Taos–Day After Christmas

One thing I’ve learned about winter in Taos, you never get stuck for long with big piles of snow (if they exist). The rhythm of transformation from snow to ice to water (think mud) is a constant hum. At least that holds for the valley areas where most people live. This snow melt photo was taken in the alley off the plaza that leads to the Alley Cantina, likely taken in the afternoon when the temps reached their warmest.

For this shot I was looking into a display window in one of the many tourist shops that encircle the Plaza. The morning light accurately reflected the Plaza behind me. Those toy horses make me think of the bygone days when real horses were a real means of transportation to the people who lived in Taos–present-day horse spirits perhaps. Taos is full of spirits.

For 25¢ you can try a ride on this wild-looking guy and see where that gets you. There are actually lots of horses grazing around in open fields here and they would make for great photos. This is as close as I’ve come thus far. I’ll work on it.

Do I ever get tired of winter trees full of ravens? Probably not. This crew were hanging around the back side of Michaels, a favorite main street (Paseo) breakfast spot for tourists (and probably some locals). I have heard that this is the best place for photographing ravens in town because the restaurant shares their leftovers with the birds. I can’t verify that, but I pass by this area frequently (my back way to the post office) and most always see ravens. Today I actually stopped and took some photos. Was wishing I had that expensive telephoto lens that I don’t have…

 The rest of these photos I took on a walking loop around the property where I live. And yes, I waited for the sun to approach the horizon for the best light. The thinness of these aging leaves makes for a kind of glowing light this time of day. There IS color out there this time of year if you look AND mind the right time.

Here’s another example, a marigold still holding its orange color but enhanced by the warm light at the end of the day. I grew an abundance of marigolds this year, meeting one of my goals, and was able to string them together at the end of the garden season into garlands that now decorate the interior of my house. I love them.

For many of you familiar with my blogs this will be a recognizable scene, the old orchard of trees on either side of a road. The road leads to a fine adobe house at the back of the property near the acequia ditch. On the left is an apricot tree that is one of two favored by the local gang of ravens. I’ve been told the orchard is 60+ years old. You can see the secondary ditch that keeps this tree happy.

Not much to say about this small fallen branch that must have come down in one of the many intense winds we have here sometimes. Without the snow for contrast it would hardly attract attention.

This nest is very near my house but I can only see it when I’m walking the orchard road. I’ve been told it’s a magpie nest. I’d like to catch some magpies nesting in it some day just to prove the theory. This is definitely the best time of year to see its structure.

Cosmos seed flower

Tis The Season–2

It was around 4:30 when I walked by the Taos Plaza and took this shot. I had just stopped to talk to a man who was putting candles inside the stand-up paper bags (with sand in the bottom) that would become “farolitos” as soon as it was dark. He told me he belonged to a local group of vets and that each year on the night of the “Lighting of Ledoux Street” a different Taos group took charge of this annual task.

This is what they look like before they are lit. A block away from the Plaza is Ledoux Street and it was getting ready for it’s annual festive lighting, meaning there would be farolitos lining the street on either side. The only traffic would be people strolling along stopping here and there to warm themselves at a wood fire (luminarias) or exploring inside one of the many galleries along the street. The Harwood Museum of Art, at the lower end of the street, always welcomes townspeople to stop in this night and look around (something that usually costs money). I enjoyed the magic of the evening myself and ended up with friends at the Adobe Bar.

I believe this photo was taken the day before from the parking lot behind Moby Dickens bookstore. I’ve noticed how much I’m lately enjoying the shapes of bare tree branches backed by shocking blue skies or, as here, the mix of clouds and sky. The sleek black ravens add to the mix–a favorite Toas winter image.

I doubt this image would be as charming without the dusting of snow. Love the yellow part that looks like a hat. Somehow it all comes together looking like a friendly alien that escaped from a candy-land planet.

This photo, also taken in downtown Taos, (a railing in front of Geraint Smith’s new photography gallery) should have been included in my somewhat recent Wabi-Sabi blog. Yes, there was water from melting snow standing in puddles that made for brushstrokes of contrasting lightness. The peeling “Taos Blue” paint is so much more interesting than a fresh, even coat would be.

Driving back from Santa Fe with a friend a week ago we stopped at the Chimayo church. These farolitos will light up at the turn of a switch and are designed to look like paper bags but are really plastic. They are practical when placed along roofs, which is often the case around town for public buildings or businesses that want to contribute to the nighttime ambiance of the season.

Yes, I’ve been making regular visits to the Taos Folk show at the Stables Gallery, checking on my inventory. The show is having great success. My friend, Sybille Palmer, is making these amazingly cute owl tree ornaments out of felted wool. I’ve heard they are a popular sale item.

I’ve also heard that the Taos Ski Mountain has good snow now. That can make a town like Taos pretty happy. It’s six days until the Winter Solstice on the 21st. I’ll be celebrating it with a newly formed Shamanic Drumming Group who gathers once a month at the new metaphysical store, OptiMysm. It’s been a few years since Taos has had a metaphysical store and for many this opens a fresh door to useful spiritual tools and locally made gifts, among other things.

Winter Solstice Card

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!