Pivot in the Pines

I seem to have popped naturally out of some kind of fog, which surely has to do with fleeing Tucson. The best thing that happened to me since we returned from darkest Arizona—a place my wife tells me not to condemn just because of how my parents lived—is that I’ve rediscovered beautiful New Mexico, and in the process reconnected with the best of who I am.

Down in Tucson, where the temperature will soon shoot up and render life impossible, a pall of dust and smog obscures the mountains. In the vastness of el Norte, the horizon cuts you like a knife, and we have three more months of winter they call “spring.” But compared to Arizona, New Mexico is like comfort food. It’s crazy here in Taos, but it isn’t mean, and there’s a soothing tolerance. Arizona feels like it wants to beat you up.

Taos Valley Overlook

Just six miles from my own front door, the 2,581 acres that comprise the Taos Valley Overlook have sat there unbeknownst to me for years. Sometimes medicine is like that: when you really need it, it appears. See that picture? I’ve walked past this spot four times in the last two days. That’s almost three hours of hiking, during which time I passed three other people on the trail. When I start walking farther on the nine-mile loop, there may not be anyone at all.

To me, this is the greatest joy. All I have to do is walk alone in Nature, and I’m fixed. I can’t believe I live where I can do this any time I want. When I get out of my poor old truck at the trailhead parking lot, I’m so excited, I can’t think straight. (Do I have my water? Did I lock my keys inside??) On the winding trail with no one else around, I feel completely whole. The life force is so great, you could put a bullet in my brain, and I might not even notice. Below me lies a RIFT VALLEY, Jesus Christ, where the continent pulls apart. Magma, chilluns! Everywhere you look, another “dead” volcano. Can you imagine the magnetic forces here, the energy in the earth?

The Rio Grande didn’t carve the gorge, it simply flows on down the crack. You’d think a human could be half as sane.

  • ken webb March 16, 2012, 4:03 AM

    Your descriptions of the impersonal forces at work in the New Mexico landscape are always quite compelling, John. They sometimes put me in mind of those of another transplanted (briefly) New Mexican, D. H. Lawrence. Lawrence always made a point about the brutal, inhuman – and therefore exhilarating – spirit in those parts and connected it with the sensibility of the natives. All this was in contrast with overcivilized but shallow and neurotic white culture. Something of that is in your writing too. I am always struck by how the moments of exhilaration you depict generally feature the absence of a large negative – people. People are definitely hell on earth.

    • JHF March 16, 2012, 9:07 AM

      There’s HUGE spiritual energy in Nature that requires humans to either not be present or just shut up to be perceived by most of us. (Ecology is white man’s spirit medicine without the juice.) Lawrence was dead on, because it isn’t human-centric. “Terrible beauty” and all that. At the same time, the energy is deeply healing. I’ve often written of this and the reasons for it.

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