Friday, August 30, 2013

Digging



Digging     

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
 
A beautiful man, Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner, died today. Long ago, at the University of Hartford, I heard him read and long ago he became one of my favorite poets.
 
I rarely use a squat pen - or any pen- these days; most of the time it's eight fingers pounding the square keys and thumbs offering space between the words on a computer or IPad. Poetry is hard, no room for the silly adverb or redundant adjective. Poetry isn't for people who like to skip words or skim stanzas. Hard, hard work for the poet and hard work for the reader. Seamus Heaney always made the hard work worthwhile. And he always reminded us of those ancestors upon whose shoulders we stand.
 
Today I'll be thinking of those ancestors who dug potato after potato until the blight rendered the potato worthless. And I'll be thinking of my grandparents who left the peat behind and crossed the ocean for another life. Digging for roots.
 
Thank you Seamus Heaney for digging. Rest in Peace.
 
Speaking of digging, pondering the life of those cliff dwellers in Mesa Verde, who did a lot of their own digging, sent me back to the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest known stories (found texts written @ 2100 BCE) in the western world. Wonder where the early ancestors of the Ancient People of Mesa Verde were digging. 
And not to stretch this image of digging too far afield, the upcoming Labor Day will have me thinking of all those laborers who dug the streets, railroads, land to make such easy living for us today. And I'll be thanking those laborers who are still making our lives easier.
 
Dig in the way you know best over this long weekend coming up.
 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where and When


Just can't figure out how so much of the human race (if indeed it is a race) survived. Sure, with the perfect moderate climate, water, and food it all makes sense. But those harsh climates, with the wind whipping or the snow covering trails?
When, along this brutal path that led to human beings, did clothing first emerge? Did clothing come because of practical need or was it the old Adam and Eve 'Oh, wow, I'm getting this sort of feeling....?
Who wore the first form of a diaper?
Having seen those thin threads of yucca plants, from which clothes were made in Mesa Verde, I can't help wonder how many hands and days it took to make those early articles of clothing.
Climbing up and down those cliffs must have led to many a cut, many a leg bleeding, elbow swollen, head gashed. How many  hands and threads of yucca were needed just to stop bleeding?

I know, the cliff dwellers were around in the 1200's...and over the world all sorts of clothing, uniforms, utensils, tools, written language had evolved. All of the hunting, gathering, protecting had gone on in parts of the world for a long time. And I've participated in the Human Genome Project, so I even have some understanding of the route of my clan. But I still have trouble imagining that magical period when consciousness emerged. I can't imagine where or when someone/thing figured out that a baby was the result of a man's penetration of a woman several seasons prior. Whose hypotheses was that? 

Did I miss some of the magical learning moments in school, drifting off while someone tried to excite me about history, evolution, development?

We'll never know the answers to many of our questions, and perhaps that is good. I've had these same questions surface in all parts of the world. Stood in awe on several continents contemplating the determination of those beings that led to us. And, always, always, stand in awe of what will be coming.

That's the muddle of my mind, after visiting the site of the cliff dwellers in Mesa Verde. The only certainty for me, today, is that I wasn't born one day too early.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mesa Verde

I confess: Roscoe wrote this entry on the trip to Mesa Verde. These are the facts, at least as we were told. so it's all good to know. I was going to use the fact sheet as a reference for my blog, but being lazy and reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech, I never got around to writing. So, more from me tomorrow. Thanks to Roscoe for the reflections.

Drove into Mesa Verde around 6:00 and immediately set off for a  Twilight Tour of CLIFF PALACE led by a ranger impersonating Lucy Peabody.

Lucy grew up in the east, was well educated, and married an older man who had been an officer in the Civil War.  After living some time in Washington D.C. they moved to Denver, where Lucy heard a talk by Virginia McClurg about the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, and the unrestrained, extensive looting of artifacts there. 

She decided to go have a look.  It took three days to get there. Train from Denver to Durango, hotel in Durango, train from Durango to Mancos, hotel in Mancos.  Then guided by the Wetherill brothers (Richard Wetherill being the person who ‘discovered’ the cliff dwellings)  she traveled by buckboard, then horses.  She was captivated by what she saw, but horrified by the way precious historical materials were ruthlessly and needlessly disappearing.

Back in Denver she teamed up with McClurg and they worked for years to get National Park status for Mesa Verde.  McClurg was the lecturer stirring up support wherever she could.  Peabody was the connection to Washington, and made a total of seven trips Denver-to-Washington for the cause.  Finally in 1906, Teddy Roosevelt signed the bill making Mesa Verde a National Park.  But there was still much work to be done.

Sky Palace is one of the largest cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.  We gathered at an overlook spot where Lucy talked with us, then made our way down to the ruin.  At Sky Palace one can stand right there, but not walk through the area.  It is immense and impressive. It’s a somewhat challenging hike in, and the ladder climbs add to the adventure.

Sun got lower and light began to fade.  We climbed out almost in the dark – by a different route than we entered, up narrow steps carved in the rock by CCC workers during the Depression. 

Monday morning we had a tour of Long House, which is the other very large cliff dwelling (one or two rooms bigger or smaller than Cliff Palace).  This time we were able to enter some of the rooms, look down into some kivas, and generally get a sense of what it must have been like. More hiking and ladder climbing.

We are told that each clan would have its own kiva, which was a deeply spiritual place where they would gather, bond, sometimes even sleep.  There was a fire ring in the center of the dirt floor, and a clever air duct behind the wall on one side allowing fresh air to come in.  Between the air duct opening on the ground and the fire ring there is an upright rectangular stone pillar 24-30 inches high.  This served as an air deflector and altar.  On the other side of the fire ring there is a small circular hole,  maybe three inches in diameter.  This is where the spirits of ancestors can enter.  Around the sides there are six evenly spaced pillars that support the roof beams.  Between the beams the wall goes up perhaps 30 inches, then back maybe 15 inches and then up to the roof line.  These serve as benches.   
 
Later we visited a cliff dwelling where we could climb a wooden ladder down into a kiva which had a roof.  It would be an acquired taste to find such a small dark, dusty claustrophobic space a homey place of comfort and spiritual renewal. 

We also visited effective well presented excavations of the earliest dwellings up on the top of the mesas.  These were called pit houses,  presumably because the floor was a foot or so below the ground.   Circa 500 C.E.  The next evolution were long houses which were ground level and often a continuous string of connected chambers.  Then they moved into the cliff dwellings c. 1100 to 1300.  And eventually their descendants built the pueblo communities that are still inhabited today in Arizona and New Mexico, and that share building techniques seen in the cliff dwellings.

These places are very scattered, and, between hikes,  we drove around on mesa tops quite a lot.  From our arrival on Sunday afternoon to our departure Tuesday morning, we clocked 150 miles on the odometer.  The mesa tops are beautiful and there are often terrific vistas looking out over other mesas and beyond. 

Our last stop was on the mesa top that looks directly across at Cliff Palace.  It was a fitting way to say goodbye, by contemplating from a distance the place we began our adventure.

 

 

 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sun and Moon Capstone


In this past week, I've watched the sun rise and set and observed the moon wax and wane over the mountains, the ocean, and the city. For me, the most spectacular drama occurs oceanside, but the mountains provide a pretty smashing background for the comings and goings of sun and moon.
The perpetual motion of the ocean, sound of the surf and the rhythm of the tide rising and falling lull me always into feeling part of the primordial world of the past. I am seduced into being part of some grand movement that is beyond my understanding.
The mountains, on the other hand, proudly reaching up to the skies give me the illusion of stability and endurance. It's an illusion for sure, and the various rock types and formations on any mountain ridge are calling me to remember how much movement has occurred in those rock formations to get them where they are today, but I prefer to hold on to the idea of endurance and stability.
It's the rising and setting, waxing and waning of the sun and moon in the city that awaken me to the rhythms of people. The patterns of transportation as people hop on the bus or start up their cars, the trucks hauling goods from one place to another, the kids coming or returning from school, backpacks rounding their shoulders that kickstart me into the present day. Sprinkler systems and street lights work in harmony with the sun and moon, the everydayness of the world presents itself proudly in the city.
I'm off on a road trip this coming week to places where the ancient cliffdwellers once lived. The summer capstone course in the sun and moon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Time Off


Missing the sound of the surf, laughing voices, smell of the seaweed, feel of the hot sand, sight of the lighthouse and blazing sunset; all the love bubbling up for a week at Watch Hill. Missing the crabbing, making of rock sculptures, the seagulls, the annual walk to Napatree Point.

At any given time there were ten or eleven of us, family, ranging in age from 2 to 77, staying in the big house. At any given time, someone was swinging on the front porch, body surfing, playing chess, assassin, twenty-one, badminton or football. Rotating gourmet chefs cooked nightly delights, and every night included a ritual walk to St. Claire's Annex for an ice cream cone.  All the good stuff of vacation dreams.

On the first night, the team figured out how to turn the gigantic television on and surf. The television never went on after that. The kids lost interest in electronic games (as did the adults) and the Ipads and IPhones took a back seat, went on their own vacations.

The biggest problem of the week was Taylor Swift's security guards not throwing back the smash ball that accidentally went on to her property. She bought the gigantic mansion on the bluff this year, the mansion that looks down on the part of the beach where we always plop ourselves. Now the house is surrounded 24\7 by security guards and no-one can walk the wall or retrieve the ball that goes astray. Lots of talk about just how much of those huge rocks and the wall she really owns, but no security guard is going to let anyone figure it out. That's it for problems....Oh, the competitive gene showed up in all those games, but slowly toned itself down.

Missing it all, missing everyone, but now it's back to Colorado. Going to the mountains for a couple of days, home for a day, and then on to Mesa Verde and the cliff dwellers. So it's another set of days with only one or two posts. Then, like the olden days when Labor Day meant the official end of summer and beginning of settling in, I'll be back at a more regular schedule, back at the blog, back at more reflective times.


 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eyes of the Flowers


Those saucy Black-eyed Susans were looking straight at me everywhere I went this morning. Popping out from under house windows, along 6th Ave. walkway, in the park and around each corner. Long ago, when we were all at budding stages of who and what we would become, my friend Cindy Day Bepko wrote a poem to me that included the line 'Tiger lilies stalked her way.' 
Clumps and clusters of those black-eyed Susans reminded me of that poem, that line, those days. Cindy captured those big orange tiger lilies bursting from around the trees and in the fields in Glastonbury CT that would watch my moves. And now that moment in CT has connected to this morning in CO and connected me to Cindy far beyond the ways that FB can do. As E.M. Forrester said, 'Only connect.'

I'll be away for a while with family, listening to the waves pound in the ocean, creating new memories and connecting to my roots. So I paid particular attention to those people I exchange greetings with every morning. The smiling Indian man, briskly walking, as his beautiful wife, dressed in a sari walks several yards behind him, in the daily routine of not quite keeping pace with him. Last week she wasn't behind him, making me worry that she was sick. When I asked him, he had just chuckled and said she was fine, but her foot hurt. Looked as if her foot healed just fine.
The man with the blue-button down shirt, suspenders and khaki pants tipped his big straw hat to me as he does every day. And the man in his thirties, bulldog on one leash, retriever on another, moved to the side - as he does everyday - as his dogs love to jump on people. I missed the two men who always grin, as they saunter slowly each day and the woman who must now be training for an event, as she is full speed all the time.

On Eleventh Avenue, where traffic is running all the time, a dog suddenly sped across the street towards me. Two dogs had been let off their leashes by the owner. As the one darted across the street, the other straggled behind. Suddenly the owner was in the middle of the road, cars on each side of him, with one dog on one side of the road and the other across the street. I had just walked into a significant metaphor. Keeping one eye on the dog across the street, yelling 'stay, stay' the man backed up, made a quick turn and grabbed the lagging dog by the collar and dragged him across the street. Split-second decision making with a happy ending.

But I am off to different landscapes, different people sharing the walkways, the beach, the walk to Napatree Point, the vision of the Ocean House. Away from technology for the most part, and away from the blog for a while. The few spots in the few coffee shops with wireless are rarely available.
I'll be thinking of you.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

We're the Monkees


'Hey, hey We're the Monkees; people say we monkey around...' Who would have thought I'd be sitting at a Monkees' concert last night at the Paramount Theatre in Denver? Not me. Never thought I'd be sitting at a Monkees concert anywhere. And Davy Jones, the Monkees lead man, died of a heart attack last year. Who have thought the Monkees would still be hanging around post-Davy?

But as life would have it, Peter Tork, Monkee man guitar genius was a good friend of Roscoe's sister-in-law fifty years ago at Carleton College in Minnesota. Another Carleton College friend of Roscoe and sister-in-law Margy lives in Denver.
One thing leads to another and I have a VIP pass and back stage ticket to visit with Peter Tork after the show. Who would have thought there would be a mini-Carleton College reunion at a Monkees show in Denver?

The Paramount Theatre, an historic landmark, is almost full. Demographics: old, young and everything in-between (eight months to eighty), fat, skinny, never retired hippies, newly emerging hippies. Enough men in long white/grey pony ponytails that they could have been having a reunion also. No metal. Not a seriously tattooed group. Nostalgia City. Almost every person knew the words of every song - generation x,y, z, whatever the age group, voices bellowed out the words. I understand the musical influence of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, but had no idea of the earnest Monkees fans across the decades.

The three aging Monkees and back-up stood on the stage. Behind them, a carefully crafted, delightful, full-size screen showed a seamless production of the young Monkees in action. For two hours, without break, the audience was back with the Monkees, back in the day, when everyone was young and carefree. Simultaneously, the band stood on the stage as a constant reminder that nearly half a century had passed since the Monkees hit the stage. Fifty years for everyone to have fulfilled a dream or not.

After the show, a woman came out from behind locked doors looking for Margy Robertson. That's our Margy. So the five of us were escorted downstairs and into Peter Tork's dressing room. And so began the Margy, Peter, Peter, Roscoe Carleton reunion. Tales of Margy and Peter and friends singing and talking in the Carleton theatre space long into the night. Peter still has the same banjo he had in college. It was one of those moments where the two Peters and Margy were thrust back in time. For fifty years they had only had occasional e-mail contact. Occasional - and only in the past decade. So much to talk about, so much laughter. And that kind of nostalgia is contagious. Suddenly I was thinking about my old friends, days in school, good times...people whom I haven't seen in decades.

I rarely like being a tag-along, but this was the perfect night for being a participant-observer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Transitions


Late afternoon the magpie pulls on the cherry tomato, plucks it off and flies away. Another comes and does the same. No stopping to eat, just flying off, balancing the tomato in its mouth as if there were a secret nest for hoarding cherry tomatoes.  It's a ritual that occurs almost every day now that the tomatoes are ripening at magna-speed.

There's just one tomato plant potted on the back patio. Two bigger plants flourish on the little front patio where the sun beats down in the afternoon. One of these plants grows standard cherry tomatoes; for some reason, the second plant produces the sweetest, juiciest deep red tomatoes to ever enter my mouth. The magpies never make it to the tomato pots in the front, so they miss the scent and taste of the succulent red balls that I pluck and eat.
It's my secret, and I'm not sharing with the multitude of magpies that swoop into the back patio and out again.

It's travel time for me, so the posts in August are pretty much hit and miss. Hit for three days this week, and then off for two weeks. Just returned from Park City, Utah and Rawlings, Wyoming for one day. Washed clothes, re-packed and went off to West Hartford CT for Emma's 11th birthday and musical theatre performance. Smashing. Her birthday celebration revealed, among other things, her transition from braless to bra wearing. In some ways, the bra appears to be more symbolic than a physical necessity, a statement declaring selfhood. Beautiful to watch.

The event plunged me right back to my pre-adolescent and adolescent days of maturing. Or something. I don't think my heart and soul grasped the beauty of it all, understood how important it was for me to be me. Most of all, back in the days of 7th,8th, 9th grade junior high, I remember turning into a jerk. I thought I was cool, very cool.
My friends and I walked down Ridgewood Road, elbows bent, moving our shoulders and walking to a chant of 'I must, I must...I must develop my bust.'  Ah, yes, sole goal being to attract the attention of the boys. The superficial reigned in my hierarchy of goals and values. Entering the Science Fair as I had done for several years became silly. Took me years to find my way back to the me pre-hormonal surge.

I suspect pre-adolescence can be even more disruptive than it was way, way back in the day. The word teenager had just come into common parlance; 'tween' was still unknown. My good friend Linda, teacher par excellence for many years, has just one thing to think (but not say) to the parade of parents praising their child geniuses at an early age. "Come back and see me when your child is in 7th or 8th grade and let's see how the genius is doing."
Adolescence.

Caught between the pluckiness of magpies in the garden and the pluckiness of youth this morning. That's what happens when I move in and out of various places and spaces, wired and unwired.