Traditionally blogs show the latest posts first. On this page you can read the posts in the order they were written.

First night in La Mancha

On beyond the Lost Boys Cabins you leave everything human behind. I found a comfortable rock out there and sat upon it as the sun slipped below the horizon. I sat for quite some time, as day turning to night takes longer than most people realize.

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The most irritating species

Someone just wheeled a clattering cart of dishes two hundred yards down the pebbled sidewalk from Dulcinea to the Welcome Center, obliterating all sound from the valley, and I’m now convinced we are the rudest, most irritating species on the planet.

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Gully of the Wild Things

Beyond Engelbrecht Inn & Tavern and the Lost Boys is a crude trail leading westward toward the Gully of the Wild Things. There are some painted rocks along the trail. If you come across a collection of animal bones on a crude shelf wedged in the branches of a tree you are getting close.

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Meadow Lane

Meadow Lane, running east and west, curves gently around the base of First Mountain, which dominates the landscape of La Mancha. The lane is well named, for it was nothing more than a sparse and rugged meadow when the Wizard came to this land roughly twenty years ago.

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Slow walking the Camino

People tear up and down the Camino Dulcinea, lost in the business and busyness of weddings. They go up the hill fussing with the bride’s hair and down the hill talking to caterers on the phone. That is all most people know of the ancient Camino.

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The Bells of La Mancha

The famous Bells of La Mancha are embedded in the wall that separates the villages of La Mancha and Engelbrecht. An inscription in the wall offers a glimpse into its history. At some unspecified time in the past, a woman named Michelle gifted the wall to La Mancha. “These are the bells that helped her” is all the inscription says.

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The Valley

Few people from La Mancha visit the valley and almost none have ventured deeply into it. People come to La Mancha to study with the Wizard, get married, or drink whiskey at the Fang & Feather. They aren’t prepared for a safari.

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I am not alone

I was hiking deep in the northern part of the valley, down near my humble place of beginning. My eye was drawn to a smooth river rock lying near a jagged limestone outcropping. We have gullies but no rivers in La Mancha. There are no smooth rocks native to this land.

The rock’s story isn’t hard to guess.

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Homo Icarus

There is a sword embedded in the wall of the Tower. If you stand near the lions on the Causeway and look up, this sword points to North Star. I wandered over to the sword and looked down upon the Fang & Feather, Welcome Center, Spence Manor, and the rest of the Village.

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Asking for a friend

There are two boys from the Valley who sometimes take a shortcut through La Mancha. The other day I saw them meandering down Gallagher Lane, talking and laughing and jostling. Stones were thrown into the Valley. Rocks were turned over for examination and discussion. En garde was proclaimed, followed by a brief sword fight with sticks.

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Alex

It was a Friday night, as I recall, when reports arrived at the Fang & Feather about a gang of young men smoking pot and hanging around in the darkness near Pabellón Valioso.

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Drums in the deep

Do I believe that when I become quiet in my soul and sit long enough in the Valley that the modern world falls away from me, I can hear the ancient echo of drums, a sound not heard in this valley for a hundred and fifty years?

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But they never got my mind

Across the Valley the tree canopy rises and pulls your eyes upward to the Modern Wizard’s Tower atop the opposing hill, a sleek and shiny thing of metal, glass, and stone. At night muted blue flickerings in the windows bear witness to the omnipresence of the media gods.

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Roxi

Roxi works on the landscaping in La Mancha. I met her months ago and we talk sometimes when I come across her and her dog Elijah working in the flower beds. But I never really saw Roxi until the big freeze.

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The Tao of La Mancha

Few people know there is a secret entrance into La Mancha from beyond the Western Wild Lands. The old road behind the Lost Boys drops sharply downhill and then turns, ending at a chained gate. Beyond the gate is some sort of beatnik community, as best I can tell. Roxi lives out there somewhere. And I’m guessing so do the people who play the drums at night.

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Saboteur

There is a pole near the International Bocce Court at the end of Gallagher Lane. Atop this pole is a bright lamp that is never turned off. All night long it blazes away, slashing beams of light through the trees and opening great wounds in the darkness of the Valley.

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Solitude

I have found solitude to be beautiful and terrible, uplifting and overwhelming, nurturing and destroying, a source of joy and of pain. There is a heaviness to solitude when it comes rolling at you low and hard and constant. When it is every night. When your life has called you to it and you must obey. When you long for human contact but there is none to be found.

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Fancy Dan

I met Dan last year when I arrived in La Mancha, and I immediately noticed how gorgeous he is. He’s one of the beautiful people. He just is. But his nickname comes from the way he dresses. Every day, so it seems to me, is a costume party for Fancy Dan.

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Remembering Spring

And now a blazing and muscular Summer has fallen over La Mancha. The locals say it’s going to be a bad one. When I open the door to the Hermitage it feels like I’m stepping into an oven. The sun throbs and shimmers and drains the colors of the landscape, leaving everything looking like an old polaroid photo. People avert their eyes from the sun, hide beneath broad brimmed hats, and scurry from one spot of shade to the next.

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Foxy Brown Returns

And just like that Foxy Brown is back. I was reading on the back porch of the Hermitage, looked up and saw Foxy moving eastward out of the Western Wild Lands into La Mancha. I grabbed my phone and managed to get a single, blurry image.

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The Pissing Stone of La Mancha

Beyond Engelbrecht and the Lost Boys, where civilization ends and the Western Wild Lands begin, there is an enchanted gravestone embedded in the ground and designed specifically to be urinated upon. This arcane ceremony is generally performed by inebriated wizard students after their long days of study at the Tower.

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Dark Moth

I captured a dark moth tonight as he thrashed about the globes of my lamp. He was the darkest purple there is, the last color on the spectrum before the whole thing falls into black. Within my cupped hands I felt the powdery softness of his abdomen as his velvet body rubbed against my fingers.

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Star Church

I call it Star Church. There are no doors, anyone is welcome, and all you have to bring is your phone. The doctrines, rules, and practices of this church could be written on my thumbnail, which suits me just fine.

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The end of the line

There is something compelling about reaching the end of the line, going to the place where civilization ends and wilderness begins. Behind is the safe and familiar, all you know and everything you have survived. Ahead is the mystery of possibilities and the birthplace of the stories you will tell when you return from that far country.

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Alyssa

La Mancha, like every magical kingdom, needs its Fairy Folk. Elves, Sprites, Brownies, Nymphs, Pixies, and Leprechauns. These magical beings live among us but belong to another world, an older one that existed before science exploded our myths and drove the darkness from our land.

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Last Wildflower

I was on the East & West Trail that runs behind the Village of La Mancha, right where the road turns north to the Wizard’s Tower. I saw a flash of bright, luscious color. It was a wildflower. In full bloom. And not just any flower. A purple and yellow one, which are common in April and May, but don’t typically make it through the Summers.

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Sam

On paper there is no way Sam and I should be friends. Not that there is something inherent in our personalities that would prevent friendship. It’s just that, outside of La Mancha, there is no way Sam and I would ever have connected.

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Window ritual

The hermitage, where I live, has windows over the kitchen sink that provide a view of the backyard of Spence Manor, which has a landscape of limestone, native plants, and one dead palm. The palm lived quite a few years, but the big freeze of 2021 killed it, along with the gorgeous ivy that used to drape Engelbrecht Inn, Spence Manor, and the Tower. The palm is twenty-five feet tall, so it looks pretty much the same now as it ever did. You only realize it’s dead if you look up.

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