Spring Snow

lazuli bunting in the snow

Telephoto shot thru kitchen window

It snowed two days ago, then melted. Yesterday it mostly rained and blew. This morning it’s been snowing heavily since dawn. Tomorrow it will snow all day and accumulate several inches, then down to 20°F in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Then, and only then, will we slowly climb back to the seventies we’d been enjoying for some time.

Yes, this happens at seven thousand feet, even in May. I have plenty of photos of hummingbirds in May snow. The bird above is a lazuli bunting, my favorite visitor of all. We usually have several who stay most of the summer. I always buy the cheapest bird seed, because the lazulis like to eat the “filler” seeds the other birds ignore. These birds are quite aggressive, even chasing away the larger juncos. Good for them! The world has plenty of juncos and not nearly enough lazuli buntings.

We Know

junco on handmade feeder

Rickety feeding platform made from salvaged boards

Deep down inside, we know. We always have. There’s a thread inside that you can follow to the Source of everything. The junco knows. Why do I so frequently forget, when it’s the only thing that saves me?

Palace of Fear

Palace of Fear post image

Es hora de salir de este lugar

The Doberman barks all hours by the trailer down the road, jumping back and forth against his chain that flashes silver in the sun. I realize I am the dog. The eighty feet of elm that fell but only grazed the house had smashing walls in mind. Identifying with the only thing it ever tried to do, I feel a kinship and a small responsibility. Symptoms of decay and too-long-blind are everywhere, the world outside a mirror of my soul. The damage has been done, there’s too much thinking. The only thing we still can do is leave.

The expectations game is relevant. The deprivation I learned to conjure up makes it harder to escape and join the world. Even when you’ve changed inside, the outside knocks you down. That’s what living in this old adobe is like, daily confrontation with the kind of sacrifice you’d only put up with in a hide-out. Taos itself is much the same. People seem to pride themselves on hardship: “It’s just Taos,” uttered with accepting shrugs. That’s why the place is dangerous: it comes with its own built-in myth! If you fall below the level necessary to keep up, it’s difficult to imagine change.

Yesterday we visited the brand-new storage unit, four doors up from the one we’ve always had. I carried a single box of books to start the actual moving process, while my wife was taking winter clothes to hang up in the same cardboard wardrobe boxes they shipped in when we moved from Maryland almost eighteen years ago. Don’t ask me how it came to this, it doesn’t matter. Now is now, and the main thing is to get the everloving Jesus out of here, even if we don’t know where we’re going yet.

We will, of course, and soon.

Expect More

Hiking in the Rio Pueblo gorge

Coming out of the Rio Pueblo gorge, the Rio Grande is just around the bend.

“We’ve got to kill the storage unit!” she’s said a thousand times. The ten by twenty foot space is crammed and full of dusty treasure: junk, empty boxes, furniture, tools, paintings, antiques, artifacts, a great big rug, a washing machine, a bell jar, clothes, a broken lawnmower, art supplies, packing quilts, camping gear, shoes, old LPs, and boxes in the back we haven’t opened in oh, like seventeen years. No, almost eighteen! I think I’m going to be sick. How have we survived, he asked rhetorically, because it doesn’t really matter, here we are.

Killing the unit means we move and that’s just peachy. On Saturday I found out that the storage company had a vacant storage unit only four doors up the row from ours, closer to the porta-potty, even, and I grabbed it! Now we have a place to put the “keeper” items from the older unit once we pull stuff out and sort it. Brilliant!

I also have no more excuses for not weeding all my bins of ludicrous dead technology (among many other museum pieces) in the old adobe, because I have a place to store whatever I want to keep until we move, and to long-deserving hell with all the rest. For example, in what we call the “closet” in the bathroom is a heavy-duty plastic storage bin almost completely full of old Radio Shack stereo cables, speaker wire, and telephone cables for landline phones. I think there’s some coax in there from an ancient teevee installation, too. The whole thing must weigh forty pounds. Now I’m nauseous again.

“Kill the storage unit, John!” He rents a second one! I love it!

Sky Fix with Dogs

Taos, New Mexico

I bitch a lot but this is just ten minutes from the house

My heart rate was pushing one hundred thirty-two beats per minute near the top of the hill. I thought that was a bit much, but nothing burst. She flew on ahead the way she always does, sometimes with her arms stretched out like wings. (I can beat her on a bike, but that’s it.) There hasn’t been a time in decades of walking and running together when this wasn’t true. Her pristine lungs flood her tiny little body with so much oxygen, her muscles run on light. Whenever I see her on the bathroom scale, I ask her, “Do you still have weight?” and when she nods, I tell her, “Good!”

The air was perfect on this two-mile hike. As mentioned dozens of times before, the thing about New Mexico is the air. It’s like you could live forever in this air. There were times in Maryland, mainly in the summer, when the air would sap your will to live and melt the corpse, and then the flies would bite. This air right here is pure and dangerous.

As we reached the turnaround near a house back in the trees, we heard a rising, yelping wail. It was coming from a pack of “hounds,” I’ll call them—hunting dogs, I think, not large but plenty savage. There must have been fifteen or twenty of them, and they were loose

No one came from the house to call them back, if that was relevant. In seconds the dogs were upon us, making an enormous din. The hair was standing straight up on their backs. Some snarled with bared teeth as they approached, while others yipped and barked as they tried to surround us. I was worried but not panicked. We kept on walking, dragging the mob along with us. There were too many of them for me to stab or bash with my hiking pole, and I knew the ones I missed might go berserk and overwhelm me if I tried. Every time I turned around to face them, they’d slow their advance but bark all the harder. I couldn’t believe how many of them there were.

As we continued down the road from where I figured the dogs belonged, the pack thinned out a little as some dropped out and vanished in the trees and sagebrush. After a couple of turns in the road, I couldn’t see any of them following us and hoped the episode was over. A minute later I heard barking again and turned around: there they were, about fifty yards behind us, having followed for at least a quarter of a mile! I was at my wit’s end and decided to stop and hold my ground, while my wife kept walking as normally as she could. The pack approached to within twenty-five or thirty feet. Finally, all out of options and extremely pissed, I bellowed in a loud, firm voice:


The closest dogs stopped barking instantly and turned around.

“GO HOME, goddammit, GO HOME!”

The ones in the middle shut up and turned back also.

“Go home! Go HOME!”

The few remaining barked a little longer and reluctantly took their leave. In less than half a minute, we were all alone again. “Go home” was obviously something they understood. Who knew shutting down a massacre was so easy? “Bad neighbor!” my wife said of the assumed owners of the hounds. No kidding, I thought, realizing that the old el Norte metaphysical dynamic, where you experience the greatest joy (“the air!”) alongside something that you fear or hate the most, had struck again.

A universal truth, of course, just easier to see here where the shadow never hides.

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