Afar, From the Archives, Home

Notes from a Wild Childhood

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My sister and I were feral throughout much of our childhood. My most vivid memories are of cooking food over a campfire by a tepee out in a far, often-frightening, wooded corner of our land; of running through the dappled forests around our house wearing a billowing, homemade gown; of climbing up to the roof by a precarious route that involved an old stone wall and electrical wires to read up in the treetops; of dancing barefoot in the summer rains; of falling asleep on the screen porch to the sound of cicadas; and of hours upon hours spent drawing, painting and writing.

I was, at times, a little careless regarding personal safety in my unguarded activities—I broke my arm, stepped on scorpions, and once jumped off a roof—but I shied away from the truly dangerous, and generally erred on the side of safety. I was rarely bored; I relished every moment of free time I had. I resented school immensely and loved nothing so much as the potential of early Saturday morning. My imagination ran even more wild than I did, and around the age of perhaps six I began to experience the endless flow of words and stories that has yet to abate.

When I was eleven, I somehow argued my way into home schooling. My weeks lost whatever structure school imposed. In addition to the usual subjects, I read voraciously, took art classes, and wrote my first full-length novel (a charming little tale of revenge and friendship). I worked, even then, with the sort of self-motivation that would have never been possible if my time had been entirely accounted for, and with the kind of imagination that can only come of rampant freedom, physical and mental. It was the same impulse that led me to Oxford and into freelance writing, and I believe the same native drive to create (born out of a similarly wild childhood) that drew me to my husband, who spent his youth fashioning exceptionally accurate period weapons and woodland forts.

Of course, we needn’t confine our free roaming to childhood. Plane tickets and passports are all very well, but yards and parks, not to mention blanket forts, suited our purposes then—so why not now?

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Texas

Ode to the Waning Summer

Ode to the Waning Summer, Jefferson, East Texas www.bluemesablog.com

As August reaches its end and the mornings turn cool, I’m thinking of summers past, of porch swings and balmy nights, of railroad tracks and aimless adventures.

Some years ago now, a very close friend and I went on an impromptu trip to the charming town of Jefferson in East Texas. We stayed in an old mansion with five course breakfasts served in crystal and silver. In the morning we explored long streets, bayous and byways. In the afternoon we drank milkshakes at the Drug Store, and in the evening we got locked in an old antique store (but that’s a story for another day). At night we sat on the porch swing as the stars came out and the cicadas sang, and our thoughts turned to love and fairy tales and summers of long ago.

Ode to the Waning Summer, Jefferson, East Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Ode to the Waning Summer, Jefferson, East Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Ode to the Waning Summer, Jefferson, East Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Ode to the Waning Summer, Jefferson, East Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Ode to the Waning Summer, Jefferson, East Texas www.bluemesablog.com

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Afar, Home, New Mexico, Texas

Happy Birthday, Blue Mesa

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

Blue Mesa Blog turns 1 today! The biggest thank you to all my loyal readers. I’d like to raise an imagined glass of your libation of choice to you for all the kind words you’ve shared this year.

In exchange, I’d like the share a few words by Edward Abbey that have always served as something of a guiding evocation for my travels…

May your trails be crooked, lonesome, 
dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. 
May your mountains rise into and above the clouds, 
May your rivers flow without end, 
meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, 
past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest 
where tigers belch and monkeys howl, 
through miasmal and mysterious swamps 
and down into a desert of red rock, 
blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, 
and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm 
where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, 
where deer walk across the white sand beaches, 
where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, 
where something more beautiful and more full of wonder 
than your deepest dreams waits for you – 
beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.

— A Prayer for the Traveler

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

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Texas

Camp

Summer Camp, El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

To be honest, summer camp was nothing short of traumatic for me – a disastrous combination of flooding, spiders, sunburn, starvation and serious injuries. For years it tainted my relationship with camping, until my faith was restored by a summer-long stay in a little tent in the wilds of New Mexico.

Although I learned to get along just fine with tents, I admit my feelings towards summer camp remained less than friendly. And then one summer my sister and I found ourselves back at the closest thing to summer camp we’d experienced in some fifteen years—a canvas tent in Marfa. Some details still harkened back to our old harrowing experience—spiders in the tent, cold showers that showed a marked absence of concern for human modesty in their design, blazing hot afternoons, dust storms, and rains that rendered everything into mud—but then there were all the benefits of adulthood—freedom, good food, and margaritas.

We spent our days out in the shady hammock near by, or sprawling over the bed and gazing out at the pretty sunlight filtered through the canvas. In the evenings we took walks around the campground and read stories aloud by lantern light. We even sang a song or two from our old camp days: “The coffee at the camp they say is mighty fine, it looks like murky water, and tastes like turpentine…”

Summer Camp, El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Summer Camp, El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Summer Camp, El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Summer Camp, El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Summer Camp, El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Summer Camp, El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

Summer Camp, El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

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Texas

Swingers

The Hammock, Summer at El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

If I had a hammock I’d never leave it. They always remind me of long, enchanted childhood summers, of good books and dappled sunshine. I’m a little beyond the age of summer vacations, but here’s a little glimpse of a hammock that I lived in for a few stolen days of sororal bonding, stories read aloud, cold water and afternoon dozing. And of course, endless writing.

The Hammock, Summer at El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

The Hammock, Summer at El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

The Hammock, Summer at El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

The Hammock, Summer at El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

The Hammock, Summer at El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

The Hammock, Summer at El Cosmico, Marfa, West Texas www.bluemesablog.com

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