Rio Grande Gorge–February?

This is the spot where the Rio Pueblo flows into the Rio Grande. All that water flowing down from the Taos Pueblo’s sacred Blue Lake, and through the pueblo, for who knows how long, ends up here. All the little creeks and rivers that accept and channel the melting mountain snow (many divided into acequia ditches), join the Rio Pueblo and become part of this convergence. This place, the certain geography of this concept somehow captures my imagination. So this past Saturday I took a friend new to Taos along the path that dead-ends here allowing our view.

 Along the path I looked for visual interest in the desert monotony of a dry winter. I’m no cactus expert so can’t offer a name, but this one appears to be reacting to the exposure to sun and cold with a lovely purple skin color.

Here’s how to find this trail. From Hwy. 68 out of Taos take a right turn at Pilar and proceed along the river until you get to the bridge (several miles). You can either park along the road on the right just after you cross the bridge or you can park in the lot just before the bridge and enjoy the walk over it. Finding the path is easy.

This interesting rock formation is one of the sites along the path. My friend seemed to know what type it is but all I recall is the word, “black,” which is pretty obvious. She got closer to photograph it herself. As you can tell we were not dressed in the down jackets that we left in the car. It was probably in the high 40s/low 50s and mostly sunny.

As I type this several days later it has been snowing on and off (lightly) for two days. We took advantage of the warm weather when it was available. This winter we are being lulled into the belief that these warm days will be back soon. Hope it’s true.

I mentioned a few blogs back that there was an unexplored “other” old truck on the property of the Overland Complex in El Prado. This is one of the shots of it I took last week.

I like this complex of businesses for several reasons. It includes Envision Gallery, an admirable gallery where I have a couple of paintings now, and the Tea Shop (Ancient Rituals Apothecary), where I hung 5 paintings last Friday, one of my favorite stores in Taos. Plus the complex has a scenic location next to the Taos Pueblo, thus a good spot from which to take those mountain photos in all seasons and weather conditions.

And not that far away this photo was taken on the grounds of the Taos Pueblo farm market which has been providing greenhouse-grown produce for the public this winter. They are generally open on Wednesdays and Fridays, but the Wednesday I was there they were closed for some reason. This agricultural complex has sprung up in the past several years and shows everyone that growing food in winter can be done with the right equipment and determination. Kudos to the Pueblo for leading the way!

I have decided to be available for astrology readings at OptiMysm Wednesdays from 2 – 5 PM. On the 22nd, though, I’ll be at Ojo celebrating my 70th birthday.

Look for a new Owl Woman card where my cards are sold in Taos.

Frank Waters & the Spirit of Taos

I am almost finished with “The Man Who Killed the Deer,” a famous book by Frank Waters that was published the year I was born, 1942. Some long time ago I read it and liked it, but at the time had no reference to Taos, not like I do now. I can say it has helped me imagine how things were then, both different and perhaps much the same as in present time. It’s clarified for me many of the things that have attracted me here, most importantly the fragile but firm continuity with the pre-conquest past that lives and breathes today among descendants of native Americans living in the Taos region.

By the way the first photo was taken the October, 2010, at the Taos Pueblo and and shows Willow Creek, potable water that comes directly from Blue Lake and divides the pueblo into two parts. This sacred lake, and the pueblo natives’ desire to gain it back from the US government, was one of the themes of the book, “The Man Who Killed the Deer.”

The photo above was taken around the same time, obviously the Rio Grande. Many times in the book the author mentions the fact that once one has climbed some distance up into the Taos mountains it is easy to see the west side of the gorge cutting through the landscape.

This view of the Rio Grande gorge is familiar to anyone who has driven by on Highway 68, but I include it now to illustrate my mood of fresh appreciation for the dramatic topography and history of the place many of us call home.

I would like to recommend another Frank Waters book I recently discovered in the library (yes, they have a dog-eared copy of “The Man Who Killed the Deer”), The Woman at Otowi Crossing (1966). Though not about Taos per se, this book sheds light on many fascinating aspects of New Mexico’s remarkable history. The main fascination for me was the history of Los Alamos, how it abruptly sprung up from what was a boy’s school campus in an otherwise pristine landscape. But there was also an  established pueblo village nearby, the life of which was also important to the story. The main protagonist is an aging Anglo woman whom I found easy to identify with.

One more book by Frank Waters I can suggest is “Mountain Dialogs” (1981). It’s a collection of essays. The first part talks about Waters’ experience living in the mountains above Arroyo Seco when there were few Anglos doing so. He talks about being able to ride his horse across the mountains and down into the Taos Pueblo and was invited and encouraged to do so by his Pueblo neighbors at the time. His neighbors were there by virtue of Spanish land grants and at that time few had allowed their land to be purchased by Anglos. Anyone living in or near Arroyo Seco would likely find this early part of the book enlightening.

All three of these books I was able to find at the Taos Library. I had to wait for a copy of  “The Man Who Killed the Deer,” but the other two were on the shelves.

A year ago a long-time woman friend of mine passed. She is the first peer of mine to do so and it took me a long time to feel my way through the experience. I created a small collage to honor her passing, which I cropped (to make a square) and put here at the end.

Ada’s Passing

January Beauty


I took this the night of the full moon, from a friend’s house, but couldn’t get to the camera in the car fast enough to actually “shoot” the moon. It’s there somewhere. Where I live there are too many hills and trees obscuring this view of the Taos mountains so my blog doesn’t often include this magnificent perspective which comes gratis to so many. Location, location. I believe this neighborhood is called “Los Cordovas.”

A few days later I was out visiting the Tea Shop in the Overland Complex in El Prado and took this facing south from that end of all the buildings. It reveals our current lack of snow. I hear the situation is different up in the Taos Ski area, but they would like to see some fresh snow. This land in the photo is part of the huge acreage belonging to the Taos Pueblo. As you drive through El Prado much of this beautiful land is visible from the highway and I would say everyone living in the area is deeply appreciative of it being basically a land preserve.

Between the parking lot and the building where the Tea House lives (next to Envision Gallery) there is a man-made pond with a bridge and appropriate plants around it. Very charming as a concept and I’m sure lovely in other seasons. It being January I tried to capture some unexpected beauty and was pretty excited about some of my results, like this one where the rings of the shallow water reflect the sky’s dusky light.

I fell in love with this photo when I saw it on my computer. The black tree branches are so distinct and yet are reflections, and I love the way the fragile ice carves a border for the dark water, like a visual container. I am so grateful for my blog this week. It got me out and about finding beauty in the less obvious places.

And here’s the last of this pond series. I love the way the one tall leaf in the center provides both drama and color.

I took this photo this morning in my back garden area.

Ah, reflections.

Corn, Tomatoes and Dahlias

The dahlias on view at the farm market just get bigger and more spectacular this time of year. Just as other plants and flowers begin to wane in September others find their time in the spotlight. I overheard someone say the other day that in Taos our first frost could come anytime after the middle of September. I wanted to argue that point but realized it was just my own desire speaking–to see my tomatoes, pole beans, cucumbers and corn have time to really peak.

These rain-sparkled heavenly blue morning glories will gladly continue to grow and bloom til freezing temperatures come. That same guy who was reminding his listeners that a cold night could come soon also added that last fall’s good gardening weather continued longer than average. Since last year was my first in Taos I guess I made the optimistic mistake of thinking that long growing season was normal here. Guess only time will tell? But speaking of weather we have had strikingly cooler temps the past several days along with rainy skies. I have turned on my radiant floor and finally this morning could feel its slight warmth as I hopped out of bed. Nice.

This is a shot of my own corn patch now doing what corn plants are programmed to do and I have so enjoyed the close-up view this year. Living here in New Mexico you can tangibly feel the story of corn as an essential and sacred plant.  I once visited Mesa Verde (in Colorado in the Four Corners area) and saw how the Anasazi lived communally on a treeless mesa because they understood how to grow corn and other plants. Here in the Taos Pueblo there are many ceremonies between May and October that revolve around corn as a symbol of life sustenance. It’s ironic that in modern times corn has been tweeked and manipulated by science into something we have to fear and avoid, as in “fructose corn syrup.”

Another sign of the times in September is an abundance of flowering marigolds. Not sure when I put it together but there’s something special about stringing marigolds together like this photo illustrates. It likely can mean different things in different cultures but it always feels sacred and special. I like to use them on an altar. It takes a lot of marigolds to produce a string of them the size of the one in this photo so growing them around here can become more like a crop than a few plants in the flower garden. In this spirit I have grown more marigolds this summer than ever before in my life and I’m enjoying the “fruits” of my efforts in a way that is hard to explain. Perhaps they symbolize a kind of blessing in their abundance?

This is a seeding fennel plant, one of many photos I’ve taken this month in preparation for a collage I’m doing for the upcoming (October 8 opening) SEED3 show at the Stables Gallery. I use it here to show that for many plants this is an end-time in their cycle. I have a parsley plant in a similar stage of maturity, one that had overwintered and thus matured sooner than those planted from seed. The beautiful pea plants I grew earlier I removed entirely and replaced them with morning glories, which seem to grow fast here and are enjoying the same stick tipi supports that the peas had.

This Zinnia painting can be viewed on my website.

Arroyo Seco #2–Tour

This was taken a mile or so before you arrive in the small town of Arroyo Seco, looking to your right as you drive along. I did stop to take this photo and the dirt road into the Taos Pueblo has a name but I didn’t write it down. Yes, we’ve been having some rain/snow here and there lately. We’ll take the moisture any way we can and the snow does show off the Sangre de Christo mountains nicely. Once you get to Arroyo Seco you really feel the nearness of the mountains and you are in a zone that is no longer flat open mesa. There are creeks and trees.

Here I’m standing behind Santos Y Mas, the store that is now carrying some of my altars, cards and tree ornaments. You can see the relationship between the mountains and the middle of downtown. The famous Taos Cow is just across the street from Santos Y Mas and the place that sells the great tamales is there on the far right of the photo, Abe’s. The restaurant takes up the right side of the building.

Just a skip and a jump over and upwards from the main street to your left is a tempting stroll up to this church. And just about where I stood to take this photo there is a dirt road heading left that goes around the back of the buildings on main street and over to a little neighborhood that leads to the famous Seco Pearl and the newly relocated market, Sol Food.

I talked briefly a couple of weeks ago to the young owner of Sol Food, Cris. He said he grew up in Arroyo Seco. He was very up on all things Arroyo Seco and noted that there was a trend toward economic growth there, not to mention that through the past three years of hard times in the region Arroyo Seco has held steady. He mentioned that it’s a more expensive area to live in, generally, than Taos, so holds up the “high end” of the valley. He feels visitors seem to enjoy the scale and slower pace of the town, find it relaxing and refreshing.

As you can see Seco Pearl is a large place. I understand it wears many hats. Sometimes it’s a community center/dance hall, other times a place to display local wares and also a cafe. Definitely community events happen here and the people of the town feel very affectionate toward it. I read in the paper several weeks ago that it just changed owners. I pledge to visit it on one of my next visits to town and give a report on the latest incarnation.

Here’s one of my tree ornaments on display at Santos Y Mas. They keep a year-round area set up for ornaments. You can’t miss it. The Garden & Soul store in Taos also is keeping a small display of my ornaments year round. I was surprised but some have sold since the winter holiday season.



The Taos Pueblo Revisited

The occasion was the visit of an old friend who asked for my advice on things to see in Taos. I’ve been wanting to visit the Taos Pueblo ever since I arrived last May, but the time just never felt right. My last visit there was 6 or 7 years ago and I arranged my trip from Idaho to coincide with a Corn Maiden ceremony in the month of May. I had been very touched by the experience and grateful the people of the Pueblo allowed visitors to attend their obviously sacred ceremonies. This first photo shows the active Catholic church which stands near the entrance.

Just past the church we started to loop around the main “square” with a turn to our left. Immediately I spotted a man in the distance obviously building an adobe oven (horno). At first he seemed merely tolerant of a couple of “tourists” slowing down his concentration with their interest. But after some exchanges he seemed more willing to engage in an honest way about himself and his techniques for working with the clay. He introduced himself as Martin Romero, a potter. Apparently you have to go slow with the process to give the thick “bricks” of clay time to solidify before adding layers as you work upward. This horno had been under construction already for a week. For a small exchange he let me take this, and several other photos.

One feature of the Taos Pueblo that particularly interests me is their water which flows directly from the Sangre de Christo mountains rising to the east over it. The water is uncontaminated, thus usable for drinking. In today’s world this is basically unheard of–to know (see) where your water comes from and be able to use it just as it comes from nature. The river flows through the middle of the Pueblo bisecting it into two halves separated also by a large open space which allows for large gatherings of people during festival times. The next such time is around Christmas. Red Willows grow along the sides of the stream and there is an association between the plant name and the word, Taos.

This may be my favorite photo of all. Perhaps it qualifies for the Wabi-Sabi award, although if I think about it in those terms, the entire Taos Pueblo expresses that aesthetic (see a former blog about Wabi-Sabi). In brief Wabi-Sabi speaks to our longing for the rustic, for that textured aspect of beauty that clearly shows the effects of time, its movement  toward the eventual death or dissolution of all forms. It is a reminder of our personal mortality and there is both a sadness in it and an acceptance of it as truth, thus an authentic quality to its beauty.

I grew up in Oklahoma and as a child learned first-hand that the native people of our country had been, for the most part, abused and demoralized. It was obvious to my child’s mind that they were in the way of our country’s so-called-progress and it would have been convenient if they had all perished one way or another. Sadly, my dad, who must have been insecure, enjoyed reading aloud clips in the newspaper about deaths and other mishaps that occurred on the nearby reservations ostensibly due to drink. Meanwhile our well-endowed library (built on oil money) had beautiful displays of native crafts and artifacts. So there was a split for me. Indians were great and wise artists at some time in their past, but the ones still alive in Oklahoma were mostly poor and dispensable.

I am here in Taos to experience the other side of the story, not a perfect story, but a better one. Already I see the ancestors of oppressed natives here producing great art and honoring their traditions knowing they might have the best relationship to Mother Earth of all of us.