Above Freezing!

old adobe kitchen window in Taos, NM

“Old Taos,” as the saying goes. Here with dead sister’s art (Hi, T.!), teas & spices, photovoltaic lantern, and a crack.

Only 37 °F (3 °C), but it feels like spring, sort of. Hah. Tell that to the dirty solid ice outside the front door. It’s been there for over a month!

“Well, why don’t you get rid of it?”

I’m sure there’s a way. Have the washer woman and the scrub lady build a big fire, put on a heavy kettle like you’d boil your blankets in, and keep ladling hot water over it until it’s gone. Except outside the front door are a bunch of large stones set into the clay, and beyond that, a patio of swept earth that’s hard as concrete when it’s dry. “Old Taos,” like the kitchen window up above.

Of course, most old adobes don’t have such wide windows. For this we have to thank our dead landlord, who renovated this place in the early ’60s. Some of the main highways in this area weren’t even paved then. (A great many roads and Taos streets still aren’t and never will be.) Physical distance and isolation. Just like today, only we have less dust now. Supposedly. But this Old Taos thing has been around for over 400 years. They’ve got it down, or had it. Sigh. Just add electricity and indoor plumbing—which not everyone enjoys here—and you get where we live now.

The floor is hand-smoothed solid adobe mud on on top of the ground. My 6 Mbps internet comes in through a hole at my feet drilled through 18 inches of 110-year-old mud bricks. There’s a wood stove and a bathtub. No ceiling lights or wall switches, just a handful of old wall plugs. The oldest washing machine I’ve ever used empties into the sink, unless you forget to hook up the hose. Black widows live in warm corners, and I once found a baby scorpion on the kitchen counter.

None of this (except the bandwidth) is anything I feel content with in the broader sense, and yet it works. The massive walls and solid floor are deeply reassuring. We’re comfy at 20 below. I can take hot baths and dick around on the Internet. All of New Mexico is out there for me to hike in, four miles at a time. (I’ve lost 17 pounds since July.) On a day-to-day basis when there is no crisis, I am happy in long bursts and fear no evil. Out of this can come amazing things! Hell, I’m damn near staggered as it is. And what if the ice melts eventually, all by itself?

Wouldn’t that be cool?

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “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.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • Sunday Tidwell January 19, 2013, 5:39 PM

    Old Taos. Another great piece of writing. I’m drawn to those crystals. I have 2 that are similar — one that I found in my flower bed (not sure how it got there), and another one that I bought in Taos. I hung one of them on my rear view mirror, but every time I turned a corner, it threatened to crack the windshield of the beamer. Did your sister like cats and coffee? And did she paint that herself, or just own it? Will you put a curse on me if I tell you that it was in the mid-70s here today (unseasonally warm for us)?

  • JHF January 19, 2013, 6:57 PM

    Nice temps! That’s my sister’s artwork, by her own hand. She was an artist and went by “T. Farr,” I’m sure she liked cats and coffee.

    I hear you about the crystals. ‘Course they aren’t really “crystals,” but you know. The way that window got cracked was that my wife tried to swat a bee or something and hit the hanging glass thingie instead. That hit the window, and the rest is history. The glass is very thick plate glass from a long time ago and for a variety of reasons best left in place until something else collapses.

    And thank you, of course!

  • Michael Walsh January 20, 2013, 6:04 AM

    Congrats on your weight loss. I lost 35 pounds by quitting corn syrup product and starting each day with oatmeal. I also swam 1 mile 6 days a week.

    • JHF January 20, 2013, 9:02 AM

      Thanks, Michael! It’s kinda like a whole reorientation on several levels at once—but then you know that. I eat oatmeal (the real stuff) every morning, too. Swimming is incredible exercise. Do you live near water? There’s a public pool here, but I”m not too keen on that.

  • Ken Webb January 20, 2013, 8:50 AM

    You’re a man doing what he wants to do within the constraints imposed by his personal history and our human animal conditional generally. Bravo! No more than that can be said for any man, woman, child or beast.

    I’m not sold on taking off weight. One’s tonnage is part of one’s personal history. However, you’re losing some of yours sort of unselfconsciously, as a by-product of living the life you love of hiking and getting out and about in places of beauty. That’s okay in my book. Modification of one’s life for formulaic health reasons is a different story. We’ve all got too little quality time left to spend it doing deadening things (like exercising in the gym, following diets, etc). Not to mention all the research now cropping up showing that supposedly unfavourable body-mass ratios don’t have much to do with longevity. My own intuitive thought is that a comfortable occupation of one’s skin is the trick. (Smoking and drinking are also okay in my book.)

    • JHF January 20, 2013, 9:17 AM

      Personal history imposes fewer constraints than you may think, given sufficient self-awareness. In my case, I was also eating out of guilt—the “finish your plate” syndrome, where you have to eat to be a good boy. But now I’m learning to eat only when I’m really hungry, not because of habit or emotional dynamics.

      Not doing this for formulaic health reasons, though. I do like looking better in profile, of course. But what truly got me going was exercising with a pair of 15-pound dumbbells! Good Lord, I thought, what if I could walk around with that much less weight on my knees? Even taking 17 pounds off has an extraordinary effect.

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