I’m in an artist’s residency in the southern Rockies, collaborating with my daughter Isabel.
Where am I really? The days of being a Romantic poet in a bucolic setting seem to be over (probably a hundred years ago). There is rural poverty and oppression in Hardy’s novels, but still, the city is worse. And I’m in an eco-system beleaguered by global warming and drought.
This mountain burned twenty years ago. It’s burning again, the scrub oak that sprang up. I’m pretty afraid of wildfires because I have only one fully working lung and I try to avoid the smoke. Yet the fire is contained, now smoldering. On National Forest land the fire can’t be fought with chemicals in the same way it is one private land. A helicopter has dumped water. I feel a huge love and gratitude for the four guys up there working to contain the fire.
And yet I’ve read enough Gary Snyder to know that western forests need to burn to be healthy. This forest fire is a hundred percent not about me. Yet it impacts me. In this it is pretty much like every other problem I’m facing right now—an ill friend, a demented frail family member, world events.
I sit in an old comfy arm chair on the front porch. I should sweep, but housekeeping is never my strong suit. I myself am full of contradiction. I want to: write, work in the print studio, run off to Questa to see if there are ice cream pops in the general store.
Isabel has been teaching me a lot. She gave me lessons on her camera. Taught me to make a monoprint. Yet sometimes I want to quibble with her, even boss her around. Or watch Mad Max with her.
It’s too easy for me to say—just go with the flow, to pick peace and grooviness over confrontation with this world. It’s too easy to say—well, reality is shit, how can I be so happy here in this gorgeous setting drinking my coffee when people are dying in the street the world over.
I’m quite convinced there is a Middle Way not just because I’ve heard its rumors but because I see it moment by moment before me, whether or not it leads me to Questa.