I left home the Tuesday before last on an autumn day so glorious that as I wound my way along the North Rim of the Black Canyon National Park, the aspens and Gambel oak glowed gold and copper in the sun, and I drove with the windows open, singing along with Emmy Lou Harris. It was so beautiful that I didn’t want to leave.
But I had promised to teach a workshop on landscape and language with my dear comadre, Dr. Dawn Wink, at the 28th annual Women Writing the West Conference in Oklahoma City, and also to help her run the conference, which involved wrangling nearly 100 writers, plus spouses and companions, and ensuring that a dozen workshops went off successfully, along with three keynote speeches, three awards ceremonies, banquets, a conference bookstore, museum tours, and the other events of a packed conference. So off I went in Rojita, headed 775 miles to Oklahoma City.
It was an intense four days, with a lot of last-minute glitches, and a few personal conflicts to defuse. But our mission of “lifting all voices” was superbly successful. Conference attendees left high and inspired, their perspectives on the women’s west enlarged, excited for new ideas, new friends, and new writing. Post-conference comments came in enthusiastic, like this one from fiction writer Sue Boggio:
This year’s conference was at the top of all I have attended! It impacted every sphere: intellectual, emotional, spiritual. So much gratitude!
Even the weather in Oklahoma City cooperated, with beautifully warm days. Until we packed up the event and set out for the long trek home, into a forecast of ferocious winds from the southwest, followed by the season’s first big snowstorm. Ugh.
I tacked cross-wind, Rojita steady despite 60 mile-per-hour gusts, as far as New Mexico, and stopped for the night. The next day, I drove cautiously over two mountain passes and along the winding North Rim in a world turned white with fresh snow. Quite a change from six days earlier.
To say I was relieved to back Rojita into my garage is an understatement. I was so exhausted that I didn’t notice until the next day that I had left the charger and cord for my laptop in the motel in New Mexico, seven hours drive away. (No, I did not drive back to get it.)
I’m still catching up on sleep, emails and messages, paying bills, and the other minutia of life. But I have already settled back into writing. I’m 1,500 words into the new book, and that’s a lot for me. If you’re one of those who participates in NaNoMo (National Novel-Writing Month) where you aim to lay down 50,000 words in 30 days, good on ya! I’m a plodding writer, laying down words and sentences the way a good bricklayer builds a wall, leveling each brick before placing the next, troweling away the excess mortar, checking the whole to make sure it is plumb before moving deliberately on.
And I’m working away on house projects too. Doing something physical every day is crucial to my creativity, preferably something outside now that the weather is nice again. So yesterday and today, I climbed up on my roof to clear off debris from the valleys and gutters before it snows again.
I set up my eight-foot stepladder, climbed up to the very top step (you know, the one that says “Don’t sit or stand on”) and clambered up onto the roof with my rake and trowel. Once I found my balance, I headed past the solar panels to the long valley between the front section of the house, with a ridge running north-south, and the back section, with a ridge running east to west.
The valley between those two sections clearly hadn’t been cleaned in decades, because under the tangle of cottonwood leaves and branches was good black humus sprouting a few baby ash trees! Accumulating a soil layer that holds water is very bad for a roof, even a sturdy metal one. It’s a wonder the roof isn’t leaking.
I cleaned out a wheelbarrow load of leaves and humus, and then crept over the ridge to the steeper front roof, raked it off, cleaned the gutter over the front door, and then raked and swept the leaves and compost from the valley on the north side of the roof. After which I carefully stepped back onto the stepladder, retrieved my tools, and climbed safely down. Whew!
I get a lot of satisfaction from tending this house and yard, and preparing both to go healthfully into their second century–the house is 102 years old this year, and I respect its history and look forward to its future.
Re-storying houses that need love is a sustainable thing to do, requiring much less energy and many fewer materials than building new, and is thus much lighter on this Earth. And it’s healing, giving existing houses another life, a new story, another chance to provide a nurturing home for someone.
It’s one way I practice terraphilia, living with love for this planet and its vibrant–if challenged–web of life. That’s my mission in life and writing, and it’s one reason I took the time to help plan and put on the Women Writing the West Conference with its theme of lifting all voices. As I say every night before bed, “My intention is to heal and restore this glorious living Earth and we who share the planet. That all may thrive.”
The subtitle of Bless the Birds, my newest book, is “Living With Love in a Time of Dying.” By that I mean, anytime of crisis, whether personal, political, or global. I wish for all of us a chance to practice our terraphilia, live with love, and thrive. Blessings!