Photos by Chris Patchel
Three Times Blessed
(Written 13 September 2019)
Africa gave me my curly hair, broad nose, and full lips.
Spain gave me my elegance, blended complexion, and eloquent speech.
The Taino gave me my generous heart, desire to help, and compassion.
I am three times blessed.
Africa gave me my passion and rhythm when I hear the drum.
Spain gave me my faith in God, angels, and the saints.
The Taino gave me my sense of tradition, family, and community.
I am three times blessed.
Through conquest and slavery, my ancestors survived to ensure my existence.
Through punishments and torture, my ancestors remained resilient to secure my existence.
Through rebellion and freedom, my ancestors lived to guarantee my existence.
I am three times blessed.
Three completely different races.
Three completely different cultures.
Three completely different peoples.
Forced together under the harshest of conditions…
and yet, I am three times blessed.
My name is Maira Ramos and I was born in Puerto Rico. Words to describe me include, but are not limited to, creative, loyal, fun, introvert, and paradox. I express my creativity via poetry, arts and crafts (making smudging feathers, jewelry, and drums) and cooking. My idea of a perfect day is to burn incense, meditate, play my drums, cook, and enjoy good music. I like to hike along the San Pedro river or go to Carr Canyon and look for raw quartz. I am slow to open up to people, but once I do, I am an open book. I enjoy learning about all cultures and sharing my own. I look forward to sharing my creativity here with you. Feel free to ask me anything because there’s so much more to me than this short paragraph.
This poem of mine recently appeared in Muddy River Review.
The baby and I practice
hissing like a snake
howling like a lobo
hooting like an owl
all these creatures
at the perimeter of the ranch
out in the basin land
some things remain silent
the moon rising over the sandstone cliffs
the look on a face
that turns away
but that is for later.
Today I was playing violin on the front porch when I saw two boys next door at the abandoned Baptist camp. They were climbing up the steps to the old zip line, which hasn’t been used in years. There was a rope hanging down from the zip line.
Where did the boys come from? I didn’t hear any cars in the driveway. “Are you neighborhood kids? Are you part of the family buying the camp?”
They stared at me as if I were the one who had come out of nowhere. The boys were nine or ten, with tidy blond crew cuts, identical navy shorts and matching forest-green tee-shirts. Brothers, born less than two years apart.
I was afraid they would try the zip line, which has not borne the weight of a human being in over five years. I wanted to know why there were no adults supervising the boys and I was angry that they had ventured onto the property which I have come to think of as my personal wilderness, where wild turkeys hunt grasshoppers in the afternoons and where today I saw the coatimundi bounding over the dry grass to wherever coatimundis go when we aren’t watching them.
Sometimes I truly believe the camp belongs to the turkeys, the fox and the deer. It’s better in its broken-down glory, with the buff-breasted jays foraging under the scrub oaks and a lone turkey vulture circling lazily over the chapel. Closed by the Baptists and left for dead, the camp now has its own life, and humans should not intrude.
Though it is a contradiction, I also believe somebody should buy the camp and restore its dilapidated buildings before the county puts the camp up for auction. The county has started billing the owners for back taxes; it is only a matter of time.
The boys’ mother comes out from behind a bunk house and starts to run across the grass. She heard me holler and realizes that her offspring are in danger. “I told you not to go up there,” she yells, her face red with anger and the effort of searching for her two oldest children.
A train of younger children trails the woman like a flock of startled Montezuma quail, the little girls’ feathery ponytails bobbing up and down in the afternoon sun. The youngest boy is clutching a chocolate-colored bear and falling steadily behind.
Tina Quinn Durham is a poet, artist and musician living in southeastern Arizona. Borders have always fascinated her, whether they are the twilight lands between Faery and the world of humans, or the boundaries we impose on nature and one another. She looks for unanticipated insights in those transition zones, and feels privileged to live in La Frontera – the literal and metaphorical borderlands between the United States and Mexico. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. Her poems have appeared in the Boston Review, Mirage, and other literary magazines.
Ursula says: Here’s a photo of the celebration of my 500th haiku. (I had started writing them before the virus hit.)
I have kept both a written record and one on the computer. I don’t know if/where they might go eventually, but they have served my original purpose of being in touch with my loved ones, and my paying close attention to the natural wonders around me daily. The effect on me has been profound.
And, sharing the last two:
two hollyhock blooms
mornings through bedroom window
still hanging on
grandmas wore gray mauve
I wear rainbow colors plus
Emily Mason (1932-2019), who passed away in December 2019, will be remembered by the art world as an icon of lyrical abstract painting following an extraordinary six-decade career. Throughout her life, Mason created art that inspired both delight and imagination, and which used color as a vibrant means to express the poetic resonances of beauty she observed in the world. Mason leaves an indelible artistic legacy of extraordinary excellence encompassed in a remarkable oeuvre reminding the world that within the boundaries of a stretched canvas color can enliven the spirit and stir the heart.
1613 Paseo de Peralta
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Watercolor, 17″ x 21″
This empty chair seems appropriate during COVID. We are isolated with shadows of many issues falling on us. I found this chair at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona. I am pleased to have this painting be part of the 2020 New Mexico Watercolor Society’s exhibition.
The general discussion in my cohort about pandemic life seems to be:
1. You are fine. To continue being fine, lead a structured productive life.
2. You are fucked up. That is OK. Just lie in bed.
As my new pet peeve is either/or thinking I need to deconstruct this advice. Personally, I regard both action and non-action a bit skeptically.
Action tends to derive from the pressures of capitalism, from the judging of self (and others) in terms of productivity. However, it is only hard on us when we don’t decide personally what this action is FOR. Survival? Showing off? These are two very different motives. I don’t see how a person can flourish in today’s world–or yesterday’s world–without some core sense of why she is doing what she is doing.
And, you do not need to be sick, tired, depressed or anything negative in order to do nothing. Doing nothing is enjoyed by contemplatives, cats, artists, and people on beach towels. Actually doing nothing is a kind of doing something. It’s negative is that too much can be understimulating, or dull.
What I find fascinating (and yes, very annoying) is that there is so little conversation about harmony, or leading a balanced life. Sometimes folks seem disappointed that I’m not expressing a huge amount of fear about politics and covid. Let me be honest here. I’m a very anxious person who has spent decades working on NOT whipping up my fear–for my own sake, and so that other people don’t mind being around me.
Why would I change my approach now?
In the past seven months, I’ve had some kind of philosophical clarification. I’m reminded–in every detail–the life is suffering. And that this suffering is not continuous, and can be interrupted (to oversimplify) by doing the right thing.
Religion and systems of thought will give you lots of suggestions. However, here is my real suggestion–try and personalize your pandemic. Just as you don’t want an average or culturally whitewashed experience in terms of love, sex, illness, joy, death, friendship, or even food and drink, don’t allow yourself to be dictated to.
At the start of the pandemic I lost things that I cared about a lot. I was incredibly sad. I remain sad about these things. Some were minor, some were crucial. In experiencing these losses, willy-nilly, I have found out a lot about who I am. (For example, more of an extrovert than I’d realized). Time is passing, and I’m not getting younger. I’m lucky that I don’t tend to put things off. I’m also fortunate, I now realize, to have lived with constriction off and on my whole life–as a disabled person, a single mom–and by choice in and out of monasteries and remote artists’ residencies.
I never felt the world was my oyster, but yet even now do not feel that it is unavailable to me. I hope you find that access. The best way? Simply to start looking.
I went last weekend specifically to see her installation, Haunted. It is a kind of multi media bas-relief landscape, looking like the edge of the Colorado Plateau, at once iconic and specific. The picture below, from the City of Albuquerque’s website, doesn’t really give a full sense of it because the piece is embellished with small videos that appear and disappear. Contrails, flowing water…these are like inserts or windows in the scene. Or perhaps memories, or snapshots of an inner eye.
The piece, essentially a diptych, is well worth spending time with. But I was even more struck to discover additional work by the artist, based on the atom bomb and Trinity Site.
Ideal Structures for a Dubious Future:
Modernist, almost mid-century in its historical reference, and powerful. Well worth seeing.