THE PUZZLE OF SOLITUDE


The oaks and  elm trees are almost naked;  butterscotch leaves are face down, like half eaten lollipops. Lurching in the east; a mass of thick charcoal clouds without any wind to push them towards us.  This outdoor stillness and the hum of my refrigerator are subtle signals of the approaching hand of winter. The silence is like a cooking pot cover that secures my spirit into acceptance.  Listening to classical piano concerto’s, blue grass on Saturday, the blues on Sunday and rock & roll on Friday. Musicians are my guests, as much as the wild birds that pluck  from my feeders.

Sometimes, solitude feels like a draft and no matter how many sweaters I  put on, the seclusion tugs at my bones. There are a lot of us soloists that reside in Santa Fe. We are not questioned or scolded for our behavior, we are left alone!  If I am drawn into an empty canvass of what seems my destiny, I draw the opposite silhouette.  I am the light against the dark.   The green light in my head  reminds me that I have my teeth, my long legs, and some passion for almost everything that God and man created.  I just can’t decide which passion to follow. Should I do a  museum, gallery, lecture, drive to Taos, go to a concert, dance at El Farol, take Flamenco lessons, engage strangers in conversation, watch old movies, read more of the stacks of books on my bedside table. Should I interview the straggly teenagers in the park or hit up the high rollers? Should I write, submit or edit:  clean the laundry room, make a thick chili stew, iron my clothes or pick up leaves. Living unstructured is a discipline that threads easily some days, and when it doesn’t, I have to control my passion for daydreaming.

My daydreams: to inhale ocean air, to bogey board, to hike, ride horses, go to Lincoln Center, the wine county, Prague, Sicily, and Russia. My passion to be around little children at Christmas and stare at their patent leather shoes, and to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast, to converse on philosophy, the arts, social trends, and the interior life.  My passion for impulsive trips on the road to Kentucky and Tennessee, anywhere I’ve never been; I will go.  The obstacle I place in front of me; I don’t want to travel alone. I’m plain afraid. I’m afraid to fly more than two hours, my sense of direction is worse than anyone I’ve ever met, and I pack too many clothes to carry, and end up with a raw neck and numb arm.

Once in Annecy, France, I walked for hours trying to find my hotel. I circled the squareOld part of Annecy (France)

twelve times. I’d not eaten a meal in several days because my coin satchel was half full . In a moment, I just fainted and swooped down to the ground. A Frenchman was kneeling beside me when I opened my eyes. We sat on a little iron bench, and he offered to take me to dinner.  He was so kind, he kept bringing food to my hotel because he said I didn’t know how to travel.

The train of clouds are still in the east; fluffy white cream and silvery puffs of pastry. They too cannot decide whether to cry; or remain strong and commanding.

Dating is one passion I never had.   Even when it was as organic as sharing a cup of coffee or taking a walk after dinner. Dating now is about business and getting connected. It’s selfish sex with a price. I hear men and women tell me these stories and my response  freezes.  ‘Oh yea, she wanted $250.00 for a few hours; without sex.’  For  a woman she is expected to be complete; with independence and like total clarity about who she is and what she wants. ‘He  told me I had too much baggage; who doesn’t over fifty?’  I think we are always in an  evolution of  personal understanding of our experiences.  You can’t put people into cross word puzzles and expect them to stay there.

Now, hours later the clouds cried, and their tears pranced in a slight wind. I curled into my favorite club chair and watched a 1937 screw-ball comedy, ” We’re Rich Again.”  Like my Dad used to say;’ You’re whole life can change overnight.’  My bed is warm. My friends are loyal. I allow myself to write everyday.

REVERSE THE ORDER


There are themes to our lives. Sometimes a year, sometimes one single day launches the theme, or it may just tumble into our path unexpected and replace whatever we were holding on to dearly. The sensations leading up to my theme, reverse the order, peeked through the quagmire of disillusionment, frustration and mud heavy quibbling in my head. Reverse the order, blew into the quibbling, and straightened my piles of projects. Writing,editing, not believing in my word, leasing the house, getting into a relationship, deferred maintenance on myself and property I own, and sweeping leaves etc.
“ Stop writing as a means of self-gratification and start submitting what you have written. Leave the leaves to fall.

AUTUMN AWESOME SANTA FE, NM
AUTUMN AWESOME SANTA FE, NM

SACRIFICE


Locked up in the imaginary world of writing. It’s not always so accessible, so effortless, and when it is lock yourself in and give it your life.
The fall drapery from the window teases me with specks of sunlight, and leaves dropping like snowflakes. My spirit is drawn outdoors.
to walk, hike, run in its splendor. Sacrifice is how we finish our plays, canvas, book, song, and poem.

DIARY TO DIARY


I appreciated him coming back to look after me while I was temporarily flattened by a silly back spasm. I know that he would have preferred staying in Taos with his new lover. I also know the feeling of being split in two-known it for two and half years when I was with John. Sometimes I felt like Anais Nin who had a husband, she didn’t sleep with but who supported her writing, and then accepted her lovers like Henry Miller, Gonzalez, and Durrell.

That mixes up the cocktail of love so at one moment, you know whom you love, and whom you want to be with, and the next day, it is all clouded, opaque and vague as a dirty olive martini. It is frustrating to know that my love for Rudy is bygone for what we both need now. Sometimes, it just crushes me in the knees and I beg for answers. He is sheltering me from the truth, but I know the new woman in his life could be serious. I know that, because I know him so very well. I am prepared; at least I’ve faced the insertion of someone else in his life, who will encapsulate his time and thoughts. If only I had the motivation to script this, or book write it, because it is, extraordinarily unique. It divides the weak from the strong when it comes to love. Nothing ruins a man more than love, and I mean woman too. It is the one force in our life that can leave us heartless or make us heartwarming.

When life imitates art; I’ve read the diaries of Anais Nin so often, they must have invited themselves into my life.

MY MOTHER MY HEROINE


The throw of the dice this week lands on redefining one kind of relationship for another. It’s also called the breakup.  The words are familiar to most of us.  How we get there is unfamiliar. The exact path each of us takes towards intimacy, and then away from it, is custom-made. 

What brings two strangers together at 25 years old is attic material at 55.  The physical appearance and satisfaction meanders over the dips and dives.  All the quarrels, hardships, and difficult compromises are either dropped, or repeated without sustained anger and outrage. The arguments begin and end within 24 hours. There is a journey between a couple and neither one knows the final destination. For some it is an 8 week affair, others an eternal matrimony, and then there are couples who must battle the journey all the way.  For some unknown reason, two people love unevenly. With every other aspect of life in perfect order, the scenery, replenishment of necessities, even absence of tragic disorder, this couple will never find peace. They are unmatched where it counts the most. They are staring at opposite corners, refreshed by different tastes, and feel almost nothing that the other person feels, with the exception of the feeling they have of comfort and trust. After 25 years, you know where the rumbles and ridges are, and you know how to handle them.

You even get accustomed to the battles, and what defenses you can use. The drama though draining has a certain appeal, in that it is familiar. When the truth rises above the camouflage, you cannot mop it off.  It interferes with the loveliness of a yellowed summer moon, or a morning so beautiful that you want to hold it in your hand.  It is like walking with lead in your shoes, and you freeze the lightness in your heart. With this burden, you cannot balance all the other misadventures in life.

When I was 29, my wings had just been released.  I was alone, without any family around me, and I took the least familiar flight, and moved from my home in Los Angeles to Del Mar.  It is beyond the mist of golden memories, it truly was the most unforgettable 6 months of my life.  I had to rebuild everything from scratch, and in the process, I was building myself, step by step. That kind of work is irreplaceable, even the most adventurous of travel does not compare to rebuilding your life.

Now, is not much different from back in 1983, only I am not alone.  I feel the same yearning for self-discovery. A breakup does not erode the love, companionship and trust of a 25-year friendship.  With all those foundations in mint condition, you should be able to take on the new journey you have missed.

But! It is delayed for the reason that attachment is beyond emotional; it affects financial, social, and business survival. One by one solutions can be created.  Sometime circumstances of life create them for you.  Whenever I am stagnate, and unable to make a move, I have to think of my mother’s life.

 

MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT


I rose at 3:00 AM to turn the heat on, pick up my writing journal, and discern the week’s theme.

The house is unfamiliar at this time, as it is my first middle of the night experience here. I wonder for a moment if I should boil water for tea or coffee, and settle on decaf. Alice and Bugsy follow my footsteps, circle their feeding table, and then begin to cat play. Bugsy gallops around in circles and Alice watches. Their presence kindles the stark rooms. While the water boils, I step outside to the porch I hear the distant sound of pounding surf and sit down to listen. The moon is shaved from the fullness of the previous night, and reflects my own disposition.

The street is hollowed like a tunnel, the light of day is shining in some other distant country, and the sky is appears tinted with primer. Somewhere someone is dressing for work, breathing by the tick of the clock until he must report for work.

The draft of sleep lingers in my eyes, and my feet shuffle on the cold tiles, while I grind the beans and think through the remains of the week. There are themes to our lives. Sometimes a year, sometimes one single day launches the theme, or it may just tumble into our path unexpected and replace whatever we were holding on to dearly, and deliver something unpleasant, like sickness, or separation. The sensations leading up to my theme jilted my creativity, and the pages I wrote were jammed with contradictions, maybe they still are.

Thoughts begin to form and ruminate, what is important? The theme of my week began when I was informed a Frog’s member I knew only slightly died very suddenly. From that day on, conversations, books, and televisions shaped the theme.

I see what is in front of me, and I am dissatisfied with the surroundings. The temperature, color, textures and placement of furnishings is flawed, and I have abated good temperament, creativity, and affection. I have tried to replace my incompleteness with substitutes: new shoes, scarves, and half a dozen books. Ah Hah! I have caught the intruder, the inconsequential  arrangememt of new stuff.

Several more incidents aided my awakening. One came while reading Mark Twain’s “Following the Equator, A Journey Around the World.” It is a first person narrative of his lecturing trip on a sea voyage around the world bound for Australia and New Zealand. His diary pages are as powerful as water sprung from a fire hydrant; and I flowed into the adventure with him. A few days later while I was vacillating between reading and watching television I channeled onto a movie, “Shadows Over Tuscany.” Harvey Keitel emerged as a familiar character; a writer who has stopped writing. Along with the added irony of his resplendent surroundings in a villa over Tuscany, he still could not write.

I have settled into a corner of the sofa by the light, and now Alice is purring into my robe. Writing with pen is so different from keyboard, journaling is always with pen, but columns are on the keyboard. The next incident occurred in conversation with a woman who relayed her elated experience from meditating. She asked me about my own source. I understood that to mean what tranquilizes all the peripheral complaints, mental pains and wounds that lie dormant or at least manageable. Without thinking of the tormented hours, I thought of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper.

The shallowness of that answer makes me uncomfortable. I return to the porch for one more gulp of landscape that I share with the stars.

The street is unfamiliar, a temporary scene like a bus stop, and I am merely waiting to move on. The neighbors are strangers, and stories do not blossom here. My desk is sealed into a corner of the bedroom, and too small to stack all my photographs, books, notepads, and dice mementos.

It is not the act of writing with pen and paper moving along at a steady rhythm; it’s the activation of the heart and mind, collaborating to unravel the relevant from the irrelevant. To reach this state of matrimony a writer needs not a Tuscan Villa, or a Moorish Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, or recall of the experience that gives it relevance. A story is flickering at my source, asking to be written and I’m avoiding the introduction. Fear is shining like a spotlight on one end, and insecurity is the temperature that stifles my pen. It is not the cold tiled floor, and cramped desk.

I wrote a novel in a 99 square feet room that SC and I shared for a year and a half.

If I continue to roam around the task of writing this story, the intensity of irritation will escalate, my neck and shoulders will not loosen, my walk will be feigned, my smile forced, my heart longing for padding, my ego striving for recognition in the wrong places, and my soul roaming the hallways at 3:00 in the morning.

My spineless spirit that sends me out shopping for shoes, scarves, and earrings will finally halt. I will return to shopping for inspiration, courage and confidence that I can write the story.  folliesls@aol.com

THE JAMMERS KICK


In the fall of 1993, I was working for a king-sized jerk in his commercial real estate office.  Dirksen used every opportunity to remind me that I was not as successful as he was.

I was the only female in an office of twelve better suited men. My Chanel 5 was used sparingly and I dressed in navy-blue two piece suits and low-heeled pumps.  With a leather briefcase slung over my shoulder, and a HP calculator that I refused to master, I was a shrimp swimming with the sharks. On hot blue sky days I drove around San Diego searching for new listings, meeting prospects, and showing space. One eye was always drifting; scanning the horizon, museums, artists hang-outs.

I tossed out the two-piece suits, and turned off the world outside. In the next weeks my attention was drawn to music and dance. During the hottest of summer days I was seated cross legged on the worn carpeting of my little bungalow, watching MTV and flipping through magazines.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

CONFESSIONS OF A MOB KID


SOME children are silenced. The pretense is protection against people and events more powerful than them. As the daughter of Allen Smiley, associate and friend to Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, I was raised in a family of secrets.

My father is not a household name like Siegel, partly because he wore a disguise, a veneer of respectability that fooled most.

It did not fool the government. My father came into the public eye the night of June 20, 1947, when Benjamin Siegel was murdered in his home in Beverly Hills. My dad was seated inches away from Siegel, on the sofa, and took three bullets through the sleeve of his jacket.

He was brought in as a suspect. His photograph was in all the newspapers. He was the only nonfamily member who had the guts to go to the funeral.

When I was exposed to the truth by way of a book, I kept the secret, too. I was 13. My parents divorced, and five years later, my mother died. In 1966, I went to live with my father in Hollywood.

I was forbidden to talk about our life: “Don’t discuss our family business with anyone, and listen very carefully to what I say from now on!”

But one night, he asked me to come into his room and he told me the story of the night Ben was murdered.

“When I was spared death, I made a vow to do everything in my power to reform, so that I could one day marry your mother.

“Ben was the best friend I ever had. You’re going to hear a lot of things about him in your life. Just remember what I am telling you; he’d take a bullet for a friend.”

After my father died, I remained silent, to avoid shame, embarrassment and questions. But 10 years later, in 1994, when I turned 40, I cracked the silence.

I read every book in print – and out of print – about the Mafia. Allen Smiley was in dozens. He was a Russian Jew, a criminal, Bugsy’s right-hand man, a dope peddler, pimp, a racetrack tout. I held close the memory of a benevolent father, wise counselor, and a man who worshipped me.

I made a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained his government files. The Immigration and Naturalization Service claimed he was one of the most dangerous criminals in the country. They said he was Benjamin Siegel’s assistant. They said he was poised to take over the rackets in Los Angeles. He didn’t; he sold out his interest in the Flamingo, and he went to Houston to strike oil.

I put the file away, and looked into the window of truth. How much more could I bear to hear?

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, my dad’s family immigrated to Canada. He stowed away to America at 16, and was eventually doggedly pursued for never having registered as an alien. He had multiple arrests – including one for bookmaking in 1944, and another for slicing off part of the actor John Hall’s nose in a fracas at Tommy Dorsey’s apartment.

He met my mother, Lucille Casey, at the Copacabana nightclub in 1943. She was onstage dancing (for $75 a week), and my father was in the audience, seated with Copa owner and mob boss Frank Costello.

“I took one look, and I knew it was her,” was all he had told me on many occasions.

On a trip to the Museum of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, I was handed a large perfectly pristine manila envelope, and a pair of latex gloves with which to handle the file.

Inside were black and white glossy MGM studio photographs, press releases, and biographies of my mother’s career in film, including roles in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Ziegfeld Follies of 1946,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Harvey Girls.” She was written up in the columns, where later my father was identified as a “sportsman.”

The woman who pressed my clothes, washed my hair, and made my tuna sandwiches was an actress dancing in Judy Garland musicals, while her own life was draped with film noir drama.

My father wooed her, and after an MGM producer gave her an audition, he helped arrange for her and her family to move to Beverly Hills, where she had steady film work for five years. He was busy helping Siegel expand the Western Front of the Costello crime family and opening the Flamingo casino in Las Vegas.

They were engaged in 1946.

Still, the blank pages of my mother’s life did not begin to fill in until I met R.J. Gray. He found me through my newspaper column, “Smiley’s Dice.”

One day last year, R.J. sent me a book, “Images of America: The Copacabana,” by Kristin Baggelaar. There was my mother, captioned a “Copa-beauty.”

Kristin organized a Copa reunion in New York last September. I went in place of my mother, but all day I felt as if she was seated next to me. I fell asleep that night staring out the hotel window, feeling a part of Manhattan history.

Now, the silence is over.

I don’t hesitate to answer questions about my family. I have photographs of Ben Siegel in my home in Santa Fe, NM, just as my father did. Every few months I get e-mails from distant friends, or people who knew my dad.

It seems there is no end to the stories surrounding Ben and Al. I am not looking for closure. I’ve become too attached to the story.

 

THE SUN RISES ON HARDSHIP


 The throw of the dice this week falls on the sunrise of hardship, for all of us.

     In my home there is one staircase window that faces east. Each morning before I descend the stairs I stop at the landing, to watch the day begin. The sun must rise above an assortment of tree limbs and trunks, and up over the mountains. By the time I’ve had my coffee, the sun has risen above these obstructions. I am now jerked awake, like a slight nudge a parent might give you, ‘Come on–wake up! You have school.”  

I begin writing, but that shameless sunlight in my eyes and the dance of the birds are tempting me to step outdoors.  When you live in seasonal climate, summer days and nights lure you out of your wits; why stay inside when there’s moonlight, a sage brush breeze, and merriment across the street.

The gradual awakening unfolds layers of thoughts, beginning with the anxiety of the times. The impending hardship of thousands, my friends, and neighbors, oozes out like a bad smell. Everyone seems to be slanting in new directions; some are going home where they came from, others take on another job, or moving out and leasing their homes.    

 

Some mornings I can’t even look at the newspaper. The headlines read like Sunday’s promotional movie advertisements: BANKRUPT, FORECLOSURE, and SUICIDE. The shocking prick of national disaster is a surgical awakening of a disease untreated.  There’s no time to waste, no money to squander, it is a time of reduction and refusal.

     As minor calamities knock on my door, and creditors calling from India, I turn my head to the sunlight and resume what I have to do, and that is write. If you know me, then you know I’ve vanished. It’s the only way I can work, and I’m standing on my head happy that I have the solitude to do it. 

 Last week while I was upstairs, prone on the sofa figuring out a transition between two scenes, someone knocked at the door. Then they fiercely rang the bell. Oh what it is now I thought.   

     “Yes,” I asked the man standing outside. He stared at me while twirling a toothpick in his mouth.

“Are you all right? I’m from Safeguard Security we haven’t had any signal on your alarm.  We came to check on you.”

I stood there expressionless. I assured him I wasn’t held captive or about to throw myself out the window, but he didn’t seem convinced, he lingered and kept looking over my shoulder.  I hastily sent him on his way, and returned to the desk.  I’d been rude; I didn’t even thank the guy.  This is some kind of message, next time he’ll slam the door in my face.      

Later in the day, if I haven’t ventured outdoors yet, I take a walk around the Plaza, and muse over the herds of tourists. I look for revealing expressions and conversations.  I didn’t see panic and anxiety, I observed relief. Couples shuffled together, maybe holding hands, dragging shopping bags, and aiming directionless for a new snapshot. They stand gaping at the churches and shoot photographs while standing in the middle of the street. Vacation is bliss in the middle of discontent. 

When I return to my desk, it is time to print the days work. This is always a ritual of great expectation, filled with disappointments, surprise, and sometimes a whiff of elation.

 By now the sun has made its journey to the other side of the house. The back porch is like starched light, it burns the eyes and flesh, the immediate effect is callous. Now is the time to slouch in the chair, close my eyes, and rewind a few scenes back.

Hardship is like the sun, unmerciful when it is met face to face, and transforming when we are protected. The sunlight is absorbed into our bodies; the effect is invigorating when taken in increments. The light changes the color of the world, we see things differently, and so it is with hardship, we feel intensely, our senses are sharpened, and we appreciate the treats more so than in times of prosperity.

It all translates into less spending and more creating. 

While I lounge in this old house, one track of time keeps re-appearing. It was when my living space was limited to one tiny room, finances on a string as long as my finger and uncertainty a nightmare that turned into a lullaby. It is that time again; and what we all must do is keep the adventures above the circumstances. Any dice to throw:

Folliesls@aol.com 

ZIGZAGGIN WITH D.H. LAWRENCE


The throw of the dice this week lands on an adventure with D.H. Lawrence. 

Our affair began in the winter of 1970, when the film “Women in Love” was released. 

            “ Let’s go see this movie, Alan Bates is in it.” Lizzie,  and I were madly in love with Alan Bates. Neither one of us had read the book, or had much knowledge of D.H. It was a film that explored sexual relations that interested us, and it was filmed in England.  Back in Junior High Lizzie sang musical songs while I taped her on a recorder.  Now in High School, she was singing Hey Jude, and I was reading the words from the record album.     

I remember sitting in the balcony of the Beverly Wilshire Theater, leaning forward in my seat  as I longed, with adolescent fixation, to be inside the story. I wanted to live in a studio like Gudren’s( the part played by Glenda Jackson) and toast my bread in front of fireplace and paint all day.  Gudren was the artist terrified of being tamed.  Her sister Ursula, who personified Lawrence’s wife Frieda, wished to make her life within a man’s.    

 “Your Gudren, and I’m Ursula,”  Lizzie claimed with clairvoyant assurance.  

 ”  No, I’m not all Gudren.” I protested.

 ” You are– you’ll see.”   Within  a year, Lizzie would be in-love in London, creating a life around a man, and I would be an art student at Sonoma State College.  

  

But on that lazy matinee afternoon,  we gasped, and squeezed each other’s hands, during particular erotic scenes that shocked our sensibility. It was an  awakening, of the abstraction of relationships. We’d discovered that friendships  were not as they seemed, and that love did not always have a happy ending.   It woke me to what possibilities lay ahead, and turned a defining fold in my growth.  Would I end up like Gudren?  At times the thought haunted me.

Over the last thirty years, I’ve  watched the film every time it screened on television.  It was the benchmark of my youth,   just before I wandered off into relationships with artists and bohemian living.  Several years ago I purchased a copy.  I was convinced there  was something I’d missed.   

 

Summer 2006 Taos, NM

 I move to Taos and Rudy gives me “Birds, Beast’s & Flowers” a collection of poems written by D.H. during his stay in Taos.   I journey out to Del Monte Ranch where D.H. and Frieda lived on and off for several years.  The ranch keepers took us on a private tour; oral and on foot.  I yearned to learn more.  Several days later I walked down the portal of Ranchos Plaza to see what new treasure books Robert had in his shop. 

   “What do you have by D.H. Robert?” 

   “Kangaroo, and Lorenzo in Search of The Sun,” it’s a biography about DH.

   “I’ll take them.” 

They were placed on the bookshelf in the bedroom and remained there unread.  By now,  I’d seen the famous stained glass window D.H.  painted in Mabel Dodge’s bathroom in Taos, and the sketchings on display at the La Fonda Hotel.  Still, I had not read any of his novels.  

Winter  2008. Santa Fe.

The down blanket is wrapped tightly around my shoulders on a snowy night.   I take “Lorenzo in Search of the Sun”  off the shelf and begin to read.  The book begins with his adventure in Taormina.     

    “I am so thankful to be back in the South, beyond the Straits of Messina, in the shadow of Etna, and with Ionian Sea in front: the lovely, lovely dawn-sea where the sun does nothing but rise toward Greece.”

 This first excerpt  leads me to chisel the cobwebs of memory to the  summer of 1972.  I left my sister in Barcelona, with a Spanish- lover, and took  a solo journey to Sicily. I don’t recall what precipitated my quest;  but the warnings and discouragement from my sister, and fellow travelers didn’t obstruct my vision. I had to go to Sicily. It turned out to be the bittersweet part of my European summer.  An  Italian hotelier rescued me, and put me up for a few weeks in his Taormina hotel; like he did with all the lost American hippie girls

Every night this winter, I huddled inside and read a few pages of the book, savoring them as I would a chocolate souffle. These descriptions of Italy, Mexico, and Taos infiltrated that clamping cold.   D.H mentions the Model T Lizzie in his chapters on the El Monte Ranch in  Taos.  I am reminded of my trip to the ranch.

This is an excerpt of the column I wrote about my visit to ranch in 2006.        

D.H and his wife Frieda moved to the Ranch in 1924.   Imagine that journey–there was no road to the Ranch, that came much later. They must have hiked up the hill or gone on horseback.  The ranch includes a small barn, and two cabins; they chose the larger Homesteader’s Cabin. It is so organic, as if spun together by weeds and timber chips, but actually is a mixture of pine logs, mud, straw and water.  The Homesteader was a man named John Craig. He claimed this property in the 1880’s, and built the cabins with the surrounding Ponderosa pine.  The pueblo Indians helped D.H restore the cabin and he moved in during the summer of 1924. 

I thought about this man sitting under the majestic beauty of the pines, and writing all day long.  The plateau of silence that envelopes this ranch is every writer’s dream.  Here he wrote some of his Taos poetry, “Birds, Beast’s & Flowers” he finished “St. Mawr,” a short novel, the novel “David,” and parts of  “The Plumed Serpent.”    D.H didn’t know how to type;   he left that task to Dorothy Brett, the artist that accompanied D.H and Frieda.  D.H invited Dorothy and several other friends to join him in Taos after his first visit in early 1924.  He was creating a Utopian society, he named Rananim.  Brett was the only artist to accept the offer.

I took a few photographs and then we trotted back to the entrance. Just as we were getting into the Van, a car pulled up. A woman got out, and called out a hello from across the way.   I yelled back that we were just leaving, and she yelled even louder, “I can’t hear you – I’m almost deaf.”  I got out of the car and went to meet her halfway. Immediately taken with her pioneering eyes, and up at dawn spirit, I yelled to Rudy to get out of the car.  

            “ I’m Mary and that’s Al over there, we’re the caretakers.  Al’s been here 50 years.”   I nodded to Al, standing a few feet behind her, watching us with a tinge of curiosity. I noticed his eyes, the color of faded denim, squirming with stories.  I tried not to ask too many questions too quickly;  Al was tired from a long journey so he took a seat on the porch.   

            “ Open up the cabin for them Mary.” He called out.

            Mary nodded and led us up the path to the D.H. cabin. 

Along the way, she talked about the ranch. There is a society named the Friend’s of D.H. Lawrence in Taos, and they want to build a big commercial visitor center on the ranch. Mary and Al think this is a bad idea, because the pines and silence are so happy, why mess up a beautiful memorial.  If you saw the ranch, you’d agree that a visitor center will look like a spaceship in this territory of natural beauty.  Mary opened the door to the cabin and showed us around. The first thing I noticed was the typewriter. 

            “ Is that where he typed? ” (She gave me printed literature that fills in the information I know now.)

            “ Nope,– but that’s the typewriter Dorothy typed on.”  The cabin is well maintained, simple and authentic.  After we examined everything Mary led us back to Al. We gathered around the porch and Al talked about the road that he cleared to the ranch, the typewriter he dug out of the dump, and the time he drove out from Chicago in his Tin Lizzie.  Rudy turned to the Model T in the parking lot.

      ” You drove that out here?”  He asked. 

      ”  Naw, that’s my brother’s. We‘re going to get it workin’ soon.  Go on in and take a look.”    Rudy jogged over and got inside.  I took photographs of him, and Al watched. 

    ” That’s how D.H. and Frieda got around Taos, they’s was great cars.”  

   

 Mary took me aside and told me that she was throwing a party for Al in a few weeks, and that we’d be welcome. It would be Al’s  90th birthday. I glanced over at him, petting his dog and looking very content.  I didn’t think he heard us, but he did.  “ I’ll be here until I’m 100.”  We exchanged good wishes, and many waves before leaving that afternoon.  

Was Al’s brother Gotzsche, who D.H. writes about and who toured them around in his Lizzie?   Further in my reading,  I discovered that Gudren, personified the author Katherine Mansfield.   I became more keenly acquainted with Katherine  in Saratoga Springs, when I attended a reading of her short stories at Yaddo Arts Colony. 

D.H.  is a puzzle that continues to zigzag around my  “adventures in livingness.”  He is also the author of that slogan.  I found the saying in Anais Nin writings, but in fact I think its origin is with Lawrence. 

Any dice to throw Email: folliesls@aol.com

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: