Archive for the ‘Taos’ Category

Last excursions

Since Michael arrived, my New Mexico life has been a whirlwind of activity. On our way back to Taos from Albuquerque, we stopped at one of our favorite New Mexico landmarks, a noncommercial hot springs above Jemez Springs. It has changed since we first discovered it (now there’s a sign that says “Nudity Prohibited,” whereas on our first visit we encountered a skinnydippers’ paradise). But, even with swimsuits, it’s a pretty wonderful place, as you can see.


The hike up the mountain to the springs is not too hard, and the view from the warm pools is spectacular.


The springs comes from a little grotto or cave. This is where the water is warmest, and it’s a nice place to lie down and really relax, as Michael demonstrates:


Then, yesterday, we took a lovely hike at the Orillo Verde Recreation Area, on a trail called Vista Verde, with my new friend Verena. We chose a beautiful spot near a juniper tree, and Verena gave us a “sound blessing” using her Native American drum, flute, and other instruments. The wind and the birds seemed to chime in at just the right moments. It was beautiful!

Along the way, we found petroglyphs, too!


So tonight it’s off toward Oklahoma City. West Virginia, here we come!

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My neighbor, John Street, sent me this picture from my very own garden in Arlington Court. I love seeing that the red trillium is flourishing. Almost as much, I love seeing the blurry image of my neighbors’ houses across the courtyard. I guess I’m getting good and ready to be home.


But I have one or two more fun things planned for the last few days in New Mexico. I’ll drive down to Santa Fe for one more visit with Vera this afternoon. Tomorrow morning Michael will arrive at the Albuquerque airport! We plan to drive back to Taos via Jemez and hope to enjoy the hot springs there on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, we hope to hike in Orillo Verde Recreation area. So…stay tuned for a final blast of New Mexico scenery!

P.S. My Taos neighbor Pilar saw the big bird, too! She saw it during the day, and was able to look at it for quite a while with binoculars. Then we consulted her bird book, and together we have determined, almost for certain, that what we saw was a Cooper’s hawk. Too wonderful.

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A mysterious visitor

Last night, arriving home from an e-mail outing, I saw that the nearly-full moon seemed to be hovering over my casita. “Oh, what a sweet goodbye photo,” I thought, and rushed inside to get the camera and, because it was getting dark, the tripod.


Then, almost directly above my head, I heard what I can only describe as a strange, quite loud rattling sound. I looked up and saw a huge bird settling itself on a branch. Well, taller than a foot. Maybe 16 or 17 inches from head to tail. Because the light was really failing, I couldn’t really see it well — it was more of a big silhouette. I talked to it, and even walked over to the base of the tree and tapped on it, thinking it would be wonderful to see the bird fly. But it didn’t. It just sat there, watching me. Like a hawk, so to speak. I felt very special. Like the flicker that visited during the first few minutes of my arrival in Taos, this bird seemed to be there for a reason. (I know, I know. The reason was probably a mouse or a rabbit.)

Then I had an inspiration: the tripod! I turned the camera around and pointed it at the bird, moved the dial to the “manual” setting, and set the exposure for 15 seconds. Amazingly, the big bird hardly moved during that time. It’s not a great photo — by this time the sky was quite dark — but it’s clearly some sort of hawk or peregrine, I think. Bird experts? Any guesses?


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Sound and sharing

A few days ago, when I went out to take my laundry off the clothesline, there was a musical instrument sitting on the lawn beside the clothesline. It was a sort of electric guitar on a stand, and it belonged to my next-door neighbor, Mark So. And it was playing a one-note composition (I think the note is F-sharp) he had made in dedication to my laundry and my new fascination with watching my laundry dry. He even wrote out a “score” for me to keep.

Yesterday, my other next-door neighbor, Paul Rudy, treated our whole group to a one-hour sound composition he has created while staying here, a “suite” of sounds that he described as a sort of movie-without-visuals. It was indeed evocative — sometimes disturbing, eventually redemptive.

Both of these kinds of “music” — compositions without a distinguishable “melody” — are new to me. Even though I probably won’t be moved to emulate them (I’m a folkie for life, I think), hearing them has enlarged my capacity for listening: the intersection between sound and art is larger than I’d imagined.

Last week, I met an Austrian woman at the visitor center, and we have become friends. Verena is a sound healer; she has a array of instruments, some of which she brought to my casita after we took a walk today. Others, because they are large, have been left behind in Austria while she is traveling, but luckily she had pictures of them stored on one of those wonderful little flash cards you can plug into a USB hub on just about any computer. So I was able to see a picture of an instrument that is also a table (like a portable massage table). The client lies on the table, and Verena plays a series of tones on strings that are underneath the table.

The instruments she brought to my casita included a Native American flute and a small drum, some rattles of various styles and sounds, a brass bowl, some small brass cymbals/gongs, and a very tiny, wonderful instrument, a silver ball less than an inch in diameter that makes a beautiful, shimmery sound when you hold it in your hand and jiggle it.

We had a “potluck lunch” (she brought soup and zucchini and bread, I provided yogurt cheese and avocado, olives and chile/garlic paste). Afterwards we had a lovely hour or so of sharing: poems, pictures of her homeplace, and even some drumming and singing. Not to mention savory ginger-carrot soup, stir-fried zucchini, and bread with delicious spreads.

I’m tallying up the “sound adventures” of the past three months, and I’m amazed: voice lessons, Al’s piano studio, the flickers’ drumming on trees and metal pipes, the chip-chip of the downy woodpecker at the bird feeder, and now these most recent sound experiences. I have a feeling that, in the future, when I think of Taos, it won’t be just the mountains and the skies I remember.

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More abstract art

On Monday, I took my second hike along the west rim of the Rio Grande Gorge, this time with Pilar and her brother Roy, who was visiting. We got a little further, and we took a great little side trip into a tributary, where we could walk across a stream (mostly dried up right now) at a point just before it drops off dramatically and merges with the larger canyon. The rockface was wonderfully painted by lichen and water:


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Millicent Rogers and her museum

I’m so glad I didn’t miss this museum! It is in a rambling adobe house (built room by room, according to the former owners’ whims and needs) and is chock-full of several different collections — Navajo and Pueblo jewelry, Pueblo pottery (including prehistoric), Hopi and Zuni kachina dolls, textiles, basketry, historic and contemporary santos (religious images) and much more.

Millicent Rogers herself, who began the collection, was a fascinating, beautiful, and obviously very talented woman. Like Mabel Dodge Luhan and Helene Wurlitzer, she seems to have been “called” by the high desert landscape and the spiritual qualities of this place. She died at the age of 50, after a life plagued by illness. A letter she wrote to her son Paul, just before her death, in which she tells him not to mourn because she feels her commitment to the New Mexico earth will only bring her closer to heaven, is among the most tender and eloquent pieces of writing I have ever read. Another of my favorite things at the museum was a selection of her own illustrations of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, which she did for her children.

Within a room of retablos (images on wooden boards) and bultos (free-standing religious images) was this rather gruesome representation of Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno:


According to the accompanying label, this and other images of Our Father Jesus the Nazarene were produced for use by the confraternity of Los Hermanos Penitentes. The figures have moveable joints at the shoulders and elbows so that they can be placed in different positions. These images are part of the ritual re-enactments during Holy Week, and dressed in appropriate garments during the rest of the liturgical year.

I’m not sure if this one is wearing Holy Week garb or other “appropriate garments.”

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Hurray! Hurray! Michael and I just clicked the Travelocity button to order a plane ticket for him. So he is really coming out here to spend a few days and help me drive home in early April. I’m so happy. I’ve been feeling just like this prairie dog:


I don’t know whether the locals appreciate them (they do dig some pretty extensive holes), but I am delighted every morning, when I drive to the swimming pool, by the sight of these little guys sitting out in the sun. Sometimes I count six or seven in one large field near the local high school. I love the way they look so alert. I suppose squirrels look this cute to someone who doesn’t see them every day.

And, as you can tell, I’m getting eager to see West Virginia again, even though I have loved every minute of my residency in Taos. The writing has gone well (less than I’d hoped but much more than I would have accomplished otherwise), and I have made wonderful new friends, and I have enjoyed basking in the sun and hiking and watching my laundry wave in the Taos breeze. But I’m ready to see the Kanawha River, and Virginia bluebells and jack-in-the-pulpit and all my other favorite wildflowers. Ready to eat some ramps and hear some old-time music and look at the gardens of Arlington Court.

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