clouds and Taos Mountain

Taos Mountain (what else) up to no good with the clouds

This is what I saw—more or less—when I looked out my window on Friday afternoon. Wild earth, wild sky, and where they meet. This is where the monsters live.

In Maryland it happened where the water met the sand. Wildness wasn’t so much a factor as “relatively undisturbed.” In places along the tidal rivers, there were little sandy beaches underneath the trees or on a point beside a marsh. Each low tide revealed a strip of re-cleaned sand and sometimes little horrors or a gem. A shed crab shell, a carcass, or a perfect piece of polished driftwood. Mystery gifts and offerings every day. On my outings I collected tiny skulls, odd jokes, and flotsam that amused me. If we’d owned property on the water, I might never have moved, no matter how hot and sticky the weather or how aggravating the influx of wealthy city people, such is the attraction of this zone.

Out here the scale is massive, the sky a river of atmosphere against the mountains. Thrilling, but there’s little “comfort.” So old, so primal, lonely as the gods

This is what New Mexico has done to me. I have to seek assurance in a deeper place.

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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  

  • Rita February 8, 2014, 3:28 PM

    I grew up in Howard County, Maryland, visited relatives on the eastern shore, went to Ocean City a lot. I have wonderful memories of steeplechases, the State Fair, and rolling green hills. That was the 50s and 60s. In the 80s I went back for a visit and the place I knew is gone forever. Gone. it is even more gone by now.

    I am glad I got out when I did.

    • JHF February 8, 2014, 4:34 PM

      “In the 80s I went back for a visit and the place I knew is gone forever. Gone. it is even more gone by now.”

      Absolutely. The same with any memories of mine, except perhaps that little strip of sand along the river. ’75 to ’85 was a glorious time, a post-hippie paradise on the Shore. By the time we left in ’99, things were already pretty far gone down a road I wouldn’t have chosen. I’m lucky to have been there when I was.

  • Rita February 8, 2014, 6:06 PM

    Actually – the places I lived in the 70s- Mendocino County, and the 80s – Eureka Springs, Ark – were pretty great back then. They are not bad now, but maybe everyplace has suffered since then. Too much facade, plastic, and general ugliness replaced all the trees, fields, and historic buildings, old barns. Shoot. Even fences are white plastic, now.

    I am always struck by the beauty of the poor countries and how people dress. Americans and our habitats are horrible. Why are we so ugly?

  • Rita February 8, 2014, 6:29 PM

    Correction: it is the old traditional dress and architecture that I find beautiful, and that is true of here, as well. Squalor and poverty are hard to look at anywhere, but a crowd shot in India is so colorful, and yet the colors dont clash. Africa, Bali, almost any rural culture has style and often grace that we lack.

    One time I needed a restroom and there was a Walmart handy. I had not been in one for some time. I was so stunned that I just stood there and stared at the profusion of plastic crap and the people buying it. How did it happen to us?

    Thank God for those who resist.

  • Bob Helmig February 8, 2014, 11:58 PM

    I once heard (or read) someone say, “You can never go back.” Of course this is wrong in the physical sense but the days of yester year when we were free as birds and the wild places awaited our presence are gone as we remember them. So the conundrum becomes, do we let go, pack up and leave with our fond memories, knowing we’ll never be back? Or do we return from time to time with the knowledge that we’ve changed and so it follows that our little places would have changed also. For me, the youngster who wrote his bicycle at breakneck speeds down our mountain lanes, and crashed it into a parked car is dead. He no longer exists except in a spiritual, or emotional, sense. The boy that stalked Brook Trout in the stream, who spread the savor of wild mint crushed along the creek bank is but a recollection in the minds of a few. The aging man who he became is all that’s left, knowing it will never be the same.

    • JHF February 9, 2014, 8:44 AM

      What I was trying to say here (and not very well) in this truncated version of something I wrote earlier is that New Mexico is so huge and dramatic, my experience of Nature is qualitatively different. Like exchanging an easy chair for the terrors (and rewards) of all creation.

    • Bob Helmig February 9, 2014, 10:16 PM

      I must have written this post in haste (post haste, I suppose). The punctuation is atrocious. Hopefully, the point was made.

      • JHF February 9, 2014, 11:54 PM

        Yes, of course. My reply didn’t address the issue you raised, I know.

        As for the conundrum, I know it very well. Years after we left, I couldn’t let go, and it still isn’t all that easy to remember. The second choice requires evolution or the shock treatment of an attempt—I think going back for a visit would be liberating, though, along the lines that you suggest, and give me much to write about.

  • Rita February 9, 2014, 9:49 AM

    Big mountains, big skies, any kind of water are ssoul soothers. That is what I get from your photos and words. I just went off on a tangent thinking about Maryland. You said it perfectly well.

  • Rita February 9, 2014, 9:51 AM

    Well. Soothers and shakers.

  • Ty Smith February 9, 2014, 8:40 PM

    Greetings John! It’s Ty here, from Florida… seems like it’s been way too long since I visited your blog. I’ve got to tell you, I’m enjoying your new (to me) format, and I’m glad to see you are still immersed in the raw spirit that New Mexico simply “is”.
    I’ve especially enjoyed your readers’ comments… Myself, well in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I was still in grade school. But, I too have fond memories of those days. And, I too feel like the rapid changes we’ve experienced, especially brick & mortar development, have soiled the fondness of those memories. However, I like you… march on… and we embrace every next moment as a new step along the journey. There is so much brilliance in every new moment, no matter where one experiences it. It’s up to us to process that brilliance and recognize it as something better than we have ever known… that’s living! And, It’s clear to me that YOU are doing exactly that!
    I’m pleased to report that I am now in year 8 of having no television! giving up that useless noise, has revealed sensitivities that quite frankly, are hard to put into words. You… in your talented ways, put that experience into great and inspiring words… Keep up the awesome job!
    Finally, I wanted to let you know that at long last, I purchased a small travel trailer and will be roaming the west for three months this summer! Generally, will be seeking my off-grid 40 acres and mule! Secondarily, will be photographing the rhythms of life far away from the interstate, and fly fishing (why it took me so long to discover fly fishing is a complete mystery… but, WOW- what a rush!)

    All the best to you and your wife!


    • JHF February 10, 2014, 12:04 AM

      Hey Ty, good to hear from you again! I love this comment—pretty damn inspiring too, thank you very much. And thank you for sharing your news. Sounds exciting!

      This was a very odd post of mine. I didn’t really have that much to say and nothing seemed to come together. But the comments (yours and all the others) speak to what was underneath the surface, even if I didn’t know. Funny how that works sometimes.

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