Art and Literature in the American Southwest

I had the lovely opportunity to spend this past weekend with my honors class Art and Literature in the American Southwest camping, painting, and writing at Lee’s Ferry, Marble Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend with local Flagstaff artist Bruce Aiken and honors professor and writer Robyn Martin. All of my previous painting experience has consisted of getting drunk with my friends and painting “Fuck Off” on stuff, but, this weekend, I also learned to watercolor southwestern landscapes to a somewhat-acceptable degree. Additionally, I took on the task of fitting all of my creative writing prompts into my well-loved form of the letter:

Prompt: At Lonely Dell, the homestead of Emma Lee near Lee’s Ferry, we were told to write a letter to Emma Lee. She was one of the Mormon martyr John D. Lee’s nineteen wives (each with their own, separate homestead which only saw John D. Lee himself from time to time), a mother of nine, and later a midwife in Winslow, AZ.

Dear Emma Lee,
There is something to your name that was built to slide off of the tongue. I have not known you, nor am I familiar with you story past a cursory glance at an hour of new-found oral history. But your name was meant to fit into mouths, Emma Lee, those of natives,

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Lonely Dell

those of Mormons, children, husbands, laboring mothers, decedents, visitors. How did his name, Lee, tack  onto the end of the other wives’ names, I wonder? How did you share the love of a man, his seed, your God with women planted across the red rock of this place you call “Lonely Dell,” Emma Lee? What did this loneliness feel like in the knowledge of his social abundance scattered, planted, and growing despite the dryness of this landscape?

 

Emma Lee, your name is reminiscent of my gentile Eve, a trapdoor of consonant sandwiched between open vowel. I admire the garden you have here, dear Emma Lee, sown in the dust of the original sin which shaped the world in which you must toil. Please, warn me, your tourists, the daughters you have ushered into this world of any snakes, Emma. In the southwest, I hear, lost innocence is not chosen, but stolen with a rattle.
Love, Lizzy

Prompt: After reading Terry Tempest Williams‘s “Why I Write”, answer the question “Why do you write?”

A Love Letter from the Pen to Thoughts

 

Dear Thoughts,
How are you? How have you been since your last letter, the one where you smeared my ink on the word

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The Colorado River

“and” with the side of your hand and said a bit of vocabulary at me, even though we both know it wasn’t my fault? I’m sorry that our relationship has taken on this rapport of ours, even though we both know that it isn’t my fault. You, with your untamed violence, thrashing out from the boned confines of your prison skull, and me, sitting placid in the relative freedom of being outside the human body, but dang it if we don’t both need that body to move. I’m sorry that our affair is one of dependence like this.

Sometimes, thoughts, I imagine what it must be like to exist in such vastness only to have me reduce yourself to my thin stream of ink, to pass on to others to expand again. I’m glad you choose me over voice, though, for my permanence scratched out with time over his quickness and ease. In this way, thoughts, I find our intimacy. I rejoice in my ability to give you the timely space to create a similacrum of yourself in my minute form.
Love, The Pen

Prompt: Write two haikus about how you have changed over the course of this trip.

A letter to me:
briefly, leave word for image
in watercolors.

Discover color
outside of typed black and white.
Like rocks, bleed in red.

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Horseshoe Bend

 

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