! Written comments returned to the poet are especially appreciated and can be more detailed than the short commentary session allows. It is up to you. You can ASK specific questions, if you like, to direct comments on specific parts of the poem, or request general response. Open conversation as at a dinner party is our usual way, including politely giving everyone who wants to speak a chance to speak, thus limiting length of comments. If necessary, please resort to raised hands, and reading poet acknowledge. Ask for email address to continue longer conversations and comments. You are also welcome to read only, more than one poem, for no comments, but be sure to state your preferences before you begin. But it is best to give everyone copies of everything for best appreciation.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I was honored to meet people who are working on a Sierra Nevada-region literary anthology; Stan Yogi, who co-edited the well-received "Highway 99" anthology ten years ago; several photographers and designers; a Steinbeck scholar; and others who are as thrilled and enthused about their regions and parts of the state as I am about the desert.
Malcolm asked me how I maintain my vigor and vitality for what I do, with desert literature. That is really a good question, and it makes me pause. I think part of it is that I was taken to the desert from the grungy Inland Empire area of southern California (Rialto - smog - suburbia) high up to the "high" desert on the other side of the San Bernardino Mountains - at the age of 13, and made an immediate connection with the open spaces and desert energy. Part of it, a literal and visceral, physical response to the power of the landscape and vast opportunities for exploration and discovery, but another part of it an opening of space in which my own creative language could develop.
Most people use "culture" and the societies around them as the basis of their work; for me, the desert has become, in many ways cheekily, my own "cultural" identity - in part based on the inherent irony of the lack of people and society - at least in my formative years; people went to the desert to escape from the above - and that's the spirit by which my father relocated our family to what was essentially the middle of nowhere - except for the vast fields of ravens landing at sunset, the pinks and purples behind sharp Joshua tree needles, the mirror of light bouncing from boulders, the tumbleweeds and icy wind on many spring mornings. My ideas about desert as a cultural identity are a bit bizarre but also not too far off base, I realize, as I learn more and more about the longtime residents of the region, the many tribes of indigenous people, who preceded me there for centuries and knew and used the desert wisely.
I guess I've dug deep to find my cultural connections - and it's based on a sense of remoteness from people and society that was sprung upon me at an early age. But my present day vitality and vigor come from this: sharing my imaginative interactions with the desert, the healing and release, the catharsis and expression, that I've nurtured and enjoyed for years , with other people, through poetry, community-building, and sharing and showing the desert to people whenever, however I can. This is where my vigor and vitality come from.
The ironic but deeply satisfying ability I've gained, through the years of so much time I've spent mostly alone in the desert, steeping in its creosote tea in silent, imposing windswept kettles of land - to find something, a vision, an essence, a beauty, a renewal, a reward of things and places and memories bigger and more permanent than our minutary and fickle permuatations. In short: hope, inspiration, and relief springing from the drop dead and jump alive beauty and power of the barren desert land, and its ability to forth-bring people from their barest secrets and selves. And it would be nothing, no reason to go there again, without sharing it with people.
UCR Arts Block - desert poetry & literature interview
Ruth Nolan desert poetry and literature interview: http://www.artsblock.ucr.edu/
and very honorably (and humbled) to be showcased alongside poetic great Juan Felipe Herrera in his interview, done the same time, day, place, UCR-CA Museum of Photography, Sept 1, 2008.
Monday, December 8, 2008
1,000 Palms Oasis to McCallum Grove oasis
These pictures are from a lone hike I took in the twilight hours yesterday, December 7th. A bit chilly, the last hiker on the trail - which is often the case for me and which I enjoy - saying thank you's and building good wishes and energy for myself, family, friends, my daughter, my community, the world, particularly in these trying times (can my $500 windmill stock investement, a gift from my parents last spring, actually be worth only $179 as of 11/30? How ironic, our area is so riddled with windmills, and my investment is almost worth nothing? think of the environmental price we, consumers, are paying - someone is getting rich - most of us are not - at least in terms of money), and remembering that I have it pretty damn good. A nice career, a job, a home, food, love, and the gift to express my own life's confusions, ecstasies, challenges, in words to share with the world.
I felt odd and off. It's "that time of year" for teachers - we run a marathon for 16 weeks, beginning in the odd auspices of summer, when here, it's still 110 or 115 degrees and sweltering with humidity, more often than not. The long, slow slide into cooler weather - though it's been a very warm fall, overall - and the pressure to wrap everything up - student grades, tenure reviews, committee reports, SLO-revisions, sabbatical presentation plans - in that short, 4 month span. But I am grateful for tenure, grateful for being able to say I can still make my house payment although times are tight and that I have a job.
I extend my "walk in beauty" of yesterday reconnecting with the desert, the earth, in an odd-lop of late day, tired Sunday solitude....a day of fielding my daughter's stresses and frustrations with her life.....the pressures of co-habiting with a young adult offspring, to redefine our relationship and boundaries more as "peers" than "parent/kid"- we are so close and love each other so much, and it's been a very hard past two years since Tarah finished high school (with high honors, I must add!)....a day of relishing all of the good things I've been up to but also unwinding from a very long and hard four month work pull at my teaching job AND with the desert anthology, along with numerous other poetry places, people and things - all my lifeblood, all so important, and all so necessary to balance.
Putting everything around me, in my life, in "right relation." Another Native American wisdom. I realize it has to start right now, with me, with my walk, my every step, and that I've done way too little hiking and earth-connecting this fall and must essentially get that back. Even when I look at the trail and realize that just since last year, the trail I walked yesterday is that much more "pounded," used, more signs, more blockades to not wander off-path, a bit of litter - I dropped my Hindu prayer beads - yes, I was doing a lot of chanting and japa - shout out to my dear and amazing teacher and friend, Swami Ramananda - and almost had a panic attack - but found them like a snake on the trail, reminding me to savor and hold gently and lightly onto those threads of sanity, healing, and nourishment we all must - for me, a walk of healing and goodness and renewal in the quiet, lonely, chilly twilight pink desert.
For the earth, for me, for this astonishing and life-giving oasis in a harsh desert environment, putting my steps into right relation, I share this walk in beauty with whoever reads this. It's a chilly and scary December this year - so many illusions have shattered - but the oases and the trail to and fro are generous, renewing, eternal, calm.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
invites you to a poetry reading
Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008
Joshua Tree Park Ranger-Poets
Wine and Art Gallery
242 No. Palm Canyon Dr.,
Palm Springs, CA 92262
DOWNTOWN PALM SPRINGS
BEHIND “Hair of the Dog” British Pub”
Thanks to Ruth Nolan & Steve Peterson,
Poetry Series Coordinators!
More information: email@example.com
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Congratulations to my students! You all did a WONDERFUL JOB! Beautiful and heartfelt poems and an all-around all-star reading and evening. Thank you!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Late night, exhausted and emotionally difficult day, I'm grateful I went to Claremont - nothing like being grounded by someone I've known and admired for years, and being in fine assocation with other poets and poetry patrons.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Barnes and Noble, Palm Desert Mall
Palm Desert College of the Desert student poets
readingof original works, 6:00 p.m., free and open to public
Book-Art Fair Palm Desert Sat, Dec 6th FREE
Ruth Nolan and many other authors/artists
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 6, 200
810 a.m. – 12:00 noon
Desert Falls Country Club
Palm Desert (near Cook St & Country Club Dr.)
copies of Phantom Seed will be available for sale
December 13, 2008, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Desert Literature Seminar!
Desert Literature Seminar taught Ruth Nolan
The Living Desert University,
The Living Desert Preserve, Palm Desert, CA
Sunday, December 14, 2008 6:00 p.m.
Trap Door Poetry Series
proudly presents....free & open to 21+ public.....
Caryn Davidson and Mike Cipra
Joshua Tree National Park Ranger- Poets
open mike + featured readers
Palm Springs Wine & Art
242 N Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262-5510
downtown Palm Springs
Thursday, December 18
Desert Poetry Salon
featuring Ruth Nolan & Phantom Seed Magazine
Pasadena, CA - host Kath Abela Wilson
location and time TBA - check back soon!
event will be free and open to the public
January 6, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
Palms to Pines Birding & Nature Trail
lecture with Ruth Nolan & Kurt Leuschner
Palm Springs Library
Inlandia Writers Workshop - Riverside Public Libary
Thursday evenings starting Jan 8, 2009 thru March, 2009
6:30-8:30 p.m. - Ruth Nolan instructor
FREE to the public - high school age/older
contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
(note: no class 1/15 or 1/29)
Saturday, January 31 4:30 p.m.
Ruth Nolan + Phantom Seed Poets
Pasadena Library, Catalina Branch
Pasadena Poets - hosted by Don Kingfisher Campbell
February 21, 2009, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Desert Poetry Writing Workshop
The Living Desert University,
The Living Desert Reserve, Palm Desert, CA
Ruth Nolan, workshop leader
Note: I am going to invite attendees to get there early for a morning hike.....those who wish to join us for a hike through the Reserve prior to writing activities in the afternoon.
A303 Desert Poetry Workshop
Ruth Nolan - M.A., Associate Professor of English at College of the DesertPlease join us for an inspirational desert poetry writing workshop at The Living Desert! Open to all levels of poets, or aspiring poets, or those who want to use language and words to help embody the unique beauty and inspiration of the desert magic found at this unique site. This workshop will introduce participants to the basics of poetry, by reading published desert poets' works. We will then embark on our own "hands-on" desert poetry writing activities that will be generated by observation and walk through selected areas of the Living Desert. Poets will be encouraged to share their on-site works with other participants, and to contribute their finished works for the new desert literary journal, Phantom Seed, edited and published by Ruth Nolan.
10 a.m. – 12:00 noon
Desert Falls Country Club
Palm Desert (near Cook St & Country Club Dr.)
join Ruth Nolan, author/editor/professor
and other author/artists at the…..
NATIONAL LEAGUE OF AMERICAN PEN WOMEN
PALM SPRINGS BRANCH
BOOK AND ART FAIR
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2008
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
copies of Phantom Seed Magazine #2 will be available for sale!
FREE TO THE PUBLIC!
LOCATION: DESERT FALLS COUNTRY CLUB
Located on Country Club Drive – just east (heading towards Indio) of Cook Street in Palm Desert. If coming from I-10, take Cook Street exit. Go left on Cook Street. Country club will appear shortly on your left.
AUTHORS & ARTISTS
Porter, Jean Lee
Writers Ink, (Cyndy Muscatel)
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Book and Art sales open free to the public
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Thank you, spirits, for taking good care of loving, sweet Shasta-ji.
It's been a tough week - I finally got the intros + bios for the desert anthology together and sent off. I've been glued glued glued to the laptop for weeks working on that - plus permissions that are outstanding for some of the pieces we want to use. Also a number of crunch things above and beyond teaching, at work - SLO's and course updates and sabbatical resolution issues - it's looking really good, by the way, and a tremendous relief for me to finally be getting there, with union rep and college v.p and p. guiding the way - tense situation. But it's clearing up. Also a tenure review to write - I'm on someone's committee - sheazhzhz! No wonder I feel isolated and buried right now - it's an odd fall, not the same sense of parties and outdoors touring I was doing last year at thist ime. This year it's about hard work and taking care of business, checklist things off one at a time. Achieve a goal, put it behind me.
Now if I can only slide off this anxiety - part of it's from not being outdoors enough, bonding with the earth, part of it's the same things that are affecting everyone right now - the economy - and part of it's my inevitable desire to change my life and be a full time writer - I'm already working as a writer, but doing my FT teaching job, an entirely different direction, on top of that. I also feel a sense of pulling out of, uprooting from the desert in a major way, so I feel out of sorts and synch with a place I've made home for almost 10 years. But, I'm through. I feel that to do any hikes here now is to be saying goodbye.
It's the time of year to get out there! My scant spare time since September has been utilized going on weekend trips - ZZYZX, always my mid-October and April visits - Tecopa, the Rodman Mountain petroglyphs, Joshua Tree to teach the CA desert Indian class - tired!
I should do the rounds - Pushwalla Palms - Bump N'Grind new side loop - the Hopalong Cassidy, from the Art Smith trailhead down to my parents' condo - Phil and I did that last year at this time; it was a long sucker but fun - maybe Cat Canyon up to the high country - get the heart pumping and breathing accelerated - what I've done for years, every year from October through April - just that this year I've been focused on the desert lit anthology, on Phantom Seed promotions, on trips back and forth to Riverside and I.E. for poetry things -
Tomorrow, I have to write a tenure report - shouldn't take too much time. I think that I deserve a break, and I think I'll take a bit of a hike. Then, an acupuncture session with my friend Armi.
A hike, perhaps the bump n' grind with Brindle - Shasta must recuperate yet - I need to reclaim my hiking heart and voice. I can hike alone. I've done it for many years, and don't have to feel sad. I can call these mountains and hills my own, but only for awhile, because - I'm moving on. Into my literary heart, into the world of friends and people and poetry studies and away from the sere and silent land that used to absorb me, and now, a place I only want to visit and enjoy with friends from now on.
Oh yes, and the Salton Sea must be visited. That is a must. Ideally with my canoe. A winter mecca. Inevitable. I need to vision outdoors.
Monday, December 1, 2008
That's me, reading the warning labels after I mix things up. Angry, sad, lonely and frustrated on the couch Sunday, after family visits and departures, because a planned trip to get together for a little getaway with a friend got botched up - and no escape yesterday to maybe visit a different friend out of town, because the I-10 freeway was jammed all day with ORV weekenders pouring back into the I.E., the O.C., L.A., from the way-overrun Glamis Sand Dunes south of the Salton Sea. I admit I was on the couch, crying, and unable to sleep last night, feeling so lonely and wanting to be with my friends, yet having been unable to connect. Whiner? Overworked stressaholic? A woman ready to sell the house, keep the books and laptop, and go back to the cabin-life I led before I became a career woman and mom? You bet! Overwhelmed and pissing people off left and right because I'm always so busy, have such a hard time of "stealing time" to get away, to go on a hike, to enjoy the desert in the short nice weather span we have - now - and put people first for a change - not to mention taking better care of myself (massage, hot spring rejuvenation days, more sessions with the therapist, how about sleep?)
And worried about Shasta, who went in for a kidney stone operation this morning - she must've sensed it, because at 3 a.m., she started going apeshit and woke me up. I admit I even texted the friend I had planned to getaway with Friday-Sunday and who I think is now ignoring me because I had to cancel, he's been phone AWOL since Saturday a.m. and I admit I texted him several times in the middle of the night with desperate and lonely messages like "call me! I need you!" (still haven't heard back, but the hell with it.) Bottom line is, this Thanksgiving has to be marked as a weekend of healing and renewal and appreciation. Family came first - it was grounding and healing to see everyone, and I only hope they feel the same about me!
In a nutshell - could that be walnuts, perhaps? A picture of my daughter Tarah (20) and her boyfriend Alex (22), who is a student at UC Berkeley, relaxing at the house of Tarah's grandmother, father's mother, the martriarch of my "other" family, some of who live in Apple Valley. The clan up there, who I've known since I was 23 years old and just starting to mix it up with Tarah's dad - who is long in exile from my daughter and his family, sadly, in Colorado, but who did call just as we started to eat - include: Grandma Barbara, and my brother-in-law Jim, a sociology/Native American professor and scholar who teaches at Cal State San Bernardino, his wife, my sister-in-law Sandra, and my two awesome nephews, Mikhael and James; also, Uncle Mike, who has been a saint in training by giving so much support and love to Tarah and I while my girl was growing up. It was so interesting to realize that Tarah and Alex are about the same age I was when I met Tarah's dad, while working as a BLM firefighter - and that I was just a few years older than Tarah the first time I sat around the Fenelon dinner table. Wow. The next generation, and off to a splendid start, the two of them!
On Friday, I whiled the day away with my family in Palm Desert - my parents Beverly and Joe, and three brothers, John and Patrick, who both live in the Bay Area, and Jerry, who lives in Silver Lake. My brother John, a high school teacher, gave me great advice for handling a few problems I'm having in my own teaching work; Patrick, a technical writer, gave my insights for the formidable and ongoing desert literature anthology I've dedicated thousands of hours to completing just since this past summer, alone (not to mention the two years of research, and much more, previous to that!), and Jerry, a DJ who gave me some ideas on updating my music savvy!
And now, I wait for Shasta, my lovely dog, to recuperate from this morning's kidney stone operation. I had a bit of an emotional breakdownwhen I dropped her off at the vet's office today. They removed a stone the size of a half-dollar, and she's not a large dog. My sweet pup, who's been a great companion for 7 years, on so many hikes, and always giving everyone so much love - the office just called and said she's recuperating nicely. She should be ready for more hiking in a month or so. Brindle, the big goofball mastiff-shepard, is a little off today, knowing something's not right and his big/little sister is gone - so I give him extra treats!
Thanksgiving or Stealing - trying to steal time to spend with family, so rare - this year, for the first ever, I think, I realize just how lonely I feel that my brothers all live far away, and that we only really meet up a few times a year. So many of us fill our lives now with endless work, routines, and we get sidetracked from focusing on our basic connection that grounds and heals us, for those of us fortunate enough to have a stable and loving family - as am I - not only one but two families. Sure, I felt like I was stealing time from my workload - fun stuff as well as drudge stuff, writing, poetry things, readings, student papers to grade, etc etc - but realize that the time has to be carved out, a balance maintained. How about the things we steal from others, in ways large and small, how we get so easily reduced to looking out for #1? At the heartstem of controversial and mixed assessments of our "founding fathers" holiday (and the mothers?)
And the irony, for Tarah's father's side of the family, of celebrating a holiday that commemorates in some ways a dark side of our cultural history - the genocide and oppression of Native Americans, including Tarah's Sioux ancestors; many family members still live in North and South Dakota, and I've met many of them. In fact, Tarah traces her family roots back to some very important players in U.S. history - a great-great uncle, an anglo, who was the agent at the Standing Rock Agency when Sitting Bull was infamously shot; his wife, her great-great-grandmother (the man married one sister, then another), who is an important SiouxFrench author who wrote "Legends of the Sioux," archived with University of Virginia.
And maybe that is the prime reason for the holiday - the hope to bridge the cultures. My own daughter's background reflects that divide, and also that bridge. The pain of the Indian wars and conflicts was and still is that so many of us are on "both" sides - in Tarah's case, the mixed blood of Sioux and French ancestry - how do you reconcile that? I have the generic image in mind, of Pilgrims and Indians, making peace, eating together, sharing resources - is this a real story, or one carved out of hope that one day, one day, or perhaps in a previous day, we all did get along. More than being thankful for what we have, which is in itself a generous and necessary act, and damnit, we need to do that ALL THE TIME - it's a vision of togetherness, abundance and sharing, of community and peace, and celebration. Let us be so wise.
A tragic and fatal Toys 'R Us shooting the day after T-Giving here in tony and sheltered Palm Desert, just a few miles from my home and a great shock to everyone in the community, a sad endnote to the previous day of gratitude - was apparantly a type of showdown, a fight between two groups of people, perhaps gang-related. A gun-fight on a beautiful morning in a gentle town filled mostly with retirees and the elderly who are hoping to enjoy their final years in the sun, in a children's toy store? What conflict, rage, and wrecklessness caused this? Everywhere, boiling tempers, emotional radiators are spilling over. I, myself, blew up, from sheer exhaustion and stress overload, at a good friend a month ago, instantly regretting my outburst but knowing I'd been damaging, nonetheless. Stealing a moment of peace. My bad. Tears, apologies, horror over my little blowup - damage had been done, and it's since been reconciled, but words do hurt.
The threshold of how each of us, in these trying times, expresses our frustrations is different. What for me was a rude verbal explosion with a few hurtful and instantly regretable words will be another person's hand on the trigger, and someone is dead, dozens traumatized, many worlds permanently interrupted. A shocking reminder of how necessary for us all to be and remain committed to endlessly striving to build harmony, on every level of every day. And a call to those of us who have the abundance and vision to share this possibility to keep putting it out there, every day. No matter what violence, darkness, anger, stress we are faced with. And that is precisely why we need each other, to reach out to each other, with compassion, love, face to face.
In a true Native American sensibility, "healing" is not just something to do when you're sick. It is an ongoing process - the continual effort of putting things into "right balance," and giving thanks, and remembering the tenuous connections we all have to that which sustains us, every day. Read Leslie Marmon Silko's "Ceremony," one of my all-time favorite and cosmic books. This is also a basic premise of building sustainability - in our social interactions as well as in maintaining balance and renewability in the natural world. Respect - a giving of thanks - and acknowledgement that we're all vulnerable. We all need every saving grace available to us, individually and collectively - and we have to sustain that grace in all that we do.
Migraine headache, somewhat relieved this morning, but still, my irritation and frustration over not seeing certain friends I told I'd visit, worries and pressures like so many other Americans today over finances, investments, money, bills, mortgages, cutbacks in pay - these are my woes to experience. And so this morning, after dropping the dog off, giving her extra encouragement hugs, then breaking down in tears well into the parking lot and a nearby Starbucks - I drove to an area of some of the area's last remaining dunes - sat still for awhile, and looked to powerful Mt. San Jacinto and Tahquitz Peak for inspiration and renewal, as I've done so many times before.
It's a view I had when I bought my house in 2002, and the main reason I bought the house: I had a straightaway view of amazing sand dunes and the mountains - a view that was slowly but fully wiped out as Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells went in next door over a period of several years. I needed to get back to that view, and I had to drive a little way to see it, but there it was - the dunes in the Coachella Valley Preserve not quite as grand, but fenced off, protected, and so necessary. I walked around a bit, absorbing the power of the morning, the desert's healing. And I gave many thanks.
And beyond my own regrets and bullshit and temporary and fleeting inconveniences, I must give so much thanks for the grace of my enduring family, all good, hardworking and caring people; for my "other" family; for my wonderful daughter; and for so many luxuries I enjoy, like owning my own home and having a stable job. Thank you universe, and my apologies to the friends I let down this past four days. I did a bit of "stealing" from my own preoccupations and obligations, and remembered from where it was that I came. And whispered :thanks: I'll remember to have more respect for not mixing beer and designer drugs, and to forgive myself for letting down my friend, even if he can't forgive me (would be nice if you'd call!), and put a few words and pretty pictures out into the world to cheer everyone up. Ya, ya, we had a great trip LAST weekend to a great petroglyph/rock art site, so - let's be grateful and reflect on that one to get us through this week, and try again another soon day. So here you go! Let's all forgive one another.
49 Palms Oasis feeds on spring water, and is an amazing splendor in a sharp-rock landscape, and nestled deep in a steep and remote desert canyon in the park. It contains one of the dozens of natural Washingtonian Fan Palm Oases, trees that are indigenous to the southernmost California deserts - this one is one of the farthest-north groves - and are only found here, and in a few locations in western Arizona.
I taught a wonderful workshop in early November for the Joshua Tree Desert Institute that focused on California Desert Indian literature and people. Not only did we read a vast selection of works, from creation stories to numerous tellings of the Willie Boy story to contemorary works by and about California Desert Indians - Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Quechan/Yuma, Paiute, Serrano, Mojave, and others - but we aso went on a wonderful hike to nearby 49 Palms Oasis.
The pictures above and below were taken during our hike to 49 Palms Oasis, which is one of my favorite hikes in the park, if a bit more traveled and crowded than I remember from the last time I'd hiked it, back in 1989. In fact, I have a very cute picture here on my desk of little Tarah at the age of 15 months, in blue Oshkosh overalls and mini-hiking boots, at the trailhead, from a long-ago and very memorable hike to the same spot! It's really true. They DO grow up too fast.