Tipis and Temples in Taos

I know, it looks like Mongolia, but it’s Taos, in one of her many faces. Take a turn off Medio on Mondragon and enjoy the bumpy dirt road (no speed bumps necessary). I was there for a presentation offered by two ambassadors from Peru, who represent the Kipatsi Indigenous Work Group. I believe the event was hosted by Vista Paz Taos. Nyna Matsiak invited me and the above photo is her family’s home.

This was taken inside the tipi where we gathered. These lovely gentlemen are Asheninka Mino and Emilio Salvatierra. They are presently living in Albuquerque but come up to Taos at intervals at the invite of Vista Paz Taos. There were about a dozen locals attending. There was a translator on hand, who works with Kipatsi, to help with the conversation. Oddly, I found when they spoke Spanish I could almost understand what they were saying. Possibly they slowed down their natural speech rhythm for this purpose? I was very touched by the effect it had on me and found their very presence inspiring.

Of course, they have goals similar to all of us, survival of our chosen or inherited homelands and into the future sustainable living close to land that is free of rape and pillage by the profit machine.

I took this shot as I was departing around 8 PM. No doubt you’ll hear more about the adventures of Nyna and her farm off the grid and the Kipatsi work group, not to mention the interesting goings on at Vista Paz Taos.

I also attended lunch last Sunday at the Hanuman Temple in Taos, an exotic place if you’ve never been there. They serve their lunches starting at 1 PM every Sunday as part of their spiritual practice and the outdoor serving area is entirely free of any hint of collecting money. They do have a little store near the kitchen area. This was my second time and, like the first, there were lots of people eating and socializing. The food is Indian style, warm and spicy and delicately delicious.

Ganesha holds a place of honor at the entrance to the compound from the parking lot. This is the season for local marigolds and are a popular flower both in the Hindu culture and in Mexico. I have a few plants but they have yet to flower. I had a marigold conversation on Saturday with Tara, who is one of the gardeners on the Hanuman Temple property. She was offering them for sale at the farm market last Saturday and said they always try to grow a lot of them so they can use them at the temple and sell them, but it’s hard to get them to bloom early where they are located, a giant step down from Taos proper on a little road off Valverde.

So as a newbie gardener in Taos I’m taking note. Start your marigolds in a greenhouse if you have one, or indoors, early. That would probably be along with your heirloom tomatoes of Siberian descent! Yes, my tomatoes are still producing but I’ll admit this past week they have slowed down a touch (due to lack of Siberian heritage?). Their feet are still staying cosy inside their “walls of water’ but the tops will be vulnerable come the first cold night. We won’t even mention the touchingly beautiful morning glories I have climbing up everything in sight now. They will be the first to go in the cold. Ah, life and death in the garden.

Wabi-Sabi Anyone?

While wandering around the stacks of the Taos library the other day I came upon a familiar book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. This could be my 3rd round of the “excitement of discovery” finding this book. Like running into an old friend. I thought to myself, why Taos is a very Wabi-Sabi kind of place, by its own definition. Aren’t we always talking about how we love the insubstantial elements of the beauty here, the play of light, the textured earthiness of adobe. And don’t we love the absence of things modern and slick and up-to-the-minute fashionable?

This might look familiar to those who frequent Ojo Caliente hot springs. It’s part of the iron pool. Here’s a quote from the book: “Beauty is…an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.” I like that beauty is not a thing of beauty, (like love is not a loved one). We know we can experience beauty just by walking outside at dusk and feeling the warm rosy light interacting with our familiar objects, like our garden or a fence. It’s the interplay between objects and the natural world, with a sense of time, the moment, the very vulnerability of our human existence. The sound of a raven or a mourning dove can evoke a similar Wabi-Sabi moment.

This was taken on the back side of the famous Trampas church. It’s obvious purpose is to drain water off the roof, but at the time I took the photo I was having a big “a-ha” moment. Everything about it was weathered, had a look of useful service and yet held itself together with a sense of quiet, understated dignity. The blue of the sky was held in pure focus by the arrow shape, almost as though the whole sky was coming down through that narrow channel.

This photo I took in the bottom of one of the ditches in the orchard under an apricot tree. Notice the state of decay in the apricots, from tantalizing juicy orange they have transformed into shriveled, aged grays and browns. Their textures are no longer smooth. The green grass tells the story that it is not winter yet, but the condition of these apricots portends more break down ahead for other fruits of summer. All these are Wabi-Sabi qualities. There is a tranquil sense of things portrayed as inevitable looking.

This Ganesha statue is rough in texture, has a noticeable chip in it that makes it a “2nd.” It’s about a foot high, and very heavy. It sits next to my front door and I wanted to elevate it. When I located the rock that has a strange pointy shape (in the middle) I just had to use it, as it seemed almost as significant, in itself, as the statue. There was a bit of suspense in incorporating it, since I also wanted the heavy statue at the top to look and be solid. I have felt respectful of the outcome of this project these past months. I wasn’t thinking Wabi-Sabi then, but now I see it fits.

It was painful to choose this last photo as there were several contenders raising their hands and waving them in my face. I just wanted to say a little on behalf of the book. The author, Leonard Koren, feels that Wabi-Sabi is important to talk about, to quantify, so to speak, because it is the last hallmark (my word) of traditional Japanese beauty. It roots are very ancient, originating with tea masters, priests and monks steeped in the traditions of Zen Buddhism in Japan. As a philosophy it speaks to an acceptance of the impermanence of life, a view of life that can embrace moments of loneliness and tender sadness. This very much appeals to my own sensibilities and I find it an aesthetic worth naming and claiming.