Sunday, December 30, 2012

LIFE BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND 2013



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!