Three Weeks Ago

Three Weeks Ago post image

A memorable Christmas in the terrible high desert

The pros won’t like this image—barely edited Photoshop HDR toning on an originally very dark photo—but I rather do. You’re looking at the “saloon,” where we spend 90% of our time in the winter. Just one room with my office beyond, but it’s always cozy because of the wood stove. This picture says “New Mexico” to me like a club to the head. If I ever see it again, civilization just won’t be the same.

This past Christmas we sent cards and presents to friends and relatives but gave each other peace. Declared that the two of us didn’t need to exchange gifts, in other words. It was a godsend! Instead, we turned the interior of our old rented adobe into a present all by itself: the Mexican “Feliz Navidad” flags, the hanging greens and ornaments, the lights, dishes of candy and cookies…I probably have never enjoyed it more.

Someday I should write a book about our lifetime of Christmas adventures. When we lived in Maryland, we usually drove to Des Moines (Iowa), over a thousand miles away, to spend the holiday with my in-laws. The visits were fine, the trip often hair-raising. Over the years we drove a ’66 VW, a ’67 Saab, a ’65 VW bus, and an ’84 VW Jetta through freezing rain, blizzards, gales, and one mild year, sunshine. Once (?) we had to turn back in Pennsyvlania because of the snow and mailed our presents out to Iowa. It was never easy: the roads and traffic were fairly murderous on the way out until we reached western Illinois and the edge of the plains. Have you ever been to Farmer City? I remember sitting in the old VW bus there, in single-digit cold, waiting for the hardware store to open at 7:00 a.m. so I could buy a propane cylinder for the jerry-rigged open flame heater I hung from the dash. (Worked surprisingly well until my wife burned her raccoon coat…)

We used to know every rest area, gas station, motel, and McDonald’s in the darkest Midwest. There was a cafe just west of Peoria where they served pies piled high with meringue. We’d hit that place about the time the after-church crowd did, breeze in, chow down, and roar off feeling so cool and so special getting to leave Peoria. Every part of the trip was another adventure: the horror of Indianapolis, the last rest area in Illinois, crossing the Mississippi, that funny little restaurant in eastern Iowa. You wouldn’t believe all the things that went down, or maybe you would. I was always having too much fun in one way or another—quite the miracle I never had a wreck or got arrested.

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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.  

  • FW January 10, 2013, 3:22 PM

    Thanks John for the wonderful cheery High Desert Christmas photo..!! It sure beats Northern California’s Blah commercial Holiday Season. Best wishes for a successful New Year and it’s Great to have you back on a more regular basis..!!

    • JHF January 10, 2013, 3:40 PM

      I’ve never been to northern California, can you believe it? Would really love to see the ocean and the mountains. Someday soon! Thanks for the kind words, and don’t you worry, I’m here, all right.

  • Marti Fenton January 10, 2013, 3:43 PM

    What a wonderful house. I love the uniqueness of each of those old adobes. Yes, Christmas in Taos is all about the freedom to indulge in whimsy, color and love. We didn’t exchange gifts either. We just enjoyed being cozy and free. Our energy went into PQ’s pueblo house (a really old adobe) and the rest was on our terms.
    I like your tweaked photo. It is done in the same mode as the decor.

    • JHF January 10, 2013, 4:51 PM

      It is, isn’t it? And yes, this is a good house. We keep trying to find a place with at least one actual closet—outsiders will never understand—but now that I have 6 Mbps Internet at this location, I’m not looking quite as hard.

  • ingo January 11, 2013, 3:59 AM

    Oooh, he is still alive and writing, the MacHead from the Farr Site. Nice to see you still live in New Mexico, i remember when i first stumbled upon your writing you prepared moving from Maryland to the new home. Best New Years wishes from Germany.

    • JHF January 11, 2013, 10:32 AM

      I remember you! Yes, we’re still here. Can’t escape—”Land of Entrapment”—but where would we go, and why??? Thank you for your comment, and best New Year’s wishes for you, too. I think it will be a very interesting 12 months…

      • ingo ...again January 11, 2013, 2:19 PM

        Indeed some interesting months ahead. Moved two months ago from a big city to a small town at the baltic sea coast. Everything more relaxed here in winter, and what an eye relaxing view across the sea …. and what a slow Internet — Btw, as suggested iPhoto or Aperture are some nice simple apps for photowork. Not really comparable to PS, they are different. I use Aperture now for a year and dont miss PS. You can sort your pictures anyway you want and any change you made to the pics are stored in Aperture, your original picture stays untouched.

        • JHF January 11, 2013, 9:39 PM

          Sorry for your slow Internet. I finally have 6 Mbps down, almost 2 Mbps up. Very nice! Where did you live before? I forget… I’m sure I’d like the smaller town, myself, especially on the coast. I will take a look at Aperture, thanks!

          • ingo January 12, 2013, 11:13 AM

            Ah 6 Mbps is fine, i have only 3. The biggest problem is the upload, thats really slow. I lived in Hamburg, a 2 Million people area, now here i am one of 2500 … in Winter, in the summer the beaches are full so i expect a bit more hectic. Reading through some of your old posts one of your main themes is now mine too, home. Whatever that is. Wherever that is.

            • JHF January 12, 2013, 3:48 PM

              Yes, 6 Mbps IS fine. I can finally watch streaming movies. Hamburg… I kind of remember now… 2,5000 people is small but lots better than a million.

              The home thing, yes. Some of the commenters on this post are old friends from MD. I don’t think I could ever go back, no matter how much the memory pulls at me: too much has changed (and not for the better), and the old days are gone. It’s just better to keep going! Now I think my “home” is something more than just a physical place. Still working on that, though.

  • Sunday Tidwell January 11, 2013, 8:51 AM

    So much magic in one picture. And THE LADY of the home. And that fabulous chair sitting in the midst of all this color and art. I have to wonder what any home would look like without the lady’s touch. This is my favorite picture yet, but I’m a house and home person. ~ VW bus, open flame heater, burned raccoon fur coat — bwahahaha — you have one very tolerant (or adventurous) wife!

    • JHF January 11, 2013, 10:25 AM

      “Sure, we can sell the house and you can quit your tenured teaching job. It’s 1999, forgodssakes! All I need to make a living in the boonies is a MODEM!”

      The coat was barely damaged. Sold it and everything for pennies on the dollar when we moved. In many ways, we’re “house and home” people, too, except that we don’t have one yet, after 13 years… maybe I should read the manual again?

  • Katy January 11, 2013, 10:15 AM

    I love this photo, John! Even if it IS HDR.

    By the way, have you ever looked into Adobe Lightroom? It’s what we use for processing at work in conjunction with PS but we think it won’t be long before the two programs are amalgamated. You can download a 30-day trial from Adobe.

    • JHF January 11, 2013, 10:19 AM

      Hi Katy! (speaking of “the pros”)

      No, haven’t tried Lightroom. I know so little about Photoshop as it is, like driving a semi in 1st gear. I’ve also never worked with RAW, only take pix on auto setting with highest JPEG quality. Have many thousands of photos “organized” by DATE, not subject. Don’t use iPhoto, either. I think I need a photography intervention.

  • Chris January 11, 2013, 10:31 AM

    How lovely! I did not put up light one. Not true. In honor of my father, I put a string of white lights in a big cobalt blue cut glass bowl he had given me. Now I’m inspired and want to run out and get out the Christmas lights and string ’em around. Definitely next year – I’m gonna need some of those Feliz Flags!

    Thanks for the visual healing! Greetings to the little lady.

    • JHF January 11, 2013, 10:45 AM

      You’re very welcome! Some people and businesses here use outdoor white lights for months. A New Mexico “thing,” perhaps. Evokes the starry sky, etc., or maybe everyone just forgets and leaves ’em there.

      Danged Mexicans make all kinds of flags like those. We’ll see that you’re supplied!

  • Kate Bennett January 11, 2013, 12:09 PM

    Beautiful!

    • JHF January 11, 2013, 12:20 PM

      Hey thanks, Kate! Miss all you guys and the soft warm air. Hafta come back soon to bury my mother’s ashes before I lose ’em in the storage unit. Y’all take care.

  • Miggsie January 15, 2013, 9:07 PM

    Buenos dias amigo,

    Just back from a three week holiday on the Australian coast(s), one week at the (in)famous Bondi Beach, a Sydney coastal suburb, and 12 days at Harmer’s Haven on the south Gippsland coast of Victoria, near Wonthaggi, established in the 1930s as miners’ retreat from the local coalfields.

    So, a bit of plane (3000km return) and 2,ooo miles (also 3000km return) in the 1985 Peugeot 505 GTI sports saloon, 2.2l of petrol engine pushing a beautiful body by Pininfarina, a car the Farina family designed when they got sick of doing Ferraris.

    Nice to see your new site and particularly lovely to see the Chrissie pic – almost impossible to oversaturate a festive photo, I’d argue.

    Feliz anno nuevo,

    Michael

    • JHF January 18, 2013, 1:10 AM

      Hi Michael! (My technical advisor, folks, who I expect will be yelling at me soon for not redirecting the old domain yet…)

      Nobody takes three-week holidays here, thanks to our being ruled by idiots. Sounds really nice, though. Warm, too!

      Bet that Peugeot is comfy inside. And it is gorgeous. I knew right away what it looked like—confirmed by a Google image search—because I’m an inveterate car nut. I suspect you are too.

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