Monday, September 3

Las Dos Brujas and The Peach

7am walk

7am walk

endless inpsiration

 I've been waiting to write about this experience since I came back in June. It needed time to bubble and boil, months later, end of summer, it's ready.

I had an impromptu but very telling energy reading early in the year and one of the many very true things she revealed was a peach colored propeller. I kept seeing it in my mind, wondering what it meant and the only conclusion I had was New Mexico, a place I had never been and never before made plans to go to. It was all kinds of weird for a non-plane traveler. I prefer hours-away kind of trips that don't involve getting on a plane, so any traveling plans usually stay within the California coast. Why would I be going to New Mexico?

Since I declared that this year I would focus on my writing, I decided it was finally time to apply to VONA in Berkeley, but when I found out it was the same week as a work conference and I knew I wouldn't even have the chance to apply I called upon my friend/ get myself out as a writer mentor and asked if she knew of anything else happening this year. She told me about Las Dos Brujas in New Mexico and I knew it was all coming together, it's worth a shot, maybe this is the peach. I applied the next day and found a very welcoming email from Cristina Garcia herself weeks later with the good news that I got in.

I was scared to go because I hadn't been on a plane by myself since the anxiety and a week in a new place without knowing a soul was hard to believe, not to mention taking a whole week off from work. But you know how I feel about a good anxiety challenge. I meditated, bought a new Moleskine, made sure lavender oils, good luck monitos, copal, calming quotes, and good music were packed, and I was off.

Originally I signed up for the memoir workshop with Denise Chavez because of something else that was revealed in the reading. If my nana had recipes for us, I would write about them. But it didn't feel right, those are mostly my dad's stories, and this was my week, so I wanted to focus on poetry. Juan Felipe Herrera it was.

Juan Felipe Herrera in action, super taco-ing it up

On the first evening after dinner we met with our groups informally. Juan Felipe called us out to the field of grass, we stood in a circle and stretched, did whatever we wanted to with our bodies and took in this amazing beauty and time we just landed in. We were laughing right away and I felt as calm as I ever had with the mesas as our full backdrop, the night coming in. Then we said our names and one thing about what we just did. What came out turned out to be our line for the next day, he was already giving us an assignment without us knowing. The mesas are cut with lines and color, that's what I was looking at and so I said, "I'm drawn to the lines."

we made books

moon over morning

I could go day by day but I mostly want to describe what can happen when a group of people who write and care about things in this particular way get together to share everything about ourselves. We stretched every morning with Juan Felipe, he made us laugh for hours while we sat in what he dubbed the Adobe Dojo. He reminded us this wasn't the workshop before the workshop, this was the workshop, that the real work is in these moments.  We never once edited any of each other's poems. We wrote, we read, we listened, we clapped, we cried, we wrote, we got assignments, we played with language we don't usually use, we read Mayan incantations, we all wrote about the mesas, the cottonwood, what we didn't know we loved, moon over morning, blips. I learned about the different ways you can be a writer, because I was feeling less-than as I was maybe the only one without an

out the dojo

We all found a very special and important friend and mentor in Juan Felipe. At the end of his craft talk I cried, a lot, and couldn't stop for an hour after. He told stories about his life: receiving one of the first EOP scholarships, at UCLA, hippy writer, traveling to Mexico, bringing back danzantes (what?!), what his mom told him as he read her a poem as she was dying. Something stirred. I see a lot of my dad in him, born in the same year, similar struggles, both respect women in a rare way. And there he was with the cottonwood blowing in circles behind him through the windows as the sun set over the mesas, glowing. It was too much. I went back to the library to sit alone and write about permiso, an assignment he gave me the day before. What do we get permission for in our lives and who gives it to us, why do we need it? It ended up being about my nana, the new stories of how Gedney came to be Mexican, the histories and voices of my family. Ay! When he says things like, "all I had was a super enchilada" that silly phrase can bring you to tears. He means all he had was his family, how he grew up, that love and not love, and even that alone can keep you going, even that can award you as the first Chicano Poet Laureate of California. Big news, a big soul with a big heart who writes in a big notebook in big spaces. He doesn't carry a lot of rules and I tried not to either for that week and still now, when I can get a glimpse back into that freedom.

cottonwood everywhere

the library

One day at lunch we got on the topic of dancing and learned that at least three of us in the group practice different types of dancing. So he asked us to all three give a little lesson during class the next day. I taught the Permiso Danza Azteca, Xochitl taught a Folklorico step and Sandra taught Puerto Rican Bomba. And then we wrote about all three dances. Beyond appreciating that he takes cues from his students to bring what they can to the group, this was improv. As a teacher, improv is hard, but if you trust yourself and your students, this is what happens. And then he took it to the next level and suggested we do a reading bomb at lunch and perform while everyone was eating. After some nervous planning, we did it. Mixing writing, music, dance and improv was exhilarating, fresh, and weird.

I thank him for teaching us all of that. I never knew I loved no rules or stretching to mesas.

A big part of the week were the other teachers: Chris Abani, Denise Chavez, Kimiko Hahn, and Cristina Garcia, the mastermind herself responsible for creating this new workshop and inviting master teachers who are both genius and kind. Even though we didn't sit in class with them, the whole week was about learning from everyone. Chris Abani gave the introduction to Cristina and teared up because he loves her so much, she is that amazing of a friend and this was that special of a place because of her spirit and friendship and dedication to writing and giving. One of the first things out of Denise Chavez's mouth during her craft talk was, "forget that chingadera!" Yes! She speaks and writes how we talk at home, free and understanding that the voices of the past are important to say out loud. She is a master storyteller, gripping you with laughter and tears. I told her about my indecision about wanting to take her class too. She ended up sending her class materials with her sister to give to me.

what I wrote

what she painted

I took 7am walks in Abiqui/ 6am in LA ( didn't realize the time different until I face timed Jorge at day 3). The reception was very spotty, which was nice, to be totally free of internet for a week. Did yoga twice and only once traveled out of Ghost Ranch to sit on slabs of rock at Lake Abiqui while staring at Cerro Pedernal, something you've probably seen in a Georgia O'Keeffe painting. Ghost Ranch is where O'Keeffe lived and painted most of her life, alone in a house far away from the main buildings on the ranch. We took the tour and learned about her life and ways and then pictured her climbing on her roof at night to paint and listen. Like she was drawn to Pedernal, so was I. It's in your view every time you look out the window, it becomes part of your vision.

in her front yard

after dinner

room upgrade

adobe dojo hood

read to tears, happy after

The peach propeller took me to New Mexico, but it also opened up a part of me and a part of the writing world that I didn't have access to before. It doesn't have to be hard. It can be fun, freeing, and more beautiful than you knew existed, the most delicious super taco you will ever eat.

We work with sparks, not fuel that's on fire.
I want my students to leave with who they are, with their totality in their writing.

Healing is learning to live with damage and not inflict damage.
The ways in which we choose fear over love.
- Chris Abani

Why not see the soul for what it is, an addiction to human remains.- Kimiko Hahn

What is voice but breath.
It was in the looking back that one got lost.
-Denise Chavez

Pedernal from the lake


Dyan said...

i really enjoyed reading about your experience new mexico, marisa. the mesas as your backdrop and new friends and mentors all working on your art sounds special and transformative! and, oh man, these pictures are killing it too.

Gabby said...

Mari, you always make me cry! I think you make me feel what you feel, and then I feel my own feelings more, too. I'm so glad you took this risk/opportunity and thank you for sharing.

mari said...

Glad you enjoyed it Dyan, you're right, the word is transformative. Gabby, wow, this might mean you need to go to New Mexico, too! Glad it helped you to connect to whatever feelings you were feeling : )

Suzanna said...

Love love love the outfit in the last picture. Source?