"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An oasis for the spirit in life's desert

New Mexico, especially for me, northern New Mexico, including Santa Fe, is an oasis for the spirit, and while it is not possible to detail even in a few photographs or words the creative energy of this last week, two events were among my many highlights.
I got to tour the darkroom and studio of landscape photographer Craig Varjabedian in Santa Fe. I met him thanks to poet-publisher-friend Jeanetta Calhoun Mish and wrote an article for The Gazette on his show at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum last year. And lunch with him was great, and we discussed his forthcoming book.
Now the book is out, Landscape Dreams, A New Mexico Portrait, in honor of New Mexico's 100th anniversary as a state. I bought it, of course, and he inscribe it to me. And the joys of touring a black and white darkroom in a quiet Santa Fe neighborhood, courtesy of his partner Cindy Lane. a review of the photos and three essays, including one by Mish, later.
Then we stopped at Collected Works bookstore and noticed that poet Jimmy Santiago Baca was going to read from his new book, The Lucia Poems, about his three-year-old daughter. So we bought the book, and attended the reading Friday evening.
We first discovered Baca years ago at a workshop in Albuquerque. He's an ex-con Chicano who taught himself how to read and write in prison, and has become the voice of the underdog, the oppressed, the poor. It was an omen to me that we should have this chance again.
The treat was that he had his entire family there, including Lucia, who hopped on the stage with him and enlivened the crowd with her comments and gestures, along with Baca's storytelling. While she can't read yet, she's practiced her writing and signed the book along with her father, after the reading.
Reading those poems now was all the more powerful since we've met her and have her signature, along with her father's.
These poems are full of hope and happiness, but they're not Pollyanna poems, because Baca weaves in the contrasts with poor and oppressed people and children around the world in our time of war and dismay. But that's for later, with a review and snippets.

All I know is that my soul and spirit always finds a rich oasis in a small, arid corner of the world with newly discovered springs of life you never expect.
Oasis in the desert--Lucia and her daddy Jimmy Santiago Baca signing books in santa Fe.

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