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Taos Spring 3

spring in Taos, NM


This is “down by the acequia.” Water is running high in the ditch just beyond my feet here where you can’t see. The reddish shoots are willows that the ditch cleaning crews usually cut down, but this year I haven’t seen them yet. I don’t know what the blooming tree is. The dark one in the foreground is an apple tree. Each year most of its fruit drops into the water and is carried away. I grab what I can without falling in.

Aspens and cottonwoods grow huge beside the acequia. Woodpeckers are going crazy now bashing holes, especially in the half-dead trees. Yesterday I saw an epic flicker fight: one was chasing another up and down the hillside. They flew right over the house, circled around, and then corkscrewed through the tallest cottonwood in the neighborhood, where I lost sight of them. Ten minutes later they flew back over the house, still fighting! These dramas go on all around us all the time, and hardly anybody sees.

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Taos Spring 2

spring in Taos, NM

The air my god the air

The photo cuts too close and overwhelms me. I had to shake and wipe some tears away. “This world’s on fire, John!” no lie. It’s not the place, it’s not the image. It’s certainly not “Taos.” Forget Taos. You know what I mean.

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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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