Kay and I began our morning here. The overlook for Santa Cruz Reservoir is one of the most silent, most remote and yet most accessible places I know. I've been up there many times alone, and always find it the same. Silent. We trekked around for a while in the morning heat. Kay stuck to the road in view of the lake, and I struck out across the landscape. No snakes!!
This is a dear, ancient, sacred place that is quickly becoming too much commercialized. I enjoyed a long visit with Vikki in El Portrero (the store has been in her family since 1921). Unfortunately, she said, the village is now fighting with the church. Every time they add another commercial structure, they interfere with the view shed, and she can no longer see out to the pastures. It's interfering with the integrity of the church. I agree. I even think I may stop going there one day because of this. Kay and I left comments in the gift shop, that we don't like the changes, and to please stop now. Neither of us feels, however, that it will make much difference.
One addition I do like is the small Native American Chapel at the bottom of the hill. The scene on the altar depicts Jesus celebrating the Eucharist with twelve women:
Taos Pueblo has been in existence for 1,000 years, and has been continually inhabited for the entire time. Today, one hundred fifty people live within the walls of the Pueblo, and about 2,000 without. Residents have no running water, except for the clear stream that crosses the property, and no electricity. (This news was rather disturbing to a woman who went with us on a guided tour. She reminded me of Gilda Radner. Just imagine, if you will, Rosanne Rosanna-danna asking a tour guide questions about Pueblo Indians and toilets. And electricity and running water.)
Kay and I enjoyed the walking tour with our guide, Julian, who is very knowledgable about the Pueblo, and shared lots of stories. (We also purchased a camera permit.) After the tour, we looked at jewelry and went in search of fry bread. We found some just outside the gate, and talked at length with the Pueblo family who makes the fry bread in their outdoor kitchen. We learned a lot from them about Pueblo life and that even though their religion is Catholic, they keep to the old ways. I am glad to know that.
The daughter, maybe twenty years old, spoke about the annual pilgrimage the family makes in spring to a sacred lake on the other side of "that mountain"--she told us, pointing way, way up. . .a journey that takes about three days, walking; something she wasn't allowed to do until she reached puberty. She also spoke of her six-year-old brother's six month long stay in the Kiva, which is a rite of passage for boys. "He was wild when he came home!" she said. She seems to have so much respect for her parents and family.
And, all those southwest structures throughout New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona are really copies of the Pueblo buildings. Exquisite. Did you know that before they became separate states, New Mexico and Arizona were joined into one area called New Mexico? I think I only just learned that!
We decided late in the day to drive the Enchanted Circle, more than half of which is another winding mountain path. At Angel Fire, it opens into a vast bowl that takes you by surprise. Every time. The highway goes to Eagle Nest, a place I saw in 1967 when my family vacationed at Red River. As I sixteen year old, I recall saying to myself, "This is a place I want to live."
A late afternoon shower had passed through Red River, leaving the mountain town drenched and cold enough we couldn't leave the windows rolled down in the car. It was tempting, since the air smelled so fresh, and the highway runs close to the river.
At Questa, we turned back toward Santa Fe, a fast trip back through the Rio Grande River Gorge, all downhill, and a perfect evening. It was the end of a perfect day.
I'm currently reading Louise Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. In it, she quotes one of her characters, Nanapush, as saying,
There are four layers above the earth and four layers below. Sometimes in our dreams and creations we pass through the layers, which are also space and time. In saying the word nindinawemaganidok, or my relatives, we speak of everything that has existed in time, the known and the unknown, the unseen, the obvious, all that lived before or is living now in the worlds above and below.
It reminds me, somehow, too of what Isaura Andaluz says of Northern New Mexico family chile. (Heritage chile seeds still exist today, which have been passed down through families.) "Seeds are living things. They are planted, and they acclimate and adjust to weather, soil, and water. So all of our traditional farmers, they've been developing these varieties that are really strong in their climate. You take my seed and you grow it up there [in the mountains] and I grow it down here in the valley, and they'll taste different. The soil and sun and water are different. That's the beauty of it." [Andaluz works with the Save New Mexico Seeds Coalition in hopes of halting research on genetically modified chile.]
In Northern New Mexico, chile is an art form, a way of life, a source of livelihood, a vital heritage.