Monday, April 30, 2012


When we left Cottonwood for a few catch-up days in Taos last Thursday I idly wondered what gauntlet we would be running this time. The last time we reentered this holy ground zero the electricity was off and we had a cold dark welcome, spoiled food and a big electricity bill to contend with. This time it was weather.

Two weeks earlier, we arrived in Cottonwood having passed through rain, hail, dust and finally a blizzard as we approached Flagstaff. Oak Creek Canyon was awesome and a bit intimidating in the whiteout. The fierce snow storm against those surreal canyon red rocks seemed like a curse from fairyland.

Our ostensible purpose was to house-sit for our friend Carol while she took care of some family business in another state, but PQ was also excited about again being at the lower altitude. We were both looking forward to escaping windy Taos for the gentler environment of the place that has become our other home.

After the weatherly entry, the temperature was great and we basked in late spring’s sparkling new lease on life. It turned out that our stay was to be longer than originally planned so we decided to come back to Taos for a few days to collect mail and seize control of the weeds while they were still young and harmless.  Then we would immediately return to Cottonwood.

The day we left for Taos an overcast sky and a few drops of rain suggested that it was still early spring although two days before the temperature reached 91 degrees.   In Sedona, it was beginning to rain and was driving down hard by the time we reached Flagstaff. During breakfast at IHOP, we noticed that the rain was turning to snow and before we finished our meal it was a full-on blizzard, and the sky looked as if it was in for the long haul.  I decided the petal pushers and sandals that I was wearing were taking me regrettably nearer to a cold I’ve been fighting off for two weeks, so we stopped at Target for some long pants. When we left the store, there was no snow and the temperature had risen dramatically.

As we started down I-40, the wind started to pick up. By Holbrook, it was a formidable crosswind that took concentration to remain steady in one lane while dust blew across the road like a ground blizzard. We kept thinking that when we got past the most barren section of I-40 this would change, but it didn’t. PQ was starting to cough.  Although he held a tissue over his nose, the dust was unstoppable.  We kept hoping that we would drive through the worst of it and normal would return. PQ began to have coughing fits and we were sorry we had forgotten to replace the air filtering masks we generally keep in the car.

By the time we reached Albuquerque, I was thinking that eastern Arizona was beginning to resemble a Sahara sand storm. As we neared Albuquerque the Sandia Mountains were barely visible through the burnt sienna dust, or perhaps they weren’t and memory alone told me they were standing behind Albuquerque promising protection and finally a respite from dust if only we could get there. PQ was coughing violently but we stopped for a light dinner at The Flying Star. Then on the way to Santa Fe, the dust gradually dissipated and transmuted to rain driving hard up the canyon and all the way to the top of the horseshoe and Taos finally lay out before us. Home at last. It took two hours more than usual to get there, but at least the utilities were working and after watching TV for an hour to calm down, we went to bed.

The next day PQ’s cough was worse and his voice was hoarse. The weather wasn’t good enough to do any gardening so we resigned ourselves to leaving on Sunday (that would be now). However, PQ coughed violently throughout the night and neither of us got much sleep. In the morning, I realized he was well on his way to pneumonia and he offered no resistance to checking in at the emergency room at Holy Cross.  Although I’ve wondered what would happen if he caught a bad cold or flu with his pulmonary fibrosis, normally he has a better immune system than I do. Fortunately, it worked out very well at Emergency. Sunday morning seems to be quiet and they let us right in. He is now on antibiotics and is beginning to feel like a survivor although he can barely talk. I’ve known him for 20 years and this is only the third time that he’s had even a cold in my memory. The doctor diagnosed it as severe bronchitis.

It does seem that there are times that thrust realities out in the open that have been hovering in the background as unrealized potential either good or bad.  I think this is one of those times. Is it the 2012 Mayan prophesies, out of kilter interplanetary events, Solar Flares or a whole kettle of cosmic stew? Sometimes we slide through life’s narrow slots without incident and sometimes we hit the edges hard.

I don’t have anything profound to say right now.  I sense forces working behind the fragile curtain on which we paint our particular version of this life on planet Earth. We are all cosmic impressionists, in that sense. However, our creation is so thin and fragile that after strong winds and a fierce cleansing rain it succumbs in rips and streaks. We complain, quote doomsday prophets, and pretend we know what God or the devil has in mind, but we don’t know.  This is what I get out of the struggle to make some sense of even the simple things that decline to yield to my expectations and plans. Sometimes we humans run panicking in all directions much like ants on a hill just stomped by a cow. I don’t know, I don’t know, and I really don’t know. I think that’s just the beginning.

P.S. It is now Monday and we are still in Taos. PQ is determined to leave for Arizona tomorrow.  I’m hoping that there is much less drama this time, but still feel like an ant who would like to get higher off the ground for a better look at what’s coming down the road.