Sky Time

New Mexico sky

Sixty seconds walk from here the Rio Pueblo gorge will blow your mind

When our 2007 Pontiac Vibe was new, it had a tinted windshield—one without the shaded band across the top, what I call “clear”—but that was quickly cracked by stones thrown off the tires of cattle trucks in eastern Colorado. When I went to Santa Fe to have it replaced, the shop installed a shaded one instead and I felt bad for weeks, as was my wont. A lot of people like those, by the way, my wife included. But I had gotten used to seeing big views through the windshield—a point of pride in our new car—and thought the heavy shading was distracting.

Never mind, it’ll just get broken on another road trip, I’d tell myself, and sure, it costs a bunch, but then we’ll have a clear one back again! Except we never did. There were other road trips and other rocks, but no damage bad enough to warrant replacing the windshield. I got used to looking through the narrow view slot of the shaded glass, and life went on.

Then last winter something changed. As if by magic, the dreaded “Taos crack” appeared along the bottom edge of the windshield on the left and slowly worked its way across. I was more or less content to watch the inevitable unfold until the crack extended upward into my field of vision. My wife said fix this, please, so four months later I sprang into action and ordered a new windshield from a local auto glass shop. The tinted one, of course, the one that I call clear. It was supposed to come in by the end of August. (Those are “special order,” see, because apparently the whole world wants to look out through a windshield with a silly blue band across the top.) I finally called on Friday to see what was going on. “It’s still back-ordered,” I was told, “but we have a shaded one in stock…” I demurred and told them I’d keep waiting, thank you.

New Mexico is sky. The mountains are just window dressing.

Saturday Afternoon at the Park

hot rod

All my boyhood dreams

Saw this arrive with wide-open pipes I assume can be closed. (Maybe not, though!) It’s licensed and legal, which tells you a lot about New Mexico, no?

The Karma of Dead Birds

southern Colorado scene

The old house had always sat beside the road evincing nothing, sinking in the weeds. This time, though, he thought there was a flash of movement and stopped his walk to take a look. Wary of trespassing or interrupting crime, he edged a little closer. Yes, a large bird, banging hard against the window glass! A female flicker, by the looks of it, frightened half to death. How do such things come to pass, he asked himself, and what was one to do? In this case nothing, he decided, but remained, and after bonk and thump again a few more times, his cynicism melted.

The front door of the old adobe was jammed shut but unlocked. Hoping no one was around to see, he threw his weight against it and it budged, scraping loudly on the floor. Once inside, he propped it open and listened to the flapping while his eyes adjusted to the gloom. Trying not to breathe too deeply for fear of hantavirus, he grabbed an old broom by the door and stepped loudly into what must have been a living room and kitchen with old plank floors. The panicked bird flew quickly past his ear and disappeared into the farthest reaches of the house. But in the middle of the floor, lying on its back, he saw another flicker, obviously dead but more or less intact. A male this time, and bigger. What the bloody hell? At least it doesn’t smell, he thought, and wondered why that was.

Following where the bird had flown, he walked into the kitchen with his broom and nearly stepped on two more flicker carcasses—older, half-consumed, with feathers scattered all around. Rats or skunks or feral cats, he figured. Like the latest victim in the other room, the larger of these two was also lying on its back but had no belly, only blackened bird ribs poking in the air. He felt like throwing up at this, but there was something worse, an ugliness of spirit that made him want to run away. Instead, he strode into the last room where he thought the bird had gone. Insanely, it was empty. Silent, too. Could the battered flicker have escaped the way it came?

Clinging to this straw, he turned to get away himself, stepping past the feathers and the dead things back into the light. He left the broom behind the door where he had found it, closed the house, and started walking toward the road. Just one last look, he thought, and turned in time to see the creature back inside the window, only weaker now, bang-bang-bonk and dropping to the floor.

God dammit all to hell, he cursed.

Why him, why did he have to see this?

The same scenario repeated twice like in a loop. Two more times he pushed his way inside and chased the hapless flicker, by now almost too weak to fly at all, back toward the open door. Every time he did, the bird would miss the opening and hide in darkened corners. He’d spent so much time breathing in the ghosts, he was sure the house would kill him—then when he was on the verge of giving up for good, she shot straight past him and was gone!

Carefully, he rolled a large rock to the door to prop it open. Give the spirits what they want, he thought, and never interfere.

Llama Stampede & More

Perhaps you’ve already seen this on Twitter. You could have, if you follow me. Speaking of which, I just tweeted out this link to a photo essay I posted to Medium. It pretty much covers the last few posts here, plus this video.

Looking East from Nowhere Human

road in southern Colorado

Very quiet here

Except for the county road and scratched-out dreams below the far horizon, this is straight high desert. I don’t know whether it qualifies as wilderness, but one could die here, be absorbed with no more karmic weight than dirt, and the Earth would never miss you.

So yes, another image from my birthday trip. Compare with this one from the same spot reversed 180°.

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