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.”

Fall Excursions

This was taken in the parking lot next to the Tesuque Village Market (ta-sook-ee). The Tesuque Pueblo tribal land north of Santa Fe is bisected by the highway between Taos and Santa Fe, so anyone familiar with that route passes through signs for the three (I believe) Tesuque exits. This is where I met up with my friend for a jaunt to Santa Fe to get some needed art supplies and take a stroll down Canyon Road, a popular place for art galleries. Neither of us had taken that art walk for years and felt it was time to freshen our impressions.

This is the season when the peppers ripen to reds and oranges and find themselves strung into ristras. We spotted this decorative use of fresh ristras on an archway leading to one of the galleries on Canyon. Note the use of marigolds strung together as well. The gallery was called Galerie Corazon and was set back a bit behind another place very near the street. The owner seems very set on creating a beautiful atmosphere both inside and outside the gallery. You could feel the “corazon” (heart).

The next day I drove over to Ojo Caliente (hot springs) after turning in the SEED3 paintings I’ve been working on more or less intensely for several months. My reward.

The stretch from West Rim Road over to Hwy 285 was magically strewn with Chamisa in full glory. I stopped briefly for this quick photo just so I could talk about the wonder of the drive right now. Make me think of the “yellow brick road.” I find Chamisa very uplifting, the way it blooms with such enthusiasm, a bright yellow, just when other plants are slowing down.

This is a view of Ojo Caliente from the direction of their hiking trails, west looking east. The building with the scalloped front faces is the original/historic main building which now houses the restaurant, wine bar and guest rooms. Soon all those Cottonwood trees to the east of the buildings will be a solid brush stroke of yellow.

Just had to add this dramatic photo I took on the way home down through the Rio Grande Gorge leading to Pilar. This was taken soon after I crossed the bridge and on the side away from the river. I could tell there was ample moisture there because there was a group of cattails nearby. Yes, I picked one of them, just starting to explode with its seeds, for the SEED3 show. In any case this is our friend Chamisa blooming next to a Cottonwood–nature’s authoritative description of the color yellow. At first I thought the Cottonwood was an Aspen, but definitely not, judging from the bark. That will be another, later blog–Aspens up on Taos Mountain.

These fallen Cottonwood leaves have found their final resting place just under the Chamisa plant in the previous photo.

And just to prove that I really did drive along the Rio Grande today I offer this river shot reflecting the bright blue sky of the day. The weather could not have been more perfect. When I got home I had a short visit with my landlord and he said yesterday it rained on the property pretty hard for a brief time. I would never have imagined it. He said he was in town coming toward Talpa and could see a big rain cloud over it, and sure enough it rained pretty hard for awhile, but not in town and certainly not at Ojo. So much for weather in the mountains of New Mexico.

Home again! Gotta love the Heavenly Blue Morning Glories next to those sweet blue doors I painted a year ago.

Mystery mandala plant I saw on my Ojo hike

Chasing Spring in Taos

We drove over to the Ojo Hot Springs yesterday chasing a sunny, 70-degree day and were rewarded by the site of this hyacinth in shades of pale pink. You can see the effects of my improved camera equipment in this simple photo. Huge difference.

I can’t actually recommend everyone run over to the hot springs in this nice weather. It was crowded because this is the season of rolling spring breaks in schools throughout the region. There were lots of teacher types and then parents trying to sneak their kids into the adult-only pools, which I had never seen before.

This is the entrance to Ojo with the parking lot beyond. To the left is the hotel and the entrance just past the sign takes you to the restaurant and wine bar. Opposite (not shown) is the new building that you pass through for entry into the pools and spa. We had lunch in the restaurant before checking in, fish tacos and salad. The food is healthy, delicious and beautifully presented.

I spotted these daffodils in the bed along the side of the hotel you see above–warm, south-facing and protected. And, of course, all at a lower elevation than Taos.

Compared to winters of history apparently we here in Taos dodged a bullet this year. The down side is that there was also not much precipitation (snow in the mountains) and that’s where the waters of summer come from through those famous acequia ditches. So nothing to brag about in the larger picture…

I took a little loop of a walk around the property where I live and felt some hope seeing these young plants deciding it was time to make their move. Looks like they could use some rain though. Just checked the 10-day forecast and didn’t see much encouragement there, just more mild spring temps with afternoon winds and a low chance of rain.

On Sunday I will celebrate my one-year anniversary of the day I drove into Taos to begin my search for a house. I had timed it to coincide with the Spring Equinox, as it will this year. I’m planning to attend a Mayan Equinox ceremony here that day.

Again, thanks to the new camera, I was able to communicate the intricate beauty of this remnant of last year’s bounty in the orchard. Won’t be long before it’s replaced by buds producing their annual flowers and fruits. I love these Wabi-Sabi remnants reminding us that all phases of life have their beauty.

Let this photo be our honoring of all that life created in last year’s growing and fruiting, both in the plant world and in our personal lives. We have arrived now at our cyclical starting point, renewed and ready to begin in earnest again.

Tomorrow, this waxing moon in the photo, will be full, illuminating the orchard as it gets its signal from the cosmos that it is time to begin anew. May we all find the courage to honor our deepest truths and be the love we seek.