Sanctuary

old adobe scene in Taos

Pay attention and be true

It hadn’t rained all month and everything was dead and ravens squawked. Letting the “yard” go back to Nature wasn’t going to make another house show up, but I’d given it a good shot—now we had a fire hazard, and I couldn’t find the hose. At the same time, the weather was a little out of bounds for seven thousand feet: low nineties (33°C), single-digit humidity, gusty winds out of the west. It went on like this for quite a while. What with the temperature inside the old adobe never getting out of the sixties, even with the doors and windows open, I knew where to be, and the cutting and the raking took about ten days. My wife was gone the whole time visiting in Minneapolis. I’d do a little work and take a nap and every other cycle have a snack, but mostly sit here in the coolness by the screen door, listening to the birds and checking news on Twitter, wondering if we had a chance.

What World is This

Rio Pueblo gorge

Our little white car is in the shot. (Look hard!) The road along the cliff is closed & blocked by a landslide.

Maybe I’ll wake up and that’s what I’ll think. For everything to be completely fresh, how wonderful, when all the old myths fall away and nothing drowns me in the morning.

A time when I was out here (not this time) I saw a smallish bird I’d never seen before. Some kind of flycatcher, I’d say. Small and predatory in a soft-shimmering gold, as it bobbed atop a sagebrush in the breeze. Again, I’d never seen one like it, yet I sort of gathered what it was. Moisture, you see. There’s a whole different ecosystem down there where the Rio Pueblo flows. Insects, bugs. It must have flown up from the gorge.

The bird stayed put as I walked by. It’s good to know there is a jungle somewhere, I thought. The desert seemed less limiting, and there was space between my fears.

Terrible Beauty

Rio Pueblo gorge

Mesa to the right is Pueblo land. Bighorns, lions, eagles down below.

Behold the Rio Pueblo. Just beyond and around the bend the river joins the Rio Grande in an even bigger gorge (of course). I hiked out here Wednesday evening for the first time ever, which in itself is loony. Within fifty yards of starting this trail, you plunge immediately into one of the most spectacular landscapes I’ve ever seen. It’s simply stupefying, and scary, too, with long stretches just a few long steps from the cliff. Not a place to take a crazy dog or little kids or kick a soccer ball. I can’t believe I’ve never been before.

There’s a house about a mile from here that one could buy. Talk about your chthonic spirits! That would be like letting them use your body (probably keep it running for a long, long time). These things aren’t human and don’t care.

Fire in the West

forest fire smoke as seen from Taos

Heavy smoke from out there, somewhere. (Looking back into the plume.)

I keep thinking she’s in the bedroom asleep, and then I remember I took her to the airport in Albuquerque this morning. She landed in Minneapolis at almost the exact moment I hit the last stretch of bumpy dirt road on the way home. I cried a little on the freeway. All my sins, you see, the ones you think you’ve outgrown but you haven’t. The madness of my mother, the volatility of my dad.

It was the hottest day in years, too, not to mention being the summer solstice. I even ran the air conditioner, something I almost never do. According to the car thermometer, I saw 107°F on I-25 just north of the city. Española was at least 104. Coming out of the canyon south of Taos near the end, it was 97. I stopped to take a picture of the smoke from forty miles away that was blowing across the gorge.

Aging Badly But with Style

yers trooly

It’s all right Maw

Oh, I am a piece of work. God must be keeping me alive to see just how the story ends. You know how when you drop your guard and trust the world, the universe provides exactly what you want, and then you run away? You don’t? Anyway, I caught myself in time, but it was tense. It’s been tense with me for at least a hundred years.

There might be a house near here, more or less. From which one could walk to there, in fact, with a little gumption. Just by using trails, I mean. No roads. And here I was ready to move to someplace green and maybe with an ocean.

Can’t scheme it out no more. It doesn’t work like that, this stacking toothpicks in a gale. No wonder I have been so lost. There are other forces. A surfing analogy might work by sticking to gigantic waves. Sharks and swimmers in the backlit crest, oh my. See me hanging in the air before I’m slammed into the sand.

My wife is off to Minnesota for a week. I will shave and lose ten pounds and vacuum.

Carry on.

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