Blue skies with billowing clouds blowing across the mesa. The kind of clouds that plow full force into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Building their numbers, merging together with the power to quickly change the blue above to varying deep shades of grey. Turning to thunderheads. Visions of gossamer fingers reaching from the sky down to the earth as they release rain to the grateful parched ground below.
I was barreling down the road on such a day. Full speed ahead, New Mexico style, when I spotted the Machine of Destruction. It’s 8’ long side arm blade was heading right for the elegant, long limbed, duckling colored sunflowers. Sunflowers that hadn’t even gone to seed. Sunflowers in their full prime. It was now or wait another year to bring home a bouquet of these wild specimens. Applying the brakes, I quickly made a U-turn in order to get back in front of the red menacing machine.
Pulling into a driveway, I grabbed my little Swiss Army knife, hopped out of the car and dashed across the street. Stabbing my valiant blade into the plants, I began madly hacking. Its petite size was no match for the sinewy stems of the mighty flowers. So, I frantically started to pull, rip, tear away at them as they fought back lacerating my arms with their scratchy surface. The red devil continued to make its slow approach. I flashed on a scene from “A Fish Called Wanda” where KKKKen rolls over Otto in slow motion with a steam roller. OK. My feet were not planted in wet cement but perhaps my brain was. Still I stood my ground. Will the driver begin yelling at me now? Will he start calling me a crazy old lady from out his window? Will he lecture me about how he has a job to do? My unruly hair matched my unruly thoughts and both were flying with the wind.
The chugging monster comes to a halt about 10 feet from me. The driver climbs out from the belly of the beast. He puts on a yellow safety vest as though absorbing the color of his work’s destruction and heads my way. Oh, now I’m in trouble. Yet I keep wrestling more sunflowers, adding them to the now heavy pile of cuttings in my left arm. My spewing words about seeds and timing and how it was too early to cut down these marvels are directed his way. Ever hopeful that it would be a good defense for my annoying behavior. While waiting still for his string of invectives to be hurled at me, he takes a bite of a small red apple while handing me another. I am suddenly motionless. All words drain from my being. Where is his anger? Where is his impatience? Where is his reaction to being so inconvenienced? I take his offering of the little apple and find my voice to offer thanks in return. Then he speaks. He speaks in that unique lilting dialect of the people whose ancestors came from Spain so many centuries ago: a people stubbornly hanging on to their unique voice as a source of pride. As if to say “I might have to speak your English but you can’t stop me from bringing along my Spanish.” He says, “ I picked a wildflower bouquet up in the mountains but I didn’t have a lady to give them to.”
I am, for the second time, rendered speechless. He pulls out his cell phone. He scrolls through his photos. He shows me pictures of a brightly colored multi-flower arrangement. It is beautiful. There we are standing at the side of the road eating his apples, admiring his photos of the flowers he had put on his horse’s harness that stood in as his lady. My arms heavy with more long stems then I can comfortably handle. Cars whisking by us. The red devil idling away. Yet, while the clouds continue to gather overhead, Martin and I had all the time in the world to take in and appreciate the beauty that it holds. A shared admiration for the wonder that is all around us. In these moments, I find this man who had climbed out of the dreaded machine to be a kindred spirit. My world does a magnificent flip-flop.
I was struck, not for the first time, of how I had truly fallen into another space, another world from the one from which I had come. A move from Northern California to Taos, New Mexico might be easy on a physical plane but to see and feel the essence, the deep character of this place and its people takes time to comprehend. Takes time to absorb. Its wealth is not wholly worn on the surface. There are the natural wonders of the mountains, forests, mesa and gorge which strike me daily with awe. Which easily bring tears to my eyes. All an obvious and indisputable pull. Yet the deep history, the varied cultures, the attitudes toward life both physical and spiritual are the less obvious treasures.
Taos is a land truly worthy of the reputation it holds for magic.