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Pure Heart

near Taos

Shot from dirt road by the mailbox

For days now it’s been the air. Just the air. Breezy, cool, clean, just humid enough. Astounding. The air that heals. Transformative air. You could give air like this to people and they wouldn’t believe it. You made that up, they’d say. Step outside though, the first thing someone says is, “Oh, the air!”

You can explain all kinds of things away, but not that air. Not the open spaces, either, and certainly not the clouds. We sit outside and watch the clouds. Perfect white against the blue, all because of the air. It’s a somatic thrill, this Nature. Maybe a deep genetic memory embedded in the cells lights up. Yes we remember this. Before you came. In the time of the animals.

I was walking all alone. Talk to me, I said in my head. There was an “opening.” Couldn’t be her, though, right?

(How do you know?)

A familiar tone and attitude. Damn.

(I have something to tell you.)

My brain was making this up. Or not. Hold the surface of the pond as smooth as glass, I thought. Say nothing inside. Wait. A tiny splash. Unintelligible, too quiet.

Then louder:

(Be yourself…)


Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Looking north from La Junta Overlook

All right, this is serious. The Upper Gorge, formerly known as Wild Rivers Area, now part of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Haven’t been up here for years. This is where we came in ’98 before we moved, when I looked out at pure landscape (not this view) and started to cry. It was my birthday, too. That’s kind of what did it.

There’s such power in this place. As soon as you drive back to the nearest village, it mostly goes away. People just mess things up. I’m sorry, but it’s true. There aren’t many places on the planet where you feel this non-material sustenance. Like your spirit taking a long drink after exile in the desert of culture. I didn’t want to leave today. The open spaces were full of yellow flowers. The air was absolutely perfect. So wholesome, so clean. You can’t have air like this with lots of people! This is Nature. The actual real deal. It’s simply radical. Just come hang out here a while. The peace is overwhelming.

We’re looking north in this view. That’s Ute Mountain in the far distance. The basalt cliffs are four million year old lava flows. You can see the Rio Grande in the distance, far below. What perfect habitat for animals: perpetual water, grasses growing by the banks, trees for shelter, protection from the winds. Caves and hot springs, too. If you climb down to the river from any of the numerous trails, you can hike almost forever. Your cell phone wouldn’t work, but you could disappear and live. There must be bears and mountain lions down there that never come out. Hell, I wouldn’t.

I said I hadn’t been up here in years. What on Earth is wrong with me? This is where it started, this is where the big bells rang. I told my wife I wanted to live right there at Wild Rivers. I could, you know. The hermit in me. There’s a similar feeling south to San Cristobal. I like it because it isn’t Taos. (You’d have to spend a few years in these parts to understand.) It took about an hour to drive up to this spot. A spectacular drive, by the way. We had a picnic lunch of tuna sandwiches. I’ve almost never felt so good.

My wife’s sister and brother-in-law live in Iowa. Whenever we visit, we get to drive this way. From Taos north to Colorado is like another world, whichever way you go. This year their son is getting married in Minnesota. Kasota, Minnesota, no less—I can’t believe we’re going to a wedding in Kasota, Minnesota—but anyway I love the kids, the thing will be a hoot.

The route is similar, once again through omigod country, whap-slap, then over La Veta Pass. A few hours later you’re in a land where people watch cable news and walk around afraid of stuff they never see. I fill up at the Kum & Go like a traveler from another planet—do you know what’s back there where I just came from?—and we motivate on down the road. In my soul I’m branded, though, and no one knows.

Neighborhood God

mountains south of Taos, NM

Higher Picuris is actually the one in back, just left of the dark peak in the center

I was driving down the road and had to stop. Right in front of the worst beat-up trailer you’ve ever seen, in fact. The latilla fencing is reinforced with rusting sheets of corrugated metal. There’s nothing in the yard but rocks, an old car seat, and busted children’s toys. But when they open their front door, this is what they see! Or do they?

You’re looking south here. There’s a spur of the original Camino Real up there in those mountains. The royal road. It might still take you down to Santa Fe if you could find it. In the old days—like before the Pilgrims landed—it went all the way to Mexico City. So much for Anglo bullshit then, but never mind.

When I see things like this, I want to pray or dance. (To hell with churches, just make everybody sit outside.) It’s the depth and scale that kills me, and the felt if unseen veil of softness on the crags.

An Unimaginable Land

clouds sweeping over the rift valley west of Taos, NM

Clouds sweeping over the rift valley

Nature is a portal. When I crave confirmation of my origin, all I have to do is take a hike. Amazingly, some humans are immune. Most of them, perhaps. But just look! You could probably put all the people in that landscape on a bus.

I need bitch no more. When I was young, I thought the only reason to be rich was so you could go live on a mountain or a beach or anywhere you wanted that was far away from cities, close to Nature, someplace that would give you access to the truth. I never wanted a big fine house or luxuries, never gave that any thought at any time. Mysteries were another matter. There were always things outside my view, something hinted in a book, that drove me crazy. I couldn’t get there from the curbs and sidewalks. I just couldn’t.

The potential is there. I’m evolving like snakes on acid. Don’t believe anything anybody tells you. Don’t believe this.

Summer’s Gone

Taos Mountain in the clouds

Taos Mountain today with dark October sky

Oh, you can tell. Never made it out of the sixties today, heading into the forties tonight. I asked my wife if I should make a fire. Deviously though, as if she were the one to want it:

“Not in August!”

I understand. Summer is a state of mind at seven thousand feet. (Believe you must, so you can have one.) This year it was actually “hot” for several days, the kind of thing where you feel the sun outside but dig the coolness in the old adobe when you come back home.

It rained all day today, an actual gray drizzle. The damp sharp cold triggered vague memories of other days and other places. I put on a sweatshirt so I could leave the front door open and hear the raindrops falling through the leaves.

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