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Happy Easter

blooming plum tree in Taos

Time for dancing naked in the fields

What’s left of the Japanese plum tree outside the dead landlord’s apartment blooms one more time. Its roots reach deep into the sewer line, so it will follow “Uncle Dale” except by chain saw, not by smoking and living over the septic tank. A battered lilac must go with it.

The man’s been dead eight years. His one-room solar studio has floor-to-ceiling glass and you can look right in. Most of his things are still there. Relatives came not long after he died and carted away a few family antiques and objets d’art, but the day bed he slept on is still there with his bedding. His hat and jacket are on the clothes tree. I walk past that end of the house twice a month and try not to stare.

And I must have been doing a good job. Today I had business back there and this time I looked: what was that all over the floor and chairs inside the glass? Oh no. A vine of some kind had grown into the room through a crack in the window frame. Inside the solar-heated space, the plant had lived long and prospered, covering the furniture like kudzu, and died!

A rough brown blanket of dead leaves lay in heaps. I peered closer to see how far it extended. Not as far back as the kitchen. Less light, I supposed. But then I saw a box of pancake mix in the middle of the floor next to a grater and spatula. A cabinet door was open! Some kind of beast had been there, but when and how? That didn’t surprise me as much as the fact that no one had cleaned out the cupboards in over eight years. I wish I had a key so I could do all that and snoop.

I found the dead landlord’s bio on the funeral home’s website today. Who knew they kept such things online after all this time? We knew him fairly well, but not all the details. His full name was Kirby Dale Blair. He won three Helene Wurlitzer Foundation grants for writing and was a Taos resident for over thirty years. Before then he was the film and stage critic for a newspaper in Dallas. He wrote plays and a historical novel about a famous Texan called Quanah: The Coiled Snake. After he died, a medicine man helped several of us toss his ashes into the acequia at the bottom of the hill.

I want to remember this before I cut down the tree, a special one he planted himself years ago. Plants and animals will eventually reclaim his old apartment. Our bedroom is on the other side of the thick adobe wall, but we won’t be here to witness.

As long as we are, though, we’ll be able to flush.

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Taos Spring

old Taos backyard

Why yes it is

Just woke up here, hardly anybody knows. Man jumps out of truck and yells he sees it on me, right there! Digging his hands into the air like bear claws: “This world’s on fire, John!”

Washed the rubber iguana today. Raked. Watered. Believed.

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Almost a Month Into Spring

view fro the Llano ridge near Talpa

You’re supposed to be busting out all over now

Just a little something from this morning, looking out across the valley below. I’ve always called it the Talpa valley, because Talpa is over there somewhere, but copying me could get you into trouble. There’s an actual spot called Talpa a little to the right where you can’t see. I used to say that no one here really knew where Talpa was, but it’s not that hard to stumble into: curvy dirt roads, adobe walls, and trees. Not too many mansions there.

The Rio Grande del Rancho runs through that valley, “rio” in this case appended to what would be a stream or creek most other places. It’s down there somewhere near the bottom of the shot. When I first moved in here over ten years ago, my then seventy-two-year-old hippie lady neighbor told me I could hear it in the springtime if I went out late at night, the river being swollen with snowmelt as it headed for the gorge. I didn’t believe her right away, but then one night I listened: sure enough, a faraway sibilant rattling of stones, just past midnight in a cold, damp April, back when New Mexico had the rain.

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Never Saw That Before

northern New Mexico scenery

Jumped out at me so fast I had to duck

The date was April 20, 2012 and we were driving back from Tucson. This would have been the Helen Death Trip, the one where I picked up the ashes at the funeral home, bought way too many copies of the death certificate, and tossed handfuls of mother dust into the wind from the top of Kitt Peak, one for me and each of my siblings. As I’m altogether too fond of repeating, the rest of her sits with the double-wide loot in a ninety-five dollar per month storage unit on the north side of Taos, patiently awaiting interment in the sandy soil of Maryland. You can soon read real-time dispatches from those perilous days in my upcoming ebook, The Helen Chronicles: When Your Mother Falls Apart.

(Say, does Oprah know about this?)

The photo above is probably from somewhere between Santa Fe and Española. My wife was driving, and I was shooting pictures out the window. (Simple pleasures, comrades.) Until today, I hadn’t looked at this one since I took it, but there’s the old lady, sure as fate!

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Float Like a Butterfly

Taos snow scene on April 14th

Not too shabby after all

By God, there’s nothing like an April morning snow to start your week off right! The way it was coming down when I staggered out of bed, you’d figure there was someone on their way to rescue us. We more or less shut down, thinking we were snowed in, but then it tapered off. As you can see, there wasn’t that much after all, and most of it was gone by three o’clock. Okay by me.

[Note: No, you're not seeing things. There were a lot more words here once. Let's call it "transcended content." This is always a positive event, rejoice! - Ed.]

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