Easter Mountains

mountain  view near Taos, NM

Taos out of sight down in the valley past the last green ridge

On Sunday I drove us up here in the Dodge Dakota. The 4.7 L V-8’s dual exhausts throbbed and rumbled all the way through Talpa, along the Rio Grande del Rancho, and up into the mountains on sweeping, empty curves past patches of snow and fallen rocks. Every damn stump looked like a bear.

The temperature was 55°F at about 8,000 feet when I took that shot. We hadn’t been up there for several months and it was something of a shock. To leave the house and drive a little ways and boom, you know? Even on Easter Sunday, there was hardly any traffic. I know I emphasize that a lot when describing driving virtually anywhere in New Mexico, especially Taos County, but it’s such a huge advantage. I can take in all the Nature since I’m not involved with other drivers. Sometimes we come home still shaking from the sensory overload. Not even crawling over the holes and hummocks in the hard clay road the last 200 yards can knock the wonder out of me. This counts.

So it was like that, yes.

Wild Heart

old adobe iconography

Old adobe iconography

We sat together on the leather sofa she bought once from an artist to watch a video about some foxes up in Newfoundland. You might have seen it. I held the laptop on my guess where with one hand while the other clasped her thigh and pulled her in. How do we survive, you know. It’s special.

New Mexico Killed the Overcast

Llano Quemado scene

Projecting thought, new dreams [Note: this piece has been massively revised!]

It wasn’t me that did it. Then again, maybe it was. The forecast called for all-day clouds and highs in the forties. The sky was gray, and I decided to blow off doing laundry. No dryer, so we have to hang it all outside or by the wood stove anyway. Then an hour ago, shazam. It’s now 11:03 a.m. with the entire day opened up and free except for income taxes. That’s why I’m still here beside the fire eating and typing, obviously.

We’ve had a few hard days recently. Sometimes I hear that spoken softly when I wake up in the morning, “It’s so hard…” It is, it’s way too goddamn hard. Our lifestyle, life on the frontier, the nation… Pushing against the difficulty only seems to strengthen it, too much can’t, where, how, and when. My brain is an incomprehensible gift, a cosmic machine that came with no directions. Perfect excuse for idiots. The other day I read about projecting thought. Now this is something very different, clear and simple like a pencil. What you want is a tool. The medicine is we are loved and make things with our minds. Last night I pushed this in a certain way. When I went to bed, I had the greatest dreams.

After just an hour under, I woke up breathing fast and crazy. There’d been a dream, a good one, but that was all I recollected, feeling something like on Christmas Eve when everyone believed in Santa Claus. What the hell was that, I wondered, then fell right back to sleep. I dreamed about my brother Bill, who died of meth and cancer screaming in a V.A. hospice. (That was real and this was in a dream.) He was sleeping in a truck cab with a bunch of other folks but got up and sat down with me. We were at a picnic table. I reached out and held my hand against his face, something I never would have done in real life, and told him that I loved him. The next thing was, he gave me a ride to someplace I was going. (He has a car?) We were driving down something like an Interstate and I remembered that I’d left my car back wherever I had found him. As I was working up to asking him to turn around, the scene changed.

I was visiting our old home back in Maryland, the one we loved so much and haven’t been able to equal out here in the West. It was apparently for sale. I walked out in the yard to where current satellite views show the real-life owners let a small forest grow up over the septic drainage field—not really good—but in the dream, they’d cut the trees down and opened up the view again to make the property more attractive. I approved. The dreamtime owner was tall and muscular and showed me an amazing boat he’d parked out front to pull potential buyers in. It was a replica of a famous apocryphal craft from a movie that never was, and when I told him souvenir hunters would strip it bare, he suddenly got worried. I paid no attention and was conscious in the dream, wondering if I’d want to move back if we could buy it… The prospect wasn’t awful. We’d just stay there forever and I nevermore would roam. I’d go sailing in the sun and mow the grass and that would just be it. Hey-ho.

Naturally the first thing I did when I got up and went online was check to see if that same house was actually for sale. It wasn’t, but I did see that Zillow and the rest assigned a value to it that was less than anything we’d seen in Taos in over twenty years! If it were for sale in real life, we could buy it, no problemo. Not that this is high on anybody’s list—you can’t go back, remember—but the scent of possibility was in the air inside the dream, the message bouncing off my exercise the night before. Dream objects are mostly symbols, anyway. It’s what they connote that’s important, not the thing itself. So family healing, reconciliation with the past, and a green light for the present. My brother rising from the dead to help me, though I have to go back and drive myself, and a way that we two in New Mexico can thrive and be here, right now, in the moment.

Won’t say what I thought of, but you probably can guess.

Primal West

San Antonio Mountain in snow

Looking south toward San Antonio Mountain, snow squalls sweeping right to left

About 55 miles from home just south of Colorado, a little before noon today. It’s snowing at 8,000 feet. The top of the volcano is 10,901. When I held my iPhone 6s Plus up against the windshield going 65 mph, it was 36°F outside with the wind blowing at 39 mph and gusting to 57. Note the heavy traffic on US 285.

What I like about the West is, it can kill you. Well, any place can do that. Florida, for instance. But here it often looks as if it wants to. Five miles down the road, there was an elk carcass festooned with feasting ravens. They’d already pecked its eyes out and its guts were bubbling. There was something small and translucent like a balloon.

Rift Valley Spring

Rio Pueblo gorge

Rio Pueblo gorge, before the river joins the Rio Grande just south of Taos

The acequia out back is running again, a sure sign of spring. I realize that doesn’t mean much to people outside of New Mexico but it’s quite the radical thing to have agua flowing thru the landscape. The technology came from the Moors, who taught the Spaniards, who came to Mexico, then here. In our case the acequia water is diverted from the Rio Grande del Rancho higher up in the hills. There are actual wetlands there because of beaver dams, cat-tails and migrating waterfowl in the freaking high desert. Every spring it blows my mind that all this comes from North Africa.

Not unrelated is the fact that many of the Spaniards who colonized Mexico were Jews fleeing the Inquisition. When the inquisitors came to Mexico City, these Spanish Jews fled north to the farthest reaches of the empire, which meant northern New Mexico… I mean, wow… Imagine having somewhere you could flee to, a place where if you made it past the Apaches and Comanches and the bears and cougars and bandits and didn’t die of thirst, you could build a house of mud, plant a little corn (learning from the local Natives) and have a life. Even before we were a country, before most white people even came to North America, this was a place of refuge and opportunity, never mind the dangers. It beckoned. Welcoming asylum seekers is in the “DNA” of the very continent, the very dirt we walk on and the air we breathe.

I have been traveling. Well, we have been traveling, but I may have gone further psycho-emotionally, since I started so far back. We just returned from Austin, for example, where we’d gone to visit with my brother before his stem cell transplants begin. I did all the driving, roughly 1,500 miles in all, intending to stay for most of the week and then changing plans after my sister and her husband came down from Dallas to join us all for one glorious day and night of reunion, visiting, and touching base. We didn’t need to be there any longer, though. He doesn’t talk that much about his feelings and I’m sure I let him down, but I think he knows my Austin time was in the glory days, when U.T. won all its football games, there were love-ins in the parks, and Austin was less than one-tenth the size it is today. Despite the many attractions of a city I still think of as my home town, I had no wish to penetrate the howling traffic any further than our comfy hotel on the southwest side. He would have driven us, of course, but I was only there for him. The time we had was wonderful, at any rate, and I’ll be back.

Seeing old haunts is tricky for the psyche. The beautiful Texas Hill Country is still something to behold, but “sand mines” for fracking wells and vanity ranches scar the landscape where I least expected. The formerly quiet two-lane country roads we took at the peak of wildflower season were like racetracks with the newer 75 mph speed limit (meaning 80 mph plus). In other parts of Texas, that’s a godsend, but every time I slowed for beauty’s sake, there was truck grill filling up the rear view mirror. I am a sensitive soul. My university years and later were so rich, so powerful, my connection to the landscape of live oak and pecan trees, clear water flowing over limestone beds, grackles squawking on the campus greens, was so direct and formative. I’ll never forget the time I stood beside a lonely back road south of town—that’s now a roaring four-lane highway—and an armadillo snuffled out from a meadow filled with bluebonnets to walk right between my legs as I stood still as stone.

I’m so aware of fleeting time, of aging. That’s one reason why I came here, leaving a settled, comfortable life and dozens of friends in Maryland 20 years ago. One life is not enough! It may be enough to learn just why one thinks that, in the agony and joy one falls through on the way. Take note and never hold back when the little voice says “go.” More than anything else, I see now how the things we tell ourselves shape everything that happens. I also think there isn’t any need to “get” this until we’ve been washed downstream for several lifetimes.

Make of that what you will, and welcome the expanding light.

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