Talking it up

I gave two talks last week, one at the Upaya Institute and Zen Center and the other to the Genealogical Soicety of Hispanic America, at the organization’s annual conference, held here in Santa Fe. Upaya is our next door neighbor and I volunteered to help Wendy Johnson kick off her five-day retreat, THE FOUR ELEMENTS RETURN TO THEIR TRUE NATURE. I provided the participants with a “geographic disorientation” to northern New Mexico. It was my intent to introduce the group to the natural and cultural history of this place, here in the Santa Fe River watershed in the Rio Grande Valley, at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains.  …read more →

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A week in the spaciousness of Vallecitos

It’s been over a week since I’ve returned from a five-day hiking retreat at the Vallecitos Mountain Ranch, and, as always, the re-entry is challenging. Life is so simple when off in the woods, off the grid, away from the hustle and bustle. That was the whole idea behind this retreat, which was designed for people working in the media world particularly. It was quite a treat to spend that time with a group of highly creative, deeply engaged professionals who left all their work behind and immersed in the time in the mountains. We took many walks, visiting some magnificent stands of old growth pine, following the banks of the Vallecitos river, winding through remote, rocky canyons, and pausing at promontories to take it all in. Best of all, much of the walking was in silence, so we could actually be in the place and be aware of the sights and sounds and smells around us. We never did spot the wild horses that everyone wanted to see, but we did hear them snorting and galloping off, and we caught glimpses of goshawks and perhaps an eagle, as well as a plethora of more common birds and other animals. Amazingly for a bunch of people involved in making images and telling stories, we didn’t take any photographs, answering the question, “If sixteen film makers get together in the woods and no one makes a movie, did anything happen?” with a resounding, “Yes! A whole lot happened…”

 

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Jhumpa Lahiri

 

Jhumpa Lahiri, 15 April 2009.

Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000, a Guggenheim fellowship in 2002, and numerous other awards and accolades. Her books include two collections of short stories (Interpreter of Maladies, 1999) and Unaccustomed Earth, 2008), as well as the novel The Namesake, 2003. Reviewing Unaccustomed Earth, the New York Times declared, “[Lahiri] deftly explicates the emotional arithmetic of her characters’ families . . . showing how some of the children learn to sidestep, even defy, their parents’ wishes…. [a tale that] concludes not with a fairy-tale happy ending but with a denouement that speaks of missed opportunities and avoidable grief. . . . an ending that possesses the elegiac and haunting power of tragedy—a testament to Lahiri’s emotional wisdom and consummate artistry as a writer.” She read and then was interviews by Peter Stein in Santa Fe for the Lannan Foundation’s Readings and Conversations series (click here for the podcast).

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T.C. Boyle

TC Boyle (a.k.a. T. Coraghessan Boyle) came to Santa Fe for a Lannan reading in May 2006. Michael Silverblatt, of Bookworm fame, interviewed him. Boyle is a fabulous writer and quite a character. “T.C. Boyle seems to enjoy taking up big social questions,” says NPR’s Robert Siegel, adding that the characters in his latest book, “play out the search for a balance between humans and the rest of the natural world.” I photographed Boyle looking out the window at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe before he went onstage. Check out the podcast of the reading and conversation.

 

T.C. Boyle, 10 May 2006

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Prints in process for the Lannan Foundation

I’m working on a set of 50 large (16×20) prints of photographs I’ve taken at the Lannan Readings and Conversations events. I have backstage head shots for about 120 events now. The foundation plans to have a show this fall to celebrate the long run of this fabulous series in Santa Fe. I’ll post prints in process here on my website as I progress. This is one I just printed, of Arundhati Roy, taken during her most recent visit here, in March, 2010, with Avi Lewis. (click here to listen to the podcast)

 

Arundhati Roy, March 24, 2010

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Lydia Davis reads at the Lensic

On Wednesday night, the Lannan Foundation hosted writer Lydia Davis at the Lensic theater as part of the Readings and Conversations series. (I’ve been photographing the series for something like 14 years.) Lannan podcasts the readings at lannan.org, and this one is well worth a listen. Lydia Davis writes short stories (sometimes very short, only a line or two) that will make you laugh, and we all need more of that in our lives. She’s brilliant. (Check out this book review in The New Yorker, October, 2009: “Songs of Myself: Lydia Davis’s very short stories.”) Writer Ben Marcus (a fabulous writer himself, with a new book out this year, The Flame Alphabet), in his third appearance in the Readings and Conversation series, interviewed Lydia after her reading, and their conversation is included in the podcast (it should be up in a few days).

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A great passing

The Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes died yesterday. He was 83. I had the privilege of meeting Fuentes in 2001, when he came to Santa Fe to do a Lannan reading. It was September 13, just after the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center. Fuentes couldn’t get a flight into the U.S. and so drove to get here for the event. It was a memorable time. Fuentes gave a powerful talk at a poignant moment that touched on politics and writing. He was an extraordinary writer, “one of Latin America’s best-known authors and a sharp critic of governments in Mexico and the United States,” as Reuters puts it. It was a privilege for me to meet him and spend considerable time chatting with him backstage before his talk. I told him of my history in Chimayó. When I mentioned the names of some of my ancestors, he took out a notebook and said, “You don’t hear those names anymore in Mexico. They’re from the old country. I’m going to use them in my next novel.”

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A lot of newness

Welcome to my new website, updated and revised by web meister Ian McAbee. The change may appear subtle, and that’s the intent, but it will be easier to work with and use (and it allows me to make posts like this). And the change is timely because it coincides with another small but significant change:  …read more →

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Vallecitos

I spent last weekend (May 12-13) at the Vallecitos Mountain Ranch, attending a board meeting (I’ve been a board member for a few years). There was little time for hiking, but we did manage to get out in the rain to walk up the river, where I took some photographs. The ranch is stunning this time of year, with aspen leaves just emerging and song birds arriving in droves, along with a few Canada geese. It was great to visit the ranch and really charged me up for the retreat I’m co-leading there in a couple of weeks, “The Wisdom of No Technology,” a chance to spend time at the ranch without fussing around with camera equipment. It will be a challenge well rewarded. There’s still space in the retreat for a few more people ready for a break from it all, to go to the woods to “see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” to quote Henry David Thoreau.

 

Boulder in Vallecitos River

Boulder in Vallecitos River (copyright Don J. Usner)

 

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