Tuesday, October 08, 2002
On the Road

Wet chilly rain all Friday morning as I loaded up my Jeep Wrangler . . . soggy leaves splayed up against the windshield like wet scraps of yellow silk . . . the eery moments of blindness on the interstate each time trucks passed and everything turned to silver spritz and mist.

Outside Sioux Falls an astonishingly chunky bright rainbow . . . it looked as if it had been drawn onto the backdrop of charcoal-gray nimbus storm clouds . . . childishly, with bold wide sweeps of sidewalk chalk.

An hour north of Sioux Falls, the rain gradually succumbing to skies blue as Wedgewood China, and endless filigreed puffs of cumulus clouds stretching into the horizon. Supple brown ripple of wheat fields; scattered clusters of trees in bursts of school-bus orange and taxi-cab yellow; clumps of burnt sienna, yellow, and gold grasses. All of it rather glorious, like an Andrew Wyeth painting, and almost too ridiculously beautiful . . . as if it were more representation than real.

The turtle I see lugubriously ambling out onto the highway outside Brookings. I'm worried that it might get run over, and I want to stop, back up, and rescue it, because I've always wanted to have a turtle. I've been told that they prefer red foods . . . red peppers, watermelon, persimmons, pimentos, and azaleas. I would love to have a turtle to keep in the garden. I would feed it red things to its heart's content. But I'm running late (the 9:00 a.m. departure time having been wildly optimistic on my part), and am not crazy about the idea of getting rear-ended on the interstate. Am also unsure of what P. will think if I arrive at her place with an unexpected turtle in tow.

On Highway 12 West approaching
Aberdeen, running alongside the route of the Burlington Northern, the unexpected lakes and fish hatcheries in quicksilver, glittering stretches along the two-lane. Mirror-bright in the afternoon sun, and frothy with chop in the persistent, South Dakota wind . . . the water tossing and bouncing . . . all the motion and shine making me slightly dizzy. The unexpected seagulls. Wet, naked tree trunks and tree limbs poking up out of the little lakes . . . one of them named Blue Dog Lake, another one named Enemy Swim. I think that I would like to stay in the 1950's-style Circle Pines Hotel in Waubay sometime, alongside the Blue Dog Lake . . . not during the summer fishing season, but maybe late fall, during the off-season . . . just stay there by myself and write for a few days.

In Aberdeen, the bright, airy rooms of P.'s cozy upstairs apartment . . . intriguing, geometric dormer shapes in each room . . . the warm, bright splashes of all her favorite colors, and her favorite objects now transplanted to this new abode. It feels clean, and sunny, and comfortable

Pre-reading jitters . . . worries about the new poems . . . worries about the old poems . . . worries about the in-between poems . . . the three cappuccinos I drank on the road starting to funnel ominously down through my lower intestines like a cyclone. Or maybe more like Draino. But it's such a nice audience. Feel shy and geeky when signing books.

Meeting all of P.'s new friends . . . thinking how empowering it is to sit in a circle in a room full of strong, smart, interesting women . . . how good it feels to laugh with them. More and more beer. We all get a bit raucous. And the next day a dinner party to continue the conversations. And they're all so wonderful. J. with her freckles and wildly blushing pink cheeks who gives us good beer, and makes us all sweet potato quesadillas and a fucking awesome cream cheese/cilantro/cream cheese dip (note to self: must get recipe); L. who is so sweetly, adorably gracious . . . a little bit shy, perhaps, but endearingly so; M. with her spider tattoo and marvelous, impish wit; how wonderful L. and M. are together; and K. who has that steady, intelligent, soft warm glow . . . she is like C. and S.R. in that regard . . . one wants to just seek her out and curl up under the focus of that glow like a cat under a lamp.

Later that same night, P. brushing my hair for an entire half-hour until all the wildness becomes domesticated and silky under her hands and I feel very calm, and sleepy, and happy.

A trip to Story Land in Aberdeen's Wylie Park . . . recreations of scenes from the Wizard of Oz, in honor of L. Frank Baum, who lived in Aberdeen (replete with Yellow Brick Road, and talking trees, and Auntie Em's Kansas farmhouse, etc. as well as turkeys and colorful, exotic chickens which I think might have been Hamburgs, which Baum used to raise). There were also other storybook characters . . . a carousel, train, castles with moats, etc. Astonishingly, horrifyingly, marvelously, and most satisfyingly kitschy.

Lovely weather for the drive home today, feeling pensive, and well-rested.

Although I still wish that I had gotten that turtle.

Nice to be home again, relaxing in my pajamas. The cats, jostling each other for space on the futon, purring and talkative . . . happy to see me and interrupting each other to tell me all their news.

Posted by Artichoke Heart | 12:55 AM |
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Books by Artichoke Heart
Beyond Heart Mountain
Year of the Snake

Poems by Artichoke Heart
Songs for a Rainy Season
Toothpick Warriors
Snake Wife
Happy Hour
Girl With A Bowl On Her Head

Pillow Book Courtiers Of The
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Pillow Book Courtiers Of The
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