Early November

As I sit down to create this blog about early November the weather here is finally heading  the way of something more like winter. And so the photos in this blog reflect the mild temperatures of this year’s lucky, lingering fall.

I took a quick shopping trip to Santa Fe recently and as I approached Taos on my return I stopped to take a photo of this iconic single tree which gets a lot of attention by photographers. This was my first time and the late afternoon sun helped make for a pretty good result. If you know the site you’ll recognize the dark shadows of the gorge running through the middle of the frame. In another mile toward Taos you can get better views of that. This site is alongside a tricky curve in the road and you take your risks just crossing it. The tree says “you’re almost there.”

This is a small fraction of a large Day of the Dead altar set up in the lobby of the Taos Inn each year around Halloween and early November. It was truly a vast display of notes and photos honoring deceased relatives of Taos residents an especially featuring photos of former Taos residents going back in its long history. There were similar altar spaces set up in locations handy to the public, but this had to be the largest.

This was a lucky shot taken along the Rio Grande gorge on a return trip to Ojo Caliente Hot Springs around dusk. The overcast sky turned the scene into an old fashioned sepia print and the wary deer makes it special. When I first spotted the deer she was drinking from the river but as I got out of the car she watched me attentively but never moved away from view.

The deer is a spirit animal for me so this was an amazing way to end what was already a beautiful day.

Took this several days ago. This is the acequia ditch that runs under Maestas Road and winds around to the back of the property where I live. It’s source is the Rio Chiquito River that can be accessed nearby. One of the charming plants that likes to grow along this ditch is the wild rose (the orange leaves on the right) which makes it fruit, red berries called Rose Hips, known for high vitamin C levels and used often as a tea. I have been known to string them for decorating a Christmas tree when I lived in places where they were plentiful.

When you’re looking at this photo the ditch is beyond that slope on the left side. You can see the bit of bright green at the end of the dirt road. That is a small corner bit of a very large flat meadow planted in alfalfa (watered by the acequia in season). This you can see as you’re driving by on Maestas Road which goes by my driveway.

And once you enter the alfalfa field you can keep going straight and there’s a small apple orchard in the corner. If you walk to the right you’ll find access to the Rio Chiquito River. I did this walk with some visiting friends not long ago and we ended up in this area and noticed there were little piles of bear poop (mostly poorly chewed apples) scattered under the trees here and there. I found it a little scary to think we were sharing the same space as a family of bears. This harvest of apples must have been a high point in their yearly migration?

Sadly due to technical issues I can’t put my little square photo at the end of this blog as usual. Hopefully I can resurrect this pattern in the future? I’ve got Wabi-Sabi photos on my mind. Could be a theme to my next Taos blog.

Aztec Dancing in Taos Plaza

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Taos historic district and a friend and I had just parked in the lot in front of El Gamal. Getting out of the car we heard the sound of drums coming from the Plaza so walked the block away to see what was going on. I took my camera. There was a sign that said “Huitzilopochtli Traditional Aztec Dance Group.”

I searched online but couldn’t find an official website for the local Aztec Dance Group but learned that there is such a thing and that they perform at special events in the region. You can see some YouTube videos of their dancing. They are also part of a collective of groups in this country, all of which serve to connect both the dancers and their audience with the ceremonial roots of Mexican culture.

A week back I took a friend for her initiatory walk around the property I live on. We followed a loop that starts at my house, heads back through the alfalfa field with its view of the three next-door-neighbor llamas, then cuts west across a little bridge over the properties main tributary of the neighborhood acequia ditch. This direction leads to the horse barn and reveals the old orchard to the south.

This is my favorite tree in the orchard, an apricot. These trees have survived long lives thanks to the care of humans who’ve over the years distributed the available acequia water to them. I was once told (and I’m repeating this I know) that they are as old as I am, more or less.

This somehow relates to the fact that I just celebrated my 70th birthday last week. Perhaps this photo symbolizes my honoring of the way these trees have survived and even thrived by the grace of their nurtured location. I seem to have had a similar lucky destiny in life and I feel gratitude to everyone who loved and nurtured me along my way.

And here’s the venerable horse. Wish I could remember his name. He gets to eat the alfalfa that is grown and harvested on the property. As you can see from the way my friend is dressed, it was not a very cold day. This warm winter trend continues. The high today is expected to reach the low 50s. We are starting to have a windy day here and there. Wind is a typical pattern in the spring and it feels like we’ll be entering that territory soon.

My friend and I continued our walk through the orchard and took an easterly direction on Maestas Road after that. Here’s an old postal box. I don’t think they deliver mail to these here anymore. I liked its Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, proud marker of a more trusting time.

A new flower painting delivered to Gallerie Corazon

The Perfect Fall Weekend

A snapshot of the perfect fall day in these parts, taken from the bridge heading into the Ojo Caliente parking lot. I was informed by a passerby that that’s a beaver dam in the foreground. On closer inspection I realized that could only be the case. The trees are cottonwoods, a common native tree that likes to live near water.

Staying with the cottonwood theme, here’s a close-up of the leaves in all their yellow glory. They are similar to aspen trees this time of year in their color. To see aspens now you just have to drive up some mountain or other for higher elevation than Taos or Ojo. Looking east to the Taos mountains now you can see patches of yellow aspens but I’ve been too busy to drive up for the gorgeous photo shoot that I’m sure would be waiting.

I took this photo near the same bridge. It’s a non-native species of olive trees which has adapted well here (invasive you could say). It has no fall color but is clearly in the process of losing its leaves. Note the little olive seed pods.

These cottonwood leaves have fallen from their branches and are well along in their process of breaking down into food for the soil. In this circle of life the cottonwood tree feeds the soil beneath it, it’s own source of nurturance. In the same way our own gardens can benefit from a winter mulch composed of the dead and dying plants we have enjoyed over the growing season.

I took this photo of pinto beans at the farm market on Saturday. They come from the San Luis Valley, which is mostly over the state line in Colorado, but close enough to Taos for a trip to its farm market. It’s a large flat valley with mountains on either side that provide good irrigation for the crops. The soil is naturally fertile. I believe it was covered with water back in ancient history.

This is Vicente on the left chatting with his helper who is cleaning up the beans that will soon be poured into a plastic bag, weighed, and sold to eager Taos customers. I love seeing the many local foods that have supported humans in this region for hundreds of years. Pinto beans must be close to the top of that survival list, along with corn.

I took this photo, on the same Saturday morning, an alfalfa field along my road, Maestas. It borders the Rio Chiquita, which you can sense by the presence of the yellow-leaved cottonwoods. Just behind where I’m standing is the acequia ditch that comes off this river and is heading left to right towards the property where I live. I will speculate that the dip you see in the green down the middle of the photo is a ditch that helps move acequia water into the field.

As I’m writing this four days later it’s cloudy and cold out and last night’s snow is melting quickly. I still have some cosmos, gaillardia and marigold flowers looking alive, though it’s hard to believe. I’ll go out now and pick a bouquet, perhaps the last of the season. Halloween and the Day of the Dead are peeking around the corner. The New Moon was yesterday. The veils between the 3D human world and that beyond are thin now, ushering us toward a more inward time, the “fruitful darkness.”

Taos La Nina Landscape

When I anticipated the winter here in Taos I pictured, well, let’s face it, snow. This photo was taken last week, on my way to town via Maestas Road. Lately the weather has been warm and dry. The answer my friend is “La Nina.” I was talking to a shopkeeper in Taos a couple of days ago who was raised in the ranch life here. She stated it as a fact and a lightbulb went off in my head. I found a nice website that shows projected maps and such: La Nina Drought Tracker.

This lovely scene is the reservoir along Maestas Road just east of the cemetery. I learned about it from a woman I met who used to walk her dog there regularly. She said she had to stop because the water got so low she didn’t want her dog getting in it. Maybe it was murky mud by then? This was my first look at it and a fine illustration for this blog about an expected drought this winter.

For those of you not sure where the heck Maestas Road is…it connects between the far end of Talpa on 518 (the High Road) east over to the hospital and ultimately to Canyon. I live near the 518 end of it and usually take it up to Hwy. 68 and on into Taos. But if I’m in a mood for some slower driving and better scenery I head across Maestas. The photo above I took as a bow to the last vestiges of the yellow Chimasa that bloomed so brightly this year along the road. Notice little, if any, snow on the Sangre de Christo Mountains in the distance.

And this mysterious photo shows the remaining stems and leaves of last summer’s morning glories. I arranged for the ones in the foreground to climb up some small trees in the backyard. The ones in the left lower corner were grown in a more conventional tipi of sticks. I was tempted to remove the “dead” remains of both but have discovered I am enjoying looking out the back window and watching to see how they will break down through the winter. A little snow would hasten the process no doubt.

That bell was an existing part of the yard decor when I moved in and it rings whenever there’s a good breeze. I have become very fond of it’s simple but effective design and placement, not to mention the sound it makes. The horizontal pole behind it was just too tempting not to hang somewhere dramatic. It connects two groups of small trees that lean toward one another over it, with the bell at the center. Yard art.

As I write this tonight we are getting some sparse snow down in the Taos valley. Maybe I’ll leave the window open a crack and not run the humidifier. Moisture is a good thing.