The artist in residence for the month of July was the Texas poet Laureate Jenny Browne. She is truly a badass and I feel so fortunate to have gotten to spend time talking and creating with her. As you know, I call myself a landscape painter/ eco artist, so when I heard her refer to herself as an eco poet I flipped out!
One of her programs early in July was a Hike and Haiku session on the Smith Springs loop. Truthfully, I've been self conscious about my writing for quite some time. It's funny because looking back it was my 7th grade language arts teacher that brought me out of my shell and gave me the courage to become an extroverted introvert when before I was as introverted as they come. I guess I've never really seen myself as an intellectual, so I'm intimidated by writing as some are probably intimidated by art. My fear was so strong that I never even took one english class in college despite the fact that my high school creative writing class was my favorite class! Jeesh, Mariah!
So anyways, it wasn't until senior year of college that my Professor explained to me why writing had been so difficult for me (and apparently other artists). I had been feeling stressed about writing a measly two paragraph artists statement as my friends were scrambling to finish up their 100 page Honors projects... She said artists do what they do in order to explain things that cannot be explained through words. ART AND ENGLISH ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LANGUAGES! Hearing that opened my eyes and blew my mind at the same freaking time.
Moral of the story: writing is hard but important! I decided it would be a good idea to grill Jenny about these questions that had been rattling inside my brain. Basically, "How do I become as successful and badass as you???" Cuz there's an exact answer for that, right?? What she said, which was SO beautiful and poetic OF COUSE, is "everything leads to something." Jesus, she hit it the nail on the head or whatever the term is. I *literally* had not heard of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park before coming here to spend the summer. And now, for the first time in a long time, I feel as though my life has purpose and direction. I now want to be a park ranger, I've met MY PEOPLE here, and I've fallen in love with a landscape that has no relatively large bodies of water as far as the eye can see. This experience of being here HAS lead to something completely beautiful and unexpected, and so will the next step and the one after that.
Back to the hike and haiku. We started off at the picnic tables at the head of the trail and Jenny passed out some notecards with some of her favorite haikus on them. One that really resonated with me was: "Even in Kyoto--/ hearing the cuckoo's cry/ I long for Kyoto" by BASHO. That poem is the exact feeling I've been having about the Guadalupe Mountains. In a short time I will have to return to Southern California where I know I am not as happy as I am here. I'm here now, but already missing being here!
We started the Hike and Haiku around 9AM and slowly meandered our way to Smith Springs, stopping to notice and take notes. The week had been particularly cloudy so I wanted to grasp onto the idea of the mountains pulling up the covers around them and peeking through, just as I sometimes do in the mornings. We stopped for a while once getting to the tree coverage and trickling water of the springs to form some short poems. Jenny had us share (if we felt comfortable) and I ended up with, "She opens one eye/ Pulling the blanket tighter/ A mountain peeks through."
On the hike back to Frijole, we discussed the potential to collaborate or do an art exchange with each other! It is just the best feeling to talk art with another artist who gets it. We were both finding this place of trying to articulate something so grand and vast as the Guadalupe Mountains on an intimate scale. For her, the limited syllables of haikus and for me on cans or the inside of an Altoids box. So in the next week Jenny chipped away at a poem and I chipped away at a painting.
Jenny had mentioned her love for the Devil's Hall trail and how she had done it to unwind after long days of writing. So on my next rove day I hit the trail, brought a few Altoids cans, and tried to channel her energy. Later that week, Jenny had a sunset poetry reading at the amphitheater where she shared the freaking poem she wrote for me! I actually don't know if I've ever been more honored. The poem was titled "Gray Wolf, Grizzly Bear, White-tailed Deer" and after the reading she handed me her handwritten copy!!! I was on the verge of tears! In return I gave her the Altoids art of Devil's Hall. The last thing she did was pass around postcards addressed to St. Anthony (the Saint of lost things). She is doing an amazing poetry exchange for San Antonio. We all wrote down a few reflection words on the postcards and returned them to Jenny to become part of a larger installation where visitors take a poem and leave a poem! I also freaked out at this because a huge part of my senior year was a project I started called "postcards to myself." It makes me so happy/ freaks me out how in sync (NSYNC?) we were. GOSH. EVERYTHING leads to something and this volunteer position lead me to her! I feel so fortunate.