On Sunday afternoon, I arrived at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM. It’s set against the hills of the Sangre de Christo mountains, amid sage and pinon pine. The sun beats hot in the afternoons, but the nights cool in this high desert. We haven’t yet had time to explore Santa Fe, and I’m feeling itchy feet to do that. But first, I’ll tell you what amazing experiences we’re having here.
This is the perfect vacation for me. I can get away from the humdrum treadmill of life and see some beauty in the landscape. Last week was a great way to unwind, hike, enjoy beautiful scenery, and best of all spend time with my family. This week, I’m focusing on what I love best: writing. I’m attending a workshop called the Glen West, put on by Image magazine, a Christian publication which wrestles with the connection between faith, art, and mystery. The bold claim of the conference is: “A week can change your life.” So far, I’m super impressed. I’m rubbing shoulders with poets like Luci Shaw, a contemporary of Madeline L’Engle, both my heroes.
In the mornings, I am in a poetry workshop with Karen Anwhei-Lee, a lovely, quiet, helpful teacher. I am about 90% finished with my poetry collection of a girl, Emma Brown, traveling with her family on a covered wagon journey from Indiana to Oregon in 1852. I have to give a shout-out to the reference librarians at Elmhurst Public Library. In my efforts to make the project as realistically historical as possible, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I toss out questions to the reference librarians, and they give me helpful, thoughtful, and plentiful reading to help me in my research. Yesterday, for example, I asked what families from Indiana in 1852 would have baked for Christmas treats. Margie answered within a few hours, directing me to websites, and sending books to be held for me at the checkout desk. Sure, I could hunt online for hours, and do a lot of the legwork on my own, but when I have a variety of issues I’m trying to explore, they sure are helpful. Thanks, guys!
In our poetry workshop, we are discussing poetry, doing brief writing exercises, and then critiquing each other’s work.
For tonight, I will leave you with a lovely prayer I just read in a book called Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer, edited by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney.
We thank thee, Lord, for the glory of the late days and the excellent face of thy sun. We thank thee for good news received. We thank thee for the pleasures we have enjoyed and for those we have been able to confer. And now, when the clouds gather and the rain impends over the forest and our house, permit us not to be cast down; let us not lose the savour of past mercies and past pleasures; but, like the voice of a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memory survive in the hour of darkness. If there be in front of us any painful duty, strengthen us with the grace of courage; if ay act of mercy, teach us tenderness and peace.
~Robert Louis Stevenson