Juan del Llano & the End of Nearly Everything

By late afternoon, it was 45 °F colder than 24 hours before. Soon there were four inches of wet snow bending down the trees. After supper, the lights went out. Juan’s mother was dying in Tucson. It was just another day on the frontier.

* * *

There was more snow than Juan del Llano had seen all winter. It came down as big wet flakes in howling wind, and then the wind died down, and clumps of snow fell straight down long after sunset. That was fine, but all the Aprils in his wounded brain had turned to flowered green oases where mosquitos never bit, and cold winds never tore the blossoms from the trees. A dozen years of Blood of Jesus springs like rolling atom bombs compelled the refuge, but he also wondered if it held him back.

Suddenly a “WHOMP” and then a “BONK bonk bonk! Bonk-bonk-bonk-bonk BOOMF bonk whomp!”

The cat was staring at the skylight with her ears pinned back. Raccoons, by God, Juan decided, maybe even bobcats.

“WHOMP whomp bonkety-bonk-bonk, duh-duh-duh-duh bomf!”

And then he realized it was heaps of heavy snow dropping from the trees: first the big clump, then the small ones falling in a volley when the branch sprang back. Oh.

moon over Talpa valley

Juan thought about his 90-year-old mother in Arizona, lying in a bed she’d never leave alive. No more watching quail in the arroyo for her, no more taxes, no more Safeway. Also no more calling 911 to say the house was full of snakes or where her neighbor had buried a poisoned husband. What a year of changes, he thought, sitting nervously down to read, while the sound of what now felt like frozen chickens falling from the trees punctuated his reflections.

And then the lights went dead!

He sat there calmly in the dark and waited for the electricity to come back on the way it always did. In the silent adobe house, the crackles from the wood stove rang like gunshots. Another moment passed, and nothing happened. Juan sighed, stood up, and felt his way into the bedroom for a flashlight. Where had he put those candles? And how was he to heat a cup of coffee with the microwave disabled? It was looking to be a longish night, and without raccoons, a little duller.

The candle part was easy, once he had a light. He placed two of them beside his favorite chair and two more on the table. And the coffee, as it turned out, was a matter of remembering. The gas stove still worked, once he lit it with a match, and he heated leftover coffee in a saucepan, like his father did before him. There was nothing else to do except play his bouzouki, but that would scare the cat. Sighing once again, Juan retrieved his laptop and sat down to write. The battery was charged. All was well in Juanville, except now the candles were too bright…

It was amazing how his eyes adjusted to the gloom. Not only did he have to turn his head to keep from being blinded by the flames, they felt too hot beside his face! “WOOMPH bonk bonk-bonk!” from the roof, little crackles from the stove. Turning down the brightness on his screen, he waited for the voice of God to whisper tiny phrases in his ear. To his great surprise, it happened right away, and Juan began to write.

In the chair beside the candles, there were no distractions, save the clomping and the thumps. With the power out, he couldn’t check his email or yap on Twitter when the inspiration slowed. And then he noticed something odd and beautiful: while he waited in the pauses, doing nothing but expecting, little gemstones trickled out. Every sentence that fell into the silence was a marvel, every metaphor was gold. He tried to write them down, but each one was the seed of something new and couldn’t be connected. Afraid no more of losing, though, he tossed them back and kept on going. Who cared that the power was still out? He had found the motherlode.

Nothing whirred or buzzed or beeped. The lights flashed on once for just a moment and then stayed dark. Juan wrote and wrote and wrote.

Finally and not unpleasantly, a premonition arose. What if the power never did come back? Maybe this was it, and life would never be the same. People would wake up in the morning, find all their toys were cold, and have to talk to neighbors and share food. The banks would all be dead. No one would have money, and no websites would exist to blare the terror of the day. Nothing but whispers in the mind, a different song on every lip, and sitting underneath the trees.

Just then the power came back on. It was a little after midnight. Juan’s initial reaction was disappointment, which surprised him. The connection to the Source of All That Is was gone in any case, he thought, and so he plugged his laptop in and went to bed.

morning mist over Talpa valley

The morning dawned bright and clear with a little mist. Juan sat down with his coffee as the sun loosed frozen snow from overhead again. In less time than it takes to tell the tale, the power failed again. Juan just picked his laptop up again and wrote some more. The quiet concentrated every thought, and he was calm. At 9:25 a.m., his cell phone beeped: 600 miles away in Tucson, the old woman had slipped the bonds of Earth and joined the spirit world.

The opening he’d felt the night before had been a sign. Nothing that he needed had been missing, after all. He felt the emptiness the way he missed the perfumed springs of yesteryear, the way the melting snow ran off the roof and sank into the ground.

John Hamilton Farr lives in Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. with his classical pianist wife. “Possibly the only place I can get away with this,” he says. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore (Bush’s Brain) put it in a review of John’s first book, Buffalo Lights is the work of a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” John is the author of BUFFALO LIGHTS, TAOS SOUL, ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, and THE HELEN CHRONICLES. He has been publishing online since 1996 (Zoo Zone, Farr Site, MacFaust, GRACK!, FarrFeed) and blogs regularly here at JHFARR.COM. See also → John’s Twitter profile, Amazon Author Page, video channel at YouTube, and website photos at SmugMug. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page.  

  • Marti Fenton (White Deer Song) April 7, 2012, 1:12 PM

    Yes! This is Taos. Mother Nature still rules and chooses to remind us now and then. Kit Carson comes out a second rate contender against the forces around us. My internet was out for a day, lights flashed all over town as snow overpowered the lines. It was both beautiful and frustrating. My mother passed four years ago during a wet spring storm. Perhaps its a good time to honor the season of change. I’ve noticed that beings often choose to change dimensions in the early spring.

  • JHF April 7, 2012, 1:21 PM

    That makes a lot of sense to me: new beginnings (Easter), new growth, and all the rest. And Mother Nature, the Great Mother, is where it all comes from. That may be what Juan saw behind the snow, even as he missed some things from long ago.

    And I just revisited your excellent blog: “Consider stepping off the cliff of reason and its pretense of security and find out where the winds will take you.” I’ll bet Juan would like that!

  • Carmel April 7, 2012, 5:23 PM

    That was compelling reading.

    • JHF April 7, 2012, 7:55 PM

      Ah, Carmel! How are you doing now? Email me.

      And thank you.

  • ken webb April 8, 2012, 8:03 AM

    Juan, Old Hoss, the voice of God sounds like it, she or he is telling you to write. That’s been the salvation of many, starting with Homer and the Old Testament prophets, whom you often put me in mind of. But between you and me I’d just as soon see the power come back on again before he, she or it turns the juice off altogether and the metaphors stop once and for all.

    • JHF April 8, 2012, 8:28 AM

      Some time ago my anima asked (in a dream), “Don’t you like me any more?” and suggested a traditional Jewish wedding, the details of which I naturally had to look up. All quite clear to me.

  • Beth April 8, 2012, 8:21 AM

    Beautiful, and shared with the click of a button.

    xo

  • Ty April 9, 2012, 9:35 PM

    Brilliant writing John! Perhaps a slice from the upcoming, and much anticipated… new book?!?!?

    • JHF April 12, 2012, 11:51 AM

      Thanks, Ty. No, not a slice, but hopefully a quality marker!

  • chipper Thompson April 12, 2012, 7:56 AM

    Nice work, my friend. Hell, I’m almost ALWAYS bummed out when the power comes back on! Hope you’re well and okay.

    • JHF April 12, 2012, 11:54 AM

      Hey Chip, thank you. I’m in Tucson at the moment, shopping for a magic wand to make this doublewide go away.

{ 12 comments… add one }

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