Posts Tagged ‘Blue Haven’

light cafe window

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

Mark Strand, from The Late Hour

I discovered this poem in a stack of books on a worn bookshelf in a cabin-like dining hall, where we used to gather in the evenings and sing and read poetry and talk, during my gorgeous two weeks at Blue Haven. It has stayed with me ever since.

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“My Monday nights seem to be about washing things,” I wrote in a recent journal entry. It’s not confined to Mondays, really – even with just two of us, there are always (it seems) dishes piling up in the kitchen sink (someday we’ll have a dishwasher), and mounds of laundry piling up in our two separate laundry baskets. J did his own laundry – quite capably, I’m sure – before I married him, but I am so picky about my laundry that I took over the task for both of us. And, well, it’s never done – no news to any of you who also do laundry, no matter whom you live with or how tidy they are.

I don’t really mind doing laundry – it does itself after I load it in, and then I just have to toss it in the dryer and check on it once in a while. But whenever I get frustrated with the mounds, my thoughts turn to a beloved passage from Kathleen Norris’ book The Cloister Walk:

Laundry seems to have an almost religious importance for many women. We groan about the drudgery but seldom talk about the secret pleasure we feel at being able to make dirty things clean, especially the clothes of our loved ones, which possess an intimacy all their own. Laundry is one of the very few tasks in life that offers instant results, and this is nothing to sneer at.

Several summers ago now, I spent two weeks at Camp Blue Haven, writing and hiking and soaking in the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo mountains (and, appropriately, healing from a tough year). My stay lasted 13 days – in other words, long enough to require a laundry session – and so, on the quiet Sunday between the first week and the second, I sat in the doorway of the spare, simple laundry room in the shower house next to our cabin, reading Norris’ words and listening to the dryer thumping steadily behind me and the rain thrumming down outside. The fresh scent of detergent and dryer sheets mingled with the smell of summer rain, and both scents melded with Norris’ simple, honest, beautiful words to wash both my clothes and my soul clean.

Years later, as I trek up and down the stairs, from the basement (where the dryer is) to our second-floor apartment and back again, I think of those words, and that rainy afternoon, and those two weeks of soul-laundering long ago. And when I spread the fresh clean clothes out on the guest-room bed, and fold and sort and stow away, I breathe in the scent of lavender, and of memory.

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I’ve never been one for leaving.

I love to travel, sure – a weekend getaway or a weeklong trip to an exciting new place, even a semester (and later an entire year) studying abroad. And, of course, last fall I pulled up stakes and set off across the country with my husband, on a new adventure.

But I’ve never been one to bolt when the going gets tough. I’m the stick-it-out type, the girl who wants to make it work, to salvage something beautiful from the pieces of a wreck.

However, at the end of my junior year in college, I was ready to chuck it all. The year began with a severe case of post-Oxford reentry shock and a car wreck that killed my friend Cheryl, and continued with a breakup, the divorce of a friend, a risky surgery for my choir director and the death of my six-year-old cousin, Randen, in a car crash. And a rough finals week that culminated in a shouting match with my housemates, leaving our friendships, and our souls, battered and bruised.

One of my housemates moved out the next week. The other took off for a vacation in London and Paris with some friends. And me? I threw some jeans and T-shirts into a suitcase, grabbed a pillow and sleeping bag, and hit the road for the mountains of New Mexico, where I’d signed up for a writing workshop/retreat with three other students, and an English-professor-turned-camp director. And as I drove through dusty Texas towns surrounded by cotton fields and then into the wide, bronzed hills and steep mesas of New Mexico, I could feel my shoulders begin to relax, my spirit to exhale.

I’d never been to Camp Blue Haven before, though I’d come several times with my youth group to Glorieta, just down the road outside Santa Fe. But I’d never taken this winding road through tiny Las Vegas, New Mexico, and turned off onto a rutted dirt track, crossing the bridge over the creek, heading for a group of cabins nestled on the side of a hill. I’d never hiked up to Eloi’s Meadow or had an English class in a grove of pines, or spent a day toiling up Hermit’s Peak and down the other side, all the way back to the dining hall for a dinner of vegetable stew and hot cinnamon rolls.

But I did all those things, and more, during those two weeks at Blue Haven. I did my laundry in the shower house on a rainy Sunday, sitting in the doorway and reading Kathleen Norris while I waited for my clothes to dry. I walked slowly back to the cabin every night, gazing up at the indigo sky pierced with stars, diamond-bright in the absence of street lights and city glare. I watched Basil, the little dachshund who belonged to the camp’s caretaker, trundle around among the cabins, intent on some secret errand. And I spent hours at the picnic table on the porch of the old dining hall, scribbling in a notebook and eating M&Ms, and soaking in the silence of this place, green and wood-planked and deeply peaceful.

Every May, the urge to be back there hits me again – among the rustling pines, walking barefoot on their sun-warmed needles, smelling their spicy scent on the air. I see the faces of my fellow writers, an odd, mismatched little community, listening intently as we shared our work and talked shop and read poetry aloud. I hear Scott, the director, strumming his guitar and singing in a rough-edged baritone voice with a hint of loneliness in it. I smell the campfire smoke and taste Beth’s cinnamon rolls, and hear the booming bark of Jake, the golden retriever, shaking himself after a dip in the river, and I wish I could go back there – just for a little while.

(Writing “class” at Blue Haven)

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~Jeans with impossibly high-heeled sandals are everywhere today. Come on, girls! Wear some flip-flops! Don’t you know it’s Friday?

~This week I’m reading Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, from which the following passage comes:

I would like to believe that there are brilliant poems and novels tucked away in drawers and closets across the country. I would like to believe that there exist correspondences as rich and revelatory as those between Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo, from Rilke to his wife about Cezanne’s powerful influence, and between Flannery O’Connor and the woman identified only as “A” in O’Connor’s collected letters, The Habit of Being, which provides some of the most astute thoughts on morality and truth that one is likely to find anywhere.

Rich and revelatory correspondences, indeed. I am part of several, via paper, email and phone (sometimes all three), and I give thanks for them frequently. You know who you are. 🙂

~Vivid, colorful pictures of spring blooms on port2port make my heart very happy. Few tulips here in Abilene…but nearly all my neighbours have roses.

~Still thinking about Blue Haven…and waking up to Scott’s “ramblin’ ” music in the mornings (yes, Julie, I did space that double-single quote combination)…and remembering rugged tree-covered mountains and hot soup after long hikes and skies sprinkled with diamond stars and a little rust-coloured dachshund trotting at our heels. Almost like a dream, indeed (see previous post).

~It is absolutely too gorgeous to be stuck in an office today. But here I am, holding down the fort for another 80 or so minutes…and counting…

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I have been there in the summer
In the southern Rocky range
With the evergreen and the aspen
A quiet voice that doesn’t change

You know it’s almost like a dream
It’s a rock in the stream

Old coyote sings a love song
To a lonely yellow moon
Where the old one wants and wanders…
Breathes life into his food

You know it’s almost like a dream
But it’s a rock in the stream

Life gives you everything, everything it has
And God comes to touch you
He’s gonna set you on the ground

In the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Between the Hermit and the crest
Clear waters wash the valley
You know the soul can find its rest

Oh, it’s almost like a dream
But it’s a rock in the stream

Please take me back – oh, take me to my home
Please, please take me back – I’ll no longer roam

In the Sangre de Cristo mountains
Beneath the moon’s yellow gleam
With the evergreen and the aspen
You know I’m stopped for a dream
But it’s like a rock in an ever-moving stream

~Scott Simpson, “Rock in the Stream”
From his Circuitous album, 2005

Today I’m thinking about Blue Haven, where I spent two weeks hiking and writing in May 2005. I finally found the CD this song is on and have been playing it over and over, as my heart floods over with memories. Perhaps I’ll share some of them later…but for now I wanted to echo the words of the bridge…”take me to my home.”

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