Saturday, August 16, 2008

What They Carried With Them

Today I'm packing for a month-long journey. I will be driving from my home in southern Wisconsin over to South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. I will be at Burning Man in the Nevada desert for a week; this is a radical arts festival I've wanted to attend for well over a decade, but never had the chance to before. After that, I'll be spending time in California, Oregon, and the Rocky Mountain States, wending my way around to make photographs and videos, catching as much material as I can, and no doubt writing my way through my travels.

When I travel I always carry a few art-making supplies. I travel with the laptop, but I don't always get it out; for one thing, many places I go are well off the grid. It's actually nice to have a break from the online world, from time to time. I carry a big journal book that I write in almost every day, in longhand, often including poems and drawings and sketches and random observations that I flesh out later into actual Road Journal entries, with photos. I sometimes record ambient soundscapes as I go; sometimes I record poems or journal entries in the field, and post them to my Road Journal podcast. My current journal is a big blue artist's sketchbook; it's about half-full, since I only write in it when traveling. I often write a lot in the tent, after a long day's journey, or an eventful day of camping and gathering and being. There are several earlier volumes of this journal, which I do not write in every day, that I have kept for over two decades. How do writers learn to write? By writing. (And by reading, of course.)

I am spending all day today packing and preparing. I have spent time today gathering together the small stack of books I'll be taking with me. I always travel with a few books. I like to read in the tent, in the evening, and often to start the day. It continues my daily practice of reading and meditating every morning, and sometimes writing down my dreams, before I begin my day; this is a daily practice that has made a big difference in my life. It's a daily routine that travel does not interrupt, only expands.

The short list of books I plan to take with me this time out on the road is revealing. I am re-reading old favorites, mostly. After the past few years of major life changes, I feel as if I am starting over again, in all ways, on all frontiers. So I am pulled to revisit some books that first got me started, those many years ago. Every single one of these books is personally inspirational, and none of them is being read for the first or last time. Most of these are also in small pocket editions, rather than full-size trade paperbacks. (The Shambhala Pocket Classics are essential both for their contents and their portability.)

Some of these are books I've already proclaimed my love for and pleasure in. Some of them have been discussed here before. Old favorites and newer friends.

I also notice how a few of these are desert wisdom books. Since I will be spending a significant amount of time in the Southwestern desert regions this journey, this is beyond appropriate. Each of these are reminders, though, of the silence and solitude that I find in the desert's open spaces, the Big Empty, that heals me and recharges my lifeforce every time I go there. I have been looking forward to the void emptiness of the open desert for many months. I always feel myself expanding when I'm out there, half-lost and wandering.

Matsuo Basho: Narrow Road to the Interior (trans. by Sam Hamill)
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Stephen Mitchell)
Thomas Merton: The Wisdom of the Desert: Inspiration from Sufi Wisdom
Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut: The Perfume of the Desert
T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets
Octavio Paz: Sunstone; A Tale of Two Gardens
Barry Lopez: Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven; River Notes: The Dance of Herons
Robert Sohl and Audrey Carr, eds.: The Gospel According to Zen (Beyond the Death of God)
Federico Garcia Lorca: Poet in New York (a new translation with notes, lectures, and letters)

Also included are a few newer books that seemed to say, Take me with you and read me. One or two of them have hung around awhile, unopened, but now are ready to be delved into.

F. David Peat: The Blackwinged Night: Creativity in Nature and Mind
Will Roscoe: Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love
Rilke: Sonnets to Orpheus (a new translation by Willis Barnstone)
Rilke: Stories of God (a new translation by Michael H. kohn)

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

What, no Robert Ludlum?

2:04 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Not this time, sorry.

A last minute addition:

C.G. Jung: Mandala Symbolism

12:03 AM  
Blogger BarbaraS said...

Enjoy Burning Man. I've heard great things about it in about 2005, when I had the luck to visit San Francisco. Look forward to hearing what happens.

4:34 AM  

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