Monday, July 22, 2013

Trekking from Boulder to Taos....from street poetry to Kit Carson

Jill and I had a blast at the FGC Gathering in Greeley, CO, where I led a workshop on the Brintons and did a book signing for my new biography: "Howard and Anna Brinton: Reinventors of Quakerism in the 20th Century."  The book signing and the workshop went very well, and Jill loved being among Friends (and they loved her: an Evangelical passionate about peace and justice, like Shane Claiborne!).

Road trips are fun, so I'd like to share a few highlights:

On our way to the Gathering we visited with Quaker friends in Flagstaff and Santa Fe and had a blast. We also paid a visit on Bill and Genie Durland, old friends who were my teachers at Pendle Hill. Bill is a brilliant and passionate activist, lawyer, scholar who has just written a new book on economics called "The Price of Folly." He's also taken up writing radical plays that are being produced in Colorado Springs, that haven of  right wing Christians and air force. Amazing man, especially considering he is over 80 years old. (I want to be like him at that age!)

On our way back we visited friends of Jill's in Boulder who were very hospitable and made us lunch. We also hung out in a park near the public library and watched the locals go tubing down a swift mountain streams. So nice just to see the locals, mostly young people and families, enjoying themselves.

We parked in a lot that said "Free for library users" and I asked a gray-haired, bearded gentleman how they could tell if someone was a library user.

"If he has a beard," he replied with a smile.

We also got into a conversation with a woman working on violence prevention and shared our stories and our cards. We felt as if we had come home!

Later we went to the Pearl Street Mall and enjoyed its vibrant street life. We watched a skinny, bearded gray-haired black guy from "St Kit," a yoga master and human pretzel who charmed us with his personality and astonished us with his ability to do things like touch his toes with his elbows. We also saw jugglers, musicians, and a street poet named Bill Keys whom we spent time talking to. (See He writes poetry on demand and I was inspired to write this poem for him:

Song of ourselves in Boulder

(for Bill Keys)

Here on Pearl Street,
where no two people look alike,
we know we’re really in Boulder—
the sweet honey in the rock
of poetry—
when we see a street poet
with shaggy gray locks
who plays a soprano
staccato, pizzicato
with great earnestness,
a big man with a small machine
from a lithographic age,
who makes the passersby smile
we know we’re in Boulder when we see
a protozoic rock
part like the Red Sea
releasing a flood of children
when we hear drums pounding,
and that antique typewriter sounding
music to the ears of America’s bards
Snyder, Ginsberg, Whitman, street poets all,
Tapping on the keys of the heart
We compose ourselves on Pearl Street
Where nothing is out of tune.

On Sunday we went to Colorado Springs, where we attended meeting for worship at the new QUaker meetinghouse. Jill was pleased it was located in a low-income neighborhood. Friends meet in a former church building that is very plain and simple. We were warmly greeted by a Friend named Molly and later by my old Friends Linda Seger and Peter Lavarre. Linda was clerk at Santa Monica Meeting and presided at the wedding of my wife Kathleen. She is a very gifted writer who has a doctorate in drama and theology. She became known as a script consultant and wrote a book that gained her an international reputation. She has also written books on liberal politics and religion ("Jesus Rode a Donkey") and the spiritual challenges of success. It was a joy to spend time with her and to catch up on her life.

From Colorado Springs we traveled to Taos where Jill and I parted company for a while: she went shopping for clothes and gifts and I explored the art galleries. I discovered some amazing artists, which made my day. Especially noteworthy was an artist named Pierre Delattre whose work was so joyful and romantic I was inspired to write a poem for Jill.

Taos is a magical and earthy place--a place of adobe and turquoise, picaresque and slightly run down, an artist's and mystic's haven. A busy highway flows through it but the side streets are peaceful and delightful, full of shops and galleries. We went to the home of Kit Carson, Taos' most famous resident,  and was fascinated to learn his story. He was a small man (only 5 foot 5 inches) with tremendous courage, strength and faith. He married two Indian women, one of whom died and the other divorced him, and finally settled down with a Spanish woman in Taos. One of the most moving parts of his story was when he tried to save a white woman who was shot in the heart by some marauding Indians. He found her clutching a novel celebrating him as a larger-than-life hero. He was so disgusted by the novel he wanted it thrown in the fire and destroyed.

We loved strolling through Taos and making little discoveries, like the abundance of hollyhocks (one of Jill's favorite flowers). We found Mexican restaurant that serves gluten free meals and has excellent desserts, including a Mexican chocolate cake that is not gluten-free but is to die for.

We drove from Taos to Grant, NM. We were disappointed that the nearby Acoma pueblo is closed because of an Indian holiday, but we were happy to spend a quiet evening in a motel, a haven from a big storm that dumped a lot of rain last night. We soaked in a hot tub, read books, watch a little Netflix ("As Good as It Gets," an appropriate title for our journey).

We went to Prescott on Tuesday, visited with some of Jill's missionary friends, and then went to visit friends of Jill's whose home burned down in the recent fire in Yarnell. So sad to see the devastation of that little community of 300 families, one third of whom lost their homes. Yet Jill's friend had a wonderful spirit and there is hope that with people like her and her husband, the town can make a comeback.

On our way back through the Arizona desert it was blazing hot so we took a dip (we called it a baptism) in the Colorado River along with a Mexican family. This brought back many fond memories of family excursions to the Colorado and was a great way to end our trip!

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