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After a week of the most stimulating input imaginable, I woke up on the morning of our departure with--surprise--poetry just pouring out of me! The first one woke me up at 5:00 am with a pounding heart--I think it was saying "Let me out!"--and by 5:05 am my first poem had written itself. As we drove home and shared the wheel, I spent my "off" time writing and writing, and it hasn't stopped yet. Apparently poetry is a highly contagious virus. You can catch it in Elko!
Road Trip to Elko_Anne
Spectrum magazine’s slogan, “Community through conversation” perfectly summarizes this heady week in Elko. It has been one non-stop conversation, through poetry and song, through all day and late night conversations with our many new friends. We’ve talked about what brought us here, about this culture that not only values family, traditions, and the holiness of everyday life—but has a passionate need to capture the stories, remember the dead, ask the big questions, and honor the small moments.
It took much of Thursday morning to edit photos and compile our thoughts about the previous day. Fortunately our first event wasn’t until 1:00 pm: a Members-only (of the Western Folklife Center) show billed as the Pauly Wally Doodle Show, with legendary poets Paul Zarzinsky and Wally McCrae. Not only did our press passes get us into this exclusive show, the seats were front row, center; we found ourselves seated next to Wally’s wife and daughter! Between poems and good-natured ribbings, these two old friends covered the gamut.
Well, D- (for departure) day has finally arrived. . .after all of the delightful anticipation of preparation; planning wardrobes, packing (whoever would have thought the day would come when I packed more electronics than hair and makeup gear!?), planning routes, and checking AccuWeather…we are off!
Anne arrived about 9:30 this morning and the truck was loaded in minutes. Max snapped a few shots hugs, kisses, and we were off.
Bonnie asked, "Does cowboy poetry have any spiritual content?"
My first reaction was, "Of course!" But thinking I should do a little research, I spent some time on the Western Folklife Center's website (www.westernfolklife.org), listening to a podcast of Yvonne Hollenbeck's poem, "The Christmas Quilt," in which a family's lost loved ones and their sacrifices are stitched together with the Christmas story and Christ's sacrifice for us. Yes, right there was spiritual content in this first poem, randomly picked and touchingly read by the author.
Just after Christmas my friend Anne invited me to join her on a road trip to Elko, Nevada, in the middle of winter. Elko is in the Great Basin, and winter temperatures peak at what we Northern Californians consider bone-chilling lows. So--what's in Elko during the last week of January?
Since 1985, Elko has been home to the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This--perhaps unknown--bit of culture is nonetheless a big, wholesome slice of all-American pie. Poets and musicians, craftspeople and cowboys, ranchers