Getting Out, Going Home

Does the sun in New Mexico sail like a fiery bird of prey in the sky?


Does he shriek for blood?

Does he fan great wings above the prairie, like a hovering, blood-thirsty bird?

Eagle in New Mexico, D.H. Lawrence

I’ll soon have some answers to those questions because Food and Fiction is hitting the open road.

In a matter of days I’ll be blogging from Arizona and New Mexico as I set out on what I have started to think of as the Out Of My Comfort Zone Tour 2011.  I hope you’ll follow our rented muscle car throughout America’s southwest to find out what adventures I’m in for as I travel to places I’ve never seen and take part in activities I never in my wildest imagination dreamed I would.  I promise cuisine and cooking school, cowboys hats and crystals, chis and chakras.

I’ll be traveling inward too, visiting my roots as a reader and writer with a pilgrimage of sorts to the D.H. Lawrence ranch near San Cristobal, just outside of Taos.

Lawrence and wife, Frieda, spent something shy of 24 months altogether at the ranch, on and off, in the mid-1920s.  I spent upwards of five months with Lawrence during my senior year in college when the author and his literary criticism of English novelist Thomas Hardy made the subject  of my senior thesis.  In that period, I read most of his novels and short stories, and much of his poetry.  The man was also a travel writer – visiting Sardinia is on my travel list because of his book Sea and Sardinia – playwright, translator, and painter, and I took a look at many of these efforts, too.

With his wordy and loosely constructed writing style, and relentless and often repetitive depictions of consciousness and emotion, Lawrence may never be considered a great of the Modernist era.  He may be destined to be known for holding questionable political beliefs and writing books that were banned for sexual content, although he was a fine critic and an even better observer of nature.

He made a darn good thesis subject too, his prolific self keeping me occupied for days on end with little opportunity to be bored.  This experience of writing so much, and so doggedly, opened my eyes to how much I enjoyed writing, even back when it had to be done on a typewriter with correction tapes and carbon paper.  If I could enjoy a process so cumbersome, I thought, I should be spending the rest of my days trying to get it right, losing myself in a morass of words and notes and manuscript pages before cutting away the unnecessary so that I might end up with a cohesive story.

Lawrence wrote and painted and recuperated from tuberculosis at the San Cristobal ranch until he felt strong enough to return to Europe.  Soon I will be there, but briefly, paying my respects.  I feel that I should.

Hotel de la Fonda in Taos proper houses a collection known as “The Forbidden Paintings of D.H. Lawrence.”  I’ll gladly pay the $3 entry fee to see those too.

More from the road soon.

But under the pines

I go slowly

As under the hairy belly of a great black bear.

Glad to emerge and look back

On the yellow, pointed aspen-trees laid one on another like feathers,

Feather over feather on the breast of the great and golden

Hawk as I say of Horus.

Pleased to be out in the sage and the pine fish-dotted foothills,

Past the otter’s whiskers,

On to the fur of the wolf-pelt that strews the plain.

And then to look back to the rounded sides of the squatting Rockies.

Tigress brindled with aspen,

Jaguar-splashed, puma-yellow, leopard-livid slopes of America.

Autumn in New Mexico, D.H. Lawrence