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!