Local Delights

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Writing assignment from the latest Julia Cameron book, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverence, (which BTW I am having to persevere through, finding her tone sometimes whiny and self-indulgent in this third book of the Artist Way trilogy):

"List five delights of your own locale...Allow yourself to see your world as an interested stranger might see it."

1. Texas Hill Country honkytonks have, in this new century, more than a bit of self-conscious, even ironic, attitude. But in fact, as well as fancy, they are the real thing. People dance the way you think dancing should be done, with manners and style and a regard for the musician's cadence. Local bands do their Saturday night gigs, with the background of hope for Nashville success grounded less in American Idol and more in their tunes. The beer signs glimmer and glow;  corny dichos dangle from the ceiling along with old boots and old hats, gone to rest where old cowboy clothing that's been good enough goes. Floore's Country Store is one such place. We spent an evening there last weekend, and all the Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons that I've spent in such Texas places came back to tell their tales.

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2. The view into the valley today is full of fog and wind and rain, spitting into the December sky and scrubbing the cedars free of their orange tinted pollen. Somehow it reminds me today of an gumbly urban train station, with harsh iron scent and  a tunnel leading out below the city streets. The seven hills outside the window are slumbering under cold blankets of mist, the rain is sliding down the windows, much like that on train windows -- but here the motion is from the outside in. But it is an impersonal day, nothing friendly about this wind, this nature.

3. The winding road that leads from Highway 16 to our front gate presents itself daily like a moving meditation. The curves make me slow down and hug the righthand side, alert for deer, the roadrunner whosse territory intersects my own, and the crazy neighbor boy in his pickup who drives too fast. Climbing up in the evening after a day in the city, the road treats  me like my fingers treat rosary beads, slowing my breath, making me pay attention to the world beyond the one between my ears.

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4. Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego on this day. Her altar in our home is lit with candles and decked with evergreens and rosemary. As I walk past in the hallway, the colors and the terracotta of her images there will dance a little outside of their everyday space, visible again. She, for me not once a Catholic, is Sophia, Wisdom in her feminine guise, Compassionate One who makes herself visible and useful and present in whatever shape and form She needs to be to reach and comfort us. The mystery of spirit becoming real, roses blooming in desert wastes, hope born from ashes of pyramids, the assertion that perhaps the bleeding hearts of virgins could be done away with and still the sun would rise.

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5.  My studio nest is overfilled with sticks and stones and scraps of bright fabric, boxes of Christmas brought out from the attic, piles of cloth eyed for the angel now pinned to the wall and waiting for stitch. Walking in there today after the snuggness of the house will be a challenge of chill and damp until the wall heater warms the air over my work table. Rodeo, the border collie, will join me under the table on a pile of old blankets, glad to be out of the rain. Then I will fall into the rhythm of sewing, the machine humming under my fingers; the wind still howling but unimportant. The world narrowed to the space beneath the needle.