Tunnel

Costilla, NM

Costilla, NM

He awakened in spider webs with husks of dead moths and beetles in his hair. Yellowed newspaper pages lay about the floor and his clothes were grimed with dust. What may have been a squirrel was in the corner in what sunlight made it through the window as the clouds of autumn gathered in the mountains.

Do you remember the small black and white cat dead by the side of the road?

For several days he drove by and wondered why no one removed it. Finally it was bloated with stiff little legs poking out at the highway and the the day after that the county animal control guy shoveled it up. Less than a week later there was a brown pit bull lying dead in the same spot. Then someone covered it with a blue plastic tarp that didn’t stay down but flapped in the wind. A couple days later someone pinned the thing down with a dozen small rocks but the dog was still there. There were dreams like no other. Pure evil and madness. Pain in the heart.

A fresh ground squirrel jumped up on the window sill and stayed for a time. It was dark with tan speckles and wriggled its nose then slipped to the ground as the dry stalks of tall grass shook in the breeze.

Autumn

me

Was told this is fashionable

Yesterday I closed windows before the sun went down, so I guess it’s time to buy some firewood. In my next life I’m opting for central heat, but here we are, fairly stuck in this one. (In a manner of speaking, that is.)

Not much action on the blog lately, eh? That’s as it should be. Yesterday, for example, the goddamn cat was dying. Well, not really. But vomiting every five minutes through most of the night before is hardly normal. The vet immediately went for kidney failure and ordered up “full senior blood work” plus a urine sample on the beast. After disappearing with the cat for 20 minutes, she came back to say that Callie wasn’t “co-operating,” which I took to mean the vet got bitten, and she advised us to go back home and wait until the cat calmed down enough to have the needle stuck in her again.

The upshot of all this was that we sat around for hours figuring the cat was a goner. I’d already researched feline renal failure, so we mostly cried and tried to steel our nerves for putting her down. (Don’t get me started on doing this with pets.) But then the phone rang: it was the vet reporting that the cat’s kidneys were okay—not perfect, but good enough to cross that worry off the list. The next choice in the disease raffle was an unnamed intestinal infection, so poor the vet had given Callie a whole laundry list of injections of everything from antibiotics to steroids. It’s amazing how much better spending $252 makes a cat feel. Today, however, she’s listless as hell, sleeping all day in the middle of the living room floor, and hasn’t eaten anything in 36 hours.

UPDATE, 24 hours later. The cat ate a few pieces of kibble overnight! Either that, or the packrats are back.

In any event, we no longer anticipate buying the “appetite stimulant” the vet wanted to sell us: “You’d need to go to Walmart and buy gloves, then you take this medicated gel and spread it around on the inside of her ears…”

Adobe Hell with Honey

window scene

Free from the chains of the skyway?

Sometimes I think I invented this life so I could write about it. Once I had the thought that everything that ever happened to me was “like holy fire raining down,” and all I ever had to do was tell the world. That was in the bathtub on the second floor on Still Pond Road where I could raise my head and see the maple tree.

Yesterday felt like the first day of fall. A breezy 72° at noon, but downright cold inside. I put on long pants around four, first time since May. So much uncertainty to rise above. I told my wife that this is heaven, boom, right now. Like she hasn’t known since she was three years old in Wall Lake with her yaller hair.

“We’re going to have to buy some firewood,” I said. “That’s depressing.”

“It’s too soon. Not when we’re trying to buy a house!”

Just what I wanted to hear. Meanwhile I had set up a second visit to the adobe farm house in Vadito, the one with the old adobe barn converted to an art gallery. The place with the beautiful front yard where we sat beneath the ancient apple trees while traffic zoomed by on the High Road. The three-acre property with the two-stall stable, a chicken coop, garage, and workshop. Green grass and giant lilacs, a home the closest yet to what we sold in Maryland 20 years ago. The thing kept nagging at me, like I couldn’t let it go, and how could I gain closure. This time we’d meet the owner and be shown inside. I figured that the 30 minutes it would take to drive over the pass at 8,500 ft would disabuse me of the notion we could totally change our lives and make a new home in a mountain valley just because there was this house that you could never touch for twice the price in Taos.

We went over everything this morning. The panic before getting out of bed, the lack of answers, the need to take care of ourselves. The hurt we’ve put up with for too long. The needless injury. And then that house. The distance. The only way the thing could work was if you just lived there: surrender to Vadito and Peñasco, plug into the culture of the mountain valley where the only tourists pass on through. This is what you do, not drive up and down the switchbacks on a January day with snow and ice and shit unless you have to. Not for coffee, bread, and toilet paper or a dentist.

This wasn’t who we were, not now. It was four hours before we had to leave if we were going just to satisfy our curiosity. I thought about the pass, all clean and lonesome, wind hissing in the pines. A gorgeous drive. By late afternoon it’s cold up there and I was chilled already. I realized I didn’t want to go and neither did she. Even with the charm and soul and all, the real me wasn’t falling for it and I pulled the plug. How I love to cut through pre-arrangements when they don’t feel right. “You’re good at that,” she said…

As Johnny dodged the big one, once again.

Half Moon

bathroom shelf in rotting old adobe

The baby powder may be ancient.

My wife was admiring the moonlight shining through the clouds. A half moon, she said. I could have told her. For whatever reasons, my emotional energy crashes on a half moon. Usually I want to light myself on fire and jump into the gorge. Fortunately this involves getting out of my chair and I have never done that yet. She didn’t even know. I’m good at hiding if I have a scrap of something to amuse me.

But once again I left the motor running with the dog inside. Soon comparisons were ricocheting off the walls. I could feel the floor begin to tilt. The dusty stacks of unread magazines collapsed and slid across the room. What do you mean the weather’s getting colder and I have to buy some wood? We haven’t found a place to move to yet but we’re all set because I put off all the scary stuff to see to after. A couple years ago I realized I didn’t have to vacuum cobwebs off the walls because of, you know, moving. (Listing to port now about 15°, hang on.) You see the thrust of this. An article at BusinessWeek said couples needed $1.7 million to retire. My ass. The way I know that isn’t true is I’m not dead. I’m also not retired, but apparently I ought to be. [Ding-ding-ding!] Wrong, grasshopper. None of this is you, just cosmic wind. And never make comparisons!

My wife was on her way to bed. Apropos of nothing, she hollered out of the blue the way they do,”Everything is going to be all right. Everything is all right!”

“Exactly,” I said. “For the immediate future, we’re all right.”

But what about the magazines and teeth and glasses? What about a home, forgodssakes? What about my knee bones dancing in the dark? Why was everything I thought I cared about all upside down? How dare anyone feel all right. My problem of the moment was that I was starving. Having recently discovered I can no longer digest milk, there was hardly anything to eat but at least I wasn’t bloated. For three nights straight I hadn’t woken in the night swole up like thunder, gasping for a breath and reaching for the oximeter in the dark. This is not a path you want to go down if you live at seven thousand feet.

Since my latest self-invented kick is remembering there’s nothing between me and my dreams, I tried it. Like using a leaf blower on your thoughts. I let it roar a moment and felt lighter in my chair.

“You know what? There’s nothing wrong with us, but we are strange…”

She had me say it again and laughed. Back in junior high school, strange was cool. As a grownup, I felt reassured. A calm descended in the old adobe. She went to bed and I ate cookies dunked in coffee as the moon slid down behind the shadows and was gone.

Life in Ranchos

Ranchos de Taos scene

Pavement covered by dried mud & gravel washed down by storm two days ago

They fixed the blinking red light in Ranchos. Good call. Yesterday traffic was backed up to the light at the top of the hill. It’s funny how people don’t seem to know what to do when that happens. I’ve noticed that turning right on red has fallen by the wayside, too. Lost knowledge from the late 20th century?

Speaking of days gone by, we drove over the 8,500 foot mountain pass just south of here to see a house yesterday about 30 minutes from town. For sale by owner, who wasn’t there, but he told me in an email to feel free to walk around. There was a beautiful 100-year-old territorial adobe on three acres with water rights, an old adobe barn converted to an art gallery, a two-stall stable, a genuine adobe chicken coop, you name it. Huge apple trees in the front yard, tall lilacs beside the house. The abuela vibe was strong. So was the highway noise through the privacy fence. My wife was badly smitten and still is. I liked it well enough except for the cars shooting by at 40 miles per hour and wondered why we needed the two-acre field if we had no horses. But this is the kind of place we had in Maryland.

Everywhere I looked, there was something to mow or rake or fix. I’d like that kind of work a lot more if time weren’t getting short. Suddenly I understood why so many retirees were happy with their fake adobes in the sagebrush. Back down here in Taos in the terrible high desert, all I’d have to do was walk out to the porch, wipe the dust off my chair, and sit down with my laptop. (“We don’ got to show you no steenking tractor.”)

My heart is with the green grass, apple trees, and lilacs. My head’s with the 90-mile view.

SUBSCRIBE to JHFARR.COM

Every time I post, you get an email with a link. (Same as "Notify me of new posts by email" in Comments.) Easy on, easy off.

Browse ARCHIVES

Browse CATEGORIES