Only One Thing

lady hiker

Hiking in the Terrible High Desert

One of the resident raccoons knocked my homemade platform bird feeder off its post again last night, leaving it in pieces on the ground. The last time this happened was just two days ago around midnight. I was still up and heard the crash, so I grabbed a flashlight and peered out the kitchen window to see if the raccoon was still there. You’d think I’d get tired of shining flashlights on raccoons, having done it so many times, but until you do, you never know exactly what you’ll find. I can report that this one was approximately the size of an Iowa hog. The bird feeder isn’t remotely capable of holding that kind of weight, so down it came. Sigh. The mess from last night is still out there, and as soon as my wife wakes up from her Sunday afternoon nap, I’ll go out with a hammer and pound the feeder back together again. That’s not the thing, of course, but let’s move on.

Yesterday was horrible. Following the usual sort of panic attack, I had another screaming fit about Taos, ugly stupid houses, bridges to jump off of, and the general lack of anything decent to keep me here except poverty, and no idea of where to go instead or having any way to get there. It’s okay, though. When you live outside the box, these things happen. A long time ago a mystical palm reader lady told me that my primary task in this life was “overcoming fear.” That’s probably why I arranged things to be as scary as possible, for maximum motivation.

Interestingly enough, the old man was prone to this same kind of second-guessing and self-criticism (hint: of maternal origin). The incident I remember best occurred at the unplanned end of his Glorious Retirement Tour, which consisted of he and my mother traveling all over the country in a pickup truck pulling a big-ass trailer. This suited him just fine, seeing as how his responsibilities were limited to driving, drinking vodka, smoking little brown cigarettes, and riding his bicycle in search of others, mainly lady bikers, who might be impressed by his stamina and curly permanent—he truly was an athlete in his later years, and I give him extra credit for achieving this in wartime. My mother eventually tired of having nothing to do but read magazines, buy groceries, and cook—never mind the rest—and about the time they reached Tucson brought the whole show to a crashing halt by declaring she wanted to “put down roots” (again).

They ended up buying an older ranch-style house in a close-in east side residential neighborhood, an area of mostly “normal” homes where people either tried to keep their lawns alive or tore them up to lay in gravel. Sometimes they painted it green. You can still find neighborhoods like that in Tucson, though folks have broadened out to pink rocks, Astroturf, and I don’t know what all. At any rate, he soon fell under the influence of an all-female (there’s your angle) xeriscaping outfit and converted the sickly lawn back into the desert from whence it came. Ahead of his time, he was, as far as that’s concerned, which if you knew him was the other hook.

The problem was, he started to wonder if he’d done the right thing. That is, whether the newfangled desert landscaping might lower the resale value of the property. Quite the opposite, I suspect, but this was then, and there might have been a thread of reason to it. The story I heard in bits and pieces, since I was keeping myself as far away and out of this as possible, was that he had a righteous nervous breakdown with late night panic attacks (oh, those), crying jags, the whole nine yards, and for all I know he had them tear the cactus out and put the grass back in again. I don’t recall how this resolved itself, and there was other business going on with sister, brother-in-law, and maybe people heading off to Mexico, but at some point they sold that property and moved to a mobile home development on the other side of town, where there was plenty of fine organic xeriscape placed everywhere by God.

This isn’t the thing, either, but we’re getting there.

Oh Yes Still Here

adobe house at sunset in Taos, NM

Not ours! Empty dwelling nearby, Anglo owner-built or modified (pre-hippie, c. 1960).

Haven’t been able to write for weeks, but it’s only a blog, so let’s give it a go [clears throat]… Remember the tree? It’s still there, hah! A couple of guys came by yesterday to read the water meter that’s now underneath it. They freaked out a little, but I knew they could get to the cast iron cover without needing to saw. The shifting has begun. The disengagement. Thank God.

I’ve acquired so much knowledge here that means nothing to strangers. That’s just how it is. Like the time a flying squirrel got into our basement one summer in Maryland by coming in through the oil furnace chimney. Oh that damned furnace (converted from coal). In the old days in Texas, you could heat a whole house with a little gas heater that plugged into an outlet that stuck out of the wall. Frigging high pressure and all, right there with a spigot, and somehow the whole state still never burned down.

“Don’t touch that, Jimmy!”


Oh, sure.

(All this damn bullshit, fingerprints on the lens.)

All I care about now is my honey and me. I crawl into bed late and feel that she’s warm, put my hand on her cute little butt. There’s an island of okay that lets me sleep, too. My favorite part of the day. This morning as I staggered naked erect, she leaned into the bedroom, still wearing her bathrobe: “It’s warm in here [meaning I didn’t need to hurry and build a new fire], but I’d be glad for your company…” Glad for my company! I don’t think anyone ever said that before. I felt privileged as hell. In the kitchen she grabbed me by the shoulders and kissed me good morning. I love to be touched—does anyone know that?—did anyone do?

Yesterday I got pissed when she came back from the store with low-sodium crackers. This has been happening for thirty-five years, but then so have I. She’s an intuitive shopper (double Pisces) and buys what she feels. My salt training never has stuck. In the same vein, I want to buy her an iPhone instead of her beat-up old flip phone with the impossible battery. She treats digital gear the same magic way as the crackers and I’ve made her feel small, so I think she gets scared. This actually just hit me, as I’m galactically stupid besides being a jerk.

“You don’t have to know how to filter the “Previous Recipients” list in your Mail app, I’ll do that for you,” I said while she cried on my shoulder because the email to her sister got stuck. “YOU KNOW BEETHOVEN SONATAS, forgodssake!” Does she ever, oh man, and she laughs like a bell.

Real life in the ole present moment. Let there be music and salt, all forgive and move on.

Has to Be a Lady

female Canada goose

Location: Rio Grande del Norte National Monument a few miles north of Pilar

There isn’t any doubt. Her mate stayed close by on guard duty while she ate. We watched her grazing with her head submerged off and on for maybe fifteen minutes and then drove off to the end of the paved road where we cross the river and turn around. On the way back, the two Canada geese were still there, and she was still eating! Eventually she stopped and stood on a rock, when I got this highly-cropped telephoto shot. All this time the big guy was craning his neck and swiveling his head, never got to eat or rest. I wonder how that all works out.

But damn, just look at her. Could that be anything but a female? I mean, seriously. That is one beautiful goose.

Helpless Something

old Taos scene

See the Thing?

It ought to be easy to climb out. Everything is in place, even the elm tree trunk that broke off and fell, nearly hitting the house. I’m going to leave it there. The crash was like closing a dead man’s eyes. When we finally have our feet on the ground in a place that feels like home, it’ll all come back, I know it will. The way it felt, pulling into a driveway where I had every right to be, next to flowers and trees that we had planted, and a house that felt like someone, somewhere cared. I know this isn’t complicated. Not letting it happen is.

[click to continue…]

Present Tense

old Taos scene

Here we are and this is what we do, both feet flat on the ground. You just put one foot in front of the other, her father told her. We just go until we stop, she said.

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