Here’s another river video. This one shows you what it looks like turning downstream. I shot this at the end of October on a beautiful warm day. The water is so clear!
The roof leaked like crazy the last time it rained—the same places as before, dripping quickly from the bathroom window frames and down from rotting vigas there and in the kitchen. The towels I quickly laid across the sills were sopping wet in just a few minutes. I built a fire in the wood stove, set out the racks, and wrang out the towels in the bathtub before hanging them to dry. (That’s how we’ve been drying laundry in the winter here for years.) Fortunately, we have a lot of towels.
The location of the leaks corresponded roughly to those of the canales on the west side. (Canales are simply cut-outs in the top of the wall for drainage. The spouts extend about a foot and a half in this case.) The portion of the roof along the edge of the wall is covered by ancient roofing material that sags and cracks, allowing puddles to form by the openings for the canales. I’ve patched it in various ways that work for a while and spectacularly fail. New Mexico sunlight eats sealants for breakfast, but no one’s the wiser until it actually rains again.
There was more rain and snow on the way, so I acted quickly. On the next sunny day, I painted a fresh layer of aluminized asphalt roof coating over the affected area, and it wasn’t going to work unless I slopped it on.
At our old house in Maryland, the front porch was covered by a leaky metal roof, similarly flawed by poor design, that required frequent application of the exact same product. Instead of conventional gutters, this porch had a raised edge all around that collected the rainwater and directed it to a single downspout on the southeast corner. The opening was about the size of a golf ball and always got plugged up with dead leaves or ice. Sometimes a wad of debris would get stuck halfway down, causing the water to back up under pressure and squirt out through rusted holes. Twenty-plus years later, as I stood there in the sun atop the charming, wretched old adobe we are absolutely-leaving-but-not-today, paint brush in my hand, the same petroleum smell was in the air and on my silver-colored fingers. It was as if I’d never left, and in a sense, I hadn’t.
(Why was I up there on the roof at all?)
Three nights later, there was a sharp, hard rain, sleet and howling wind, and then it rained again. This could be a problem, I thought, getting out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to check, probing with the flashlight in the dark. The fix worked, though. It often does at first.
See the most perfect old cat sitting in the sun. She is always in the sun. See the photons and the ultraviolet radiation keeping her alive. You know what that means, don’t you. She is of this space and it sustains her. One with the old adobe where the kitchen plaster fell down Monday, one with the pack rats that hid her kibble in my boot. I just found that today but doubt it’s fresh. Tell me I’m not living through this just so I can write about it. What would happen if I wrote about a beach?
Behold the Rio Grande deep inside its canyon! I shot this video a couple of weeks ago at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument a few miles north of Pilar, where Native hunters used to camp. I love that I can learn these things and see the ground right there. The thing about the West is that it’s so huge, it hasn’t all been physically altered by development. One can actually find these places where the present and the past are side-by-side, sharing the same space.
Back in Maryland where we used to live, a utility company on the Eastern Shore accidentally dug up a several thousand-year-old burial site, complete with stone tools and copper jewelry. Everyone was amazed and mystified: it was as if the ancient chief or shaman had fallen down from outer space. There was a picture in the paper, and then we all forgot about it. No one is to blame here, it’s just how humans are.
I had a friend there, now deceased, who understood the history quite well, however. He knew where to look along the tidal rivers and recovered many artifacts whenever unusually low tides revealed old sandbars, oyster middens, and the like. I made rubber molds of some of them, including arrowheads, a broken axe head, and something called a banner stone, so I could make wax copies and eventually cast these things in bronze. I still have most of them, because they never sold!
The gas wall heater crinks and ticks its little shutdown song. A short time later it will come back with a woomp and heat some more. For this unusual mild, dry autumn, so far that’s been enough. An untouched mound of firewood sits beside the driveway covered by a rotting plastic tarp, waiting for the winter lockdown. I feel like a fifth columnist, rooting for the drought, and keep my true thoughts quiet. The local mantra, offered up if anyone complains about the ice and snow, is, “Well, you know, we need the moisture.” Maybe this time it will never come. I’m always disappointed when it does and everybody cheers.
A week after the election, I’m still afflicted with an aching gut. My moods swing sharply between fierce defiance and existential dread. Our institutions and society have failed us. It is a most extraordinary time. How appropriate that in a few days, the jet stream will drop south and swing the pendulum to bitter cold and howling winds.
The best take I’ve seen so far is here. The article is beautifully written and I hate to summarize, but its three main points are to take the haters at their word, survive, and refuse to normalize what’s coming.* As author Liel Leibovitz concludes:
So forgive me if these next four years I’m not inclined to be smart. When it comes to the task ahead, I’ve no interest in deep dives or shades of grey or mea culpas. Like my grandfather, I’m a simple Jew, and like him, I take danger at face value. When the levers of power are seized by the small hands of hateful men, you work hard, you stand with those who are most vulnerable, and you don’t give up until it’s morning again. The rest is commentary.
For all these days, I’ve thought of little else. Some time ago, however, I wrote an essay entitled “Three Centimeters,” now a chapter in my TAOS SOUL book, that spoke to me last night when I rediscovered it. The title referred to the news that New Mexico had had “bounced” or risen from a major earthquake on the other side of the world. The words were a response to rising ecological concerns and the discovery of a wobble in the rotation of the Earth around its axis. Why, you’d think the planet was alive. I’d already felt an energy or presence in the rocks and trees. Even back in Maryland, the barley and the corn exuded consciousness. The open spaces of the West arouse both overwhelming reverence and fear. There’s “something” there, all right, impossibly alien and ancient, that doesn’t need us…
The quickest way to put a stop to all we’re doing is to have an end with us. It’s no more than we do when biting pests invade the house. We shed no tears for dead mosquitos, after all. If the wobble turns into a sudden jerk, the only tragedy will be in the minds of those who manage to survive. Flies will buzz, scavengers will fatten themselves, and soon green grass will grow again where cities stood. Rivers will flow, and birds will sing. Here and there, eventually, a human child (but not too many) will watch a butterfly and laugh. And if there are no birds or butterflies or children, there will eventually be something else. Somewhere on a fertile hunk of matter orbiting a distant star, a being will dream of what we were, wake up with a start, and then forget. You know you’ve done the same.
“Well, you know, we need the moisture.” Maybe so, or maybe not!
I don’t know if this perspective helps you find a bit of refuge at a deeper level. It does with me until I read the news again. The danger now is very real—most people have no idea—my wife and I still need a home, and I will never stop resisting evil lies and bullshit. Winter is coming on. Do what you need to do and live your truth.
Mine is that I still owe this world, this Mystery, the best I have to give.