|Sunset over the front range in Colorado Springs|
|And now this is all on fire|
I braved a 20 minute ski lift to go up to 10,000 feet. I am terrified of ladders, mind you. This was a terrible experience I made myself do for some unknown reason. The reward was feeding french fries to:
In a family auction I won this doily, made by my great great grandmother who came over from Russia in 1874 with the great German Mennonite migration. I am so honored to own this intricate cloth.
After Red River I headed to Taos for an evening to see what's what, and on the way out of town to cross the Texas panhandle into Oklahoma I drove by this:
I was floored by how much sagebrush there was. I think of it as so stereotypical. Really, our media-enduced fantasies about reality make us view our world through stereotyped lenses, so when we experience the real thing we wonder if it's fake or true, Matrix like. The only way to know is to go forth and live it for yourself.
In retrospect, I raced through this trip. I wanted to get to Oklahoma--which seems ironic since I've always despised the state. I've had trouble thinking about my memoir, how to structure, how to organize 1,000 pages of notes over three years of research (but knowing structure comes from a central / driving need, a search, a question). It's overwhelming, but as much as I have an emotional connection to this book like no other, I also lacked the emotional depth or beginning I craved to link ideas together, or create a narrative. I may or may not have had this breakthrough I sought while walking my family's homestead. I can tell you--whether from exahaustion, the 100 degree heat, or pure desire--I nearly wept walking across the wheat stubble, scratching my feet against the sounds and smells I remember as a child during harvest, trying to make myself travel through time to something I could never understand. When I walked through the missing walls of the second barn--the first was taken by a tornado--I imagined myself walking alongside or through my great and great great grandparents' bodies.
The transition from the field back into my car was like night and day, so quickly from one existence into another as if a shade were drawn. I thought that I'm writing about a life fewer and fewer people live and that even fewer remember, that I'm writing for a readership of ghosts and myth.
In my journal I wrote: "The wheat stubble scraping against my shoes like a washboard, the locusts shooting out from the red earth as if exploding upon re-enty into another world, bouncing across an atmosphere of memory."
In my journal I wrote: "Just barely nudge one last post on the barn's absent east wall and the whole roof sways like johnson grass down by the south catch pond."
"Wind comes from the southwest unimpeded across the plains like Coronado, searching aimlessly for the city of gold, perhaps to conquer an emotion in all of us that stirs and frightens--that we will never be enough, that the land will echo beyond our transparent lives, that we are as fragile and easily tossed into the wind as topsoil and song."
"Who are we without a creaky windmill to sing us to sleep at night."
And at the old church cemetery--the abandoned church having been burned down on purpose after the windows were broken by vagrants: "In the field to the north, where the Bergthal church was, torn fake flowers litter the folds of grass and soil. On the nothern edge a thin strip of wildflowers--thistle, sunflower, winecup--hold even more blooms, merging wild with synthetic sentiment and nostalgia."
Before leaving town I found Big Jake's Crossing on the Washita River, just a mile or two southwest of the homestead. Big Jake was a Cheyenne chief who camped there along the river after settler allotments, and this is also where my grandma was baptized. An hour or more northwest up against the current was where piece chief Black Kettle and his village were massacred by Custer in 1868.
Standing on the concrete bridge, turtles dove into the water from warm perches on the shore and rocks.
And here are some images of downtown Corn.
Below is my elementary school in Weatherford. I remember walking 2 miles one way, and I also remember the window on the left where my 1st grade green bean plant in a styrofoam cup soaked up the sun. I've always lived a dual, conflicted life--I grew up in Minnesota, yet learned the state songs and mottos of Oklahoma, so I hum to myself "Oooooooklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain" as I color in scissor-tailed flycatchers in my mind while snow falls in December as the Vikings choke yet again.
I hope I'm ready. A storm has been building. As a writer it's a fine line to know when to make one's self write, and when to wait (to leave the dough in the oven a bit longer). All I know is that I saw the Plains in a new way and that I can't go back, which seems to be half the American dream--simultaneously looking forward while glancing over our shoulders wistfully. Maybe that's also being human. All I know is I get dizzy easily, turned around, lost when I should simply be looking and living the here and now as fully as I can. But that's what books are for.