Cinnamon hits my nose. It’s earthy scent bringing to mind holiday sweetness. As I stir the oats, I recall watching Pappy, at 92, make his homemade granola. His kitchen window looked out over Clayoquot Sound. The water a rare calm of sparkling blue on a warm summer day. It was a day in contrast to the rainy morning that Pappy arrived at my father’s. How old was he then? Perhaps 75 to Jesse’s almost 10? Pappy announced that morning that he was going to get lost to find Jesse. My little brother had vanished into the rain the evening before. It poured incessantly all night long making our voices small. Yelling “Jesse! Jesse!” into the darkness that had no end. Throats sore, bodies soaked. Pappy found Jesse. The cougar had dragged his little frame far from the hand-hewn house where he was born. I have over salted this batch of granola. The cinnamon is lost.
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.
I’m enchanted with my reoccurring day dream that birds taught us language. In this dream, they inspired us to sing before we could talk. Captivated by the birds varied melodies, we became emboldened to follow their led. At first startled and then delighted when we found our voices rising up to the sky to match their notes.
Thus, we went from grunts, grrrs, grumblings to recreating the simple
caw of the crow
chirp of the chickadee
twitter of the wren
hoot of the owl.
Sounds that we too could make. We were encouraged, mystified, enraptured. The birds’ lyricism stirred us with desire to imitate their beauty even further. To sing as they sing with a musical voice like the Yellow-eyed Junco – chit chit chit weedle weedle che che che. Or the rapid song of the Yellow Warbler – sweet sweet sweet, I’m so sweet.
We then took their simple songs and turned them into our own full throated melodic expressions. Slowly these became woven together into phrases for which we developed meanings.
Ka, ka, who, che, became ‘beware of the alligator’
Na, ni, chit, cha, became ‘sweet berries by the stream’
Twee, twee, sweet, deee-de, became ‘hey baby, what are you doing tonight?’
Pit, pree, weedle, became ‘danger stay close’
And so it went, in my mind’s fanciful eye, that these strung together imitations got broken down into words. Thereby forming an even more complex way to communicate. Words that grew in depth and meaning. Words that can transport us from where we are at the present moment to other places, other times, other realities. Words that evoke joy, sorrow, compassion, hatred, fear, love, the entire gamut of human emotions. Words that provide our lives with depth and richness of language. Words that we take for such granted.
Yet even with the fecundity of language our words can carry us only so far. It is within the music, the melody, that remains under those words, once only notes, which gives our human hearts true flight. Melodies that lift us to the heavens and beyond. Melodies forever and always inspired by the birds.
The check is on the table, paid, the way is clear for departure. The glasses are empty. The Irish singer/songwriter has stopped playing. It’s break time.
She fills the chair. Her blond short hair and red jacket are all of her that I can see. He is sitting across from her at the table for two. He is thin with an angular face. Dirty brown hair worn Beatle’s style, mopish, parted to the side but unlike the Fab Four it is plastered flat against his head. His voice is loud in stark contrast to his companion’s that can not be heard at all. He chats amicably to a young woman that has come to the table to say hello. As she departs, the couple begin their conversation again.
The soft voiced woman has asked something of him that he clearly doesn’t like. His volume mounts. “You’re telling me how to do it.” He gets squirmy in his chair. She becomes even more still in hers. He says “You always have something to say about how I am!” His voice fills the restaurant growing even louder in his realization. She says something quietly in response. “You don’t accept me for who I am! I’m with a woman who doesn’t accept me for who I am. What am I doing here?” He pushes back his chair. Grabs his coat from the back of it. Stands up to say “I’m out of here!” and flees to the exit.
The woman sits stock still as though she has a bull’s eye in the middle of her red jacket. As if by not moving she won’t really be in her present situation. Her confusion, her humiliation, her grief float in the air around her. She remains frozen for a few more moments. Finally, she pushes back her chair to stand. Struggles a little to come to her feet. I look away quickly from her round late 60’s face. I don’t want her to know that I’ve intruded upon her pain. I don’t want her to know that I know that she has been dumped.
She moves to the door with an obvious limp. Following out what she imagines was her last chance at love.
The web is large.
It spans across two coconut trees.
Beautiful in it’s intricacy.
Concentric circles formed with a master’s touch.
Late afternoon light dancing on woven threads
Catching the movements of the creature within.
Golden yellow & black,
Her (why are spiders always female?) legs are long,
Body big and strong.
She is working hard for her dinner.
An elegant leg or two stretching toward
A black bodied creature caught within.
A precarious wrestle for survival ensues.
She who must eat & he who does not want to be consumed.
If she is to dine,
She must tangle this delectable morsel
Further within her sticky lace.
I turn my head away.
Certain that she has gained control.
When from the corner of my eye
I see her fly by.
Her dinner of black caviar
Is taking HER for a ride.
Together they ascend with lightening speed
Up into the coconut trees.
The dance of predator & prey has flipped
I struggle to learn new platforms.
I resist. I wail. I clammer against the time it takes.
I can feel the tightness build in my belly as the minutes become hours and my understanding is still infantile. I tell myself, in the end it must be worth it. Still, I am not entirely convinced.
Yet I find myself here on WordPress to try out the world of blog. Letting go of the hours I could be happily spending writing with paper and pencil. Initial results not so good ~ 1st post made was WordPress’ words & image. As though the writer can not come up with their own initial thoughts. It leaves me feeling like they have filled my vapid mind.
A little progress has been made as I have now located how to post. I’m holding out hope while keeping my notebook and pencil close at hand.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton