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New Year’s Day Encounter

Taos Valley Overlook scene

Looking south from the Falling Down Place

What a hellacious and bodacious last few weeks. All my amps are turned up to eleven. My fight-or-flight response is stuck on in-between. It’s like this is when I save my life, but how many dragons did you say were waiting in the lobby? My moods have been snapping back and forth like whirling bullwhips. If I were a dog, I’d bite my owner and then whine real loud so he would feed me. Just in the last week, I decided I want to stay in Taos, leave Taos, and stay again. We looked at a house to buy. It’s wonderful but small. We’d have to give up two-thirds of all the crap we own and build a studio on the lot. I told our buyer’s agent we love it, it’s too small, and then again that we love it. He’s a good man, replies to every email with “bueno.” Very Taos.

On New Year’s Eve we burned some sage and juniper and meditated in front of the crackling stove. (Let the tension melt away, asked the mountains and the spirits of the land for guidance…) You might call this prayer. And then yesterday I drove out to Taos Valley Overlook—quite near the house in question—for my usual four-mile hike. This time was different, however.

As I climbed a trail up a long hill about a mile from the parking lot, close to where I shot the photograph above, I met a tall gentleman on a big gray speckled horse. He was dressed rancher-style, with jeans and boots, tan suede jacket over a flannel shirt, and a big white hat. The saddle, stirrups, and bridle were hand-tooled leather. He had a tanned and weathered face, good teeth, and a pleasing countenance. By the time I reached him, he’d moved the horse just off the trail and was waiting for me to pass:

“Hello,” I said as I approached. “I would have moved over for a man on a horse. You didn’t need to stop for me!”

He chuckled appreciatively and gazed down at me. I looked up. The sun was coming over his shoulder and partly blocked my view.

“Beautiful animal!” I said, admiring the horse.

“Thank you,” he said. “Nice to see a young man out walking on a fine day like this,” he added.

That took me aback, of course. “Yeah, all of sixty-eight!” I told him. Doesn’t he see how old I am, I asked myself?

“You’re just a boy,” he said, but kindly, without a hint of any derision. “You’ll make it, though, just keep on walking.” He paused a moment and then added, “I’m eighty-two!”

“Goddamn,” I said.

He chuckled one more time. “My plan is to just stay vertical!”

“That’ll work,” I said, as we both laughed. “You know, I’m really glad I ran into you today!”

“Good to meet you!” he said as we parted ways in manly fashion, without exchanging names or handshakes. “Me, too,” I said, and resumed striding up the trail.

Whoa! I thought. Now what the hell was that? As I proceeded on my way, I replayed the conversation over and over to memorize his words and thought about the father figure/shaman on a horse. “You’ll make it, though, just keep on walking…”

I reached a certain spot fifteen minutes beyond and realized I’d completely missed my usual drink-and-piss stop beside a little grove of junipers. What’s more, I’d blanked out that entire stretch of trail! A short time later, I was descending a pleasant unfamiliar hill: hey, wait a minute! Where am I?!? Without a hint of fatigue or any awareness at all, I’d walked a quarter of a mile beyond the cairn of stones that marks my turnaround point for a four-mile walk. Just blew right past it, never saw a thing.

There’s something happening in these hills. It’s good to be surprised!

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  • Marti Fenton January 2, 2014, 11:03 AM

    Wow! Just when you are ready to throw in the towel Taos comes up with a magical encounter. I think you have arrived, the place likes you.

    • JHF January 2, 2014, 11:18 AM

      Check out the “Location” post, too. Maybe this will really happen.

  • Rita January 2, 2014, 11:42 AM

    THAT WAS TOO COOL! (oops. Caps was locked, but I let it stand.) Magic is in the air. Are you sure you need all your crap? And as much as people complain about having to pay for a storage unit – it usually makes sense not to have to heat and cool a bigger house to store it in.

    I have been all over the country this year, and everywhere I go I wonder if it would be a good place for me to settle down. I don’t really think it matters to me anymore exactly where I am, as long as the people I love are happy. And as long as I am not next door to barking dogs. I had 15 years of that. But I need to figure out whether to buy a nomad vehicle or rent a place. Today. Really. Living in my car is not it.

    • JHF January 2, 2014, 11:47 AM

      “Are you sure you need all your crap?” No, of course not. That’s why I call it crap! But there would still be stuff left over. Aargh. Anyway, what an encounter. I knew as soon as it began that I was in some kind of “zone.” A numinous space.

      You sound remarkably enlightened on the subject of relocation. I don’t see how you can fail to reach a satisfactory solution from that point of view.

  • Rita January 2, 2014, 1:40 PM

    The more I think about this, the more I think you need to just step back and let the wife make the decision. It feels like you can roll with whatever obsession comes up as a result, like adding a building, etc.

    Super exciting. No close neighbors! paved road! No icy hills! and OMG – warm floors! How can you be anything but a ball of anxiety?

    • JHF January 2, 2014, 1:49 PM

      UPDATED COMMENT: She likes it very much. I was surprised. It’s everything she’s always hated about this area, especially no trees. But the view and that paved road, yeah, uh-huh. It’s a little over 1,100 sq. ft., which out to be enough, you’d think. How much stuff does anyone need? Of course, I’ve always been a pack rat. I have a T-shirt drawer that’s like a museum. Biggest drawer in my dresser! But I only wear the three or four on top of the pile…

      UPDATE: The initial enthusiasm on her part has plummeted. That’s where we are. It’s realizing that the living room (such as it is) is probably just too little and won’t provide what she needs for her piano. We’ll see.

  • christian ienni January 2, 2014, 2:06 PM

    i think the Universe is telling you that this may be the time to go for it!
    yeah, the house may be “too small” but Rita makes a good point about a smaller space to heat and keeping the storage unit. plus it might be a good opportunity to cull through the “crap” and jettison a whole bunch that you really don’t need anymore (and throwing out external baggage may help with clearing out some of the internal baggage too. though i should talk… i still have my parents’ houseful of stuff that i’ve been putting off dealing with for 3 years now. THIS year fur sure… definitely… ;-) )

    “But that’s, y’know, just like, uh, my opinion, man.” -The Dude

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