Ken Hartke

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I'm retired and living solo "out west" in the New Mexico desert. I've been an observer and blogger for years and usually have four or five blogs going but wrote for myself or for friends. A lot of it was travel stories or daily random postings -- but it was a good experience. Red Room allowed me to share things on a wider scale and with its demise, I (maybe) found a more public voice.


I once had lunch with a very successful writer -- an Author. You would recognize the name instantly. The problem was that we were sitting at different tables. Two tables, separated only by an aisle in a nearly empty restaurant, for a lazy mid-afternoon lunch in a nice Italian restaurant. I didn't pay much attention at first until my lunch partner whispered and did an amazing eye thing to direct my attention. My wife was a champion eavesdropper, but I never perfected the skill because she was so good and would always share what she heard. In this instance I was on my own. The nearby conversation was loud enough that it was easy to overhear what was being said. The Author has a distinctive voice and sound carried in the mostly empty room. Our own conversation was disjointed and lagged because we were now zoned in to the neighboring table. I used to mildly scold my wife for not paying attention to my important table comments in this kind of situation but all that was out the window. It turns out that the conversation of interest was between the Author and his financial advisor, and the discussion was about whether he should buy a Ferrari or a Maserati. I almost choked which would have given away the supposed secrecy of our interest. I tried to ignore the conversation -- really, I did. We continued in our own peasant small talk for a few minutes. We tried to be virtuous and pretend that there was nothing going on. That lasted for a few minutes until I heard him say "...I like round numbers, go ahead and put another $800,000 in the pot." My head swiveled involuntarily. The financial guy was looking a little flustered for a second or two but recovered nicely. A nice round numbered investment -- somebody was going to have a very good day. I was finished eating but ordered a coffee and was considering dessert. This was too much to leave behind.

I had a similar late lunch one time with singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman. She was gorgeous in a very relaxed and casual way but sadly, she was in the restaurant booth directly behind me facing the opposite direction. We were inches apart, surely closer than her friends at the table. I was engaged in a business meeting lunch and could not hear what was going on behind me. From the laughter and the voices, it was simply a friends' time together. No Ferrari or Maserati involved.

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Rosy Cole
An imaginative bargaining chip, though I suppose posh wheels might be an actual investment :-) When I was a publisher's reader, i... Read More
Monday, 13 September 2021 17:23
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Kiowa Ranch 2018 — Waiting for D.H. Lawrence

Our thoughts bewitch us at times. A certain rough edge
of our perception snags an errant and unsettled
hint of trespass.  Like time is standing still. Such was
the case on my visit to the Kiowa Ranch.


The old throne chair, now in ruins, sits on the porch
as if waiting for some wandering king’s return.
That was his chair, back then, and it saw a lot of use
almost a century ago.


Every day the current cat comes from somewhere
and sits on the arm of the chair and waits.
He is of the present generation of cats. It’s his job now.
Passed down. It is his chair now. He waits.


He has a spot worn into the arm of that old chair.
He listens and surveys the view, near and far;
to the somber hills and to the distant peaks:
to the Sangre de Cristos — the Blood of Christ.


The “master” left in 1925. He returned only once – to be
finally laid to rest. This was the only place that Lawrence
and his wife, Freida (the Baroness von Richthofen),
ever owned. It was called Kiowa Ranch, back then.


It seems fitting as a resting place for a restless soul.
This small ranch, near the village of San Cristobal,
a mere fly spec, was his treasured home.  But
San Cristobal is the patron saint of wanderers.


Frieda lived on at the ranch into the 1950s.
The cats knew her. Georgia O’Keefe was here.
Aldous Huxley was here.  A constellation of stars
once graced this old porch.


Accommodations were challenging and rude, at best.
But this place stood in opposition to the “roaring 1920s”
and I think that was the deliberate point of it –
a point of departure – of escape.


Lawrence was contrary if he was anything at all,
and as remote as the ranch. Getting there, even today,
is a challenge. It was far different from what he knew
before, in England and Europe.


How was he viewed by the local Hispanos?
He was the stranger on the hill. He was a writer.
Some days they might have faintly heard him hammering,
trying to fix the barn or the fence for Susan, the lone cow.


Lawrence liked to write outside under a huge Ponderosa Pine.
He would drag a table outside and write in the open air.
He remembered: “One goes out of the door and the
 tree-trunk is there, like a guardian angel.”


The tree is still there, waiting too, a guardian angel
along with the cat and the chair and the porch and
the house,  just as it was when it shaded the writer
at his table. It still drops pinecones where he worked.


Georgia O’Keefe made a painting of the old tree —
lying on her back during her time at the ranch.
It is tall and strong and could likely endure and
wait another hundred years.


New Mexico agreed with him and offered a cure
for his soul and his ever-weakening affliction.
He completed five novels and several short stories,
and a collection of travel essays, all under his tree.


Wanderlust returned and he headed back to Europe.
He stayed near Florence and in France. Soon years passed.
His affliction returned. He died in France in 1930.
He never again saw the ranch.


Years later Frieda had his ashes brought back to the ranch
and interred in a small shrine that sits on the hillside
above the old cabin with the porch and the chair
and the cat and the tree all patiently waiting.



The Home Place – 2021

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Stephen Evans
Wonderful portrait, Ken.
Sunday, 22 August 2021 15:20
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The Bus Stop

I walked her to the bus stop.

We sat quietly together.

There was not much more to say.

Her bus came and left...

but she was still here waiting.

She looked at me and smiled.

"You’re a late bloomer" she said, laughing.

"I'll wait for you forever."


That is a long, long time.


She was as good as her word.

It really wasn't all that long.

I guess I bloomed at some point.

Or she just decided I did.

We roamed the world and

lived beyond the fences.

We grew our own expectations.

We walked along together.


On the beach, at sunset.




Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Lovely portrait, Ken.
Sunday, 01 August 2021 15:44
Rosy Cole
Priceless! Memories to warm yourself by. A heartwarming share.
Monday, 09 August 2021 17:29
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A Place Beyond

There are places beyond the usual limits
of space and time.
We go there – when the time is right
to see what is mostly unseen.

This is not a different world or universe.
You simply have to hop the fence.
Step lively if you want to catch the fleeting moment.
It is worth the effort.

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