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.
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