Gotta Love Cafe LOKA

Yes, you’ve gotta love Taos’ Cafe LOKA if you like an artful environment with great WiFi. Let’s face it Taos can get a little intense. Here you can forget about it for an hour or so. Their chai tea is great and they offer pots of interesting teas for a reasonable price. Besides the espresso coffee drinks, (it is a cafe) they serve breakfast and lunch. I sometimes wish they stayed open later than 3. I work at home and sometimes by the time I look at the clock to see if I have time to make it to LOKA I have missed my opportunity. Darn.

LOKA has a great outdoor patio in what’s actually a courtyard that includes a yoga studio and a hair salon. It’s one of those places that has a sense of place. Once you enter you feel you are in a place that has thought of what would feel good to a human and there you are. The owner is often around and his presence is quiet and thoughtful, somewhat like his cafe. And don’t miss the door to the restroom. It’s a work of contemporary art but in a Zen kind of way.

Another place I’ve found nearby is a little workspace/gallery called Pocket. It was opened this spring by Kristin and her friend, Clare. Kristin is one of the first people I met when visiting Taos to locate a rental home back in March. We met at an art opening and she gave me her card. I visited Pocket a few days later and when I saw the kind of art that she and Clare were doing I was entranced. Kristin will fearlessly paint a decorative design on a huge wall (as in the clothing store, Substance, just off the Plaza) or work with stencils. She also paints and can probably make anything in an artful way–see the egg chandelier, next photo.

I used to have a small business that relied entirely on stencils–a hand painted T-shirt company. Later I moved to Sonoma County, CA, and worked part time as a stencil-cutting specialist for a decorative arts company called Art for Architecture. The owner took me under her wing and often I would stay with her family when a job lasted several days.

I spied this beauty while driving along Maestas Rd. on a shortcut to Talpa from Canyon. I swear I have seen (and photographed) the same flower in Baja in late spring. As you can see (if you squint) the plant is a thistle of some kind so it would like an arid location and climate. Luckily for me and my camera this plant was growing right along the side of the road, making access possible, even easy. What a planet we live on!

Summertime

While taking a walk on the road through the orchard the other day I spotted this gem. Have no idea what to call it, but it seemed to enjoy the delighted attention of my camera.

The visiting Tibetan Buddhist monks referred to in the last post have left town now, having completed their sand mandala in the alloted week. I missed the drama of it’s destruction, but have a photo (below) from the day before, that shows it almost complete.

My gardening efforts here are starting to bear visible proof that there will be the abundant beauty of flowers and the bounty of fruits that I envisioned. I did make one mistake I had to rectify. In my original haste to get things going, especially my salad greens, I had built two containers for them to get started in the back garden, which is fenced (to keep the numerous and adorable cotton tail rabbits separated from the lettuce and such).

Basically these two containers were only the sides of boxes. I lined them with heavy plastic, poked holes in the bottom, and placed them over a graveled area. Well, to make a long story short, although the soil was great, the drainage was not good. The boxes heated up in the sun, the water stayed in the soil, and basically stewed the roots, weakening the plants. I tried different types of plants but all to no avail. The boxes had to go. So I improvised a new bed in a good location further back in the yard.

All appears to be well now. I optimistically erected a tipi of long sticks and made a third growing area for morning glories. Just yesterday I noticed the first of the seedlings popping up. I think I found my favorite Taos flower to grow–eager and flexible to changing weather.

Hmm. That could be the sub-title of a book. Speaking of books, my card art has been published in the 2011 We’Moon desk calendar. It must be coming into a bookstore near you because they sent me some copies. The theme of this, their 30th issue, is “Groundswell.” There’s a nice three-page Astro-Overview for the year that describes their choice of theme. The last sentence: “As the groundswell gains momentum, change can begin to feel like freedom, not breakdown.”

I want to compliment the We’Moon publishers, Mother Tongue Ink, (a great name if ever there was one) for the quality of the art in this issue. I have been associated with this publication as an art contributor for many years and this issue really stands out for me as beautifully put together.

Tibetan Monks & July 4th

The monks making music and chantingSaturday found me driving to the Mable Dodge Luhan house for the first time–something definitely on my “list.” The enticement was the opening ceremony for the creation of a sacred sand mandala by a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks. This would take them a week. I returned yesterday, the 4th of July, to see how things had progressed on day 2.

The first time I ever learned there was such a thing, and actually saw it done, was back in the 60s in San Francisco at an art museum. I was in my mid-20s and this was just another footnote in my Okie-moves-to-Bay Area education. Still, when I recall this memory it seems clear and vivid. I see now that it was a mirror, showing me something deep in myself.

This past week I started working on a painting that is, in form, similar. It’s called a yantra, and the source is Tibetan Buddhism of the Tantric persuasion. This will be my third painting in this series, and significantly my first begun since I moved to Taos two months ago.

These Yantra paintings of mine, of course, take liberties with the basic form, but my intentions are loosely comparable–to mirror the sacred aspect of nature, of earthly life. Of course I had no idea the monks were coming when I started the painting but I see it as synchronous.

So both days I’ve been to the ceremonial space I’ve pondered the contrast between the youth I once was and the elder I am now. I can see I respond to the sacred art and the energetic field of the monks in the same way, and yet now I just want to sit and be one with it. As opposed to “looking,” I see that I “am it,” as each of us is. Instead of seeing the monks as interesting and exotic (they are that!). I feel especially “at home” in that room. I will be going back as many times as I can.

This pair of ravens showed up while I was photographing the Mable Dodge Luhan house and grounds (future blog?). Just so happens I’m also working on another painting series, called “Two Ravens.” Maybe they were reminding me to get back to those landscapes I love so much or just welcoming me to my new Taos life. Either way you gotta love it!