San Antonio, Texas
May 15, 2011
I'm just back from a visit to Cortez, Colorado. The Cortez Public Library's Poetry Corner was my host. Librarian Kathy Berg, her library staff, and the Cortez community have done extraordinary work creating this series. I ought to know. I used to put together a reading series myself a long time ago, and I know how difficult it was then.
The Cortez Library worked extra hard in my case since I was competing against a performance of Lipizzan horses that same night, and I worried no one would show up to hear me. But they managed to get the word out to the right people and gathered a full house. They even went to the trouble of putting together a delicious and nutritious meal afterward. My agent must've warned them I have to eat after a reading or pass out. When I saw all the food, I was grateful and embarrassed at the same time. They had enough food to feed two dozen hungry poets.
I met all kinds of people at my reading, and they had lots to tell me. Folks came from near and far away, and some had read my stories a long time ago and their brought friends; some had never heard of me before and were prisoners-of-war who had to come. But they all said they were glad they did, and nobody paid them to say that, so I believe they were telling the truth and not just being nice.
Because I'd been to Pueblo, Colorado, once and had a wonderful time, I said yes to the invitation from Cortez, even though it's far away from where I live. We flew from San Antonio to Albuquerque and then we still had to drive a long way. And good lucky we did. Mountains with snow hats, rivers and streams in a hurry. Forest and furious blue skies. The kind of healthy place you might expect they'd film a commercial for something unhealthy, like beer or soda.
If I lived in Cortez I'd have to buy a whole new wardrobe from Patagonia. Folks look like they climb mountains or ride horses or chop down trees. Me, I didn't get much exercise at all when I was there except to visit the thrift stores, which were amazing. But most impressive were the citizens who had time to say hello, look you in the eye and chat, even at the post office!
It made me wish I wasn't in such a hurry and had more time to explore, because besides being beautiful, the area has a lot of history. The woman who did my hair told me the Mesa Verde ruins are what attracts tourists. She said she hadn't seen them since she was in school, but they are beautiful. The way she said "beautiful" made me realize how much the locals esteem them, because she said it with a sigh.
We drove away too soon the next day because I had an appointment in Santa Fe, and the road was a ribbon that danced along water, and the mountains ran away from us as we drove towards them.
I take with me sweet memories of the people I met during my short visit. The waiter Nathaniel in Gallup who served us at Earl's. Tiffany, the woman who did my hair in Cortez. The girl with turquoise hair who served our coffee and sandwiches at the garden/coffee shop across from the Cortez Welcome Center. And the artist Heather, owner of the Sideshow vintage shop/gallery in nearby Dolores, whose beautiful taste is reflected in the exquisite quality of the items in her store. I met Penny and two Bills, friends of the Cortez Library, and wished I'd had more time to spend talking with each of them, because they were wise and creative and interesting.
Okay, I'm going back some day. I'll sing these words to the tune of "Blue Bayou," except the text will have to be reworked a little bit so as to include the terrain I've mentioned above. Thank you, Kathy Berg, for being such an exceptional librarian. We need more people like you in the world, especially now. I bow deeply with gratitude for the gift of community you gave to me.
abrazos fuertes, fuertes,