Tag Archives: friendship

Dogs and Connection

Spring is a blustery time.  A time of longing and too soon and still cold and then the phone rings and the cat steps out of the cupboard and well it is no ordinary Saturday.  I have been dog sitting the past few months.  Part of my new Girl Friday/Personal Assistant duties even though not on my original “task list” –who knew I had such capacity to love given my solitary track record and the great distances between my two legged relationships .  So thank you life for giving me other people’s pets to love.  And there have been a variety:  Labradoodle (very regal), Corgi (energetic) and now two Bulldogs I’m not quite sure how to describe.

Almost reptilian their weight low to the ground.  That under bite so hillbilly dental and pushed in (lovable) face that looks up with longing and rests easily on the top of my foot.  Their coat beautiful and buff.  I listen to them lick themselves clean like a cat.  And they snore and snort all through the night.  I contemplate changing rooms though imagine they would simply follow me so I stay put.  Adjust.  When I wake in the morning there they are.  Waiting (heaven only knows how long) for me to wake too.  Ruby does a little dance and so suddenly I am dancing too.  Around this borrowed bedroom in leaps and circles, and even Ace does a little thing with his front paw.  All so happy.  The other dogs on my watch have the same routine.  Wait patiently beside the bed. For my eyes to open.  For my voice to call their name.  To begin again.  Good thing I’m a morning person.  All this unconditional adoration before coffee.

And what’s not to love about them too when they ask so little of you, a walk in the arroyo, a belly rub, a few tender words, give the dog a bone.   Ruby Tuesday and Ace is the Place and the Rubicon and well there is no judgment in their eyes. Not even walking on dog slobber while I’m trying to cook dinner is too annoying.  Minor on some level – compared to sleeping in the wet spot–though I do go in search of slippers.

 And today a big wind blows.  The weather nemesis that is Santa Fe in spring.  Thirty-six degrees before wind chill.  I go on a walkabout to explore trails on the north side of Hyde Park Road.  Invigorating.  Love every minute.  The you are here trail number scratched out at every sign.  Who does these things? The Buddha on top of the ridge.  Dust billows in the valley.  A man who forgot his hat.  I lost in nostalgia from a phone call that crossed 30 years to ring that morning.  The voice a connection that lights you up like Christmas.  Puts you back together in a way you forgot you were broken.  I barely 19.  He saw me like an x-ray.  All of us:  from Ohio and Michigan and Minnesota.

All broken and brilliant, hopeful and strong.  Dancing our dreams at the 3.2 bar and hiking our way through the Rockies. He told me you haven’t lived long enough to look back on your life.  And now I have.  I could spend the rest of my life having that conversation.  So there it is –come full circle.  This voice from the past holding my letter in his hands.  A spring blizzard raging.  He 30 years sober and married.  Made a good life.  I so certain he had walked off the edge a long time ago cannot even describe the elation.  Thrilled he is alive and well.  Thriving.  Somehow this gives me permission for happiness too.  For success no matter the failures or judgments.  What joy to stand visible in the eyes of a beholder who saw you the first time your world cracked open.  And yes, I do normal well I tell him.  We laugh.


The wind whirling so strong now.  It whistles and bends low then flares up like fire.  All the ghosts are flung out of hiding.  I hear them skipping across the roof and against the windows and imagine my ristra has blown off the side of the house again.  Chile seeds scattered like pearls.  Like today.  Gifts come when we least expect them.  Pick them up and put them in your pocket.  For safekeeping.

We all sleep at the base of the volcano Sage.

When not dog sitting or running errands for other people Brenda works in her home studio painting abstract shapes on small canvas and writing the occasional poem.  Her work can be seen at the new Kristin Johnson Fine Art Gallery in Santa Fe or on her website.  Studio visits welcome and by appointment.



Posted in Blog, Brenda Roper, Hiking Also tagged , |

Roots and community and everything in bloom

The company has come and gone.  The studio empty of bed and family.  Missing and stillness.  Projects placed and silent.  Time passing quickly and fully and not enough.  April is poetry month and this weekend I go to two readings.  Joan Kane, Inupiaq born in the modern world.  Raised in Anchorage.  Schooled at Harvard and Columbia.  Still a King Islander.  Her voice breathes forth the language of her tribe.  Her ancestors.  Her rootedness to a culture though she was not born among the cliffs, and King Island only rock.  Contemporary telling of myth and memoir and spirit passed on and down and recorded.  She is wife and mother.  Poet. Read at IAIA.  The night of the hard rain.  The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife in its 2nd edition.  Backstory enriched. Wonderful.

I never knew my grandparents on my father’s side having just met my father.  And only my maternal grandmother Grace.  I beg for photos and have them now.  All the grandparents and great grandparents.  Cake and celebration. Artful project and forever.  Thank you.  So much unknown.  No tribe to carry us forward.  No shared history that formed us on the wings of ravens.  No name given at the death of one to the birth of the next.  I am adrift  — thinking of rootedness and community.  At the 2nd reading this is the context.  Three (3) Santa Fe poet laureates read at the NM History Museum auditorium on Friday:  Arthur Sze, Valerie Martinez, and Joan Logghe.  Very different styles yet all uniquely exceptional.  Excellent presenters and poets.  Humor and myth and abstract well-crafted.  The Palace Press.   It was lovely and during that hour I felt a kinship with Santa Fe.  My community though I often phrase it  “a place of transition” –still it grows on me.  The balloon man on the Plaza, the fall of light across adobe.  Shadows.  The mix of culture and tourism and sunshine.  Turquoise and drought and sunset. 


But place for me is internal.  It comes with me.  I unpack it from apartment 5 to apartment 6.  From Alaska to Baltimore to Santa Fe.  From Michigan to Colorado to Montana, and maybe back.  To a month in Mexico.  To a weekend away.  I’ve written about this before, in the letter poems.  It resides in the imagination of dreams and the comfy white chair where I watch movies and read books and contemplate.  In the dance across the studio.  Tom Russell and Leonard Cohen.  Pause.  For lately I am cracking open. April.  That month of wind and weather unpredicted and blossoms.  Of sun and dust and wet and dry.  This is a good thing.  Joyful –though sometimes I am besieged by the day job.  The squelching of spirit.  Bad attitude and a loss of perspective. 

A friend speaks of being rooted 30 years or so, and I understand how those roots dig in deep and spread and stay and split and sprout and I am adrift.  A steady slow current to nowhere known.  I contemplate that friendship is a reason to take root.  To travel to and across the country and visit and make plans and imagine a dream.  To set priorities and take chances and believe because what else do we have if not the love of others?  It may be time to set my fears aside and plant my toes awhile.  To test the waters.  To dive in and swim.  Hmmm. 

The studio is silent as I contemplate the distractions of poetry and family and a margarita at the Coyote Cantina sunset between the geraniums.  A friend to walk home with through the darkness along the river.  A Maypole neighborhood annual event.  I celebrate the birthday of a friend in our garden at El Zaguan.  Wine and flowers and conversation.  Nibbles and chocolate and reminisce. She brings me maps of places I will soon travel. Chiricahua National Monument where I will hike among the formations of rocks I only realized existed in southeast, Arizona.  To Bisbee where I can see into the mountains of Mexico from my bed on High Road and walk a thousand steps back and forth to the town below.  I am borrowing a tent and taking the stove.  Travel is good for the soul.  Mine.  Ripe with possibility and everything in bloom.  Candles flower showy in the yucca, Valerian, fragrance and birdsong.  Chirp.  Kiss. 


Posted in Blog, Dreams, Poetry, Studio Art Also tagged , , |

The Complexity of Dreaming and Artful Details



bike garden

I’m not here this beautiful Saturday morning in Santa Fe to babble off the complexity of my own dreaming though it is vivid.  Always.  The way of the unconscious telling stories, striking a chord, a leaky ceiling revealing the past.  Ladders and tidal wave, a boat or bicycle.  Often I am not driving or lose my purse. . .a crocodile beside a canoe in flat water where a tripod sunk deep in this river takes photos, the camera placed just above the brown water.  On occasion I fly.  Those are the best.  But recently I have a brother at the periphery.  To the left of the dream frame.  Someone I have not dreamed of before.  We are not close.  Not estranged but grew up in other houses most of our lives.  He 7 years my elder.  And a man I loved once and those I call my friends all 7 years my elder.  Is there a connection?  Maybe not.  I look up the symbols: bricks falling, a toilet, a broom, old photos worn and faded but this morning I wake confused and sluggish.  What to blog about that is artful?


I bought a pair of sunglasses yesterday.  Prescription of course.  My old ones still working and intact after 10 years.  I love them but wanted something bigger. To have a back-up.  Blue eyes.  Even at 50% off I spend $235 and decline the warranty.  Now I fret about indulgence.  And when I walk in the arroyo after to test the vision I feel as if I am walking uphill.  The distance is good.  Clear.  But the depth perception to the ground is odd.  How come nothing is simple?  Though it is of course.  Not then or last night.  I cannot function.  This is not uncommon.  I handle it.  Last night by falling into bed too early.  I scratch my head.  I want an avalanche to crush my chest.  To quiet this unquiet.  I cannot function to read or write so I talk softly to myself.  It’s okay.  I cry.  Lullaby my voice.  Nurture.  Like to a child.  I crawl under the covers and do not return the phone call of a friend.  I question my job.  My choices.  The visa balance.  How to make a change.  How to sell my art.  Does it matter?

I contemplate why travel feeds me so –that rush of chocolate melt in your mouth with its warmth.  Color.  Anticipation.  A change of climate.  Water. Texture and possibility.  Perspective.  Is it only escapism?  Or something else?  Where to go from here.  Or simply stay.  Friends and family.  Or.  What do I have of value? To sell.  Do I return the glasses?   — not about the present. Red dust on the windowsill.  Desert winds blow. It is always about the past but triggered by the present.  Hmmm.

A good friend is moving.  Is here already.  Healing in the sunshine.  He finds organic wine for drinking.  Friendships renewed.  An apartment changes hands.  One friend (of a friend) to another.  Spring on the way.  Crocus poking up from the earth.  Sunset conversation over years that feel like yesterday.  Life can be like that.  As if no time has passed.  Yet we are so much wiser.  Despite confusion and emotional paralysis.  It is good to feel deeply.  To ponder.

 And so I share these images –a few details of my work.  Creative moments. I love details better than the whole I think.  Often.  I want to paint bigger because of this.  To see how scale will affect my composition.  My heart. Trust in elements of change.  A trigger to something more.  Of truth when it finds me. (For) better or worse.  Different.   A small piece of the puzzle magnified.  A crack in the wall.  A comfort in the world at large.  A safe place to mourn.



Posted in Blog, Brenda Roper, details, Dreams, Free Writings, Studio Art Also tagged , , , , |

maybe thunder and life goes on –a letter poem

It is February in Santa Fe but the weather report calls for a mix of rain and snow and maybe some thunder.  Thunder?  When I was a child I was afraid of the thunder.  The boom that might bring the big maple crashing through the roof of the bedroom I shared with sisters.  I didn’t understand it was the lightning to fear though later my mother often reminded me.  Never take a bath if it’s storming.  And I don’t.  But I lived in Alaska for over 20 years where one forgets these childhood mantras.  Thunder and lightning storms so rare and when they do happen the excitement carries one outside just to experience it first hand.  I think of the great explorers: John Muir and Bob Marshall who would run outside (if not there already) and throw their arms up to touch that energy unleashed (or so the myths perpetuate).  My first summer in Santa Fe I didn’t know what to do when the monsoons brought thunder and lightning.  I unplugged my computer and sat in a chair in the middle of the room while it passed.  Such fear from my mother still inside these aging bones.  Those patterns we hold dear without even realizing they have taken shop inside us.  Not that I fear the coming of thunder today.  In winter no less.  My mind unfocused.  I think of posting about the debate of birth control in the White House or the state versus the Pope.  But why waste such a moment –Oh I was speaking of fear.  Okay.  Or the 12 year old girl raped by a “family friend” who was denied access to an abortion at Christus Saint Vincent Hospital where she was rushed with abdominal pains that turned out to be a pregnancy –it sparks a debate that in the 21st Century seems a bit gothic to me.  And all their apologetics to justify.  And today we have already forgotten that Komen pulled their Planned Parenthood funding because they have retracted, and the newly appointed Vice President has resigned.  But time travels quickly –passing then repeating.

And upcoming a week of love and sex, of  red hearts and vintage Valentines.  Lust. A box of chocolates and red roses.  Long stemmed. Lovely of course but a bit unimaginative — ? still thoughtful.  Still beautiful in tradition.  A wild bouquet of mixed color much more to my taste.  A friend did that for me once.  Hand picked from the forests of Indian Creek.  A crystal vase on the stoop of my cabin.  Thank you Chris.  My horoscope predicts that my tribe’s levels of sensual desire may reach astronomical heights.  Do you know anyone you’re attracted to who might be willing to help you follow your bliss? –I actually thought I might, which is a bit of a miracle, but his FB profile tells me he’s in a relationship.  The horoscope continues. . .be your own Valentine.  One way or another it’s prime time to celebrate your relationship with eros.  Something to ponder as I plan forays into Rumi translations by Coleman Banks, and other poetry events, or at the least a glass of Gruet raised in a joyful toast to self love and forgiveness and the distance traveled from emotional abuse packaged as eros that once was my life.

And so I share a letter poem written not at Valentine’s Day but during those moments of thunder and lightning.  Holding on and letting go in a moment of loneliness when I moved across the country for art only to discover the real reason had less to do with the program I traveled there for than the time gifted to feel and to grieve a few of those patterns I mentioned earlier.  That settle in our bones.

Letters Not Sent

. . .a tornado watch in effect,
and all the birthday presents
have been sent


Dear Rosella,

How does one come to a place, exactly? To this place, from that place?

 Is it geography or chronology or biology?  Are there road signs, or

intersections  with  flashing yellow signals?  Have I missed them completely

on this rabid path to here?  How does this place differ from that place?–

that  place that moves with me from one place to another?  That, I think

may be what place is — ambient, mobile, spirit– or something else.

 Tonight I am calm.   


Baltimore is under a tornado watch.  I think of my mother first, and secondly

 remember that I have a basement in this place that is my new home.  A row house

on Bolton Street.  A basement where my landlord, at 75, still runs a small beauty shop. 

Wooden curlers and products from the 50’s line a long shelf.   A swivel chair, sink,

and hairdryer sit on the same side of the narrow brick corridor.  


The rain is soothing, and I realize that everything here sweats.  The refrigerator,

 the bottle of catsup, even my skin is a sweet heat.  My feet sweat, and the bedclothes

 are damp.  A tornado warning is in effect and I remain at the kitchen table.  Defiant.

When I was a child my mother’s fear herded us into the Michigan basement:  dirt floors,

musty scents, white chest freezer, and uneven shelves holding heavy bell jars of canned

 tomatoes bathed in  dust.  Tonight I am not afraid.  The rain is soothing.  I am hot. 

Everything sweats.



Dear Kevin,

A tornado watch in effect and I love the rain it brings.  With darkness everything is still.  I notice that everything here sweats; the refrigerator, the catsup bottle, the back of my neck. 

Rosemary Clooney coos from NPR.  My mother would have ushered us, all my siblings and me, into the Michigan basement.  Her greatest fear realized.  Black dust funnels rising from a hot August heat, if only imagined.  I think of her first.  The basement second as I enjoy an evening rabid with thought.  In Baltimore.  I consider that what I miss is the element of “being known”.  That it isn’t you I miss,  but who I was with you.  I go through the motions here.  Candles.  Music.  Dinner.  Three avocado slices on a plate, hard provolone on buffalo, red wine.  Lettuce and tomato.  Today I read an article by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in a recycled New Yorker and think it is one you have read to me.  Aloud.  Or was that Garcia Lorca?

 I walk to the store next door for bath salts but there is a tornado warning.  Mother always said not to run a bath in a storm.  So I turn around and find myself in another place.  That difficult time between late afternoon and darkness. When the bedclothes are too clammy for napping and street traffic draws you outside, the rain pushes you back in, but you want to walk to the opposite ocean, or at least half an hour.  

 I contemplate finding a path to reside on. Or  is that something I choose? Is place something to carry from one encounter to another? Do we give it away or hold on tight?  Does it exist with, or without acknowledgement? Is it only a state of mind — never empty? Though we put it out to be filled.  Over.  And again. Like a pitcher for rain. I am fluid, like ink running without direction.  Pages and pages to fill.  Many pens.  Goodnight.

Posted in Blog, Brenda Roper, Poetry, Studio Art Also tagged , , , , , |

Company, Christmas & Connections

sayulitawallI don’t want to write about the weather but that is where I begin then delete.  Weather.  Really?  A horoscope recently said to talk about something besides the weather and the weekend.  Our superficial social skills so limited.  Yes.  And this week I receive an email from a friend of long ago who asks “do you remember hitchhiking to my wedding. . .?”  I do.  I slept with a boy without protection.  No visible consequence.  Young and foolish and midwest wholesome  in my 20 something joy of  ecstatically alive– and/or equally lost.  Either way it makes me happy to be in touch again. 

That summer in Estes Park (1977) the first time my world cracked open.  Fry me an egg.  Dancing at the 3.2 bar, hiking until I could finally breathe, up to the very top of Longs Peak just to exhale.  But I didn’t know then, and we never do. . .  The 2nd time my world cracked open came much later (1998) and the greater the pain.  The grander the enlightenment.  And so that struggle continues and I am waiting for the 3rd.  Three’s a charm and all that. 

And from one connection comes another and it is this whose words punch the day with arrogance and honesty –political and comical– a drift in the universe.  Hi Tom.  Writer.  Somehow I thought something had happened to you.  Suicide? — so even more thrilling to find you alive, writing by a big fireplace with a small fire.  Sipping port.  

I want to be THAT smart.  To articulate. Words. To make fiction and fact and not matter the difference if it gets the point across.  The mood.  The moment. Encapsulates.  And maybe I am in some secret place in my heart.  Where I can discern the past imperfect and give an example, and quote poetry from poets that matter (and all poets matter), and belt out a song and play the guitar and dance in red boots.  Really — because nobody cares anyway.  Everyone is either self-absorbed head down texting their neighbor or playing a video game.  We live in the age of communication but all I hear is chatter.  Or nothing at all.   The nothing at all really pisses me off.  C’mon.  Be nice didn’t your mother teach you anything?

I am suddenly warm all over instead of invisible here on the hamster wheel going round and round in the same day job with the same dynamic as one year ago, as two years ago and why is it still so hard to STOP.   To simply stop going round, get off, open the door, walk out, say my good-bye, cash the check, believe another door will open.  Immediately.  Already waiting. Patiently.  Thank you.  Soon.  The universe is shifting. 

A year ago I met my biological father for the first time (well the first time in the context of his being my father).  Long story.  Joyful heart and all that.  A good thing.  And with this comes 9 siblings.  Two already gone.  I make art about it.  Write about it.  And this week I write to them.  Hello and Merry Christmas and hope our paths will cross.  How does one begin these relationships? –much like when born I suppose.  With baby steps and one word at a time.  With childlike discovery and trial and error and risk. On this note I give thanks for family and the unlocking of family secrets and the joyful spirit of Christmas and those mantras we manifest every December:  Peace on Earth and Happy New Year which in some sad way is no different than talking about the weather and the weekend.  Sorry, feeling a wee bit cynical but only a temporary state of mind.

peacechristmasSo if anything has been said in this rambling it is to get off that goddam wheel and push open the door to the rest of your life.  My life. To walk outside and catch the closest star and celebrate the voice that is yours. Out loud.  Be naked —oh that scares me.  Exposure.  So much safer in the realm of invisible. Be grateful for company and connections and Christmas.  Especially those friendships that founded you and were there when your world cracked open the very first time.  And the second. And so forth.  As far as Peace on Earth. . .never give up. 


Posted in Free Writings Also tagged , |