The weather here in the high plains of Minnesota has been brutal. Black ice, strong winds, blowing snow. These, along with other conditions of the spirit have driven me further into my already very reserved world of writing and reflection.

At night when work can be carried on no longer the stash of dog-eared maps come out. New Mexico, Arizona, Texas. I circle border towns with my pen -- Taos, Sedona, Terlingua, Bisbee, Chimayo -- tracing the sinewy scenic routes to each through mountains, deserts, and reservations with nail-bitten fingers.

Despite modern convenience this cold has sent me into a reptilian state of shock. Will I make it out alive? Will everyone? And how? These are the questions that fester for some time, until the warmer weather and longer spells of sunlight appear as promised.

Each season I emerge to the arrival of some sweet and wet spring . Bleary-eyed, perhaps a bit more gaunt, but always grateful. I will forget every mysterious and lonely thought I ever had during January nights such as these.

I love expansive landscapes. Deserts that stretch for miles, lonely highways, bleak and empty prairies. Possessing a gritty sense of grace, their vastness mirrors the depths of the soul that I long to understand within both myself and others. Yet unlike the desert in winter, a human heart rarely remains dormant.

"our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope not the prudent gates of optimism which are somewhat narrower nor the stalwart boring gates of common sense nor the strident gates of self righteousness -- which creak on shrill and angry hinges -- nor the flimsy garden gate of "everything is gonna be all right" but a very different, sometimes very lonely place the place of truth telling about your own soul first of all and it's condition the place of resistance and defiance the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and how it could be how it might be the place from which you glimpse not only struggle but joy and we stand there beckoning and calling telling people what we are seeing asking people what they see"

-victoria safford