Friday, February 18, 2011

Terrible Firsts

"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere."
- Anne Lamott

A few days ago I went walking along the Acequias, the sandy ditches that are filled with water from the Rio Grande during the summer to water the land in the valley. At this time of the year the acequias are empty and filled with tumbleweeds. On this particular day it was sunny and windy, but just warm enough to jog to the river with shorts on.

On my way home, I stared at the ground in thought as I walked, when I was interrupted by a rough mumbling sound. I looked up towards the enormous beautiful cottonwood tree that I am so fond of, and there before me was a stout man, with a long gray beard, his cowboy hat partially covering his face to conceal an eyepatch. He wore a leather jacket and sat hunched on a large tree root and supported himself with a cane.

I felt like it would be rude and to walk past him without saying anything, so I yelled, "Hello!"

"Heeeey, prrrettyy lady," he called back in a voice identical to an Apache woman I met who gave me acupunture. Diane? I thought.

Diane is a natural healer and a storyteller, the folksy burnt out hippie type, with a low voice and and an authortative and captivating presence.

Was this a fairy god-mother come disguised to teach me an important moral lesson?

"What's your name?" yelled the man..."Ammber!" I called back with some hesitation from the other side of the Acequia. "What's your name?"

And in a deep voice, that might have be preceded by a drum role he cried, "Thuundderrbiirrdd!"
I am constantly stumbling into quirky conversations and situations with the eccentric and interesting people that I live with, work with and meet around town.

And there is so much to behold in the land here itself: the squawking peacocks, the rotting furniture in our neighbor's backyards, the wild dogs, the ceramic statues of St. Francis and Lady Guadalupe, the thick vines growing up chain linked fences, cactus, agave ...

This experience has filled my imgination with so many beautiful and diffcult images that I want to put somewhere and share. I often think, "That would be perfect in a story!" but whenever I try to write something with meaning and synthesis I end up writing one or two lame sentences that I can barely stand, and so I give up entirely.

Yet, I still have this urge that I cannot quite supress, to show someone else the world the way I sometimes see it because it touched my heart, and it means so much to me, even when I don't quite understand why.

Saturday, Jen asked me to come with her to water the Center's plants in the greenhouse located behind the catholic church down the road. When we arrived, there was Thunderbird. He looked at us through the foggy glass with a leery eye and then let us in reluctantly. I could tell that after a few minutes he was glad to have company.

He talked about some of his woes, and then he sang us a few songs and told us a few jokes. Finally, as we were leaving, he left us with a kind and sad benediction that he has probably given to other visitors as well.

We walked back to the truck in the wind. The dark clouds had blown to the east over the mountains and cool yellow light streamed over the valley from the west. It's so windy in February and March in Albuquerque. The sand blows everywhere and gets in your clothes, your mouth and your eyes, but the air isn't biting, and the green leaves of the irises are popping out of the earth already as we draw closer to spring.

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