Friday, February 8, 2013

Light Action on a Minnesota Morning



When I awoke this morning, a little later than usual after a good night's sleep, there was a mist hanging over the yard, the old chicken coop, and beyond. It was such a peaceful thing to wake up to I wanted to capture it so I could share it with you. Yes, I've taken its picture before. The beauty of really learning to see the world around me is in this very thing: I could photograph that coop every day of my life from the same place and always see something new, something slightly different from the day before.

Apparently, there is a big storm moving into New England and plans are being made. There is something very satisfying about being snowbound, if one is well-stocked and ready. All that snow creates a shelter in one's mind and a perfectly good excuse for shutting out the world for a while, something we could all benefit from now and then.

Not long after I arrived in Santa Fe, after turning the corner on the winter of '02, I went to a reading at a bookstore downtown, just off the plaza, called Collected Works. It had long been a favorite stopping place when traveling through in earlier times and I was very grateful I could now frequent it at my leisure. Barry Lopez, one of my favorite nature writers, was going to be reading from his latest book and I was very much looking forward to hearing him read and seeing him in person. I had a sense he would have very good energy, and I was right.

He spoke for a while about the world and the changes that had been wrought by recent events. I'm certain I'm not the only one in that small room who found his words comforting. Then, he read a selection from his book, Light Action in the Caribbean, followed by a brief period of questions. Afterwards, I took my place in line with the book I had just purchased while trying to keep at bay the anxiety that kept wanting to intrude. Another marriage had recently ended, 9/11 had changed the world, and my own view of it was riddled with angst. This did not go undetected by Mr. Lopez.

As I stood before him, the book lying on the table awaiting his signature, he stood and looked directly in my eyes. While holding both of my hands in his, he told me he hoped I would soon find peace and healing, and reassured me that life was a good place to be. His smile wiped away the tears that were threatening to fall and then he signed my book with a kind personal message. I have to tell you, the man has beautiful handwriting to match his beautiful soul.

This morning, I picked up that book and opened it to this:

My father, David Whippet, moved a family of eight from Lancaster, in the western Mojave, up onto the high plains of central North Dakota in the summer of 1952. He rented a two-story, six bedroom house near Westhope. It was shaded by cottonwoods and weeping willows and I lived in it for eleven years before he moved us again, to Sedalia in central Missouri, where he retired in 1975. I never felt the country around Sedalia. I carried the treeless northern prairie close in my mind, the spine-shattering crack of June thunder--tin drums falling from heaven, Mother called it--an image of coyotes evaporating in a draw...

That first summer in North Dakota, 1952, the air heated up like it did in the desert around Lancaster, but the California heat was dry. The humid Dakota weather staggered us all. I got used to the heat, though the hardest work I ever did was summer haying on those plains. I'd fall asleep at the supper table still itching with chaff. I grew to crave the dark cold of winter, the January weeks at thirty below, the table of bare land still as a sheet of iron....


These paragraphs were a good reminder of why I can, at times, still embrace living here in Minnesota and even love it wholeheartedly. The cold air and the fresh snow often bring the world into a much-needed balance. It also was a clear reminder of why I love words, how they're placed on the page, the sounds and the images they elicit as they roll through our minds and off our tongues. My lord, that man can write.




43 comments:

  1. I hear and understand every bit of that Teresa. I like it in Costa Rica a lot and could easily live here. I am so much looking forward to what is probably coming when I return to Colorado.

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    1. It looks and sounds like you're having a great time. Lovely views you have there. :)

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  2. The cold Minnesota mornings are a great way to start the day. When I see the wild turkeys starting to stir up in the big cottonwood tree, I take the big bowl of food out to the wooded lot. When they notice me, they make little cooing sounds and I talk to them--"Haaay turkeys". I scatter the food and go back inside to watch them as one-by-one they fly/glide down from the top of the tree. They regroup and then run full-tilt for the food. I never get tired of it!

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    1. I love this description of your mornings. What a great way to start the day. Wonderful!

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  3. This is a beautiful post, Teresa, and I certainly know what you mean when you say you could look at an old chicken coop every day and see something different, even something beautiful. I haven't read much Barry Lopez, but I'm now inspired by your post to check him out. Thanks — and stay warm!

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  4. I agree that you can take a photo of the same place many times and still find something new in the image. It makes me think -- how many images do I miss every day? -- barbara

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    1. I love the places you photograph, Barbara, so many intriguing corners to shed light on and so much history.

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  5. What a lovely shot,i agree it could change and still bring your eye to something new.you have a lt more snow,I wish for more knowing it may be gone in a short time.

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    1. I think we're going to get a bit of snow on Sunday. I wish we were getting more than predicted.

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  6. Lovely picture. Visually and verbally. Strange indeed the beauty that cold bleakness can exude.

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    1. Thank you, Tony. It does have its own beauty....

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  7. That photo is frame-worthy, so meditative. And that book excerpt was so richly written. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Ashling! He is a fine writer. I hope you two stay safe and warm during the storm.

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  8. You've captured my heart and my soul regarding the concept of place in this piece. I am a winter enthusiast because of the balance it gives summer. And as I sit here the cold winds blow outside, there is thick horizontal snow that will fill the landscape both in the forest and in the fields, and I wonder why I am so lucky. Winter is at my doorstep and knocks at my door.

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    1. I was thinking of the piece you wrote about the storm bearing down on you... such a beautiful way to embrace life. I think you would really like this writer, Bill. "About This Life," and "Arctic Dreams," are two others I particularly enjoyed. Enjoy that snow!

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    2. I returned to read this again and just wanted to reiterate-you write beautifully. It captures the reader and puts him/her in your frame of mind. So nice to see this talent; it is very rare.

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    3. Oh, Bill, what a beautiful thing to say... I am so glad I met you here and grateful for our ongoing friendship....

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  9. There is something comfortable and maybe just a little lazy (in a good way) about that scene.

    In reading of the current storm I feel a little left out: I wish it were coming here.

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    1. We are going to get several inches of snow tonight and tomorrow. I wish it would be more... I love all that fresh snow. It clarifies and calms.

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  10. You are so fortunate to have met that wonderful man. I've read much of his work and find him to be a master of the written word. You are not far behind him in my estimation, Teresa. I love to read your words; they sooth me and make me feel connected to you.

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    1. Oh, DJan, I cannot tell you what your words mean to me this morning... thank you so much... I so love our connection.

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  11. Dear Teresa, thank you for providing those two or three paragraphs from Lopez's book. I will see if I can find in the local library some books he's written. The image of his holding your hands and looking deep into your eyes and discovering there the psychic pain you were feeling is a strong one. It evokes in me the image of this Universe holding all of us close in Oneness.

    And may I say that your words within each of your postings speak to me just as Barry Lopez's words reach out to you. There is within you a reverence toward nature and a fierce honesty about the vagaries of life that is to be treasured both by you and all of us who are privileged to read your well-chosen words and honed poems and prose. Peace.

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    1. Now, how did you know I needed to hear from you today and with words of desperately needed encouragement? I can't tell you how much they mean to me, how much our friendship means. It's so good to hear from you...

      I had to attend a funeral of a longtime friend today and it was very hard....

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    2. Dear Teresa, that's Oneness bonding us.

      And I did go to the library web site and found several books by Lopez. So I ordered the one from which you quoted and I'll have it soon on my bedside stand to read and wonder at. Peace.

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    3. Yes, and I love that you are so attuned to it... enjoy every beautifully placed word.

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  12. I don't know Barry Lopez's work, and mean to rectify that soon. Thank you for the introduction, Teresa. "I grew to crave the dark cold of winter, the January weeks at thirty below, the table of bare land still as a sheet of iron...." - isn't that wonderful? I don't mind a snowstorm, though I'm not sure I would want to be on the east coast right now.

    Wonderful photo. Wonderful post.

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    1. I just loved that line... Have you read WildBill's comment? He embraces the cold and the snow like no one else and has taught me a lot about embracing it as well.

      Thank you, Penny, it's been a rough day. It's good to have friendships such as ours...

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    2. Teresa, I did, just now, go back and read WildBill's comment, and then his post, and must take some time and read more of him soon. His thoughts on surviving a storm are well put and insightful; a metaphor for life, and for those storms we plod through, such as the loss of a friend. I just noticed in your reply to Dee that you had a funeral yesterday. It is hard to lose friends, I know, with a hole that bores into our hearts. Please know I am thinking of you, Teresa.

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    3. It was a difficult day on every front, but by night much had been resolved and brought back to a peaceful place, with lots of love. The funeral was for the brother of a man I have cared about deeply for over thirty years. He and his brother both remained friends with me all this time and it was a hard death for me...but today is better, much better, and his journey continues, I have no doubt.

      Thank you so much, Penny. Your way with words and your own deep caring mean more than I can say....

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  13. 'something universal & familiar about your photo.A gentle mist.Barry sounds a wise soul.

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    1. Yes, to both... The mist is turning to snow...

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  14. I have to disclose that I am no fan of winter. Having grown up in Colorado, with my first 21 years spent there in the land of ice and snow, I can say I served my time. But I did like snow. Especially the mystery of deep snows. Not to mention the recreational fun they provided. The worse winters were during the drought when there was just dust and small kernels of hard snow driven horizontally against everything that moved by high winds. Which you felt into your very bones. Those memories still creep me out, how my skin crawled in those winters. Today, I flippantly say that I think seasons are over rated: just give me my summers. (Please don't hate me for saying this!)

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    1. Well, I must say, if my sons didn't live here, I would probably light out for the territory... I have grown to embrace these winters and appreciate them 'cause that's what I do, but I miss those clear blue skies of NM and I can certainly see from the video you posted on your very own Superbowl party that you live in a most beautiful place, with the ocean almost right out your front door. I will try not to hate you you... :))

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    2. Yeah, I can see that...seriously squelched.... :))

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  15. Fascinating and hopeful. And yes I don't care much for winter in my dotage as I liked it years ago. But then traveling often and far it's always with a sense of contentment I come home to my beloved Minnesota....:)

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    1. It is nice to always have Minnesota as home... I so agree.

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  16. Having a love of reading and words is definitely a help for the snow bound. But I'll take the Santa Fe heat any day. Bring it on!

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    1. Knowing I'm not forced to go out and drive on these roads helps immensely...

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  17. I very much relate to what you said about the satisfaction of being snowbound. Living for so many years on the Gulf coast of Florida, I often found comfort in "hurricane" days. Those were days when there was a possibility of a hurricane reaching our area. Of course, I didn't want a hurricane to hit the area, but on those days schools and businesses closed and often the streets were filled with just enough water to keep everyone home. I could shut out the busy-ness of the world for just a day.

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    1. Perhaps it's the sense of shelter from the storm that is so satisfying... I like the coziness of it, and don't even mind the shoveling that follows, but find it satisfying as well... Yes, shutting out the "busy-ness of the world," always feels good. Thanks, Cherie.

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