Thursday, October 29, 2009

He Was a Friend of Mine

Taos as I remember her. As all my photos are still in the moldy hold of our old house, I borrowed this one here. I encourage a visit to that site, as it offers an interesting peek into the life of a Taos painter who reminds me of many of the friends I made when living there in the mid 90's.

All I remember is a mischievous smile at my door and the gravel-voiced question: You wanna get out of town for a while? His bike was out front—a little slap-happy silver Yamaha—which I gladly obliged to straddle, and away we rode into the low pinon hills off Albuquerque, north through the desert and ‘round every bend by and by to Taos.

It took a long while. New Mexico is long, low and slow, with miles of squat little drifts decorated with dark green wonderful-smelling pom-poms of pinon and lighter fluffs of sage, punctuated from time to time with fat, pointy yucca. You notice it all on a bike, and the scent and sight of it is so overwhelmingly beautiful, it eats you alive.

Also beautiful was this little sliver of a silver bracelet that lay in a gentle arc about his wrist, his skin so brown from the sun; and the way his dirty-blonde hair was gathered, second-thought, at the nape of his neck. This was my view for our three-and-a-half hour ride. This was where I fell completely in love with the desert.

James gave me my first peek into the Eastern philosophy I’d eventually call my own, (irksomely) providing me with my first copy of the Tao te Ching. POP! –Vast understanding, at last. James also provided me with my first ever view of Taos, skirting the highway alongside a rushing Rio Grande ‘til POP, Paradise. The view of it exploded my mind altogether, that sweet Mother of a mountain, that powerful Mother of a mountain, wearing a wide skirt of land and dipping into the wide cut of a deep gorge. Welcome to Ether, Earthly Heaven.

We enjoyed a communion there, with mushrooms and Argentinain red wine (“Concha y Toro”, to honor the mixing of our signs), deep in a rift set next to the Rio, gentle river, raging river, and the not-so-hot springs the Easy Riders once frequented. We howled at the moon, we cried to ourselves, we argued, we stomped the earth; we laughed, we frustrated the hell out of each other…

We frustrated the hell out of each other. That was the sum of it, and so we never were meant to be true; but my god, this man, he gave me two of the greatest loves of my life. He put the Tao in Taos, ha ha ha. (Really, that just hit me.) I haven’t talked to him since 1995 and I sure as hell wished him well. And I have relished the memory of our ride together every day since. And I am angry that he died in such a stupid, senseless way.

But somehow, too, it fits…

My other recurrent memory of him? Me cold in the mountain night, cluttering about the darkness, trying to set up his stupid tent, never having set it up before, him yelling instructions and growing more frustrated by the minute that I wasn’t getting it right. Me feeling like an idiot; him calling me so. Me listening to our loving friends in their cozy microbus, wishing for the same. Wishing he’d go away. Wondering why I got the insensitive Taurus. Swearing them off for good. (Marrying another one, eventually. Ha!)

Months later, we had no tent. We slept under the stars, on a little wooded hill somewhere in Marin County. The fog kissed us awake—a million, zillion little cool water-droplets, fairies alighting in the morning air. Forgiveness.

Those days gave me my heart back, gave me a light to hope by –it had been a rather violent and confusing upbringing for this girl. And those memories continue as a little soul-compass for me even now. James, James, James. Tif, Dean, Kev, Lori, Japh… This girl says goodnight; this woman wishes you all so well, and thanks you very heartily.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I’ve been spending the last few days saving our library: thoroughly dusting each volume with a bleach-and-water solution, and then leaving them out in various positions to dry in the sun. “UV rays are most helpful, really,” says our Mold Expert.

There is something intimately shamanic about washing down each and every book you own. Many of them we’ve owned since our 20’s, as we first tried to make sense of the world; some date from our childhoods—books passed on to our own child. Some gave cause for exultation: Wow! I forgot about this one! Others? I wondered what they were doing in our collection. Overall though it was like rediscovering love-letters from old friends, collected throughout our lives.

Nor was the irony lost that gathered together on the lawn drying, the books looked very much like a tent-city. A funny refugee camp, I thought, playfully mimicking our own refuge at the Commune.

We’re in luck—the kind people here have invited us to stay another month. This buys us more time of course to broadcast our skills and abilities (and need) for a great, new job.

And in the meantime, autumn just happens, as it always does, all around us. I find myself breaking my Vows each and every day—snapping in impatience, raving like a lunatic, crying like a fiend. The chill in the air snaps back, the birds screech and beseech in the trees through the day and the dogs (and foxes) howl in echo at night. We break our vows together…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Light Shining Through

Today marks our third wedding anniversary. It is my favorite kind of day: rainy, cold, silent. The farmers’ fields that surround us rest; the soil drinks deeply from this cool draught of rain while the hard-working Amish find other chores that need attention. And I for once sit quietly in our new little room at the Commune, enjoying the sight and sound of rain upon tree and garden flower.

This past week was another heavy one for our little family: we nearly left our temporary haven here at the Commune because of an issue with mice and mold in our old farmhouse room. But in the end, the community agreed we should move into a room in the newer building, much to our relief. Unfortunately it meant washing every stitch of our belongings for a ~third~ time, as the farmhouse room had rather contaminated the items with a musty, moldy stench that set my allergies going again. But now it is a week later, and the last load tumbles ‘round the dryer while I find my rest, and everything else settles into its place.

We’ll have respite here for another couple of weeks, and likely need to move again on the 30th…

But I can’t think on that now. And I’m shooing away any of the thoughts that creep in regarding the cleaning and care for the 90% of our belongings that remain in our old moldy house, 15 minutes and a world away.

I’ve been looking for some Zen lesson in all of this, but my teacher reminds me it’s good just to simply take care of myself right now. I look too for some Pagan address and all I find in my heart is gratitude for the chance at living even closer to the Earth, and to Time and Her seasons…

Perhaps the answers will come later; maybe none at all. But in the meantime I am finding comfort in a Celtic orientation to things that wreck havoc in our lives. Old Irish stories abound about mortals’ dealings with imposing and disruptive gods, spirits and faerie-folk. Oftentimes they’ll disappear completely to a strange land (so-called the Otherworld) and return to find they’ve never left, haven’t left for long or have left and a hundred years have passed on in “normal” time. I love this disregard for sense, for the embrace of life’s topsy-turvy nature. You can’t count on anything, can you? But you can sure revere it.

It is some days later I find the sun has returned, and the steady rain has rewarded our eyes with a feast of color scattered on the ground. I’m making a habit now of picking up the gnarliest, un-liveliest of that fresh autumn carpet, to find a jewel where the light peeks through. It’s been a good harvest so far.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Autumn settles in as it always has, with a grace that infects even me, in the middle as I am of this awful predicament. But right now is not so awful. I rest on a rocking chair at the end of a long porch, dozing as the last of the summer bugs serenade an ever-cooling afternoon. In the old red barn across the yard someone is stacking wood. Each log landing on another makes a tidy, satisfying “clunk” sound. A gently warming sun peeks in and out of clouds as I step in and out of dozing. There are much worse ways to be homeless.

On the table beside me a herd of small plastic dinosaurs sit drying from the previous day’s bathtime-- a silly and childish reminder of the much bigger clean-up we face. But for now, rest. An environmentalist is due at our house on Wednesday, says the landlord. We’ll have a better sense of the mess then.

As my son is napping I grabbed my well-loved copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and set it on the table (well away from those dinosaurs—you never know). Today I saw the forests *really* begin to don their seasonal coat of colors, and the anticipation of fall became rather a deep knowing. What is it about the end of a cycle that carries such palpable, celebratory excitement?

This is the Big one in my hemisphere, of course. The cold is coming, the garden is folding, and life continues its course to the void. Here on the farm, people are going about as they always have at summer’s end, keeping fastidiously and quietly to those same chores as they always have for 34 years. Today is the anniversary of their settlement here on an old Amish farm, and they established a commune that has seen many families and many lives.

Of course I am just in wonder at anyone living in the same place for 34 years! This is a gift I’ve never had the chance to experience. We grew up military, at least ‘til I was 7. Then my parents divorced and my mom remarried, and that ‘gentleman’ had an instability all his own which led us to several households over the years, albeit all in the same town. I kept moving at age 18, so glad to be free, and ultimately so vainly seeking that place I’ve never known called home.

It’s a deep yearning and somehow I am beginning to realize that yearning for “perfect home” *is*perfect home. “That longing is the connection”, as Rumi says in Love Dogs.

Home has also meant, for me, a deeper sense of connection to earth, and that’s really what I wanted to write about today. As I reach past Mr. Brontosaurus for Ms. Kingsolver, I remembered a long-ago wish from this previous March that I might better study the growing season, eat better-mindedly a local-foods diet and live more closely to my garden and the seasons that govern it. Well, I got that in spades, I see—it’s harvest time here in Amish country, and nowhere else I’ve lived has the farm season felt so solid, so almighty. Perhaps it’s the whirring of the old-timey (and well-rusted) farm equipment, the immediate sureness of a driver’s instructions to the team of horses pulling said equipment, or the way the earth looks so clunky, clumsy and real after they’ve passed and the plants are pulled and gone… I just love the feel of it, the raw honesty of it. “I get Autumn”.

This also marks the time of our arrival to southern Maryland last year, and I welcome the anniversary with a bit of grief, and hopefulness.

Time to return to my nap…