Category Archives: Changing Perspective

Back Again, So Soon?

So.. let’s see. My last two visits to Telluride were from Oct 27 – Nov 10, and then Dec 14&15. And I’m back already — again, for just one night — and I’ll be back again, each of the next four Wednesdays : Feb 8, 15, 22; and March 1st. What gives with seven visits, one of them being for two weeks, within roughly a four-month period?

Well, things have turned out thataway. December’s Talking Gourds was rescheduled for when I could make it, and with a poet I wanted to see, and also on my birthday. Hard not to feel the Universe was in my corner. And this current weekly surge is due to a workshop put on by beloved poet and friend. Since my New Year’s resolution (Ick!) was to bring my writing more to the forefront, this is one of those steps in that direction.

But, then, a question remains: Why do I keep returning here, anyway? Well,… here I go…

The reasons are legion, and I may not even be aware of them all, but to put it succinctly, because coming here is good for me. The beauty, the smallness and quietness, that I’ve become familiar with the place (and also in no small part, familiar to the place and some of its people), and that it’s a place I know where I can escape to are some of the specific reasons I persist in returning. Too, it’s far enough away (four to four and a half hours) that I’m not able to constantly come here (It requires a commitment to come.), yet it’s close enough that it’s not huge burden getting here. As the Little Bear would say, “It’s just right!”

That said, I do love where I live, and am grateful for being able to continue living there. As much as I also love Telluride, whenever I’m here, the very fact that I’m here means I’ve stepped away from day-to-day life — I’ve no commitments, no work schedule, or nearly all the other things that come with a life that keep you from being able to do (pretty much) whatever you want whenever you want. As Gus McCrae tells Lori, in Lonesome Dove, “Even in San Francisco, life is still life.” If I were to move to Telluride, I’d also have to bring all the rest that comes with my life, which I’m currently able to leave at home precisely because Telluride isn’t home.

Anyhoo. As I said, I’ll be returning each of the next four Wednesdays.

And, each Thursday, I’ll be returning home.

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Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Inspiration, re: Writing, Sorting It Out

Back Again

A wee bit more than a month ago, Nov 10th, I headed home after two weeks in Telluride. At the time, I figured it’d be at least until February or March before my next visit. Wound up not taking that long.

A week and a half ago, I got word that the December monthly meeting of Telluride’s Talking Gourds poetry club, had been moved from the 6th to the 14th. Since I have Wednesdays and Thursdays off from work, I would be able to attend. Further, the guest poet was going to be, Elissa Dickson, who is currently the San Miguel County Poet Laureate and also someone whom I wanted to hear read their poetry. Finally, Dec 14th is my birthday. All these plusses converging, what other choice did I have, but attend?

When I arrived at the venue, last night, it was packed. The only time I’d seen as many folks attend a Talking Gourds was the night Jewel (the singer/songwriter) was one of the guest poets. Last night’s draw was Elissa. She works at the library, is outgoing, and has lived in Telluride for a number of years. Her friends, peeps, loved ones, and other supporters had filled the room.

Speaking for myself, I scarcely know Elissa; I’ve seen her a few times at previous Talking Gourds, and have heard a few of her performance and written poems. Even so with such seemingly little to go on regarding Elissa, my regard for her, and my appreciation and respect of her talents, was enough to cause me to come for the night in Telluride: (Four-and-a-half hour drive, each way; three mountain passes, also each way; not to mention the cost of gas and a hotel room, and the sorta “loss” of my two days off from work.) There are very few others I’d willingly do this for. So, if  I, “scarcely” knowing her as I do, immediately decided to come to Telluride in order to hear her, is it any wonder she packed the house with those who know her far better?

Of course, and to be sure, once I’m here, spending time in Telluride isn’t any burden. I’ve lost count of my overnight(s) visits over the past three or four years, but I’m pretty sure it’s in at least the upper teens. As always, I stayed at Mountainside Inn, and stopped by the local Indie bookstore, Between the Covers, (two times, this time), to buy needed books and the like. Also, I got to touch base with some of own Telluridian “friends, peeps, loved ones, and other supporters.”

Even though I’ll have to be at work by 4AM, tomorrow, “what other choice did I have,” but to come? (Place your bets now, on whether I’ll be able to wait until next year’s Lit Fest, in May, to return.)

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Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Inspiration, re: Writing

Eight Days of Telluride

I’ve check out of my hotel room, packed everything into the van. After eight full days, it’s come time to leave Telluride and return back home to Salida, and all that goes with that. I’m not wanting to leave. It hasn’t seemed like eight full days. So what else is new?

Downtown Telluride, last Thursday afternoon, Oct 8th.

Downtown Telluride, last Thursday afternoon, Oct 8th.

And what else is also new in that I didn’t get accomplished pretty much any of the plans I’d made? But perhaps what I needed, more than anything I had planned, was simply to rest. As it turned out, I spent three of my days lying in-bed, watching X Factor and America’s/Britain’s Got Talent videos on my laptop; and on one of those days, I never left the hotel room at all—no shopping, no eating out, no anything.

One of the things I came here for was to take one of my periodic looks at my current life, and see what needs changing, and how I can go about effecting such change. I didn’t get, perhaps, as much of that done as I’d wished, but I did gain some significant ground in that direction. However, come 5AM, tomorrow, I’ll be back at work, back at the grind. What seems doable while you’re away from work, away from the usual tugs and obligations of your everyday life can suddenly seem ridiculous once you’ve returned to regular life.

But the time I spend in Telluride has a way of staying with me. And I did get a few decent walks done, two of them with an incredible woman that I’ve been graciously blest to have in my life. She and I seem incapable of having superficial conversations. Our talks always hit immediately into the essential core of what’s going one with one another. These, too, linger with me for weeks, months, years afterward.

Go figure, I’m already planning and scheming my return.

The labyrinth at Christ Presbyterian Church.

The labyrinth at Christ Presbyterian Church.

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Valuing What You Do

Once again, I’m in Telluride. En route to here, Monday, I stopped in Ouray, where a writer friend of mine, who lives elsewhere in Colorado, was visiting their Hot Springs Pool, with the family. The pool is just ten miles off my route to Telluride, so we made plans to meet, there.

I’ve known this friend—let’s call him, Roger—for a handful of years. He’s been writing for roughly the same amount of time that I have, but he’s had much better success than I. Frankly, it’s due to his being more dedicated, and a bit more talented. I even knew who he was for nearly a full decade before we ever physically crossed paths. Even though we’ve since become good friends, I still look up to Roger. Still kinda put him on a pedestal.

A short while ago, Roger was part of a gallery show, in the Roaring Fork Valley. He and a Northern Colorado painter had done some collaborative work together, which was now being presented. That evening, each of their pieces were sold, some of them for close to a thousand dollars. Both things surprised Roger, especially how much they were selling for. (These all were “simple” pieces: a handful of written lines from Roger, a similar number of brush-strokes from the painter.)

I’m in the process of taking on editing work, and I’ve been quibbling with myself, lately, about how much to charge. I’ve been doing small bits of editing work, gratis, for friends and colleagues for awhile. It feels odd and a little unsettling, thinking about charging folks, now. Within the last year or so, Roger has also begun charging for the same work he used to do as a favor for people. And it sounds like he struggled much more than I currently am in allowing himself to be paid. In fact, I’m not quite sure he’s gotten comfortable with it, yet.

I’m still sorta shaking my head over this. Roger has had more than a handful of books published, and has gotten to travel to all sorts of nifty places due to his writing. It’s not at all uncommon to hear people utter his name in reverential tones. (I’m not alone in placing him on a pedestal.) All these and more, and yet he still questions the value of what he does. It didn’t/doesn’t make sense that someone of his caliber and renown would have these sorts of issues—at least not on the surface.

And so it goes. I’ve blogged about this, before. Somehow, some of us have difficulty discerning the value of what we do. You can hold thousands spell-bound with your words, have organizers clamoring to have you speak and/or present at their up-coming events, pack a bookstore when you come to sign your latest book—and, still, question the worth of what you do. Success doesn’t necessarily take away feelings of inadequacy, of not mattering. In fact, it can aggravate those same self-perceptions by making you feel even more like a fake.

And, perhaps, just maybe, I might be calling the kettle black, here. After all, I’ve had scads of folks who know about such things compliment my own writing, over and over again. In fact, Roger is one of my biggest cheerleaders. You’d think having my writing being admired by a writer whom I admire would be enough to dispel any niggling perceptions I have about my writing; however…

How about you? Do you feel you own talents are lacking—even though you’ve been told otherwise? If so, what’s up with that?

(I don’t know, either.)

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And, speaking of valuing your talents, this picture was taken during my second night, here. For the close of their author event, that evening, Between the Covers had scheduled a jam session. Only a single musician showed up with his instrument. Nonetheless, even though it was only him, here he is, jamming away.

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Moving Forward: The Next Step

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A few weeks ago I set-up a Facebook page to promote my upcoming copyediting services. Today, I’m fleshing it out, beefing it up, adding to it. There’ll still be more to do later on, as other ideas come to mind or become apparent, and as this venture grows: its own email account, a website, an actual business license(?), and so forth and so on.

This has been sooooo long in finally coming, this getting going, in a real sense, with having my writing begin to financially support me. Well, okay. This isn’t writing, nor “my writing,” per se. But it is something writing-centered that I can do, that I do well (when you consider where I currently am in the scheme of things copyediting-wise), and that hopefully will begin getting monies coming in from someplace other than my current hospital job.

And, speaking of which, I’ve recently had yet another nudge from the Universe reminding me that I really do need to start taking action in transitioning away from the sort of work that I took on when I moved here, out of necessity, and toward the heart-centered vocational writing stuff that I moved here to do. In numerous ways, things are now lined up favorably. There’s never gonna a perfect, risk-free, easy time to do this; but this current time is the widest opening I’ve had since moving here. Best to squeeze in, now, while the door is at its most opened.

The next phase of my plan to start some sort of professional freelance writing. In order to get things started, to get my foot in the door and my name out there, and in order to (once again) get non-hospital-job funds coming in, I might initially have to take on the writing of copy, and other sorts of writerly jobs, that I’m not particularly fond of and that I’d really rather not pursue. But I’ve gotta start somewhere, and even the “bottom” of the professional writers’ pit will still be getting paid to write.

Onward and (eventually) upward.

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The Dust Settling

I intended to post, Saturday and Sunday, about the rest of my poetry weekend, outside Breckenridge; but the lodge’s wifi went down, early Friday evening, and never got reestablished. And once I got home, the usual other stuff took precedence, until now. As these things happen, having had the handful of days after the weekend has allowed things to settle, given me more time to sort and figure things out—even moreso than usual.

Frankly, the events of the weekend kinda overwhelmed me. There were more people than I’m used to being around, and in persistent proximity—a draining and aggravating thing for an introvert. Finding a pocket of space and time in order to be by myself and/or write was both frustrating and difficult. It all ate away at my nerves, making me increasingly edgy and pissy. I didn’t particularly like who I was, nor how I was around the others.

But I made it through, and by mid-morning, Monday, my ickiness was on the way out. And what I was remembering about the weekend became increasingly positive. So, now that I’ve had almost a full week to let this past weekend settle, what I have to say about it is starkly different that what I would have said, Saturday and Sunday.

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So, a week from when it started, here’s where I’m at, at this moment.

For nearly three full days, I got to hang out with twenty-some members of my tribe—three of whom I already knew, and three others whom I just knew by name. It was an intense time, and an overwhelming one. Intense and overwhelming in good ways, as well. I’m still discovering ways the weekend has changed things for me.  I’m gonna be rocking from its ripples for awhile longer.

And, for the first time, I felt I was with my tribe, my people. This is no small thing—I grew up being told, and believing, I was an outsider, never really belonging wherever I was. It is still an easy and natural thing for me to feel apart from my fellows. To be the odd one out. I’ve attended writers’ workshops and conferences; and this was the first time I felt not only that I belonged, but that I was being drawn deeper into the fold.

This was and is no small thing.

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What am I Doing Here?

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i’m currently at a weekend-long poetry workshop and retreat, in Breckenridge, about an hour and a half from where I live. Mucho months ago, Wendy Videlock invited me. I’ve known Wendy for about two years, and although we’ve actually met just once before, we’ve kinda kept up via Facebook and the poets’ grapevine.

I arrived here, yesterday early-evening. Just a handful of folks had arrived already. Many (most?) of us are staying at a lodge that’s a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). Wendy and Laurie James (who lives roughly just a mile from me) greeted and hugged me when I stepped outta the van. As more folks started arriving, I began wondering what I’d gotten myself into, agreeing to this workshop with who knows how many other people, and being jammed-in with twentysome strangers in a suddenly-not-really-all-that-huge lodge. I feared I was about to enter introvert overload.

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This first morning has been quiet and calm. Seems the majority of folks are night owls, whereas I’m an early riser. Fortunately, there was enough dawning light coming through the window that I was to be quietly active without (I hope) waking anybody. It’s being an overcast day, and we’ve had a bit of drizzle. On paper, the day’s schedule is packed. However, in practice, it’s being relaxed and open. My introversion is being nurtured, rather than assailed.

But, there’s this, and it isn’t something new: I’m looking around wondering, in a different sense, what I’m doing here. Because I’ve placed so much crap onto the notion, I’ve pretty much forbidden myself from using “belonging” in reference to myself and my place in things. But nonetheless, I’m at it again. With the likes of (what seems to me, correctly or not) the majority of folks here being published poets, and many with award-winning, or at least nearly-so, books, what am I, unpublished poet, and scarcely-so writer, doing here, hobnobbing with the likes of say, Valerie Szarek, whose most recent work is a Finalist for this year’s Colorado Authors’ League, Book of the Year; Rachel Kellum, whose, ah, is highly-regarded; and also Wendy Videlock, who’ll be in this year’s Best American Poetry, and Laurie James who is considered an Elder in the tribe?

One of the many reasons I’ve placed myself on hiatus in using, “belonging,” is because I’ve placed something of an unattainable extremism upon it—likely coming from my dad only being happy with me if, “you’ve done your best.” (What is, “best,” anyway? Couldn’t you have always done a little more, a little better?) What was my best was, itself, an unattainable extreme. But it’s still somewhat the ruler I measure myself by. So, amid such successful poets, such _actual_ ones, what the hell am I doing, thinking I’m worthy of hanging out with ’em, thinking I’m anywhere in the same league?

Well, one reason just might be because they’ve accepted me as, “one of us.” And one them, Wendy, did make a point of inviting, after all. If I hold these people as being higher than myself, then doesn’t it also hold that their perceptions might hold more weight than mine? Maybe. But, rather, I think it’s moreso the case that what they think and perceive simply, intrinsically, matters—period, never mind whether they’re “higher” poets/people than I. What they say matters too. I don’t have the sole and final word regarding who and what I am.

So, what am I doing here? I’m honoring an endeared one, Wendy, who asked me to come. I’m following through with what I wish my life to become: more writing-centered. I’m rubbing elbows with others of my tribe, some of whom, like Rachel Kellum and Valerie Szarek, make my jaw drop in humbleness when they act as though I’m their equal. And perhaps the biggest thing I’m doing here is stretching my comfort zone of my own perception(s) of who I am, and whom I can become.

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Fiction Rising?

Back when I first got the notion to become a writer, it was short stories that I wanted to write, more that essays. So, that’s what I concentrated on most. However, as my writing life played itself out, it was my essays—and later, my book reviews—that received publication; although two of my stories did each make Honorable Mention.  After a couple decades of what felt to me to be failure, or at least, falling short, I decided to focus on what was working, essays and reviews. Roughly about the same time, poetry was becoming a rising star, thus pulling me further still from fiction writing.

Well, I’m thinking my fiction writing may not have been all the way gone, after all. Just a few days ago, I came across a book I’d feared I’d jettisoned, having probably included it among one of my many boxes of books contributed across the years to our library’s semi-annual used book sales: Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich. Too, I’ve had some time away from writing fiction, and I’m thinking I may have achieved enough distance from where I once approached doing it, that I might now be able to circumvent what had been my fatal flaw: not allowing my characters to struggle and suffer. Too, I’ve been getting the itch again to tell made-up stories.

All this said, my reading of such, shorts and novels, has been comparatively dismal, last year or two. I still subscribe to no fewer than four literary ‘zines, as well as New Yorker—solely for it’s short stories. Lately, I’ve gotten further behind in my readings than ever. So I guess it’s possible that’s it’s merely the idea, the image of writing fiction that I’m feeling drawn to. Won’t know until I take pen-in-hand, and see.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, recently-appointed Western Slope Poet Laureate, pointing the way.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, recently-appointed Western Slope Poet Laureate, pointing the way.

In other news, my esteemed poetry colleague, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, was recently appointed Western Slope Poet Laureate. Here’s the best link I could find, although you’ll have to scroll down a skosh to get the actual announcement.

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Home-going and -Coming

I arrived back in Salida just two night ago—or maybe it was yesterday, since it was juuuuust past midnight, Tues/Weds, when I pulled up behind my apartment. Anyhoo, I left for San Antonio, Texas, early Saturday morning, so that I could spend Mothers’ Day (and the day after) with Mom, who’s in a healthcare residence, there. Too, it’d been just five months since Dad, her husband of sixty-one years, had passed away. It seemed a good time for a visit. Its being Mothers’ Day was a solid excuse and motivation to do so.

Mom chewing the fat with my older brother, David, Mothers' Day 2015.

Mom chewing the fat with my older brother, David, Mothers’ Day 2015.

Ay, what can I say about Texas? I left the state, for Colorado, close to twenty-two years ago. There are many reasons why, but some of the chief ones were: to escape the incessant heat; to be among the mountains; and to live amid more liberal-leaning locals. With the exception of going back last December, due to Dad’s dying, (which, to be honest, wasn’t really a choice), it’d been six or seven years since my last visit to the state.

I prefer driving, but it’s an all-day journey, somewhere between sixteen and eighteen hours, straight through. Fortunately, my ’91 Caravan handles the trips well; and I do fairly well, myself. Still, it’s a full seventeen hours, give or take, of being in the saddle, of being hummed by the asphalt. It’s not a trip to approach lightly.

But here’s the thing: For all my grumblings about Texas and my having come from there, it turns out I remain still very muchso a Texan. Even after my absences, I still fall immediately into the rhythms of the state. Still find my cultural  bearings, pronto. This realization was a mild shock, when it hit me. But it clarifies some of the turmoil I’ve been experiencing, makes sense of some of it. And, it’s not a bad thing still having Texas in my bones and blood, two decades anon. It’s not a troubling situation at all.

This morning, I went to the local breakfast diner, on the highway. I’ve no idea how many months it’s been since I was last there. As with any small town, nowadays, especially here in the Rockies, there’s a distinctive pair of either Old Timer or New Comer camps our locals fall into. Patio Pancake Place is where the Old Timers go. Years before artists discovered this town, and the rafters followed suit, followed then by outdoor weekend warriors looking for second homes—long before Outside magazine ever called Salida by name, “Patio” was helping the local farmers and ranchers and miners get a start on their days.

After breakfast, I headed to Sacred Ground, which is also along the same highway, where us newcomers go for sustenance and community. I spent more for the two espresso drinks, there, than I did for my breakfast, including the tip. But if given a choice between the two places, Sacred Ground would win every time, hands down, no hesitation.

But here’s the thing: Even though my living in Salida just twelve years firmly posits me in the New Comers’ camp, there’s also the strong part of me that needs the connection to something that’s older, larger, and “other” than me. There’s an essential connection that’s re-established at Patio that even Sacred Ground can’t touch. Just as I am both Coloradan and Texan, I am both Sacred and Patio. Both cases, I need the grounding of both.

Home and homecoming. Neither is necessarily only involving a singular place.

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Staying Put, Outta the Way

This afternoon, I started writing again about the memorial to my dad that I had almost four months ago. Because two years ago they published another essay about me, my father, and the same Arkansas River, I was aiming for this essay to also be for High Country News. Well, as I wrote, things on the page got dark. What was getting written wasn’t what I intended, expected, nor (in a sorta real sense) wanted.

But I kept pen to the pages. Really, what else was I to do? It was rich, mucky, fecund stuff—so what if it was tangenting in a unexpected direction? If the writing had been sunny and upbeat, I wouldn’t have stopped just because it wasn’t minding where I want it to go. Annie Dillard addresses this problem of the writing, specifically the characters, getting away from the writer: “What’s a god to do?”

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post the struggle between taking credit for the writing and being honest about it coming from Somewhere Else. How it still comes down to the gift and talent of being open, of getting out of inspiration’s way. Part of engaging in the dance is choosing when to lead, when to be led.

Too, there’s this: Sometimes there’s stuff that has to be written in order to get to the stuff that’s meant to be in the finished piece. Either that particular thread is en route to where you need to go, or it needs to be said and given its due so that you can move on to the “actual” writing. And, finally, there’s a whole can of worms that gets opened once you start in on a specific subject. There just may be more than a single essay waiting to be written about the Ark, my dad, and me. Unless I stay with the writing, no matter where/how it goes, I’ll never find out; the story to be told will never find its way through me.

Dad, in his element, feeding Canada geese. He and I had our issues; but this is how I prefer to remember my Old Man: this contented, this relaxed full-bore smile on his face.

Dad, in his element, feeding Canada geese. He and I had our issues; but this is how I prefer to remember my Old Man: this contented, with this relaxed full-bore smile on his face.

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