An Inquiry about Roots

When I started this blog, my first three posts were about what I wanted to do in it. I wanted to celebrate the aging artist, to explore aging as “a creative opportunity—a fascinating literary condition, a different perspective for art, a question for poetry, a new beat for music.” I wanted to fight the notion that aging is a negative thing, something to be dreaded, a state where our powers and creativity dim and die. I’ve stuck to that agenda in most of my posts—but certainly not all. I think it may be even more difficult to do so in the future. I find myself with so many other subjects to write about. So think of this post in the future as one where someone who is aging talks about the arts and artists and occasionally throws in some literary work—her own and that of others. The same theme is at its heart, but the focus is wider.

I just finished reading a book by a well-known Chicano author who, incidentally, qualifies as an aging artist. I’m not going to name him because I think this particular book is badly written and since I haven’t read any of the dozens more books and short stories he’s written over the years, I don’t feel qualified to issue what would amount to a blanket criticism of him, especially since I may never get around to reading more of what he’s done.

Despite the book’s failures as a piece of fiction, it told me some interesting things about New Mexico. Its theme is heritage, the roots the Indian and Mexican people of the state share: the importance of community and family and their profound connection to the land. The Anglo people don’t fare as well in the tale—the only Anglo heroine, who dies in the first few chapters, is an artist who has plumbed the Indian and Mexican culture in her art. Like Georgia O’Keefe, she has become part of the place. Her father is someone whose origins are lost; her mother is a Jew whose past has been hidden.

The villain of the piece is a white man who yearns to be a Spanish overlord, a man whose desire for an important connection to New Mexico and for political power, has become hallucinatory. He invents a heritage where he has none.

I identify with the Anglo heroine and the villain, having long since been cut off from any roots. I’m trying to reconstruct them in my writing, but realistically, I’ll never be a part of a community, or a family, in the way some people are. Those people are fewer and fewer in our haphazard culture, of course. But they are a treasure because of their connection with the past—and not just a historical past, but the past of the earth itself.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks New Mexico. Photo by radzfoto. Under a Creative Commons license.

I think I’d like to explore this subject further in my next posts. What do you think, oh reader, wrenched from your roots? Have you been replanted like Georgia O’Keefe? Many of you probably feel a tenuous connection with some kind of heritage. Does it nourish you? Does it feed your creativity? I’ve only begun to ask questions.

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One thought on “An Inquiry about Roots

  1. I fell under the spell of New Mexico in the 1970s, while a student at St. John’s. I was warned about the magical powers of Monte Sol, the small mountain rising to the east of campus (near the Folk Art Museum). Over several years, I discovered all were true.

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