Comanches Dance on New Year’s

It was around noon on New Year’s Day and I was driving along through Talpa on the 518 looking for some sign of the Comanche dancers. In luck, I approached a line of vehicles going the opposite way, headed by a truck with young feather-groomed people in the back. I pulled off the road and turned to join the line of cars and trucks. Following suit I pulled over and parked, got out and walked following those ahead of me. Everyone walked down this road to a residence. By the time I got there the drumming and dancing had begun and several photographing spectators were taking their shots.

What diversity of age and costumes here! Not to mention a great spirit of participation. These dancers and drummers started out at the St. Francis church in Ranchos de Taos at sunrise (around 7:30). The tradition is to dance from dawn to sunset on New Year’s Day. One could likely write a book explaining what this is all about and probably someone has. I found an article online that appeared in the 07/08 print issue of Ski Country magazine that I will offer as a link. It seemed to tell the story better than I could.

Here’s my short version:

Before the Spanish and Mexican colonists arrived in New Mexico there was a mix of Pueblo Indians and the wilder Plains nomadic type natives like the Comanches and the Apaches, to name a few. There were even some trappers and such in the mix. The Comanches (and Apaches) had horses before anyone else and they were, well, warlike and dominating in their ways. When it seemed a good idea to them they would steal from anyone, food or people as needed. So there was conflict in the region even before the Spanish and Mexican colonists arrived. Kidnapping and hostage taking was common and led to a blurring of original identity. In present time those living in the towns of Llano Quemado, Ranchos de Taos and Talpa participate in these Comanche dances in a spirit of reconciliation among those involved in past struggles.

I walked over to the west edge of the property and took this photo looking across a flood plain over to the town of Llano Quemado. The three towns, Talpa, Ranchos and Llano form a kind of horse shoe shape around this depression. The Rio Chiquito, which runs along near where I live flows into this area and eventually into the Rio Pueblo (which flows through the Taos Pueblo) and naturally ends up in the Rio Grande.

I drove around to Llano Quemado and took this photo looking east toward Taos. The residents of Llano get some great views of the Taos mountains. As you can see from the photos we’ve had some snow and it’s cold enough that it’s staying around. The high today was supposed to be below freezing, in the upper 20s. Still it was clear and bright, a sparkly day for starting a new year with optimism. I hope this blog will inspire many of you to do some independent research on the origins of this Comanche dancing tradition. I read that there is a resurgence of attention and energy going into its celebration in recent history and I can only say that I felt that in my limited participation today.

On my way home I noticed this group dancing in front of the Talpa church (which has services once a month). Turns out this was a different group. I had heard there was more than one.

Just before sunset I was sitting near a window where I could see the setting sun, and heard the unmistakable sound of drumming. I went outside to determine how close it was and which direction. As I stepped out the sound of the drums mixed with the crow of a rooster (from next door). I thought to myself, “where am I?” But I was pleased to be there wherever “there” was. Once the sun set the drums stopped, signaling the end of this year’s Los Comanches dance.

June Full Moon

The garden grows.

The sudden appearance of this zucchini blossom happened right around the Summer Solstice. Well, I’ve been working up to this moment since I arrived back in early May. Pioneer gardening I call it–take the soil situation that comes with the place and build up from there. Seemed like the soil was lacking in humus basically. I found an old compost pile hidden in the bushes and started with that, then added amendments from a nearby hardware store. Looks like I got it mostly right, judging from the results. The tomatoes are looking eager to get huge and are blooming as well. Gotta love the way Mother Nature will come through if you give her a hand.

Another proof that summer has arrived in northern New Mexico is the harvesting of the alfalfa. This field is part of the property I live on and all that’s needed is an annual mow down and bale up. I think you’re looking at 30+ bales. Forget the total. This field, and indeed the entire acreage, is watered by the acequia system. The main ditch is just at the far end of the field. The header photo at the top of this page was taken from the orchard a month or so ago, looking south from our edge of Talpa along the Rio Chiquito.

Ran into these lovely girls in Taos the other day along the main street through town. These are a perfect specimen of Georgia O’Keefe’s favorite variety of hollyhock–Black. There might be a more elaborate name, but anyway I admit I also like them and was able to grow a few in my last garden in Ketchum, Idaho. I will probably make a mental note to pick up some seeds from these plants come fall.

The one thing that came back this spring to greet me here, growing next to the house, was a hollyhock. I asked the one who planted it if it was a double or a single. She thought a double. We’ll be seeing soon, which it turns out to be.

The Taos climate suits the hollyhocks. They are just now starting to bloom all around town. I love to paint them–the singles anyway. You can see the results on my Flower Paintings page (see Gallery).

Took this photo Friday, the day before that June Full Moon. I was in the parking lot where Ranchitos Road meets La Placitas looking northeast toward the traffic, which I cropped out. Shows the big and often interesting cloudy sky that Taos is famous for and, of course, the dramatic nearby mountain range.

As I recall there was a little light rain that evening. Last night there was real rain for a while and this afternoon it’s been spilling down some big drops from time to time. And the temperatures have dropped dramatically for daytime here. Could this be the beginning of the much-longed-for monsoon season?

Since I arrived in May it’s been mostly warm to hot and at the worst, windy in the afternoons. Not much in the way of rain, but I think that’s the normal weather pattern. In Ketchum, they had a very rainy May and June. I was glad to have escaped that. Tried not to feel too guilty, or brag about the weather in Taos, when talking to Ketchumites.