Tuesday, July 2, 2013


From steps of St. Mary's Convent,
Sewanee TN
Every morning when I wake, I open the French doors in the living room and look out at the woods bordering our front yard to get my shot of a vista for the day. Although I’m not a hiker or camper, my parents were inured to both activities, and I was taught to appreciate the outdoors. A copse of trees, as well as a great stretch of desert, are sacred sights to me. One vista often reminds me of another; e.g., the road leading to the valley in Cowan, Tennessee reminds me of the curvy Highway 1 leading to Big Sur, California, sans Pacific Ocean on one side of the road.

I’m always inviting people to view different vistas, and today my thoughts turn to Ben Blanchard, who will be married in Austin, Texas this afternoon. Ben once accompanied his mother, Janet, one of my best friends, on a trip we made to California. Ben was ten and a reluctant traveler, and he balked at every curve when we traveled the road to Big Sur and Point Lobos, often dozing or sulking in the back seat of the car as we passed through magnificent scenery – rugged cliffs, canyons, long meadows, and redwoods, stopping to explore narrow inlets where we could get a better view of the greenish blue waters of the Pacific. I’m not sure it was an entirely miserable experience for him because a few weeks ago, word came that he wanted to take his bride on a honeymoon to California – and guess where he wanted to go? Of course, he wanted to retrace his steps up Highway l to Big Sur!
You never know when you have effected a “travel take” with offspring, but if they’re exposed to vistas at an early age, they’re likely to develop wanderlust and appreciate the outdoors. I never fully appreciated the trip to Diddy Wah Diddy (California) that my father initiated back in the 40’s and earned the title of “luxury-loving girl” because I wasn’t too keen on the idea of campouts along the way. However, by the time I reached my twenties, I had a full-blown case of wanderlust. And, in my thirties when I went to Iran and lived there two years, people thought I had lost my mind because I enjoyed my sojourn in the southern desert of Khuzestan – so much so that I’ve written four books about the experience. In my forties, I began traveling to California every year and became enraptured with the deserts of southern California and Nevada.
A few months ago, Pinyon Review published one of my poems that revealed my intense feelings about the desert entitled:
Carson City, Nevada:”
I could live here
under the rock outcroppings
away from the hot summer wind;
the sun would make me a cover
and I would become dry and brief;
my words sharp as the sage
skirting the Sierra foothills;
I could live like a mountain lizard,
scuttle with the ground squirrels
at the sound of footfalls,
suffering no invasion on the desert’s face;
I could live here
where my heart could dry out
from a lifetime of mistrust;
I would believe the night stars,
sleep in a grove of cottonwoods
rustling dryly,
feeling only kinship.

Landscapes affect me deeply, as they do most poets. When Robinson Jefferson moved to Big Sur, he became spellbound with the rugged coast near Carmel, writing that “the coast had displayed all its winter magic for us: drifts of silver rain through great gorges, clouds dragging on the summits, storm on the rock shore, sacred calm under the redwoods…” I was just as enchanted with my first glimpses of that rocky California coast, and the wild beauty of it had a lasting effect on me. Actually, if I had my druthers, I’d live in Carmel, California, but my senior’s purse won’t allow that luxury.

I’m happy that Ben will get to see all the natural beauty of the central coast of California when he makes a return trip to the scene that he scorned as a young child – this time with fresh eyes, and I expect the experience will be overwhelming for him and for his bride. Meanwhile, I will think about his trip vicariously and continue to record the beauty of the landscape here on the Cumberland Plateau, including a photograph of the Cumberland Valley as seen from the backyard of St. Mary’s Convent accompanying this blog. 
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