As I feel the gentle crispness and stunning brilliance of sky and foliage in another late September Northern New Mexico afternoon, layers of memory compete for my attention.
In September Twenty-eight years ago, I attended an astrology workshop in Ojo Caliente. I often think of our teacher and wonder if she still lives there. It was one of my earliest visits to New Mexico. Although there were only three of us in attendance, I will always remember it as a rich and true New Mexico experience of the best kind. Our teacher was a Brit who had studied with the best and her husband was a massage therapist at Ojo Caliente mineral springs. How many places can one find ancient rural, verging on primitive blended with European esoteric tradition and sophistication? That turned out to be one of my strongest draws to New Mexico.
In those days, any excuse to visit New Mexico was a special treat. On my way back to Denver, I remember seeing a turnoff to the right onto a narrow gravel road. It had the word Taos on the sign and I impulsively turned off. I couldn’t help but give myself an extra treat and visit Taos before heading home. I drove through the clear early autumn air and opened the windows so that the smell of sagebrush could waft in. I felt ecstatic. I hadn’t visited this area on previous visits, but love new experiences with old friends. As I drove, the newly whitened tops of the Sangre de Christos grew larger and my heart beat faster in anticipation. Here and there, I passed old Hippy dugouts, and a few abandoned busses sitting far back from the road, now almost buried in the foliage. Suddenly my heart stopped as large boulders lining a breathtaking drop appeared. Was this the end of the road? Was there even room on this narrow road to turn around? I stopped the car and then moved forward cautiously to confirm that my senses were not being tricked by the leftover work of a local Bruja.
I was shaken, and then thrilled to see a narrow dirt road winding far down to the base of the steep canyon wall. It had never occurred to me that I was driving toward the Rio Grande Gorge even though I had crossed over the spectacular bridge several miles to the north on previous visits. For one thing, it was completely invisible until one was directly on the rim. My vision adjusted and I saw a few tiny fishermen at the river far below. Best of all there was a wooden bridge to another narrow dirt road climbing like a snake up the opposite rim of the gorge.
Arriving in Taos, I felt proud to have been appropriately welcomed with a surprise test. I found a restaurant on the plaza and imagined what it would be like to live here. Shortly after moving to Taos, there was a landslide that destroyed that same road that climbed the eastern side of the gorge. I was somewhat pleased by the veracity that it turned out to be as dangerous as it looked. The county closed it off permanently and you can now hike over the great mound of collapsed earth that was once that road. They decided repairing it would be too expensive and it would still be dangerous.
|Rancho de Chimayo Double Selfy|
Beauty and danger would seem unlikely partners, but this is the superficial view. It seems that opposites do more than attract each other. They define each other. When life and its environments run too smooth on the surface , it can be very challenging to perceive the opposites. Good seems boring and bad seems too much like good. This is not a recommendation for bad. However, it’s unavoidable and better if we can tell the difference. Nature, even if it’s human nature will make sure that these opposites are well defined.
There is a sweet bitterness about autumn, like dark chocolate. At its best it is full to the brim with nostalgia and the desire to take as much of its beauty as possible into ones sensual memory before the still intense colors fade away, as we know they will. PQ and I celebrated our seven-year anniversary yesterday. It was a perfect autumn day, as was the day we were married. It doesn’t seem like seven years have gone by and yet so much has changed in our life and the lives of those who shared it with us. I can still feel the soft air and cool shade, hear our footsteps on the gravel path of our friend’s property and enjoy the company of so many precious friends.
This anniversary had the same beautiful light and air. We had lunch in the outside patio at Ranchos de Chimayo. The local bees came to take back some of their honey just as they did at this restaurant on my first visit to New Mexico in 1989. Many other things have changed utterly. Even the restaurant itself was gutted with fire a few years ago but was restored in the same image with a few refinements. The third tier patio was one of those refinements. I like to think that reincarnation works the same way, if we hold that intention.
PQ and I are in the autumn phase of life now. The beauty is all around us though sometimes trivia and unawareness distract us. We left the restaurant and took the beautiful backroads to Santa Fe. It was again, an experience of past overlaid with present. It looked as it did on my first visit those many years ago. We visited the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe after lunch and wondered why it had taken us so many years to visit. The guard took a picture of us standing by an Alan Houser sculpture and then we went to the Santa Fe plaza, sat on a park bench in the rich afternoon gold and enjoyed an ice cream smoothy. The beauty was the same even if a few things have changed including the name of the ice cream store, but that adds the present to an already layered experience.
I have white hair now and more wrinkles but I would not go backwards. Those old layers are still there. Some I remember with longing and some are tests that I hope I passed because I wouldn’t want to take them again. We saw many apple trees with ripe apples as we drove through country villages. I hope we too are ripening without rotten holes or worms. After all, as much as we are hard sold the idea that we should be a green apple forever, the point of being is the attainment of fully flavored highly nourishing ripeness. Having let go of unnecessary goals, and having learned that this present stage of life is adorned with jewels I would never have anticipated when I was younger, I’m able to enjoy the landscape just beyond my front door as if visiting an exotic land--maybe I am and just noticed.