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OCTOBER 1, 2008   

West to LA

Orange and blue sky with clouds, just after sunsetOnboard the Southwest Chief heading into the setting sun, just outside of Gallup, New Mexico. California is still many hours away.

Plate of eggs, beans, tortillas and fried bananasEarlier I'd had a leisurely breakfast of huevos san salvadorenos and lots of coffee—too leisurely, as it turned out. I slowly wandered through Santa Fe, buying four used books to read on the train, and eventually found the Georgia O'Keefe Museum at 11 a.m.

Exterior stucco wall of O'Keefe Museum with photograph of her I sat outside the museum and called the shuttle driver who would take me to the train station in Lamy. He said he'd pick me up at 12:35, meaning I had only a half hour to spend at the museum. For better or worse, it was enough.

As Deni had pointed out, the best O'Keefe work is in museums in other cities, leaving a small and not terribly exciting collection in Santa Fe where she lived and worked for much of her life. Still, a couple of pieces reminded me with certainty that if I'd have known of her work while taking painting class in college I'd have become a much better painter.

I remember struggling to figure out what to paint. My teacher, who painted in an abstract style that didn't say much to me, offered only vague suggestions. If only he'd have said "Have you ever seen Georgia O'Keefe's work?' But he didn't, and I painted rock-like geometric shapes. then a series of circular planet-like shapes, and then nothing afterwards.

Riding through New Mexico the red rocks and barren land looks like it probably has for thousands of years. There are a few houses, a small town here and there, and lots of open land. I feel a certain affinity for this semi-desert. Not sure why.

Sipping a cold beer in the lounge car as the sun sets is, as always, one of those great train experiences.

When not staring out the window I've been reading The Lightning Field by Robert Eaton, stories of little-known New Mexico places like the art installation The Lightning Field and the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert.

Both of these had been described to me two days ago by Celia, who I met in the lounge car. After our conversation the book felt like a familiar companion.

As I write this there's just a dull orange glow remaining in the blue-gray sky. We've picked up speed since leaving Gallup. I'm putting the laptop away and returning to the book. On the earlier part of this trip I missed the familiar comfort of a book to read, although that's probably what led me to talk with people instead.

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