Tag Archives: Taos

Life is a Ditch: Acequia de Llano San Juan de Nepomuceno

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photograph, J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

DSC_1989

Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010)

DSC_1986

Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

DSC_1976

Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano.  Water rights since 1789 (Photograph by Taos Properties).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Rio Santa Barbara Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph and data by Taos Properties).

(This new post derives from my previous post, “Not mine, not yours, but ours:  Penasco Upper Llano acequias,” October 2011.)

From Amarillo, Texas, I drove to northern New Mexico in 1968.  I traveled by way of Las Vegas, Mora, and Penasco, making camp along the upper watershed of the Rio Santa Barbara for a few days.  I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by residents and survey crews, but the long lots reflected a community, a meshing of rural families alongside a water greenbelt.  In later anthropological field trips, I took my Amarillo College students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who brought laws respecting community water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other long lots of community property.

This particular piece of property with the house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Several good books and narratives have been written about the acequia culture.  Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that attracts me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year for politicians.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I do not romanticize the acequia culture because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits.  Nonetheless, there exists an association of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant needing water that flourishes from the earth.  Having an acequia culture forces upon us the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision, and we will meet again.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.  Water is life, and in this case, Life is a Ditch.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

2 Comments

Filed under Life in Balance, Taos

Rio de Pueblo

20130810-203305.jpg

As I traveled this week from Mingus, Texas, to Taos, New Mexico, I stopped in the Kit Carson National Forest, alongside the Flechado Day Campground that bordered the Rio Pueblo seen above. The water was cold, flowing, gurgling, clear.

Back home today at my ranchita in Texas, I filled water troughs with Barton Creek Coop water so that my last horse of the remuda I once husbanded can have water to drink in addition to the cow tank that is the lowest I have ever seen.

I placed cedar posts in all three of the water troughs–stable, corral, far field round trough–so that squirrels when they fall into the water while slacking their thirst can have something to climb onto and escape a watery grave.  Three squirrels have drowned in the stable water trough and a roadrunner was nearly drowned when I pulled him out several years ago.

Rio Pueblo, Barton Creek, and my water trough in the far field proffer life.  I accept the gift.  When the animals of this semi-arid region accept a gift of water, I can, at least, make sure that it is not their last benefit.

13 Comments

Filed under Salt Creek, Taos

The 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging

The Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 is given for fine writing, photography and art in the blogosphere.  From my blogroll, I select a post, photograph or art piece from 2010-2011, early 2012.   For each comment that is entered on this ‘The 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging’ post, I will donate a buck ($1.00) to a wildlife corridor in Texas or New Mexico.  I set a limit of $100.00 — not that I am going to have more than fifty comments, but who knows?

I have excerpted portions of these fine writings and art into my post in respect for their blogs and copyright.  Please click on the links to obtain the full text of these really fine bloggers.

Please feel free to copy the Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 design-image and put it on your blog to link back to this post or to one of the blogs below.  (No, I’m not trying to pump up my numbers, just trying to illustrate the high quality of work performed on blogosphere.)

[Wild Bill, Wild Ramblings blog, ‘Conifer Encounter.’…On the way back I asked him, and this was one of the few times I had spoken, how he knew so much about the woods. He answered that he was a biology professor at Springfield College, but had grown up in the pine barrens in New Jersey. He surmised that most of his knowledge he had learned as a boy wandering those Mid-Atlantic swamps, coupled with reading a lot of books about nature. And then he laughed out loud, almost in a boisterous way. “And once I met an old man in the woods,” he declared, and he laughed again, this time even more loudly….

[Grethe, Thyra blog, ‘Goodbye to King Winter.…The next week-end was foggy and raw and the sun seemed so far, far away. It was nice to see that the people at the restaurant of  Skovmøllen (the old Water Mill-restaurant) saw to that the little birds were fed with Danish bread and fat-bowls. There was also morning bread with cinnamon and the birds seemed to like it!  Notice the little blue tit. It is so ruffled. I hope it will cope….

[Photograph: Montucky, Montana Outdoors blog, ‘A visit to an old painting.]

Montucky, 'A visit to an old painting,' January 24, 2011.

[Cirrelda, Color of Sand blog, ‘Ides of January — yard observations.’…I stood for a while looking at my pobrecito pinon tree tilting away from the drooping elm limbs above it. Then those elm limbs were golden – the light was coming at them directly from that western mesa edge (miles away) and the whole damn wild elm tree was shining in its massive shagginess. (I so curse that tree at times since its roots tangle into every vegetable bed.) Smoke on my hands and clothes, I stand and gaze at the afternoon in my yard….

[Martie, Taos Sunflower blog, ‘Photos from my hood.’ …This morning I was down in Arroyo Seco (the nearest village to my home, where my yarn shop used to be) and had a few moments alone with my camera.  I thought I’d go look for beautiful flowers, but alas, in this drought, they were not to be found.  Then I looked up at the beautiful clouds in the sky over the old church behind our building, and thought it has probably been years since I’ve shared photos of it with you.  It was a ready reminder of why so many people come here to study art and paint the local scenery.  I’m sorry there aren’t any flowers for you, but hope you enjoy the rest…

[Shoreacres, The Task at Hand blog, ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept.’…My extraordinary good fortune was to be born into a family more than willing to make and keep promises.  My father took promises especially seriously. The eldest of six children, he was one of those increasingly rare creatures – a man of his word. Whether it was a work colleague, a neighbor, a family member or his tiny daughter coming to him with a request, if he said he would do it, he did….

[Wrensong, Writings from Wild Soul blog, ‘Waiting for the Sun.’  See also the female cardinal photograph associated with this winning post.]  Everything so still/ in this windless dawn/ Ice hangs from every twig/ air cold as stone/ Sun arrives like hope/ and hunger. ~wrensong

[Marie, The Rambling Wren blog, ‘The Red Fox.’…The fox stood stock still in the middle of the lane. We watched each other silently for 10 or 15 seconds, then the fox turned to go. But she paused, then sat down and looked back at me. She seemed unsure how to proceed, and kept looking up the secondary driveway we use for moving trailers and the RV. There’s a large woodpile there, an old barn the previous owners had dismantled elsewhere and brought here, planning to reconstruct. But the project was never finished, and we now have habitat for all sorts of critters–rabbits and woodchucks, chipmunks, feral cats, and now, perhaps, red fox. Had she moved her kits there, I wondered?…

[Kittie Howard, Kittie’s Stories, ‘Shopping at Best Buy.’…Best Buy, that big box store, re-entered my life.  I didn’t want to buy a new computer just yet.  The plan was to limp along with what I had until the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. Last Saturday night, the motherboard died….

[Rebecca, Rebecca in the Woods, ‘On Not Hearing a Boreal Owl.’…Then yesterday GrrlScientist had to go and write a blog post about about Wilson’s Snipe and mention that the “winnowing” sound created by its tail feathers during its courtship display sounds very similar to the call of a Boreal Owl. And that courting males “fly in circles.” And that they do this “long into the evening.” And sometimes even at night, I suppose? Sigh. No one likes deleting a species from their life list…. [Bold added.]

[Photograph and recipe: Karen Rivera, New Mexico Photography, ‘Green Pumpkin and Green Chili Pueblo Stew.’]

Karen Rivera, 'Road between Cimarron and Taos, New Mexico,' March 8, 2011.

[Debra, Find an Outlet blog, ‘Death’s Mementos.’…Every day I am moved by roadside memorials to people who weren’t ready to die. People who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re a constant reminder of how fragile we are—bits of bone wrapped in a flimsy shroud of a ridiculously unsuitable hide. We’re anything but fierce when up against poison, bullet, disease, or 3,000 pounds of steel, glass and chrome….

[Wildstorm, Backroads Photo blog, ‘North Texas Desert.’…There is no such thing–the North Texas desert. Yet it seems like it when you glance across the dry roasted pastures where nothing grows. What is green? The cedar trees. Even the oak trees have burned up leaves….

[Bunnyterry, I Love New Mexico blog, ‘Gardening in New Mexico.’…As I stand here with the garden hose in my hand, I’m reminded of a paper I wrote on personal landscapes for that particular history class.  The instructor’s goal throughout the class was to get us to tie our own personal histories to history in the broader sense, which, if I were teaching history today, would be my goal as well…

[Teresa, Teresa Evangeline blog, ‘At Home in My One Room Schoolhouse.’ …I almost forgot to tell you: when I crossed over into New Mexico from Utah on Sunday, in less than a quarter of a mile there were two crows and a coyote. The crows were standing over their dinner in the ditch, whoever the poor critter had been, and the coyote was trotting away from them, down in a hollow, across a snow-covered field….

[Annie, Anniepickens’s blog, ‘Spring Garlic.’…Sunday I got to the Farmers’ Market later than usual, it was already packed with people but choices were still good. The first thing I wanted to do was find the egg guy and trade in my used cartons. It seems like the only time I remember that I’m going to take them back is when I am at the market buying more eggs. Very happy with myself for finally remembering….

[Photograph: Jeff Lynch, Serious Amateur Photography, ‘Those Spanish Skirts.’]

Jeff Lynch, Palo Duro Canyon, 'Spanish Skirts,' January 2011.

[Photograph: Evangeline Chavez, Evangeline Art Photography blog, ‘Dia de Los Muertos.’]

Evangeline Chavez, 'Dia de Los Muertos,' posted November 6, 2011.

[Poster image and environmental work: Chris Clarke, Coyote Crossing blog, ‘Desert Biodiversity.’]

Desert Biodiversity poster, Chris Clarke, December 2011.

[Bonnie Bardos, Bohemian Artist: Painting and Thought blog, ‘New Sculpture.’]

Bonnie Bardos, 'New Sculpture,' May 2011.

[Photograph: Steven Schwartzman, Portraits of Wildflowers blog, ‘Welcome to the Texas Hill Country.’]

Steven Schwartzman, 'Clammyweed flowering,' June 2011.

52 Comments

Filed under Prairie Sagebrush Awards 2011

Shadows and Eric of 203

I suppose we all have nested away some items, some event or photograph we cherish.  I published a photograph several weeks ago on the feed bin in the far field with clouds that I had set aside in the files, but every time I came across the feed bin and clouds photograph I wanted to post it and share it with readers in the blogosphere.  I present two things here with a short story line, one is the long shadows in Stall 1 of the stables, the other is an artwork of Eric Andrews of Taos, New Mexico.

* * *

A January 28, 2011, photograph of Stall 1 in the stables

When this photograph was taken on January 28, 2011, the late afternoon shadows of the stall panels were surrounded by cold mist of a winter’s day. I was terribly sad because I had recently sold three of my prize horses at an auction in Oklahoma City, and the absence of Hija, Fanny and the foal-to-be was anguishing. The economy had gone sour and I had — through my own ineptitude — lost money on the stock market. So had other people lost money, but they had not be forced to sell their companions. I sold the horses — no small relief, to be sure — to fine people in Canada and Missouri and I was comforted in the transfer. The photograph illustrated to me the emptiness in my life at the time.

* * *

Walking the Acequia 2, Eric Andrews, 203 Fine Art Gallery, Taos

Eric Andrews’ painting, Walking the Acequia 2, is one of his current paintings for sale and is a good example of his art.  I possess one Eric Andrews painting.  He and his wife own the 203 Fine Art Gallery in Taos, New Mexico. After the death of my mother in 2003, I wanted to invest my inheritance in either fine art or land.  I eventually settled on buying the Flying Hat Ranchito. Before I bought the Flying Hat, however, I traveled to Taos and Santa Fe to put together an ensemble of southwestern paintings of the Taos Society of Artists — Bert Geer Phillips, Ernest L. Blumenschein, Joseph Henry Sharp, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse and W. Herbert Dunton.

As I made a laundry list of the paintings I might purchase, going from art gallery to art gallery, I met Eric Andrews at the Parsons Gallery in Taos. It was an immediate friendship. I traveled to his studio out on the High Road to Taos from Santa Fe to visit with him and his wife and see their work. Although I made the decision to buy my ranchito, I bought Eric’s Vadito II that hangs over my fireplace (you can see it on the “About” page of Sage to Meadow). The painting above, Walking the Acequia 2, illustrates my acquaintance with Eric and my deep interest in all things acequia.

_____________________________

Founders of the Taos Society of Artists at the...

The Taos Society of Artists -- image via Wikipedia

5 Comments

Filed under Horses, Shiners Fannin Peppy (Fanny), Sweet Hija, Taos

Not mine, not yours, but ours: Penasco Upper Llano acequias

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph by Taos Properties).

Forty-four years ago, in 1967, I traveled to New Mexico from Amarillo, Texas.  It was my third and most memorable trip for I dreamed for days about colors and pottery and adobe and silver.  I would lie down, fall asleep and pass into a dream world of silver and blue skies — northern New Mexico.  It was not all pleasant because I became ill from eating different Native American and Mexican foods, but that never deterred me from returning again and again and again.

Aside from digestive and dreaming events, I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora, the unpaved streets about the Taos plaza and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by survey crews, but also reflected a community, a meshing of farmers.  What was there about those fertile strips that drew me in?    In later anthropological field trips, I took my students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who adopted the local customs of water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one automatically gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other strips of community property.

This particular piece of property with the adobe house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture that I admire:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that pulls on me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I shall not be accused of romanticizing the acequia culture — oh, go ahead and accuse! — because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits, but there is an association, a group of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant that flourishes from the soil that is watered.  Having an acequia culture forces the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

13 Comments

Filed under Life in Balance, Santa Fe, Taos

Fine Sentences March 7-13, 2010

The best sentences from my friends on the blogroll for the week of March 7-March 13, 2010.  If the blogger did not post during the week, they are not quoted.

Old rose species are continuing the comeback they started about two decades ago, with vigorous, brilliantly-scented gallicas and dog roses gaining favor as tough, droughty hedges with tasty hips. –Coyote Crossing, Chris Clarke, on the failure to engineer genetically a blue rose.

I promise to try everything once (and all the good things twice) and let you know what I most highly recommend.  —Bunny Terry, I Love New Mexico Blog, on attending the Fiery Foods Show.

Mother Nature’s invitation to a spring party has begun:  Canadian geese fly overhead, a chorus to the tulips that nudge skyward; opened windows mean fresh air. –Kittie Howard, The Block, on spring and receiving The Honest Scrap Award.

The Honolulu Bar is the lone outpost in a service-less landscape of rusting panel trucks and constant wind. It’s four miles down Proving Ground Road where the paving and the world seems to end. –Karen Rivera, New Mexico Photography, on driving between Oregon and New Mexico today, lamenting the recession’s effect of closing Arizona and Mojave rest stops.

The principles of Ho’oponopono disarm the tendency to blame others for our frustrations by taking on full responsibility for any discord, and killing it with kindness.  —Kristy Sweetland, Stark Raving Zen Blog, on a variation of the Hawaiian philosophy and psychology to achieve a life in balance.

I’ve had potential tenants surveying the birdhouse in the carport this past week (Mountain Chickadees, I believe), and Hairy the woodpecker has been happily beating the daylights out of the vigas in the same carport…leaving his sawdust below. –Martie, Taos Sunflower, on Spring is in The Air.

The road unfolded before me in quiet beauty. –Teresa Evangeline, on her trip to Maine from Minnesota, comment near Lowell, Massachusetts.

El Paso is blessed with poppies in the Franklin Mountains in years with good rain.  This year it looks to be a great one for a beautiful display. Texas Mountain Trail Blog, on the emergence of poppies near El Paso, Texas.

Spring has finally come to central Texas and the trees are beginning to bud, the wildflowers are starting to pop and the rivers are running freely. I’m feeling that old familiar itch to get out and see the countryside. –Jeff Lynch, Texas Photography, on the impulse to bolt from the cabin and end the fever.

A really good movie — and why waste time on anything else — is like a good novel or poem; it deserves to be savored.  —Coffeeonthemesa’s Blog, on watching movies at home rather than a public theater.

I hereby declare an end to Cabin Fever. Even the calendar tells me that spring equinox arrived Friday, but better evidence is found by a stroll outdoors. –Jerry Wilson, Observations from a Missouri River Bluff, posting in March 2009.

Next Friday we had planned to do a litter sweep along one of our local parks as our Equinox celebrations, but we are changing plans to go and clear up the reserve. The decision was easy when we found a polystyrene fast food container with swan shaped bite marks out of it. –Spider’s Animist Blog, on an early morning walk to Brinburn local nature reserve in Darlington, U.K.  [Randomly selected blog quotation that has a fine sentence.]

Taos Pueblo American Doorway with Hand, Evangeline Chavez Art Photography

Oklahoma, Kristy Sweetland, Stark Raving Zen

Spring is in The Air, Taos Sunflower

Spring Poppies Near El Paso, Texas Mountain Trail Blog

Ducks Over Flying Hat Ranch, March 12, 2010 (click to enlarge)

8 Comments

Filed under Fine Sentences Series

Leroy and Alibates

Taos, 1970s…

Leroy, a northern Tiwa, came over and sat beside me on a bench on the Taos city plaza before they removed the jail that plunged beneath the ground on the northwest side.  It seemed a dungeon, of sorts, the jail.  Could be a Taos County law enforcement kiva?  Hey! he said.  Hey, back.  I read a newspaper.  We talked that day.  We talked the second day.  Jack, can you loan me ten?  Yes, I said.  It may have been the first day he wanted the ten.

Leroy and I talked the third day, on the plaza before they covered the jail underneath.  He said he used to make jewelry, but it bored him and he quit and drank too much.  So, he said, I came back here, to the pueblo.  More conversation.  I was from Amarillo, loved to come up to the mountains, the high-desert country, I confessed.

I liked Leroy.  So, I gave him a gift.

Out of my backpack on the third day, I brought out a paleolithic axe I had discovered in an exposed sandbank in the middle of  the Canadian River near the Alibates flint quarry in Texas.  I had waded across the Canadian River when it was low in the winter to find the 1849 rock cairns of Major Randolph B. Marcy when his survey team mapped a southern transcontinental railroad route.  I found Marcy’s cairn.  My legs cramped from the freezing, cold water when I waded across the Canadian River and when I came back.  The muscle cramps were worth it: I found a rare tool, a paleolithic axe, perfectly formed, grayish-blue.  And, I’ve never found such a prize since.

I handed the axe to Leroy.  He took it in his hands and then quickly raised it to his cheek and rubbed the Alibates flint axe against his face.

Why the rub against his cheek?  He smiled.  Ahh! he said.

It’s yours, I said.

All I can remember now is that he said, Ohh.

Then, Leroy:  Let me take you to the pueblo and up the mountain, Jack.

We went together up the Taos Mountain that day with his cousins in a blue Volkswagen with sunroof.  Towards Blue Lake, towards the sky, towards birch trees all around.

4 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Colony Road, Recollections 1966-1990, Taos

Zacatecas Tutorial

I gave a tutorial yesterday to Alumna Zacatecas.  (I have changed the name to protect her privacy.)  Zacatecas is an older student from Mexico, enrolled in my world civilization course, prehistory to Treaty of Westphalia.  Tutorials are incongruous with state junior colleges.  Instructors have large classes, students coming by the office rarely occurs because of jobs and family.  Zacatecas was different.  She wanted to know things and, of course, there was the final examination on Thursday.  She was blocked in deciphering Omar Khayyám The Rubáiyát [Edward Fitzgerald’s translation, 1859].  She had questions.

“I don’t get it,” she said.  “Just what does Khayyám tell us in these verses about the meaning of life?” Zacatecas added.

Older student in her thirties, asking this?  She was serious about understanding The Rubáiyát . She looked perplexed, not dramatic in face, small wrinkles between her eyes in puzzlement.  Zacatecas had a tattoo about two inches below the hollow of her throat, often hiding it with high collar blouses because it had been inked when she was a teenager.  Physically, somatically, she was interested, but wanted to know quickly and then leave the office.  Other appointments, a teenager to manage?  Many plates in the air.

“Tell me what you think Khayyám thinks is the meaning of life,” I asked.

It began, the tutorial.

“Fill the Cup…Wine of Life keeps oozing…A Jug of Wine…Cup of forbidden Wine…Drink!”  She said, forcing an answer, phrases cobbled together.

“The meaning of life, is to drink?” She went on.  Zacatecas was not being contemptuous, I could tell.  Still perplexed.

No, not the meaning of life, to drink.

In class, I will ask the students to read a passage aloud they do not understand.  Maybe it would work in the tutorial.

“Read the first quatrain, and, read slowly,” I said.

“The Bird of Time has but a little way/To flutter–and the Bird is on the Wing.”  And, so on.

We paused.  Zacatecas pondered, “The Bird of Time….”  Still no change of expression in her face.

“Go on.  The second quatrain.”

“The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop/The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one….”  And, so on.

“Continue, Zacatecas, the third quatrain.”  I thought this quatrain would punch through her confusion since it is the most quoted.

She read the third quatrain, “A Book of Verses underneath the Bough/A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou/Beside me singing in the Wilderness–/Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”  And, there she stopped.

“Is ‘Thou’ you or is it me?”  She asked.  This was not exactly the question or declaration I wanted to hear, but at least it was movement.

I’m not a Rubáiyát scholar, but I answered, “Both, depending on how you read it, what context.  ‘Thou’ can mean any person, you, me.”

She said nothing.  Still cramped, stymied.  So, let us skip and go on to the sixth quatrain.  She read.

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon

Turns Ashes–or it prospers; and anon,

Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face,

Lighting a little hour or two–is gone….

Zacatecas became still in her chair, smiling faintly, looking at the sixth quatrain in her book.  The smile held, her body visibly relaxed, her breathing slowed.  She held the book more gently, less nervous, caring.  The tension left her face.

Zacatecas  looked up at me.  “It’s about living fully because life ends like snow on the desert.”

The sixth quatrain captured her, but did not ensnare.  Zacatecas integrated the refrain, something echoing from the high desert of her homeland, Mexico, an analogy with that day in her life when she parted from others of her village, seeing things they did not.

Tutorial over.  I concluded Zacatecas was beginning to know The Rubáiyát, felt the quatrains, had a new sense, a higher circle of confusion.  She left the office after a few more questions.  Gregorian chant?  Merovingian dynasty?  Slipping her books into her backpack, she pulled her dark pea coat tightly against the Texas cold, her blouse tucked high over the tattoo and walked out of the tutorial.

She will pass that question on Thursday.

______________________________

Notes:

I use Elsa A. Nystrom’s anthology of primary sources, Primary Source Reader for World History, Volume I: To 1500.

Undergraduates, generally, say little to absolutely nothing to their instructors.  At least, that has been my experience.  Therefore, I have focused on para-linguistic qualifiers, above and beyond what tedious pedagogues call body language, although that, too.  The pitch of the voice, facial expressions, postures, breathing, and the eyes.  These behaviors are often the only way they will communicate.  I have young men and women from different cultures and know that different cultures embed different qualifiers for communication.  Hence, my observations about Zacatecas take a rather focused picture in my essay.  During a regular class, I will observe a few students and how they are reacting.  Mainly, however, I am focused on the material.  A one-on-one lesson differs substantially.

Using diacritical markings occurs by composing the foreign word in Microsoft Word, then copying words created in Word, and then pasting onto WordPress.  Cumbersome, but gives literacy to the composition.

I have always thought of D. H. Lawrence coming out of the last canyon on the road from Santa Fe, seeing Taos Mountain for the first time, the desert.  He had written about New Mexico,

But the moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend.

The snows at Lawrence’s ranch linger longer than on the desert, but still melt in the spring.

5 Comments

Filed under Taos

Taos is Calling

I visited Taos countless times in the 1970s. I lived in Amarillo, Texas, and by leaving Interstate 40 at Tucumcari, traveling north on state highways, I could be in Taos in six, six-and-a-half hours.

Taos and its people offered me a chance, on two occasions, to move and reside in the high desert country.  I regretfully declined the offers, but I think back everyday of an non-lived lineament of my life.

The first offer came from Jim and Voyce Durling-Jones who had land and a home out near the Three Sisters Peaks, in the old Carson, New Mexico, area.  At the time, they managed the Sagebrush Inn and built their adobe home near Three Sisters.  They offered me a parcel of their land to build a bunkhouse or cabin near their place.  Jim was also a metal worker, a sculptor, and Voyce, an artist.  I declined because I couldn’t afford to build a casita and I did not have the equity to borrow.

The second offer I had came from a Taos Indian woman who asked me to marry her.  I had met her cousin, Leroy, and he had taken me, the Indian woman, and her brother up on the road behind the pueblo that goes up the mountain in the direction of Blue Lake.  About a third of the way up the mountain, we stopped, got out the chuckbox and ate lunch under the aspens.  We had lunch meat, onions, tomatoes, and peaches along with Coca-Cola and water.  I got out the guitar and played and sang a few songs.  It was good and happy time.  Leroy, I remember, took a bite out of the onion as if it was an apple.  It never occurred to me that here was this white face up in the mountains with three Indians.  I drove them up to the lunch in my Volkswagen, a dark blue “bug” with a sun roof.

When we finished lunch, we loafed awhile and chatted, then I drove into town with the Indians.  They showed me a back road that went by Mabel Dodge Luhan’s house.  As I drove, the Taos woman looked at me (she was sitting in the front passenger seat), and with a broad wave of her arm, sweeping the Taos reservation, the mountains and the desert, she said, “Jack, all of this can be yours, too, if you will marry me.”

In all seriousness, she proposed.  I thought it a rather quick courtship.  Her name was _____.  I replied that I was already committed to a woman back in Texas and I could not break my promise, but that I would always remember her proposal, the sweep of her arms across Indian land, and that day we lunched under the aspens.  Her brother and Leroy in the back seat, said, almost in unison, “Yeeehaaay, Yeay!”  She was not shamed by my rejection and I was honored.  And, her male relatives were not displeased.  We spent another hour or so together and I took them back to the pueblo and let them out near their home, close to the old graveyard and church.  I’m not sure she was serious, but neither did she laugh when she proposed.  I know I would have had to sustain a courtship with her for it to be respectful.  I never saw her or Leroy again, and, I’ve often wondered what became of her.

So, twice, Taos has called, and twice I have declined.  If it calls me again, I will submit, and move with livestock and family to a beautiful, open, soaring, and inspiring place that has beauty above it, beauty below it, and beauty all around it: Taos.

5 Comments

Filed under Taos