7:30 BELLS Guest Post: A TAOS STATE OF MIND by Nikki Grimes

I'm so pleased to share this 7:30 Guest Post by the brilliant author and poet--award winning Nikki Grimes, whose verse novels have long been an inspiration for me.

There are places in the world for which the word beauty is inadequate, places where God was flat-out showing off. Taos, New Mexico is one of them. Whenever my feet touch down in Georgia O’Keeffe country, my heart expands. I'm on holy ground. Maybe it's the soaring pillars of red rock, which surely gave rise to the word "breathtaking." Maybe it's the pristine air that makes the very act of breathing feel new, or the impossible blueness of the sky that challenges all I have ever known of color. The magic of Taos is difficult to pinpoint, but when I'm there, I know that all creative things are possible. What better state of mind to be in when one wants to write, paint, or imagine?

My last trip there took me to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, abutting the Taos Pueblo. One day, I must return to this cultural landmark to explore the rich art history hiding behind each door. History excites me, and these corridors are alive with literary ghosts like D. H. Lawrence, and Jean Toomer. On this particular visit, though, my focus was on teaching a poetry workshop for Kindling Words West.

Early each morning, before breakfast, I'd walk the property, pause at the prayer labyrinth, stop to chat with the neighborhood magpies, and make a vain attempt to snap a close-up of a raven. That clever bird would unfailingly lift off the split second I'd raise my camera. I'd shake my head, smiling, and continue into town, slow and easy. I'd stop, now and then, and close my eyes long enough to enjoy the exquisite quality of quiet. Inside myself, I would hear the music of my heart, ringing, grateful.

Taos is a radical contrast to the environment of my youth. I grew up in New York City, amidst the cacophony of car horns, boom-boxes, sirens blaring, and neighbors yelling at one another to dial it down. But, in the intervening years, thanks in part to a respite in Tanzania, a country with no noise pollution, I've become a connoisseur of quiet. It's something we all need if we hope to hear ourselves think, if we dare get in touch with our true selves. The most sublime, meaningful art and poetry reside there, and that's what I'm after. I can't always afford the trip to New Mexico, but a quiet corner suffices. After all, it's the Taos state-of-mind I find conducive to the journey inward. Thankfully, I can close my eyes and return to the sweet stillness of the prayer labyrinth, or the red-rock vistas, or my quirky conversations with magpies whenever I like. And when I do, I'm guaranteed to hear the bells ring.

New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings. Creator of the popularMeet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.