Sunday, December 30, 2012


Since Christmas day, it has taken awhile to get back in the mood to write.  Every day things that want to be said have tramped through my mind in winter boots, but getting them all the way to the computer has required labored steps through mental mud.  

PQ in His First Living Room
This Christmas was the first spent at PQ’s ancestral Pueblo house since his mom, Frances passed from the world of time and matter six years ago. It was very important to him that we open the house to our friends. He hoped for this last year but although some critical repairs were made on the outside of the structure, we didn’t reach the inside in time for holidays.   

This year we cleaned off years of accumulated adobe dust, patched up cracks in the ancient fireplace, whitewashed scuffs from walls moved in furniture and put new panes on the skylights. Then it was time to light fireplace and kitchen stove to warm the thick walls until the spirit of the house awoke from its long hibernation. I went through kitchen cabinets to find what remained of utensils, pots pans and serving dishes. We purchased a Christmas tree, Christmas themed table covers and party utensils. 

Then came cooking for an unknown number of people; although Christmas eve was presented as a potluck I knew that there had to be chili, pasole, potato salad, chocolate cake, cookies, fruit salad, horno baked bread, prune and apple pies. Of course, this included Folgers coffee boiling in a one-gallon pot on the wood stove and Cool Aid, the traditional drinks for Indian feast days.
Waiting for the Guests to Arrive

When Joe J. passed from this world, in this same ancient pueblo front room, those of us present at his passing knew that something important in our world had changed forever. His wife and Medicine partner Frances held on with one foot in this world and one in the world that Joe had journeyed to for another fourteen months thus softening our transition to a life without them.  As long as she remained, they were both present in spirit. PQ and I are both orphans now. Losing one’s parents in late middle age is a normal but critical rite of passage seldom addressed. There is no one to fall back on as we face the world head on.  I soon discovered that helping Frances cook and serve guests is very different from being solely responsible for what happens in the kitchen and on the dinner table. The kitchen was nostalgically familiar as if Frances was just in another room, but now and then, I felt that I was invading her territory.     
It was wonderful to experience the mixture of old friends who had known Joe J. and Frances and new friends initiated to the house and ceremonies for the first time. When we all went to the plaza to witness the procession and bonfires, I realized how unique this heritage is. Although we were at the bonfires last year, coming from the old house heightened the experience. It was like being there for the first time.

Cooking, cleaning and decorating while fighting down flu symptoms sometimes took me to the edge of “bah humbug.” Since it was quiet season, we couldn’t drive a vehicle past the Pueblo walls and had to bring everything in and out by wheelbarrow. This was hard on PQ’s lungs, especially in the cold air. On Christmas day, he didn’t feel up to going to the plaza for the Deer Dance, one of our favorite dances, and we went back to our house in town to be truly quiet.  As we were leaving, the snow began to fall, covering the adobe mud with a glamorous white coat. The next day I got several decent camera shots but was too busy to do it justice.
PQ Walking Into the Pueblo

Getting older brings with it an entirely different sense of time. I don’t know if we will be able to do the same next Christmas. PQ’s lungs are not as strong as they were last year and as beautiful as this snowy Christmas turned out to be, it would be better for him if we could be in Arizona.  We had the chance to honor Frances and Joe J.’s tradition, align PQ with his roots and bring the two of us back to the essence of why we are together.

Now, between Christmas and the New Year, I’m thinking of the issues waiting to be lived through in the coming year. I find myself waiting for the next phase of something indefinable. After a warm dry autumn, the temperature plunged to below freezing here in Taos for two weeks. We have it easy compared to the east coast, however. I suspect our social political weather is also on the brink of a drop in temperature and some extreme storms.
Toward the North Gate

On a personal level, we need to find some supplemental income before much more time goes by. The padding we once had from the sale of my family home is gone and our Social Security checks don’t make it all the way through a month. I believe PQ will have to make a decision about whether to actively pursue a lung transplant this year or let his disease take its course, and we recognize an increased need for him to live at a lower altitude. But for now, these thoughts merely collide with each other. We will have to step into the coming year with faith and the willingness to change stale patterns of thought. 

It occurs to me that a kaleidoscope is a fitting image for approaching the future. The movement of even one particle changes the entire design, but never leaves it unbalanced. The beginning of last year was also full of unanswerable questions and dilemmas, but foresight tends to be a reflection of past experience, or another way of saying it is, we are not afraid of the unknown but of what we believe we know of the unknown.  After all, the unknown is unknowable now and that is where the world begins again, again and again.

The New Old Bracelet on the Right
We have honored Christmas at the Pueblo and although I hope we can do it next year, if that doesn't happen, there is a sense of completion in opening up the house to guests. PQ feels that he has sent the message of love and respect to his parents and to grandpa Tony Lujan who gave this home to his parents. Nevertheless,  I hope we can do it again and if not for Christmas, then perhaps for San Geronimo or another feast day.

Oh, and one more thing, a good medicine sign I would say, PQ found a virtual copy of the much loved bracelet he mysteriously lost over two years ago.  I was busy and a bit under the weather when this one showed up on his wrist, so it took me awhile to notice. Then I saw it on the table where he leaves his jewelry at home and did a double take. For a fraction of a second I thought I was time traveling, but there is a subtle difference. This bracelet has a slightly different shape and the stones are larger. Although we hoped that the lost one would eventually return, it didn't occur to me that an even finer one would take its place. I will interpret this as an indication of what can happen to lost treasures.

From Taos with love, we wish you all a fine New Year!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Taos Pueblo at Quiet Time
We have been working on the Pueblo house this week.  PQ began back in September with the roof, last week he hired some guys from the Pueblo to help him pour a new cement floor in the porch and now it’s time to ready the inside for Christmas visitors. This project has a special meaning.  The pueblo house was PQ’s birthplace and his family home until going out on his own after high school. But he was almost always home for Christmas.

Every time I walk through its well-worn door, I recall my first Pueblo feast day in that house. The surprise was that there was no surprise.  It seemed completely familiar. It might have been a past life memory or it might be that it so resembled my great aunt Carrey’s house in the mountains west of Denver that I was immediately thrown back to childhood.  Folgers Coffee boiling on the wood stove, the smell of firewood, the dim light of kerosene lamps, and the lumpy linoleum floor over naked earth were all an intimate personal memory.  I took naturally to cooking on the old stove and washing dishes in a large metal wash pan. On feast days, it was PQs’s job to fetch water and chop wood. Dad, (Joe J.) sat at the head of the table and welcomed visitors. PQ always walked in after the party was underway dressed in his best outfit and plenty of turquoise, visiting animatedly with family, friends and unexpected visitors.

As each feast day approached, I would ask Frances what she would like me to bring and usually she said, “Cake would be nice.” But of course I anticipated the need for a few other things as well, and it was a given that I would wash dishes help her serve red and green chili, potato salad, horno (the outdoor adobe oven) bread, fruit salad and whatever else visitors brought.  There was a constant flow of friends and family.  

Now we are here to bring the spirit back to this ancient dwelling.  An archaeologist visiting PQ’s parents some years ago tested the kitchen’s earthen walls and estimated them to be around 1,100 years old. Today we mopped the floors with their six years accumulation of red adobe dust. Yesterday we arranged living room furniture and dusted surfaces. PQ made a bucket of adobe mud to repair cracks in the fireplace.  He ran out of breath while mixing so I had the chance to mix my first adobe mud. 

Sometimes it is daunting. PQ can hardly breathe and I’m out of shape but it’s a must do project.  The house seemed to become sadder and colder each year that the feast days came and went and no one passed through her door.  As we go through the rooms, trying to decide what most needs to be done, memories begin to come back.  I remember a San Geronimo feast when our friends from Glastonbury England Angela and Malcolm were here. Many more people came than Mom (Frances) anticipated and we began to run out of food. Mom sent PQ to buy more potatoes and eggs, Angela, and I made one potato salad after another all day that year. PQ tells me that Millicent Rogers, the glamorous Standard Oil heiress who spent the final years of her short life in Taos loved to help Frances in the old kitchen during feast days.  PQ told me that when he was a child the family eagerly anticipated visits on feast days from Tony Lujan; Joe J.’s adopted father and the husband of Mabel Dodge Luhan.  I asked if Mabel came with him but PQ said that this was something Tony preferred to keep as his own, and besides Mabel was Jealous of Millicent Rogers. So there is a bit of old Taos gossip .

A unique spirit dwells in those old walls. When my own parents in Denver were still alive, I would always plan to be at the Pueblo house for Christmas Eve’s bonfire and procession, the Christmas day feast and then drive to Denver the next day.  My parents understood that for me this was as important as going to church was to them. Besides, I always had interesting stories to share when I arrived.

An adobe house can be hundreds of years old or just a few years old.  It’s all the same.  Most adobe houses evolve organically.  A room goes up here, a wall comes down there, and somewhere else, a door or window is added or subtracted.  The essence of adobe is flexible and timeless.  It appeals to that part of me that finds the nature of time inexplicable and fun to play with.  There are certain places or experiences that squash time and make it irrelevant. I’ve always wanted to time travel and discover who I would be if I lived in Tibet, Kazakhstan, or say medieval Spain before the inquisition. At the age of twelve, I sat on the ledge of Spruce Tree house in Mesa Verde while imagining myself living there 900 years ago, long before the arrival of Europeans.  That was the beginning of my fascination with the South West, and with time travel.

This year we are putting our Christmas money and more into the Pueblo house to give back to mom and dad some of what they gave to so many over the years.  It won’t be just the same, we are aware of that, but hopefully we can call on their spirits to help.  Therefore, dear friends if you are in Taos on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas day stop by the house. The important thing is to honor the special medicine that made everyone who visited Joe J. and Frances Suazo on a feast day feel blessed.

P.S. If you are in Taos for Christmas and want to come to the house (it's on the northwest side) but don't know how to get there let us know and we will be happy to email you a map, and PQ plans to have a lantern on the door Christmas Eve.