Xmas Eagle

eagle over the rio grande

Snatched out of the sky from hundreds of feet away via 300mm telephoto lens

We were celebrating our own New Mexico Christmas by driving beside the Rio Grande north of Pilar, creeping along at fifteen miles per hour in second gear the way I do with no traffic when I’m looking to be surprised. As we approached a spot to pull off the road facing the river by an old gaging station, something happened and I did, parking some distance above the water. This was quite spontaneous. I turned my head left to look downstream and was startled to be looking damn near right into the face of a huge bald eagle humping its way up north: slow flap, slow flap, glide…slow flap, slow flap, glide…

My wife was in shock, too. The eagle was so close, maybe thirty feet away, and flew right past us just a degrees above eye level. I knew not to reach for my camera in the back seat. This was a moment for direct experience, and we drank it in. I’ve never had a closer, longer meet-up with an eagle. And then we lost it. I got out of the car to take a better look.

“Over there! In the eagle tree!”

It was true. Some years before we’d seen a bald eagle sitting in a dead ponderosa pine on the east side of the canyon. I named the perch the “eagle tree,” and there we were again, but the bird didn’t stay long. For the next ten minutes at least, it swooped and circled overhead, crossing from one side of the canyon to the other, grazing the rim and skimming the slopes, then soared higher and higher until we finally did lose sight of it, never once flapping its wings that I could see. Ten full minutes of eagle medicine in the face! I get crazy high just thinking of it.

Something made me turn off the road. We were meant to be there, obviously. In the wild, these things happen all the time.

Xmas Angel

inside the old adobe

Angel with wood stove, bar, and shotguns

The Xmas Angel saved my life again. When I needed to cry, she let me. When she needed to cry, I understood—it’s not easy living so far from her family. That’s why she was sad, along with missing her dear departed mother and dad. I was crying because I remembered my family Christmases and wanted to go back in time with a taser, wild hyenas, and the finest weed in all the land because I’d need it. Five years after she died, my mother’s ashes are in the storage unit, not buried next to Dad in Maryland like I promised. Who would come to see them, anyway? Their generation is all dead—we survivors live in Texas and New Mexico. Why drive all the way across the country to find the mower-nicked flat stones hidden in the grass and wonder where the wasted years have gone?

Oh, I’ll do it, never fear. My grandfather bought a block of cemetery plots to keep us all together in death, or did he get a “deal”? Either way, he meant well and is so remembered. Grandad told me things my father had no time for, showed me pussy-willows in the spring. The plot my father’s in—I buried the urn myself—has room for Helen, too, and once we have a home again, I’ll travel back to Maryland and dig a hole. I don’t hate these people, you understand, I only want to yell at them a little. (I’m old enough to see the blessing of the wound that shows us what we really are.) But times like Christmas, when the internet is filled with people showing off their kids and presents, awash in comforting hubbub of the holidays, are when I should probably be as far away as possible, having Christmas in a quiet cabin in the snow or on a beach where no one else speaks English. Most years, though, I end up where I am and thank God for my angel.

We’ve always done it our way, especially now that so many have passed on. Whether the house is festooned from to end to end with ornaments or minimally adorned, whether we buy cards and gifts for everyone, ourselves, or just remaining family, whether we go anywhere at all or simply have a quiet day for art and music, the time is what we make of it. The theme this year was “New Mexico.” We spent Christmas Eve together talking of the past and wrung out all the sadness. Yesterday on Christmas Day we drove fifteen minutes away to commune with the Rio Grande in the canyon. The scenery was stunning. Bright sunshine and incredible blue water. We saw Canada geese and buffleheads. A very special eagle flew into our lives, a religious experience if ever there was one. The two of us were cleansed in awe and came home high as saints. After the sun went down, we feasted on champagne and steaks, finishing off with cocoa and bizcochitos (the state cookie of New Mexico).

Possibly and most ironically, one of our best Decembers ever.

Oh, and then there’s this: as I was wrapping up this post, my sister-in-law in Minneapolis texted me that her son’s wife had just given birth to a baby girl. Congratulations to Evan and Annie, and welcome to Elnora!

Solstice Meditation 2017

Solstice Meditation 2017 post image

Neither voting

nor marching

nor petitions

nor activism

nor violence

nor Congress

nor Mueller

nor Twitter

nor money

nor religion

nor science

nor being well-informed

und so weiter

will “save” me

rock & roll might

art can

nature wants to

until I know that

there is no thing to be


Paradise Calling

old adobe scene in Taos

Vanished neighbors’ hovel from our kitchen window

Another pack rat in the trap beneath the sink! That’s three in a week without changing the peanut butter bait: just toss the carcass outside for the magpies and coyotes, reset the trap, and put it back right where it was. Economical and efficient.

Moving right along, I heard a gopher two nights ago on the other side of the wall—that would be the tiny bathroom in the dead landlord’s apartment—while I was taking a bath in ours. (Sounds like a bit of gravel dribbled in a box.) The gophers burrowed into the closet-sized space last year. What I think they do is excavate some more, push the dirt ahead of them into the room, and exit through a tiny open window that I thought I’d closed when I first discovered them. A gopher conveyor belt, if you will. At the time, the debris was piled up almost to the level of the toilet seat—not kidding here—and spilled out into the studio apartment when I opened the bathroom door. It was one of those things you’ll never see again. “My God, where did all that dirt come from?”

That was then, but I knew what I’d heard. I walked around the outside of our building to check the window, hoping against hope that I was paranoid, and found that it was open once again. The little bastards. The only way to latch it was from the inside, where I wasn’t going to go without a magic amulet or gun. Instead, I grabbed a dispenser of Elmer’s Professional Carpenter’s Wood Glue, squeezed the whole thing out into the window frame, jabbed a screwdriver into the window to pull it almost all the way closed, and glued the motherfucker shut. From outside the house, no less. What will happen now, see, is that any gopher entering the bathroom via the secret tunnel won’t be able to leave without running into another gopher headed in the other direction with its own new pile of dirt. I guess they either work that out or one of them gets stuck and dies. How many times has this occurred, I wonder, and do you see what I just wrote? Oh my. This place, hoo boy. The inner and the outer.

I have a cyber-buddy who rails at me when I go on like this because we haven’t moved and he’s allowed. But we’re out of here already in our hearts and minds. I’ve even started “packing”—the dusty boxes by my desk attest at least to good intention—and begun to say goodbye. I appreciate the mountains and the privacy but don’t identify as much with the “predicament.” Instead, I focus on the view, clean floors, and central heat of wherever we’ll be living next with all our things, financed by the books I know I’ll write. Getting to this point has been “the reason,” obviously.

Perhaps you’ve noticed I’ve been quiet. That’s because I really don’t want to write about my life the same way any more. Maybe not at all! Feeling good now, in the moment, is a real thing one can do, and here we are.

Moving Right Along


Acequia at the bottom of the hill

Things are not what they pretend to be in dreams, but lately mine have been intense. Last night they were in full color and had smells. I met a ten year old boy in a little boy T-shirt with horizontal stripes who showed me a place I thought I recognized. It was the interior of a dwelling or an office, cramped, a little dark, seasoned like the dusty dead socks presence of an old adobe. (This might have been in a museum.) There were two other individuals, tall young men dressed like Mormons, looking after things, who saw us enter but ignored us. I told the boy I’d spent many years there in the past.


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