Dear Friends, Kind Readers, HAPPY NEW YEAR
Joe is the Messiah. Kamala is the Great Goddess. Donald is the …. No words can Express.
And I have been in Utah, and now I am back, and while Utah does have some of the sublimity of the moon — what’s the lunar code of conduct when it comes to eating, drinking and being merry?— with all the startling beauty of craggy titans….
Before that I was on the far north coast of Washington State, which on most days made me merry. How could I not? I saw this out of my kitchen window in the mornings.
Probably inspired by this, one new publication and one podcast
Saturday Evening Post Best Short Stories from the Great American Fiction Contest Anthology 2021, and Honorable Mention
Dear friends and kind readers, as you see, I traveled through new lands, but as you know, also new times.
That’s why I felt extraordinarily aware of the ethics and politics of traveling, of consuming fossil fuels, of tax money used for the spider’s web of highways, and other worries about sustainable living in these modern times, which is why I begin this ‘trave-blogue’ with a reference to my friend Dr. Tazim Jamal who has, for as long as anyone including herself can remember, been learning, thinking, writing about and fighting for the environmental justice and sustainability. And so, please click on the link for a Special Issue of the
Journal of Sustainable Tourism
with the Introductory essay by Tazim Jamal & James Higham (2021) Justice and ethics: towards a new platform for tourism and sustainability, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 29:2-3, 143-157
Lots to learn and, free online to access in Dec. and March:
Back to my travels, I hadn’t exactly gone ‘to look for America,’ but America came and got me on the road in all its terrible beauty. Traveling through land colonized and possessed a minute ago so-to-speak in the geo-planetary scheme of things, by white people.
I wandered, literally, up and down the bruited and brutal ‘Oregon Trail’ which so many nineteenth-century Americans eager (or greedy) for a ‘better life,’ for the ‘American Dream’ set out on, in unbelievably rickety wagons, with children, wives, cattle, guns, food, elders (most in small quantities, except sometimes children) for the Pacific West and Northwest.
On the gold rush, the land rush, the fur-trade rush, the lumber rush, the salmon-fishing rush (rush, rush, rush, ahh modern life!).
Through Idaho, Utah, Oregon, California, Washington—you try it with all their belongings and paraphernalia, and without an All-wheel drive SUV and GPS you can lustily abuse when it falls down on the job, as the oxen and wagons often did (though my fellow drivers on the road did made me wonder if as a hangover, a lost dream of utopia and Eldorado, the wagon trail still snakes through the American psyche as an ‘rv-trailer state of mind.’ So many Jaybirds and Dutchmen on the road, and it was winter!).
Rushing is dangerous, we are told. And this rush was remarkably dangerous, but not only for the Klondikers and Eden-seekers. It was dangerous for the natives of the land and the land itself.
The Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote, in existential angst at learning that Darwin had pretty much proven that humans were descended from apes, and earth is not, unfortunately “God’s footstool” (Matthew 5:35 thought God needed one), that he now saw Nature as “red in tooth and claw.” I thought about the landscape I traveled through as “History and myth red in tooth and claw.”
Some story it is, this ‘Westward Ho,’ and I took some pictures at some danger to myself and my good old white Ford Focus, hereafter and forever anointed as “Blazing Saddles,’ to take.
Blazing Saddles and Lone Rider or, a Tale of a Beautiful Friendship of Woman and Machine
The sun set over New Mexico as we drove to Grants NM where the sidewalks had been rolled up by 7 pm because of COVID and even the fearless Chineserefused to let us in for dinner at their restaurant…
Of course, the ‘Westward Ho’ must go through Roswell, New Mexico, whose reputation for ‘alien’ landings has certainly taken on new meaning in America lately, but well before that said something about America. Above, Main Street, Roswell, New Mexico. Note the Alien street lamp.
Then bang, we were in Socorro New Mexico, where some ‘bad hombre’ were getting ready to leave us to a fate better than 2016-2020, beginning their winter migration to South America…. It’s amazing how, after the last four years, in America at least you don’t have to explain who the ‘bad hombres’ are….
Here at the Bosque del Apache you also learn that if a mountain lion attacks, what you need to do if a mountain lion attacks is “fight back hard” — see last tip under “Don’t Run.”
Below, the courthouse from where William Bonner (aka Billy the Kid) briefly escaped after sending two guards to their maker. A drive down the single street of now quaint Lincoln will bemuse you if you remember poor Rutherford Hayes stuttering that the main drag of Lincoln was the ‘most violent street in America.’ Though we were followed by a frowning blue-haired old lady in a white Chevy, who saw us poking around, till we gave her the slip and got out of Dodge.
The Aliens also visit here, apparently, however, as the locals’ polite inquiry of them at this presumable gathering place, the Historic Lincoln sign before town (peer please), suggests.
We saw this sign for the ‘national day of mourning’ in the Navajo nation, aka Thanksgiving Day, 2020
In the enormous Navajo Nation territory( here South Utah), 17544500 acres, you face the cliffs and realize the enormity of the crimes of Europeans against Indigenous people.
A boulder long overdue to fall, I believe, in the Valley of the Gods, Utah, though Leo, who was sweetly traveling with me, said No
On the way out Oregon would not let me taken any photos. Every photo I took there was inaccessible later. Which told me something. I don’t know what.
But it was another story at Cape Horn, Columbia Gorge Overlook, in Washington state. And then my writing journey began in earnest. I’d gone to Washington State to write for 20 days at the Centrum Residency for Artists. Think ‘Fantasy Escape.’
The ocean was three hundred feet away at Fort Worden State Park, where the residency was.
Port Wilson lighthouse
Signs everywhere. Here be Tsunamis. .
In the idyllic location (below), the military used to scan the shore for incoming enemy attacks (Hello Kim Jong Un? Hello?). You are looking at Whidbey island, Fort Ebey and Mt Rainier to far right. Ice Age mile high sheet ice retreated 12000 years ago. Given all that’s supposedly at stake, this outlook is called, naturally, Bliss Vista.
Click on the photo for a panoramic view of the bay
THE Port Townsend Van in the Victorian Seaside town!
We’ve all had this feeling my pet doe (symbolically) was having one day. Tired of social media. Tired of celebrity. Just want some good, good grass.
I consider myself lucky. I have been to the mystical straits of Juan de Fuca, Port Angeles, WA.
And then, return.
How did it feel to drive by Deadman Pass, Poverty Flats, Old Emigrant Trail, and Starvation Road? All places in central Oregon.
A sense that the ghosts of the massacred, the desperate, and the dispossessed still whisper. If you travel through the American West, you’ll see the bleached bones and bared fangs that the American Dream is made of. If you have never heard of the Pendleton Underground, look it up. You ain’t seen America if you ain’t been in the West.
I was retracing in my head that great western migration, covering the same ground and dangerous hairpin bends and slick and icy mountain highways and passes as the ‘Westward Ho’ people, but backward. With me, in my head, were two works of fiction that have come at the same history, albeit with very different flavors and intents.
First, if you have a chance please read my fellow writer and past mentor Hernan Diaz’s epochal novel In the Distance, tracing the journey of a young Swede in about the same period of the migrations AND immigrations from the 1840s or so to find his lost brother and …. no spoilers. It’s a tour de force. The American West was peeled open for me by In the Distance a few years ago, and when I made my own roadtrek, scenes from In the Distance and Diaz’s magisterial narration played in my head simultaneously, cinemscopically.
No, I cannot explain why Hernan’s name appears upside down. Maybe ir’s because it’s an upside down world?
And when you are sitting back and recovering from your admiration for Diaz and his unerring fictionalization of how the West was (really) won, cheer yourself up by watching the Coen Brothers’ bizarre screwball western noir
But how do you really understand America if you haven’t seen Booneville Point?
Here, in the Snake River valley of Idaho, in the nineteenth century came the Frenchman Bonneville on on of his first ‘Westward Ho’ trips, and after the hot, dusty torments of Utah, and little food and water, at this bend of the Snake River in Idaho he ‘espied’ trees. And cried out “Les bois! Les bois!” Can you guess how “Boise,” Idaho gets its name, then? And ‘Booneville’ point. Dang it, we are in America after all.
And then with the discovery of the river, the valley, the grass for cattle and so forth, came some planning for the future, of course. The Paiute and other Indians whose land this was suddenly ‘moved’ to other less fertile ground all over the Snake River Valley, and later the Japanese too were ‘moved’ nearby, to the Minidoka internment camp.
Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.
Thanks for taking the time to travel with me. Be Brave, Be Free, and always a little confusing to your enemies….
The itty bitties:
My first novel Love’s Garden was published in October 2020. Some nice people have said some nice things about it (Buzzfeed; Medium.com; Foreword Reviews; Goodreads). I’m currently finishing a second novel called Homeland Blues.My short stories have been published or will be in the Saturday Evening Post Best Short Stories from the Great American Fiction Contest Anthology 2021 (forthcoming 2021), the Good Cop/Bad Cop Anthology (Flowersong Press, 2021), the Gardan Anthology of the Craigardan Artists Residency, Funny Pearls, The Bombay Review, Meat for Tea: the Valley Review, Storyscape Journal, Raising Mothers, The Bangalore Review, OyeDrum, and more. I also play at Youtube; Amazon; Author’s Guild; Twitter; Instagram; Facebook; Blog; LinkedIn and Goodreads
I was sighted at these spots recently:
Reading from Love’s Garden at Readings on the Pike, December 10, 2020, 7-8 PM EST
Reading at the KGB Bar, New York City, Nov 15, 2020, 7-9 PM
Reading at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Nov 13, 6-7 PM
Older posts that might interest you: