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Quiet Thunder

clouds and mountains near Taos, NM

In fifteen minutes they were gone!

What a fine day today! The monsoon storms did a slow dance all around and left us high and dry. Not that that’s a good thing, but at least we’re spared the noise of extra growing things and lambs a-frolicking in the dew.

In a similar vein, we noticed yesterday evening the extraordinary presence of silence in the neighborhood. For at least six weeks now there have been several hours of thumping bass, shrieking kids, and barking adult male voices starting at about four p.m. at the single-wide at the top of the hill. I have no idea why. Last night there was nothing. “Perhaps they’ve all asphyxiated themselves,” I speculated. It was that quiet, like after a poison gas attack. As if I know.

There’s a man’s voice in the mix that I’ve heard for at least ten years in this location in every season. I call him “the shouter.” Even in the dead of winter, mind you, when I’m outside chopping wood, I hear the shouts. They sound like vocalizing without words. In my mind’s eye, I see some poor person chained in a garage who’s either hungry or his shackles are too tight. I even wrote about him once in a column for a now-defunct alternative newspaper we had going here. I say “had” because eventually the publisher sold it to a woman who’d showed up to start a new life. She tried to make it a business-friendly publication, which didn’t work of course, and all the writers quit because we had to plug these things inside our pieces, after which she either died or killed herself. Taos is a hard teacher—and here you thought it was just a dusty ski resort with artsy-fartsy aspirations.

The funny thing was, a few readers wrote in to complain about the essay. I’d used the same description, you see, and one woman in particular thought I should have searched to find out who he was and how to help the fellow. Helping him wasn’t what I had in mind, of course! I think this was the same person who’d castigated me several years before when I wrote about walking to the post office in San Cristobal and how I had to use a stick to fend off devil dogs. (More of a peacemaker, she, and probably scarred about the ankles.) As I wrote about it at the time:

I took to carrying a long stout stick on subsequent walks and learned a few more things about the evil pointy-faced one: the first time I placed the pole across her throat to push her away from my leg, I had the distinct impression that she liked it. A stroke is a stroke, after all. The second time I had the pleasure, I caught her in mid-bark and was rewarded with a satisfying strangled gargle that made my day. The third time she met my stick she tried to eat it, and that’s the way it’s been ever since.

You can read about those days in BUFFALO LIGHTS, which someone ought to buy and make into a film. I could use some nice new days myself, as nothing seems to have changed that much except some restaurants failed and stuff is more expensive. Rumble-rumble (you didn’t hear that from me), and onward through the fog.

More High Desert Green

Taos Valley Overlook scene

Looking south from Taos Valley Overlook

I made it. For all the bridges burned and lessons learned, I made it, almost like I conquered time. There’s nothing now but what there is, and here I am. I have to say this feels like some relief. I don’t take out the garbage while I beat myself, I just take out the garbage.

You probably wonder if I ever do anything besides bitch and go hike. I couldn’t say. But when I saw this remnant of an old road out there in the sagebrush, I just took it, la-dee-dah. Turns out it doesn’t go very far, just over the rise a little bit and then drops down to meet another trail that’s gotten washed out like a little canyon. Things could be worse, you know.

Big Wild Space

Taos Valley Overlook scene

Gorge and green high desert with Tres Orejas volcano

The new glasses were amazing. Sharp and clear with unscratched polarized clip-ons. I felt like I could see forever. Maybe I could. Five years with the old pair and the old prescription. The glasses cost five hundred twenty-five dollars back then, too. The new ones were from across the ocean somewhere and cost seventy-five. Older eyes don’t change that much, but five years is five years. Maybe I could start off fresh like nothing else had ever happened.

It was good to go out in the morning. The monsoon clouds were heavy-wet, already starting to blossom. In less than half an hour the anvil tops were streaking out ahead of what were now a string of full-fledged storms some forty miles away. The whole sky was alive! That’s the thing about New Mexico, the universe of air. You see so much, the clouds appear to move in all directions. Anything is possible.

A friend sent me a photo of what could be pre-Clovis stone points from an arroyo on his land. Recent rains had made a new cut in the Earth. There was an archeological survey. He told me, thusly, exactly in this way:

Juan
working these portals of spacial abstracts can be very freeing
opening, honoring, and letting go of ancient concepts of meaning while in form
really really freeing
laughing with those who came before frees them as well
attempted understanding of their experiences without judgement
feels so good

I don’t care where I’ve been, and I’m not running any more.

Birthday Weekend Noted

your humble author

New specs ‘n’ more

Sometimes it takes a goddamn buffalo. In this case, buffalo tenderloin. That was my birthday dinner Saturday night in an open patio setting that was pure old Taos. It really was disgustingly nice. We walked there from several blocks away along a route we knew from living in a condo once upon a time. There’s a passageway at the back of a patio beside a gallery that takes you through a little parking lot, across an alley, and into the next street. Only locals know it’s there. The quick damp chill inside the dark adobe walls felt old world European to me. This was also less than terrible, as I noted at the time, and I had a vision of living in walking distance of wonderful restaurants where we could spend lots of money without having to drive all the way to Santa Fe first. This was almost cunning in its brilliance. The corollary was a secret sacred studio in a fine insane location, and lo, I did rejoice.

We were going to go to Pagosa Springs, Colorado for an overnighter as a birthday trip. I have a cyber-buddy there who had me psyched to check it out. The day before, something told me not to go, and being me, I cancelled. That resulted in the tenderloin, you see, and and any benefit deriving therefrom. While this switch was underway, that very afternoon in fact, the guy in Pagosa had a heart attack! On my birthday, in the town where I was going, and he’s only forty-three! Doing fine now, and I’m glad.

This afternoon I hiked again at Taos Valley Overlook. I could see for ninety miles and no one else was on the trail. Seventy-five degrees and a stiff cool breeze. Sometimes I spontaneously pray out there. I did today and hit a thing that made me cry a little in the open air with white clouds etched into a perfect blue. I don’t know what to make of that except that something must be true. A collared lizard looked at me and froze until I passed.

How Not to Wash Clothes

muddy Taos driveway

Maybe three days ago. It’s been cold, too!

No, I didn’t lay them in the mud! But I did add a huge fleece bathrobe to the cold water wash my wife was loading (and she knew), but now “nothing is clean!” Eek. Listen to your elders and don’t try this at home, kids. Could be the 40-year-old Whirlpool (double-eek!), but let that laundry breathe.

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