Georgia On My Mind

Georgia On My Mind


I found my journal from 25 years ago. There is a lot of Georgia O’Keefe running through my journal, quotes from letters she wrote, excerpts from interviews and the unrelenting, unapologetic love for her subject matter.

1915 letter to Anna Pollitzer from Georgia O’Keefe

Do you feel like flowers sometimes? Tonight I have an enormous bunch of dark red and pink cosmos, mostly dark red over against the wall on the floor where I can only know they are there with my left eye but with my right eye and part of my left eye I can see a bunch of petunias, lavender, red lavender, one white on my bureau. It is dark mission wood. They give me a curious feeling of satisfaction. I put them there so I could see them… and put a wonderful bunch of zinnias in the closet.

The absurdity of flowers in the closet made me stop in my tracks. I could see the flowers in the closet in my mind. I could almost smell the botanical yet not pleasant musk of the Zinnia stems. I loved these letters! They took me to the room. I felt like I was there with her to see the petunias on the dresser and mission oak is my favorite! I felt home, like someone may understand me after all. I was honored to have a glimpse into her world. She was my kindred.

Later, I would find out she really is, as we are distantly related on my maternal grandmother’s side.

So what are these connections we circle around in our lives? Why was I so taken with this artwork and moreover the meaning behind the work? I read every letter I could in every book I could get my hands on. Her attitude toward her work is simply bad ass. She is not looking for validation from anyone. She holds her truths. She was one of the few female artists to enjoy fame and legitimacy in a male driven industry in her time.

I have been blessed to have walked the land where she walked.

Decades after I wrote the entries in my newly found journal, Frond had a teaching, quilt event in Albuquerque. I made reservations for my staff and myself in Abiquiu on the property where she once lived, hoping for a dusting of peace, mojo, confidence and/or inspiration. The adobe house wrapped itself around us that night with the fireplace slowly fading.

I, however was freaking out because one of my friends with whom I worked loved Forensic Files. She had asked if she could watch it and I didn’t know what it was at the time. As the fireplace crackled and my two roomates snored off into the night I was wide eyed at the corner of the top of the bed. I gathered the covers around me and thought “How do all of these people have time to murder each other?” I mean that would take a ton of energy! I was not feeling the peace I needed. I wanted to be sleeping peacefully and bouncing into the majestic deep blooms in my trampoline mind.

As the narrator’s voice plodded on with a seemingly educated yet reticent disassociation I was struck by the science of it all. At least I had come to terms with the fact that this work is necessary and people are truly seeking justice out there in the world. That gave me some comfort as I scrunched up the pillow and listened to the parade of the show reruns marching out through the TV.

Yes. I could have gotten up and changed the channel. I simply was too terrified. I spent my time channeling Superman’s x ray vision talents to see if both doors were actually locked from my perch at the top right corner of the bed. Ultimately, exhaustion took over and I was sleeping too, amid gruesome background noises and the drone of his voice.

As I stared out the back window in the foggy morning I was happy we were alive and taken aback to see this beautiful large tree bending in the back of the yard against a fence. The trunk of it was huge and the branches were gnarly. They were allowed to grow as they chose, not trimmed and pruned to conform to the vision of another.

The tree and I were in this earthly church prayer meeting, paying homage to the beautiful planet that shared our air, our water and our Georgia.

I used to decorate the Nativity in my days at Fern Hill. It was an easy job to get because the Festhalle Barn in Amana, IA was not heated. Decorating began the day before Thanksgiving. The nativity was a beautiful set Tim had donated from The Christmas Room back in the day. It was from Italy and it was probably the most gorgeous set I have ever seen. We always wanted to give this beautiful nativity the honor it deserved. So we purchased yards and yards of lush velvets, sparkling organzas and shiny satins to adorn the pine trees that encircled baby Jesus.

Many times the trees would not be perfect… they would bend and lean. So one year, I decided the make them all bend toward the manger scene. It was as if the trees were bowing to the King of Kings. It was my favorite set for Christmas and a nativity I had never done before. This lone, looming, huge tree made me think of that experience.

It was a sacred experience. I grabbed onto it as a way to gather the dusting of peace and inspiration I was looking for, to cleanse my spirit from the hauntings of the night before and soak up this unexpected peace through my own roots as I stood there staring at it, mesmerized by it, grateful for it. The tree and I nodded to each other. I packed my things and navigated through the upcoming travel maze back to December in Iowa.

My Journal

You mean you have seen the world. I am a speck in the cold of this Beautiful Land.
The petals pour out of their vase, gauzy. Holding each other and yet hang there, inviting a kiss or a brush of the lips.

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