wonder • wander
a collection of thoughts, musings, and milestones
Recently, a feature writer from New York Magazine called. He wanted to interview me for an article he was researching about my former employer, Forrest Fenn, art dealer and author of “The Thrill of the Chase”. Forrest’s photo-filled memoir included a poem offering intriguing clues to a treasure chest filled with gold and valuable artifacts that he claimed to have hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Several people lost their lives in pursuit of the loot. Threats and lawsuits were detailed in the news. For years, the treasure eluded the treasure hunters.
Was it a trick or the truth? After all, Forrest was a consummate showman and trickster. I can attest to that.
In the late 1970s, I served as the director of research at Fenn Gallery. One day, Forrest popped in to my office and handed me one of his personal note cards, the size of a business envelope. “From the Cluttered Mind of Forrest Fenn” was printed at the top of the card. In brown ink, Forrest had drawn a Picasso-esque image of a man’s head. Next to the head, in his distinctive hand, he had written, “Do Unto Others, Then Bug The Hell Out.” I remember putting that “work of art” in a file somewhere. I wish I could remember where…
At the fancy book launch for “The Thrill of the Chase”, I stood with Forrest and a crowd of his fans and followers. He put his arm around my shoulder and announced to the fawning and adoring group, in a winkingly boastful voice, “I taught her everything she knows.” (long pause for effect) “but not everything I know.”
Shortly before he died, Forrest announced that the treasure had been found. Very little proof was shared. Theories abound.
Forrest Fenn was a valuable mentor of mine at the beginning of my thirty-three-year career. He and his action-packed, treasure-filled gallery awakened a passion in me that had lain hidden somewhere in the depths of my undiscovered self. He kickstarted me onto my long and winding art dealer’s path; a path filled with all manner of business peaks and valleys. I’m grateful to have experienced that information-filled year as his eager learner.
Wherever you are, Forrest, I hope you’re astonishing the crowds!
Click the image below to read the article...
"Fenn took a roguish approach to life and to facts. “It doesn’t matter who you are; it only matters who they think you are,” he once said. Linda Durham, who interned with Fenn before going on to found her own contemporary-art gallery, recalls seeing an Egyptian sarcophagus displayed at Fenn Gallery with a sign that read DEACCESSIONED FROM THE BRITISH MUSEUM. She knew this to be a fiction. By sheer coincidence, the case had once belonged to her: A customer had given it to her when she was an Egyptology-interested Playboy Bunny. She’d had it X-rayed, and she knew it contained a mummified baby crocodile. After she sold it to a private collector, it eventually found its way to Fenn. When she pointed out that the British Museum story was false, he became angry. “He had no idea where that came from,” Durham says. "
Article written by Linda Durham posted in the Los Alamos Daily Post.
“By convention there is color, by convention sweetness, by convention bitterness, but in reality there are atoms and space.” --Democritus (c. 460 – c. 400 B.C.)
There are spaces between everything. We know that from basic science lessons. Molecules are not connected. Nothing is solid. There are gaps between everything. Synapses. I am a creature who is most alive when hovering over a gap, landing, surveying, and taking off again.
The Unknown is what I know best. It’s reliable. I know it’s there. For me, the power and discoveries that exist in the unknown beckon me…onward! My curiosity about the magic and mysteries and information that lie ahead repel any sense of fear. I embrace the idea of the unknown. It propels me into the adventures that create my life. There are those who are reluctant to explore the dark, distant, and indistinct aspects of life on our planet. Many cling to the edges of free-floating fear and live lives dictated by conservative convention and practical rules rather than by the concrete knowledge that nothing is solid. Gaps are everywhere. They divide and join everything. And falling into gaps and climbing free and leaping safely over gaps are some of the reasons I love my life so much.
The ground isn’t solid. Marriage isn’t solid, not all friendships are solid and not many careers are solid. It’s simply and scientifically true: The Universe is not very solid. And by extension, solids are only relatively more solid than liquids which are only relatively more liquid that gas…
At this particular crossroads in my more than seven-decades-long life. I am focusing on the other side of some identified and unidentified gaps. And I am preparing to journey to them, explore them, cross them.
I want to breathe my way around the world again. I want to excite my senses with that which is still foreign to me. I want to catapult myself into new realms of thought.
I want to navigate my way over, under, around, and through the gaps in my understanding of the world and world cultures.
Sometimes, in my dreams and fantasies, I sense--or imagine--hands reaching across the seas, inviting me to be part of something bigger than the good Life I have here in New Mexico with my community of friends and family and activities. At seventy-seven years of age, I recognize that parts of me are moving (slowly, surely) towards an inner stillness…and still, I find myself driven by a strong voice of longing and a recurring caw, caw, calling from that familiar unknown; the mysterious unexplored—commanding me: “Move. Onward. Now!”
There are two big mirrors in my bathroom. In the “KIND” mirror, with soft light coming from behind me, I look quite attractive—at least by common standards for women of my generation. In the other mirror, the “MEAN” mirror, I look like a desert rat with the wrinkled face of the woman I have become as a result of the lifestyle choices I’ve made over the decades. Mine is not the face of a pampered, well-cared-for or self-caring woman born with good skin. My super-pale, melanin-deprived skin has had the misfortune of belonging to an impatient, think-about-it-tomorrow, truth-defying and truth-denying woman of an advanced age whose independent decisions led to certain ancient-skin results.
For decades, through continued misuse and neglect, I failed to protect the largest organ in my all too human body. Avoiding the sun, always wearing a hat, slathering on moisturizers and sunscreen have been sorely neglected aspects in my daily routines. Today the neglect is so evident that I am disinclined to confront my face in that wicked, telltale mirror. Fortunately, I have been far more diligent in protecting my still healthy inner organs. Proper exercise, good food, low stress and lucky genes have served me well.
I take a deep breath and sigh and say aloud, “This is how things are, Durham. So, what are you going to do about it?” I have some ideas. To start, I can refuse to linger in those good mirror/ bad mirror realms and instead devote my time to universal good “mirroring”.
My personal creed for life developed early--on the playgrounds of my childhood. It was in mastering the monkey bars and conquering the see-saw, that I gained early confidence and uncovered nascent indications of creativity and determination.
MONKEY BAR MANEUVERINGS
On the Monkey Bars, there is an exquisite moment when you must take a swing of faith and trust yourself to travel onward. Let go from behind, swing forward, hold, let go from behind, swing forward, hold, let go…You must let go of what is behind if you are intent on moving forward. Navigating the monkey bars, like navigating life, is all about rhythm, courage, and the gravity-defying aim of making your way across to the next place, to the other side… Good metaphor, isn’t it, if progress and success are what you’re after? If courage is favored over fear?
The unorthodox see-saw maneuvering of my long-ago youth indicated an aspect of my personal style. Most kids shared the see-saw with another friend—preferably a friend of a similar weight. The two teeter-totterers would sit facing one another and go up and down, using their feet to launch themselves upward, over and over. That was not my see-saw way. No, I preferred to mount the see-saw in the middle, straddle my legs on either side of the fulcrum, stand tall, and lean my weight sharply from side to side to control the movement of the see-saw. Challenging balance. Right, left, right, left. Balance. The rule of my solitary exercise was to maneuver the see-saw back and forth, as fast as possible, pushing both sides perilously close to the ground—without bumping. Of course, sometimes, I bumped. Always I recovered my balance.
From those teeter-tottering playground experiences, I learned that, in big life, bumping is inevitable. Also, the act (the gift, the talent) of letting go is something to hold on to…
“The world is but a perpetual see-saw.” Michel de Montaigne
If you arrived at this page after submitting What You Wonder About, your message has been anonymously submitted to Linda.
Below, you can read all about the Wonder Postcard project and browse some of the submissions received.
I am forever wondering about things and some of my best wondering has taken place as I was wandering from one place to another or journeying through an atlas or leaping across road maps. I frequently wondered what other people wondered about. I posed Wondering Questions to my friends and family:
“I wonder what would happen if…
”I wonder why…how…when…who…what…”
And soon this wondering took shape in the form of a solitary road journey. First, I created a simple white postcard. On one side was the address of The Wonder Institute. On the other side was the beginning of a sentence, “I WONDER ABOUT…” I printed five hundred cards, purchased five hundred forever stamps, got in my trusty Outback and hit the road.
I wandered through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and back to New Mexico. I took back roads and by-ways. I stayed in “Motel 3’s & 4’s.” I wandered in and around college student unions, coffee shops, food markets, parks and when it seemed comfortable or not-too-intrusive, I approached individuals and introduced myself: “Hello, my name is Linda and I’m with The Wonder Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We’re conducting a national survey to see what is on people’s minds…and I’m wondering if you would be willing to take one of these postcards.“
- Click through the postcards below -
Wonder & Wander
A collection of thoughts, musings, and milestones from author, wonderer, and wanderer, Linda Durham.
Copyright © Linda Durham 2021 | Site Design by Angulo Marketing & Design
Linda Durham is a human rights advocate, adventurer, author of Still Moving, The Trans-Siberian Railway Journey, An Art and Friendship Project, and a Sixties Manhattan Playboy Bunny. She is the founder and director of Santa Fe's Wonder Institute, which sponsors art exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and salons focused on discovering and implementing creative solutions to contemporary social and cultural issues. For more than three decades, Durham promoted New Mexico-based artists as the hands-on owner of contemporary art galleries in Santa Fe and New York.