Every day I walk to work with a view of the mighty sandstone cliffs that surround this canyon. Every evening I walk home with my face to the sunset clouds. In between, there are beauties and books and people. Almost everyone is so happy to be here. So, perhaps it's okay that I'm just hanging out. For 9 months, though? I need another project.
My book went to press this week, and I started thinking about another one. Yes, I have my own books (the haiku book and the family history and the NaNoWriMo novel), but I would like to be paid for something a little less personal. Here's the pitch I sent to my editor (that sounds so official!)
The Treasures of Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch, now an educational retreat center in the isolated Piedre Lumbre badlands of northern New Mexico, is famous for two things: a dinosaur and an artist. The burgundy hills with grey stripes are fascinating to paleontologists because their ancient stream-beds hold a treasure trove of Triassic dinosaur bones, from the "blueprint" dino Coelophysis to the 20-ft long crocodilian phytosaur (perhaps the source of the local legend of Vivaran, the huge carnivorous snake that would slither out at dusk to consume the unwary.) Those same hills would ensnare the 20th century artist Georgia O'Keeffe: after one visit in 1934, she knew this was her creative home, and she lived and painted here for the next 50 years. Twenty-eight of those paintings would feature the flat-topped Cerro Pedernal, source of the ancient Puebloan's chert. A mere 10 miles away, it dominates the southeast horizon, and O'Keeffe appropriated it, asserting that "God said if I painted it enough I could have it."
But the story of Ghost Ranch is so much more. From cattle rustling in the 1880s to movie making in the 1980s and beyond, from a close connection to the scientists at Los Alamos, to visits from Charles Lindbergh (who shot aerial photographs for local archaeologists), from conservationist efforts to impromptu piano recitals by Leopold Stokowski and Ansel Adams, the wild geology of this remote sanctuary, has enchanted and summoned people from all walks of life. For 30 years a dude ranch for the elite, this magical place is now home to artists, poets, scientists, environmentalists, hikers from the Continental Divide Trail, campers, and people who want to escape the stresses of modern living. Is the treasure of Ghost Ranch it's dinosaur skeletons, the olla of gold buried and lost by the cattle rustling Archuleta brothers, the hundreds of paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, or the shining mica of its mesas, shimmering in the moonlight?
On the other hand, that may be all I have to say about it. It's a mishmash of the stories I tell people, questioning and awestruck, who arrive at the welcome desk or the library. While there does not seem to be a kid's book about Ghost Ranch, do I really have much to add to the literature? Probably not.