Unsung Song

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I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.
Rabindranath Tagore

 

My song resounds within a cloistered chamber. Set free, it might expire, like a fragile bird, on frosted thorns beneath the window.

How shall I cross the gulf between you and me without a Voice? A signature Voice, with a timbre, tone and inflection of its own, forged in grief and guilt, and tempered by the joys and blisses of my moments? A Voice, which, because it is authentic, steels me with hope and courage. I am God's creation. And so are you.

I must learn the art of listening, of crafting sentences for ears tuned into the zeitgeist and assumptions of our present world, our language and distracted themes. I must remember that cadence creates its own dynamic. Which is good. For you have not seen me coming. My word images will project onto the blank screen of your mind and they must be as finely-honed as I can make them, minimalist, many say, but as natural as the rhythm of the sea. Then I shall hope that the strings of your spirit will be touched, and that some vibrant echo will linger when my Voice is no longer a memory.

This is the singer's challenge. And the writer's, profoundly so.We all have gifts. What can we bring?

But when you feel you have no song to sing, perhaps you should examine your life for its abundance of blessings. A bird may sing on winter thorns when there is only ice to slake his thirst.


A few quotes from those who have practised these arts and know how the senses may flow into one stream.


Of course, there are those critics—New York critics as a rule—who say, Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer. Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.
Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings**

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.
Emily Dickinson

I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.
Jalaluddin Rumi

I would like to paint the way a bird sings.
Claude Monet

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.
Victor Hugo

Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
Rabindranath Tagore

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
Chinese Proverb

Singing is a way of escaping. It's another world. I'm no longer on earth.
Edith Piaf

Sweetest the strain when in the song /The singer has been lost.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (Ward)

God respects me when I work; but God loves me when I sing.
Rabindranath Tagore

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.
Chinese Proverb

Sing again, with your dear voice revealing/A tone Of some world far from ours, /Where music and moonlight and feeling /Are one.
Percy Bysshe Shelley.

** (Interview: The Paris Review)

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The Banana Peel Of The Parts Of Speech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some trenchant reflections on the art and craft of writing...

 

 

This book fills a much-needed gap.

Moses Hadas

 

Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.

George Orwell

 

The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work.

Emile Zola

 

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.

Joan Didion

 

Men of few words are the best men.

William Shakespeare

 

Why don't you write books people can read?

Nora Joyce (to James)

 

The letter I have written today is longer than usual because I lacked the time to make it shorter.

Blaise Pascal

 

There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.

Robert Graves

 

Four basic premises of good writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity and humanity.

William Zinsser

 

The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.

George Bernard Shaw

 

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.

H G Wells

 

The adjective is the banana peel of the parts of speech.

Clifton Fadiman

 

The work was like peeling an onion. The outer skin came off with difficulty, but in no time you'd be down to the innards, tears streaming from your eyes as more and more beautiful reductions became possible.

Edward Blishen

 

An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.

Adlai Stevenson

 

I trust it will not be giving away professional secrets to say that many readers would be surprised, perhaps shocked, at the questions which some newspaper editors will put to a defenseless woman under the guise of flattery.

Kate Chopin

 

Where were you fellows when the paper was blank?

Fred Allen

 

You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.

Saul Bellow

 

This book has too much space between the covers.

Ambrose Bierce

 

 

Copyright

© Rosy Cole 2009 - 15

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In Praise of Old Hotels -- Part 9: Marfa Texas

 

Bick, you shoulda shot that fella a long time ago. Now he's too rich to kill."

-- Uncle Bawley in 'Giant'

MARFA, TEXAS

We made our way to west Texas in a roundabout sort of way through the New Mexico mountains, heading toward Marfa. Maybe you have heard of Marfa, Texas, way out west...way out.  Marfa is located 74 miles from  Van Horn and has around 2,000 residents. This part of west Texas is sparsely populated with many miles between towns. As you approach town there isn't much to see other than west Texas desert and a Prada store sitting all alone out on the empty highway. In this part of the world you need a sense of humor to survive. Marfa is a place known for its art and artists, its writers-in-residence program and a theater group.  The Prada store is an example of the off-kilter and experimental creativity of the art scene...a fake Prada store in the middle of nowhere.

 

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  Marfa has another lasting claim to fame. It was the location for shooting the movie "Giant" released in 1956. It was James Dean's last movie.

EL COSMICO

Our Marfa destination was El Cosmico, a camping site just outside of Marfa. This is not exactly a normal hotel and it would not be considered old...unless you consider sleeping in a teepee as old. This is more of a "glamping" experience.

 

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We were booked in at El Cosmico for two nights. The first night in two safari tents and the second night in a teepee. The safari tents were nice; equipped with a queen size bed, side tables and a chair all on a raised wooden floor. There was a hanging pendant light as well as a reading light and a radio. The best part was the heated mattress pad. This was November and it was pretty cold at night -- down in the low 40s -- and the heated bed was great. Very cozy

 

 

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The place is rustic to say the least. The bath house provides the communal shower and toilet facility. The shower house also includes a claw-foot tub if you are bold enough to try it. There is a kitchen house where campers can cook their own meals. They also have a small store but not much else. Besides the safari tents and the teepees there are a number of vintage (1950ish) trailers. The trailers had cooking facilities and bathrooms.

While it was great fun and very comfortable in the safari tent, I opted to sleep elsewhere and made plans to stay at a local hotel the second night. This was based on a medical complication that I should have planned for and didn't...my fault, not El Cosmico's. My daughter opted to stay in the teepee the second night.

 

She had a great experience with the teepee. One really has to stay in a well-constructed teepee at least once to appreciate it. It was much larger and had a cow hide covered wooden floor and a couch/futon as well as the chair and side tables and heated queen bed. There were three tepees and about eight safari tents as well as the six or eight vintage travel trailers. I think I would consider one of the trailers for my next visit.

 

We were hoping to see a dark night sky and thousands of stars but it was a full moon and we mostly saw the moon. We could walk anywhere at night without a flash light because the moon was so bright. It is known to be a good spot to take pictures of the night sky because there is almost no light pollution and the low humidity cuts down on the haze.

 

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 HOTEL PAISANO - MARFA, TX  

 
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I already mentioned that I opted to stay at a local hotel the second night in Marfa.  The Hotel Paisano is a historic hotel on the national register, built in 1930 and designed by Henry Trost, a well known southwestern architect.  The hotel was used to house actors during the filming of the Edna Ferber classic "Giant".

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The hotel is restored (mostly) and is well maintained. They seem very proud of the hotel and its history. The main lobby is a shrine to west Texas Spanish revival.  All of the public areas are nicely kept and restored. The rooms are quite large for an eighty year old hotel and are well maintained but in need of just a little more restoration. The bathrooms are beautifully preserved from the 1930s.

 

 

My room was nice and roomy with some nice period (1930-40) style furniture. It had French doors leading out to the balcony overlooking a large courtyard with a fountain. It was a little too cold to take full advantage of the balcony but in warmer weather it would be great.

 

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The hotel has a nice and popular restaurant. The food was good and plentiful with a varied menu but the prices were a little high…but where are you gonna go…Van Horn?

 

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WHAT TO DO

 Giant posterWe were on a tight schedule -- visiting Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountain National Park and the distances are such that you have to leave early and you get back late. If we had more time there is plenty to do in Marfa. The town is small but it is artsy -- there are several art galleries and art studios. The theater company will often put on performances. You might see a movie being made. Scenes from "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will be Blood" were filmed in Marfa. There is really nothing left to see of the movie set from "Giant" but the area will look familiar if you know the movie.  There also is a local paranormal spectacle called The Marfa Lights, which you can drive out to at night and try to see. So many folks do that they have set up a designated parking lot and viewing area so people won't park on the highway and get run over.  This is west Texas, after all.

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This is my last installment of my In Praise of Old Hotels series until I get back out on the road. It might be a few months but I'll get there.

 

 

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In Praise of Old Hotels -- Part 5: The Occidental

 

OUTLAWS: THE WILD BUNCH

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In an earlier post I probably mentioned a backpacking trip to the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Big Horns -- one of my favorite spots. The Big Horns are in north central Wyoming and just south of the mountain range is a region called The Hole in the Wall where numerous outlaws  and desperadoes could hide out from the law back in the late 1800s.  The law, such as it was out west at the time, was in Buffalo, Wyoming, as was...and still is...The Occidental Hotel.

THE OCCIDENTAL HOTEL, BUFFALO, WYOMING

If you are traveling west toward Yellowstone National Park or maybe riding your Harley east toward Sturgis, SD or maybe going to meet the Mother Ship at Devil's Tower, be sure to take the time to spend a night at the Occidental Hotel. Of all the hotels I will cover in this series of blog posts, The Occidental is possibly my favorite. The hotel originated in 1880 as a log building on the bank of a creek  near the Bozeman Trail. This was Johnson County, Wyoming...you might have heard of the Johnson County War between the small ranchers and farmers and the larger land  and cattle barons in 1887. The war was finally settled by the arrival of the US Cavalry. The little town of Buffalo became the county seat and the Occidental prospered. Eventually the log hotel was replaced by a fine brick building and then it was enlarged over time.

 

 

This was THE place to stay and lots of famous people spent time at the Occidental. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid would drift into town and stay in the room overlooking the sheriff's office so they could watch the activity there. Teddy Roosevelt stayed here. General Phil Sheridan stayed here. Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane and Tom Horn stayed here as did President Herbert Hoover. Owen Wister visited the Occidental and wrote a major part of The Virginian while staying in the balcony room overlooking Main street. The locals say the town featured in the book is Buffalo -- not Medicine Bow. I've been to both places and I lean toward Buffalo.  Again, probably some of my relatives stayed here because they had a ranch about forty miles away and Buffalo was the closest "big" town. 

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 Lobby/Parlor

The Occidental went into decline with the depression and then sank even deeper as highway motels sprang up. It finally became a local landmark as a bordello for several years and it endured it all. The hotel had only one manager for 58 years who carefully preserved everything. The building survived and, miraculously, most of the hotel's grand furnishings were just carted down into the basement where they sat until 1997 when the hotel was reborn. The place was on it's last legs and renovation took many years. It was only halfway renovated when we stayed here but it has progressed since then and today is a sight to behold.

  

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We stayed in the Teddy Roosevelt suite and my daughter stayed in the General Sheridan room, next door. There is the Owen Wister room and the Herbert Hoover suite, the Hole in the Wall room and the Madam's Retreat plus some cowboy rooms. When we visited, some of the old, run down sections were awaiting renovation and you could see how much work was involved in bringing the place back to life. There were even some scribbled notes on the walls from the old bordello days.

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Besides the hotel and the restored rooms, there is also a saloon. This hotel was a full service operation --- hotel, saloon, restaurant and barber shop. The saloon is well worth visiting even if you don't stay at the hotel. There are bullet holes in the walls...real bullet holes. The current saloon and it's furnishings date to 1908. It was a stand-up saloon so the bar stools and tables are a more recent addition. The bar is twenty-five feet long and could accommodate all sorts of outlaws and lawmen. Butch and Sundance died in 1908 in Bolivia (maybe?) but who knows, maybe they had a farewell drink at the Occidental Saloon. Ernest Hemingway was a hotel guest and I figure he surely had a drink or two at the saloon and maybe a Cuban cigar.

 

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 Today there is also a restaurant (The Virginian) and a café (The Busy Bee) but I don't think they were back in operation when we were here.

It's not cheap. Hotel rooms and suites run from about $110 to $250 in the summer depending on the room. Winter rates are significantly lower....this is Wyoming and very cold and snowy in Winter.

Check out the web page for details: http://www.occidentalwyoming.com/index.php

 --------

 

Update...Travel Channel's "The Dead Files" did a TV episode exploring the paranormal experiences of hotel staff and guests at The Occidental.   Nothing like that happened while we were guests at the Occidental and there were no discussions or hints of spooks or spirits from staff or the owner who gave us a full tour of the hotel including parts that were not renovated.  Such is the state of television these days.

 

***  ***  ***

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 The Big Horns

 

 

 

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