15 March 2009

Crossing borders,Dutch Babies,Tucson Book FEST and layers of self


I crossed back into the USofA thursday after three months in Mexico. A man was selling the Virgin of Guadalupe in Auga Prieta. It's a long line. On the US side I am flagged for having two bottles of alcohol but really I think it's because they've run me through their system noting I had never crossed here before. I have no desire to cross here again. Better to go to Naco or Palomas. It is so hard to disengage from this country I love.

I cross over the mountains from Chihuahua into Sonora playing tag with the old trucks winding down the steep mountain grade. I hit the flatlands. I see a SUV pull quickly off the road and a gaggle of men leap out, run and disappear into the creosote like deer. A part of me wanted to follow them but this isn't the line I'm following. I wonder would I? What could possibly happen? Anything could. What would it mean to meet and photograph men in the desert...maybe sometime I will.
Black and white images from EXODUS, a book by Charles Bowden and Julián Cardona flash in refracting light of the windshield. I look down the road after quickly turning my head having slowed down to watch and wonder in this brief flash of reality; the sun pierces my eyes. I see dust rise from tennis shoes,backpacks, ballcaps,jeans;Five, or seven brown skin men are faceless to me but I wonder if they have enough water; how far will they walk? where did they come from? All I know it's desperate, and hard to follow a dream for a better life. What does it feel like to run, rest, walk an unknown distance and meet an unknown fate? I know I will think of them for a long time.

I am returning home via Tucson stopping to stay with my friend Kelly and feed my book lust at the Tucson Book Festival. Kelly introduces me to her wonderful community of friends who are involved in the community gardens, water harvesting systems, and artists. It is fun to be with a gaggle of grrls sleeping on her floor, with the purr of cats and strong dark coffee. We begin the day eating Dutch Babies. Supersized, baked, pancake crepes each made with a bar of butter at Janet and Pollice's house. Janet does really amazing glass paintings. Whimsical, and bright. Their garden and home full of spring flowers and sunshine. We laugh,drink strong coffee, and savor the deliciousness slathered in strawberries, orangezest and brandy....They lend me a bicycle, a pink Flyer and we ride to the bookfest with our flowered skirts flyin' right out of the Sound of Music.

It is great to see so many books and writers whose books I have carried around for years; Jimmy Santiago Baca, Alfredo Vea', Juan Felipe Herrera, Demetria Martinez. All of us older, Alfredo now a new father in awe of his baby daughter. I get to meet Charles Bowden;ironically he is speaking with Katie Lee-their panal "the murder of the west". I find I it a bit disconcerting; maybe it's because since I was a kid family friends who knew Katie said she hated kids and it's obvious she still has no value for youth. I find myself impatient and fighting the dialogue so early in the morning. Maybe it's because I find the dialogue to be selfish and possessive of a land that once belonged to traveling clans and now displaced indiginous peoples; Mexicans-Indians; I look around the audience and I don't see any brown or really young faces....It bothers me when wilderness is coveted only for what seems a select few....I've seen this in my time working in Grand Canyon as a river guide; let me just say people of color in the bottom of Grand Canyon are as rare the humpback chub and the willow fly catcher.....I wonder if Katie Lee has any idea that "her" Glen Canyon could have been Aztlan? There is something exclusive and possessive that bothers me. How do we impart to others how "we" belong to nature and become aware of stewardship,accountability,and empathy, compassion and relationship to one another? I am just put off because of Katie but I like Charle's voice and I've admired his writing and truth for years. I love that he collaborates with photographers but I'm surprised actually when he suggests people shouldn't go to Mexico. There is so much fear already about the border....I think I should have spoken up to tell the audience people should go to Mexico and break down the borders person to person. Kelly and I share a love for Mexico and the Mexican people. We are like restless school girls fidgeting in our seats. I want to stay to get my book of INFERNO signed...but she leaves and goes to see Edgar Cota Torres instead.

I meet him and feel a solidarity with him instantly; I wish he and Charles could have been paired up....a dialogue verse a rant. I want to see and learn so much more than what time will allow. There is the poetry of Juan Phillipe Herrera, Demetria Martinez, and the panel with Ann Cummins, Alfredo Vea',Elizebeth McKenzie- there is an exchange; I still appreciate how listening makes me think; Vea' speaks of the shadow of characters who live in the light. We are all human. Why is there cruelty and why is it so hard to talk about it. We need to be truthful so we may have reconciliation. 'Miracles exist in knowing and loving each other....the spiritual within us not in our race or nationalism."




We meet Jimmy and join him with his friends at dinner at the poets David and Judy Ray. The layers of self unfold in each story; in the art and in the poetry over wine and delicious food. How beautiful and poignant the night. Tender, melancholic,hopeful.
light and shadow....I learn of writers who begin writing at 40, 60; Penelope Fitzgerld, and the artist Elizebeth Layton whose contour drawings saved her from depression when she was in her 50's. It's truly inspiring to see how the 'shadow' of our lives can lead us into the light-the layers of ourselves Vea' spoke of; who we've been and who we become. To meet ourselves in the mirror every morning and SEE ourselves.
a personal sharing of truths and the forgiveness we struggle to make with ourselves.


I am a photographer learning how to write.

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