NEW MEXICO HAIKU AND MEETING
April 7 -15, 1999
Wednesday, April 7, 1999
We finally got up at 5:00 (I had been awake since 3:00) a bit early as we feared we would need each extra moment for the traffic around Oakland. We were out of the house by 5:30. As we turned off the lights to leave, the cat went back to his bed in the bathroom without even saying 'good-bye' to us.
high over the sea
a quarter moon
Outdoors it was totally dark and it was only around Stillwater Cove could we see the ocean. It was weird to greet the sun from a moving car.
at the first light
smell of skunk
on the high ridge
between the tallest trees
the crack of dawn
By Jenner the world was completely finished and operating smoothly. I felt very carsick with numerous nerves giving me my usual fits.
width of the sea
flowing into the sea
morning and its light
even small it has
its load of light
creek water not given
to the sea
blooming in the night
an apple tree
We made good time to Oakland but were greatly slowed down as we merged into that traffic nightmare. We both needed to go to the bathroom by now and it seemed there was no place to get away from the whizzing cars. Finally we pulled off into the Berkley Marina remembering the many nice toilets there. We cruised the whole place and found every one of them locked. Now desperate, we simply walked into the plush hotel and followed the signs to the restrooms. We both had diarrhea, which in retrospect, I suspect, was due more to nerves than bad food.
The traffic got worse and the airport moved continuously southward as we drove. We had no idea it was so far away – and still moving. Finally we were relieved to find the turn-off and not dismayed when we got lost down some off-road looking for the terminal. At least we were close and off the freeway. Finally we got positioned in the conveyer belt of cars pouring into the departing terminals and Werner found a place before the Southwest area.
He quickly deposited me and all my stuff on the sidewalk. A quick kiss and he was gone. I knew he was dreading getting back on the freeway and fighting his way to Santa Rosa in time for his treatment. It was at this point, for the first time, I regretted having desired and arranged for this trip. I was sorry for what this part of the journey put him through.
As I stood there on the sidewalk, I looked around and saw that I had to get in line to check my baggage through. I pulled my stuff over behind a family obviously from India. It seemed the grandparents were traveling and the daughter who had brought them to the airport along with her two sons, about six and eight years old.
As the grandparent's luggage was processed the family began their farewells. First the daughter kissed the man and then hugged and held the woman. The oldest son stood at attention behind his mother and when she was finished, the child knelt down on his knees on the dirty cement and pressed his forehead against the old man's knees.
Then he rose with perfect grace and bowed in the same manner before his grandmother. The younger son repeated his actions but without the sense of utter devotion. I could not keep the tears out of my eyes. The family saw I was touched by them and they gave me blazing smiles of compassion and sharing.
As weird as it seemed to check in the baggage outside the terminal (because of fears of bombs, I guess) it was good not to have to stand in line inside the terminal but to be able to go directly to the gate.
I looked into a cafeteria to see if there was anything interesting I felt I could eat, but quickly walked out again. I had hoped to find a bookstore so I could get a new book to distract my nerves, but I saw none in the area and did not feel like walking the miles it would take to find one.
At the check-in desk I asked if there were aisle seats or where they put the fat ladies. The clerk was very kind and said she would allow me to board with the mothers and children so I could find a seat that fit. Thus, I sat to the left of the desk. Here I saw a kind-looking woman and we began to talk. She was here to meet her daughter coming home to get married. She was from Modesto – a valley woman and we soon felt like old friends. She was my best tranquilizer.
Soon we were boarding. As we approached the stewardesses at the entrance, I asked one where the 'fat lady' seats were. She smiled kindly and suggested I find one near the back and attempt to keep the middle seat empty. I took her advice and found another large woman who had taken a seat by the window. I sat on the aisle. I was relieved that I could fit into the seat, but was much more comfortable by putting up the armrest and spreading out. The seat belt was plenty long and I felt well cared for.
I missed having a book and the woman next to me. . .
roar of a plane
the one at the window
the smallest woman
on the plane has the most overhead
As the plane filled up, people were searching for spare middle seats. The kind stewardess I had spoken to when boarding, saw that I had followed her advice, so as she herded the late-comers to spare seats in the forward cabin, she turned back and gave me a wink.
the stewardess asks repeatedly
"What do you want to drink?"
sitting in the back
the plane is peopled
with heads of hair
packed in with everyone
going the same direction
finally they serve
pop and peanuts
the line forms
for the toilet
kids in the aisle
scared of take-off
scared of landing
how the hours go
My seat partner, from Texas, was very frightened of flying and after she began to admit her fear, we could talk together and the time went by more quickly.
31 - 33
right by my nose
the guy's jeans
the landing plane chases
Getting out into the Albuquerque airport I kept looking over the crowd of persons greeting the arrivees, looking for Marilyn, wondering if I would recognize her, feeling certain I should. But no one was there. I know Marilyn's problems with being on time – by the skin of her teeth, and made up my mind to get my luggage and then worry about letting her find me.
Then, as the straggling group from the plane walked the miles in this airy southwest museum, I saw her. We went together to get my suitcase, only to find it going around the carousal totally unlatched. I grabbed it off and went to one of the men controlling the baggage tickets and he suggested I take it back to the baggage claim office. There several small young girls helped me get it into a room. I felt under the clothes and found the laptop computer was still there so everything was okay.
We found out that to get to our rental car desk we had to get on a shuttle bus. Outside it was very hot and I asked Marilyn if she would be embarrassed if I took off my socks. She, too was wearing Birkenstocks and took off her socks too. Thus began our living together in relative peace and harmony.
At the car rental place we were dumped into a hotter heat and windier winds. Inside the tiny oven of an office, I and everyone else was melting. Except for the beauty who claimed loudly she would not turn on the air-conditioning because it made the room too cold. Everyone gave her glares which only added to her charm. The process was made longer by Marilyn having to fight with the guy over the prices. She had done her homework and gotten the lowest bid. However, once they (Alamo) had you wheel-less in their desert, one would hardly ask to be take back to the airport for another rental service. Instead of paying $147 for the 7 days, with taxes, a rental hike and a full tank of their gas, the bill came to $202. She was furious and the Mexican man and she went round and round while I melted. Finally, I urged her to give up and she finally did.
Soon we off across town in a bright red Chevy. She is still a good driver and I was very thankful for her skills and knowledge of the town. It was hot but the air-conditioner in the car worked great. She was glad to be driving a good car with A/C instead of her old van so we both enjoyed the drive. I had taken Dramamine to prepare me for the drive to her house, but these flat straight roads did not need any.
I was surprised that there were so many cliffs and eroded formations ala Zion so far away. I found the sky enormous and the few clouds made it seem the widest I had ever seen. The features were so far away I kept having the feeling Marilyn was driving too slow – about 40 mph. I would look at the speedometer and see she was barreling along at 70 mph! We moved as if in a dream and yet the landscape was constantly changing. Fascinated me for the longest time.
Now I was beginning to get hungry and so was she. She, too, hates restaurants, but knew of a tiny homelike place in Santa Fe, so we concentrated on finding it. When we did, I was rather glad to find it closed as it was just a little too rundown and sliding off the economic scale.
We got back into the car and she drove to a huge supermarket for health foods. Even in the parking lot I noticed the people coming and going. They looked as if they came from another race. All were so radiating health, and happiness, self-assured. I was truly blown-away by these people – all white but so youthful and smart.
Inside I found more food choices than I had ever met before. Marilyn bought something like a gigantic vegetarian sushi and I got pita bread and hummus. We sat outside in a warm, but very brisk wind that blew the crumbs from the table along with our food. A young old hippie played guitar music for us while he sold sage clusters for smudging to the others. I had arrived.
We went back in and got enough groceries for the week – each buying what we wanted to eat. I must have looked bushed as we went through the check-out. The young clerk asked if I was feeling okay. I was holding. Really felt I needed some sunglasses. I had not brought mine because they were so far from my present prescription. Marilyn suggested I get some clip-on ones so I scooted into a big drugstore and bought the only thing they had. Orange ones for $14.00. I thought they cost $4.00 and was shocked to see my money seem to be disappearing so quickly.
Outside when I got the new glasses on, they were worth any price. Not only did they protect me from squinting against the strong light they gave everything groovy colors. I had had glasses like this in the 60s for trips. The sky was green, the sun was gold, the trees were blue, the flowers were neon. What a trip! The clouds had brighter brights and darker darks so the skies were even more dramatic. Marilyn talked and drove and I grooved on my new glasses.
After Española the road got windy as we drove through the Carson National Forest, in which El Rito nestles. The closer we got to Marilyn's place, the farther away it got. This was not the same result as I had experienced in Oakland so long ago in the morning. This was my introduction to Marilyn's way of going anywhere. She always has to take the scenic route and she was so eager to make me like the place where she lived, she drove me over all the back roads pointing out all the sights. Little did she know how eager I was just to get out of the car! It was just sundown as we opened and closed the gates to her lane.
Finally we were parked before her place and were inside being jumped on by the biggest dog – Tayra, a wolf. Immediately Marilyn handed me a cup and showed me how to use it to keep the dog at bay. It seems that as a puppy he had jumped up on Marilyn while she was holding a cup of very hot tea which spilled on him burning his nose. Just having a cup in one's hand made him back off so I felt a defense against this 200 lb animal charging me with ten inches of mouth.
Thursday, April 8, 1999
I woke to my own warmth – that 'under a sleeping bag bad feeling of sweaty heat'. The room was icy still. The fierce winds which had lulled me to sleep had frozen fast to the walls. I had slept so soundly without sound there were no dreams. As I peeked out the window I saw on the doorstep a dusting of snow – as if the left-overs from undreamed dreams.
a night of no dreams
in the desert morning
snow on the doorstep
As soon as I was dressed and the clouds were pink with sunrise, Tayra came charging in my room. I grabbed up the cup which became my talisman for the rest of the week. I was either fending off the dog with it, or sipping from it. The altitude and the dry climate glued my lips to the cup rim sipping, sipping all day long.
wolf at my door
morning comes in light gray
to new Mexico
The wind and the sunlight came streaming in the wide cracks of the outside door. The 83-year old man who had built this strange structure, could not see too well so many of the boards did quite meet. I had an electric heater which was useless against the cold coming in the handmade door. Finally Marilyn and I tacked three layers of cloth over the door to slow down the incoming air. After a bit it was warm enough for me to write.
El Rito is situated in the broad flat valley between two snow-covered (this morning) mountain ranges – surely an ancient river bed. Actually in El Rito there is still a survivor – a lovely rocky creek following the nearly forgotten path of its grandfather and grandermother. The mountains seem to be well-covered with man-high juniper bush-trees except where landslides have swept the hillsides back to bare, clean rock.
Though El Rito has a few charming and well-cared for adobe buildings (mostly on the campus of the University of Northern New Mexico), it has a greater number of derelict adobes which go so gracefully back into the ground.
The greater number of buildings, though, are jerrybuilt long, low wooden wildwest copies. In the center of 'town' are three fake-fronted stores which seem to have been abandoned movie sets which the natives mistakenly still find functioning. I had noticed in Santa Fe that all the buildings seemed so flat. Perhaps the heaviness of the huge skies presses on the structures, not permitting them to rise above a certain level. The individual homes, when not trailers were built like trailers, long, low and tube-like. Instead of landscaping or yards or even fences, most of the residences were fortressed from the road by chains of parked cars – many of which had surely not gone anywhere else in years. Additional landscaping was provided by woodpiles, horses and rocks. Only the oldest places, and only a few of these, sported the honor and grace of trees. The tallest bare trees were still only translucent ghosts wafting from the sky. In Santa Fe, in the protection of the more money there, some of them had cottonwood leaves on them. In El Rito, like relatives too poor to clothe their ghosts, the trees cast their faint gray glow upon the white clouds.
The winds act as a giant broom sweeping the bare yards even more bare by blowing around and away the trash that drifted out the doors. Only glass bottles, like glass paper weights with nothing to do, lay secure and decorative where they were tossed. In some places, with the sun glinting on them, they actually took on a decorative aspect and one wanted to push them into rows or patterns for effectiveness.
Now to describe this place where M. is house-sitting. The owner of the adobe hut back farther from the road on the same lot where Martin and Johanna live, leased the old guy this part of the land to act as gate-keeper and line of defense against the residents. Here he put his house trailer. Naturally it was too hot to live in with the sun beating down on that tin roof, so the old guy began to build a roof over head. Then he decided to extend the roof on both sides to make porches. More cement, more braces, another slope to the roof. Naturally such a roof was a catcher for the winds and truly in danger of taking off in one piece. It became wise to enclose the structure to make it stronger. Which he did. With the trailer still inside as heart and hearth. In this way it became a house within a house, also warmer and cooler with a lot more area to store things in. With this degree of comfort he began to add refinements – like a garden area in the eastern corner with big patio doors for light and air. El Rito supplied the generous water and the septic system under the thirsty soil took care of that problem.
A few years ago, so the story goes, the old man's wife insisted on taking a trip. They argued and the old guy lost. In all ways. They had a terrible accident, she died and he was so badly injured he could not live alone.
So the trailer was pulled out of the structure and moved to the son's house in Albuquerque. The son and his sons thought the now-empty shed would make a dandy place to get away from the city so in a couple of long weekends, they added a kitchen and bathroom and sheetrocked in three generous bedrooms into one corner. This left the other 2/3 of the structure as living space. One could have raised Mormon families in here.
Marilyn went to great pains to make this hall of a room seem cozy and attractive. She installed a wood stove (she uses the big gas heater as table for her high-powered and expensive stereo set – no matter how poor a hippie is, somehow they have garnered enough cash or connections for a truly outstanding stereo set.) An Indian rug, a couch hidden by a blanket, a picnic table bench as coffee table, two chairs from a dentist's office so ugly M. keeps them covered with clothes and boxes of work. In the kitchen is a decent gas stove, a huge long counter covered with a dried out Christmas wreath from Maine, a water filter that is broken, a Brita water pitcher that is broken but does work, a cutting board that is only dust free from the many lines left by knives. vitamins, several lamps I never saw lit, all the papers and mail M needs to be secretary for Martin, a small altar beside the place she eats. I had to carve out my own eating place by pushing aside 3 broken cameras, sunglasses missing one glass, a bouquet of flowers which lasted forever (the coolness of the room was like a flower-keeper at the florist shop). Sensitive to all of this, M. would, before each meal, drape silk clothes over the mounds to bring a mood of quietness to the dinner.
At the end of this counter, much in the center of the whole structure, Tayra had his bed-nest-outpost. On a 4 x 4 foot square of a mattress stuffed with newspapers, was his towel/blanket. Around this were 10 -12 pieces of firewood on which he had chewed and 'wanted' to keep as perimeter. Also, any piece of paper which he could steal or find, he carried to his nest, tore it and bit it into pieces which were also arranged between the wood sticks. During the day, if left alone he would drag the wood and paper into an ever wider circle. When in danger of tripping over the wood or grated by the sound of cardboard scraping over cement, M. would sweep the nest back together again, adding generous portions of blown in dust and dirt.
This morning swallows, magpies and canyon wrens are warming my room with their songs. Looking out at the cottonwoods on neighboring lots (there is nothing here higher than the sage bushes) they seem so cold and dead or as if waiting to die. They have already gotten as close to heaven as they dare. From here in a gully, the cottonwood trees seem as high as the mountains and just as gray.
As the day warmed the wind increased in my room. I was too cold to write any more so we moved one of the futons out to the area beside the garden which is in the sun and out of the wind. Finally I am warm and have as new friends a gigantic geranium with many pink flowers, a tomato plant which several nearly red cherry tomatoes, a hibiscus which is still considering whether to bloom or not. Dill and broccoli round out the garden spot. Oh, and Tayra has claimed one-third of it by digging a hole in the dirt.
a clean blue
by puffy clouds
with cloud shapes
Life with Marilyn is very pleasant. She is such a good hostess making sure I am comfortable. She cooked a great meal of chick peas, spiced rice, broccoli and carrots last night when I was too tired to lift a fork. We ate by candlelight and caught up on the old news. Suddenly we both were very sleepy.
LATER THE SAME DAY
M. needed to get out after working so much all morning so we took Tayra to go to Ghost Ranch (where Georgia O'Keeffe had lived). M. had taken a class in weaving and two of her weavings were hung in the museum there and she was excited about showing them to me.
On the way we drove through fantastic red rock formations ala Bryce Canyon, Utah. A winding river moved far below in its today bed as peaceful as if it had been there all its life – never the raging torrent that carved out these soft-rock forms or the even earlier river that laid down the rock with its muddy bottom.
As we turned into the Ghost Ranch we stopped to let Tayra pee and I had the chance to snap off several quickie shots of the surroundings. I am still shy about asking Marilyn to stop for my photos and I feel that Heidi was here and already did a better job of it.
At the museum it was a real thrill to see M.'s weavings (her very first) holding their own well against other works. Next to hers was one done by an Indian man which was very special in shades of gray with an asymmetrical plan. I wish I had checked its price. Or had the chance to look at it again. Marilyn was quite distracted leaving Tayra in the car. When she would go to check on him there would be people standing around the car staring at him and his hugeness. Marilyn was very good in taking me to the gift shop and waiting while I bought a book about Georgia O. and a few souvenirs.
alone in the sky
We had to get back home so M. could mail off an express package containing the redone introduction for Martin's second book. This time we drove to Española to the UPS place. I sat in the car with Tayra and cleaned out and organized my purse while he sat in the driver seat. It was totally surreal. Marilyn needed some fabric and dog bones from Wal-Mart. Never having been in one, and listening to M's horror stories of this one, I was somewhat eager for the cultural (shock) experience of this one.
Once, alone in the aisle, I had a moment of panic thinking I would have to run out. From over in the fabric section Marilyn called to me and the sensation passed.
Leaving Española, M. drove through the San Pablo Pueblo – old adobe homes of Indians. I recalled how knowledgeable I had felt in the 4th grade when I learned the word 'pueblo'. And now I was seeing where the word came up out of the earth. I could have/ should have taken some photos but I felt so shy, so foreign, I did not have the courage to either ask M. to stop or to step out into this other country of the Indian reservation (it is a sovereign nation) and TAKE a photo from these people.
We took Tayra home and then drove over the back roads to Ojo Caliente Hot Springs. So many hot springs I have visited where literally such out of control dumps, I was surprised to see how up-scale this place was. Money had pour in here along with the waters. We paid our $5.80 each (I was given the resident rate or it would have been $11.00!) and proceeded to the changing rooms which somehow seemed like German Schwimmhalle – clean and weird.
Outside I felt much better. We got into the 'iron pool' which seemed just like bath water. A mite hot at first, but after a few seconds was just right. I was surprised to find the rock-lined pool to have a sand bottom! The water ran in over huge boulders that comprised one whole corner of the pool. An additional source came out of a pipe (very hot but good on the neck and shoulders). Later I even saw bubbles indicating that the healing waters were coming right up through the sand. One could feel how much warmer the sand was in these places. Parts of the wall were mortared with adobe which looked very nice. Later 'improvements' were made with cement which had so much mud in it that it fit in pretty well.
grounding the New Agers
I sat near the exit drain so I was in the coolest water. There were ledges all around the pool so one could pick the degree of warmth one wanted. Where I sat I could look up to see a Bryce canyon wall just inches from the edge of the pool. In and out of its curves flew pigeons whose cooing added to the warmth of the red stones and the night winds.
While M. talked to some guy in one corner (I thought of him as a priest fighting to quell his sexual drives without success) I communed with the ancient spirits of the water. I held the waters in my cupped hands and inhaled their spirits. There were paper cups available to drink the waters (which tasted too bad to be even medicine and piss-warm at that) so I preferred just inhaling the ghosts let out of the underground.
Marilyn wanted to go into the two other pools but I was too tired. All the way home over the mountains I yawned as if I was making the car go with the opening and closing of my mouth. When we got home I only wanted to tumble into bed, but it was only 8:30 and we had not had our official dinner.
When M. listened to her messages there was one from Werner. I could hear his voice even through the pillow and sleeping bag I was already bundled in. He had found the second treatment to be more difficult – with burning and urgency. This (wisely) made him wary of driving to Oakland to pick me up so we decided for me to take a shuttle bus to Santa Rosa where I will meet Werner at a hotel. Then we can stay overnight and make the trip home the next day. The shuttle will be no picnic but I will appreciate getting the overnight break in the travel time.
I ate a few crackers and went to sleep easily – even without the song of the wind and treeless plateaus.
Friday, April 9, 1999
After going to sleep so easily I was surprised when I woke up at 1:30 – wide awake and ready for the day. The room was too cold to get up and do anything so I laid in bed and read from the new Georgia O'Keeffe book. I was shocked to find out so much (supposedly) about her: childhood abuse, incest and later lesbianism. When I got too cold I went back to sleep.
The next time I woke up I felt it surely must be morning. I had closed the curtains to keep out the cold of the neighbors' eyes and keep in any warmth the room might have. I regretted not being able to follow the stars as my clock. I found out the reason I was so cold was my desire to have the cleanest edge of the sleeping bag under my nose meant that the narrowest part of the unzipped bag was covering my biggest parts. By turning the bag 180 degrees I slept comfortably until I heard M. shaking down the woodstove ashes which snapped me back to my childhood at my grandparents' farm.
I made myself tea and tried to eat some granola but I did not feel well. My guts rebelled and I thought I was having a heart attack. But I wasn't so I sat by the fire and fought with myself. M. gave me rescue remedy and I soon recovered enough to get to my bedroom and pop Dramamine and Librium and then I felt okay.
I started to show M. how the laptop worked and this jazzed her and took her mind off wondering if she was committed to baby-sitting a mental case for a week.
Then getting hungry I warmed some pita bread and cheese. Again, all of a sudden I felt so sick. Resting seems to be the best cure. M. called Martin saying that I was sick and I called out to her that I was only feeling weird. He said it was only altitude sickness and I should drink lots of water and rest. Even when I feel badly here, I feel it was right that I came here. Strange I should have such a strong feeling to do something I hate.
The wind is kicking up and the noontime drafts begin in the house. I hope to get some photos tonight. While M. went to the post office I took an all-too brief nap. Then we drove to Española looking for the rock shop she was sure she had seen on the highway to Santa Fe. As we drove along we looked and looked but saw nothing except The Rock – a Christian Outreach Church.
crumbles into sand
As we got near Santa Fe, I wanted to turn back but here I learned of Marilyn's stubbornness. And she was right. Finally we did spot the rock shop's littered yard. We were in pig heaven. How to make a choice. There was a huge selection of great chunks of crystals in strange green and red colors. The rocks felt greasy and I did not like them even though they were quite impressive. M. did find the jade she was seeking. Inside the dumpy trailer smelling strongly of cat piss was the shop were the many stones from Brazil and around the world – but mostly Mexico! I asked what was the local rock and the Mexican who was keeping the shop pointed to common river rock. I found this hard to believe. Feeling there must be a cheap treasure among all the dirt and disarray I continued to search. Marilyn kept making deals with the guy so she could buy more and more jade and turquoise pieces.
Under a display case, under a cardboard box, I spied some floor-colored 'desert roses'. One was huge, the best in the box and tied with a strip of plastic on which $30. had been scrawled. I would have just paid the money but Marilyn took over and began to bargain with the man. They both enjoyed the process and I got the stone for $10. Then I began to worry about how to get it home in my suitcase (broken as it is) without shattering the fragile planes of crystal.
The Mexican man with his now merry face was waiting on me to pay him, but I took my courage and went back outdoors once more to look at the clear crystals. There were some huge sets of coal black crystals about a foot square that I really wanted. But I turned my eyes away to the smaller fist-sized ones. There, I saw one winking at me. Truly it had rainbows in it and the redbrownochre side of a mountain. When I asked the man how much it was, he nodded that I could have it. He gave it to me. That is the way good stones should come to one. I was so touched and jazzed. It was so good to feel the spiritual life working!
white with the wind
On the way back to Española we stopped at a gift shoppe run by the local Indian tribe. The displays were right out of Manhattan galleries with prices to match. We only bought a loaf of Indian bread (pale, simple, white bread but baked in a stone oven) and a few items from the sale bins. We kept commenting on how over-inflated the prices were until the hotty-snotty women wished we would leave. A pair of women lovers were buying out the jewelry section and made us look like the scum of the earth as we scrounged in the bargin bins.
On the way home we talked about the observation I had made wondering why the earth, if it is an entity allows its most beautiful places to be 'owned' by the most terrible people who have no respect for it and thus do ghastly things to the natural wonder spots. Marilyn agreed with me that she saw this happening over and over.
At 'home', since we had filled up on the dry Indian bread crumbled and eaten in the car, we reheated Wednesday's dinner, lit candles and looked at all our treasures. My room was the only warm one in the house, so I was glad to retire here with pen and paper to leave M. with her many calls and emails.
SATURDAY, APRIL 10, 1999
Woke to an owl hooting in the pre-dawn darkness. Kept wondering if I was really hearing an owl, or if it was coyotes or just the neighbors dogs. By the time I was sure it was an owl I went back to sleep. Next time I woke it was to the sound of M. making a new fire and Tayra pacing in front of my door wanting to come in. By the time I got dressed M. had already made her oatmeal.
I was 'off' the granola so had some Indian bread toasted on top of the wood stove. I had to sit by the stove and keep Tayra from stealing it. But it was worth the fine flavor. Today I felt really good and M. was eager to make a trip to Taos so we decided to go. She was so eager to show me all her favorite places it took us 3 hours to drive 45 miles! Once, there was a flash of yellow fur across the road. Running between the short junipers was the trick image of a coyote. Trickster. What would the day bring? Surprises?
crossing over tricks
And thus we missed of M.'s scenic events – the trip down into the Rio Grande Gorge. She was much more disappointed than I was. I was not eager for the road down and up steep canyon walls.
tall cypress trees flattened
by huge skies
I was really feeling weird so we stopped in the gaudy parking lot of Taos Drums.
the cash register
Lots and lots of drums – some as big as a coffee table!, many rugs and fake Indian stuff. People welcoming us at the door offered us drumsticks to try out any drum we were interested in.
I bought a nice (probably fake made by 12-year delinquents) arrowhead for 50 cents and some postcards which I find rather ugly tonight.
the post card from NM
comes with the wind
As we entered Taos I felt the town was such a sham, such a commercial non-entity I got sicker and sicker. M. was hungry but I was in no mood to eat so we drove to the health food store.
health food store
is also organic
While she bought a burrito I gulped down libs and drams.
At the edge of town was an old cemetery and as an excuse to get out of the car I said I wanted to photograph some of the graves. M. was scared I would get caught so she drove off to turn the car around. After I had to get back into the car again I just wanted to go home but she insisted the pueblo was really special. Judging from the one outside of Española, I felt it would be a waste of time. Still she was driving and she insisted and she was right.
We parked and paid $10 for each of us and I 'cheated' them out of the extra $10. for my right to photograph in the pueblo by accidentally forgetting that I was keeping the tiny camera in my pocket. M. felt that $10 each was too much to pay and offered to wait outside for me, but I felt that we had come here together and it would be no fun without her.
rippling the mountains
against the sky
closer to the earth
First we walked to the cemetery and I got more shots of graves. From there we went into the church belonging to Saint Jerome. I wondered how these people could honor and worship in a religion which had destroyed their own. The church was cold and plain and bare and without spirits. We both, at once, turned around and walked out of the empty building – agreeing that the church had no spirit.
as if growing again
in the adobe wall
on the adobe wall growing
Never ones to follow directions given by the cultured and articulate guide woman heavy with enviable turquoise and silver signs of wealth, we were drawn first to the small river that flows through and divides the pueblo into south and north sections. I was amused to see a sign asking visitors not to wade in the river as it was a source of drinking water for the tribe.
Before getting any farther, we saw on a wobbly wooden rack, before a low door, three small pots. They were so small (and so I hoped them to be inexpensive) but I was really attracted to the white one with strange gray and black squiggles design so unlike the highly ritualized symbols and patterns of Indian pottery.
We walked down into the low, log-beamed room. A round faced woman came from a back room and we found out the pots had been fired with horse hairs stuck into them. The flare and ash marked the stone-polished glaze in these un-worldly patterns. Not even listening to the price, I had to have one. There were only four white ones in the whole shop. Soon I found out that the one outdoors was surely the best one so I got it. In the meantime, Marilyn also found one she had to have. The "I gotta have" feeding frenzy that lights up between women shoppers. Sometimes we 'had to have the same thing' and at other times our purchases seemed to be saying, "I don't know why you bought that dumb thing. See what I am buying. Now this is great!" The lady was a great salesperson, telling me that my pot had just been fired this morning so it was new to the world as I was new to it.
Now we both had sacks of $50.00 air in fragile half-fired clay and $9.00 of the tour yet to make. Marilyn graciously offered to carry the sacks back to the car. I stayed in the shop out of the wind and cold. There was an old, old Franklin stove. Impulsively I asked and then photographed the thing only because it was warm. It was awkward having me stand around so I began asking the couple, (her husband had materialized now in the back room) about the clay. Soon the man was talking to me, showing me the 8 -9 pinch pots lined up before the other wood stove in the second room – set there to dry faster.
He showed me the clay, told me about digging it up on the reservation ('no, you can't have any' tone in his voice), and how he polished the dry greenware with stones. I was surprised he let me handle his stones. I was surprised how small they were (robin-egg small and polished as if from Mexico in their commercial rock tumblers). Just as we were getting to know one another as potters (a marvelous feeling for me) as we compared methods of starting a pinch pot, M. came back and we continued on our way. I must have been in the shop 20 minutes and no one else came it. The day was overcast, cold and very windy. Everyone else was up skiing on the holy mountain.
As we continued across the hard-packed bare ground of the plaza we kept trying to get out of the wind by choosing what we wanted to see. Up all the tiny passages between the adobe walls where the wind wasn't was a red painted saw horse with "Keep out" hand printed in white letters.
holy mountain winds
the sound of cars going
to ski slopes
as the glow of the sun
We come home over an even higher plateau covered with real pine trees. How hungry my eyes were for their shapes, their auras, their company. M. wanted to go to a small dress shop she knew. I wanted to go home but we went. It was marvelously funky and we looked at everything twice, but my buying mood had been spent.
At home was a message from Dennis inviting me to take part in the Haiku Meeting tomorrow as one of the big wigs. For this I had not brought anything special to wear – just my traveling outfit of a white wrinkled cotton pants suit. I needed something to wear! Suddenly I saw a vision of the marvelous hand-woven shawl we had seen in the dress shop. Just what I needed to wear at the meeting to give me presence and cover up my fat!
We could either go back to the dress shop or go to the opening of the show in which M.'s weaving was shown (where we would meet Martin). I let her decide which we would do. I was really touched that she wanted to get the shawl for me more than go to the art show opening. At some level I understood her choice as I have always hated going to openings of my own artwork. So we called, got the lady to keep the place open and buzzed over. Not only did I get the shawl, but an embroidered velvet top also and a ring (for $10) which not only fit but pleased me greatly.
For the first time since being in New Mexico, I felt I was being led by spirits who were shaping my destiny.
Sunday, April 11, 1999
It is 10:00 P. M., I have rested enough, relaxed enough reading Georgia O'Keeffe, and the charcoal tablets have stopped the nasty nervy trots to lie here under all the blankets to write down the day. I want to record my feelings, my impressions of the day before the room cools off to much and my own inner heat clouds.
I had spent though whole morning hand-sewing gusset into the sleeves of the new shirt and then it still felt tight. But there was no more time and I decided part of the problem was my habitual wearing of sweat shirts which are huge and give with every movement. While Marilyn and went to the store to buy a Sunday paper, and as I sat sewing with black thread, I began to get the idea of asking her to video tape them meeting.
At first she said "no", but then made her decision conditional on the availability of having an empty tape. She looked through her piles of stuff and finally did find an empty partial film and so the project began roll.
I went to my room to prepare myself emotionally and physically while she ate her dinner of a re-heated burrito. I felt good in the new black velvet shirt and my old (but washed and nearly dry) black velvet pants. I wore my amber piece necklace which garnered some complements for me – everyone here wears tons of turquoise and I did not want to compete. Besides, I wore the amber for strength and to make others be attracted to me. It worked.
Marilyn was so good to me. She knew I was nervous (but I have been worse!) So she took a copy of A Dictionary of Haiku to Martin and ask asked him for blessing and protection. She said Hannah took the book before he could even see what it was. He said he would light a candle for me.
When Marilyn returns she tells me about a dream Martin had concerning my question of why the earth gives its best places to the worst kind of caretakers. Martin said a man came to him wearing shoes with turned-up toes, which he word so he couldn't accidentally scuff the earth – he was that conscious of harming her. He told Martin that the earth, as an entity, has many of the same issues as do we humans who are only an extension of that consciousness. He said that in the same way humans become 'addicted' to unhealthy behaviors and allow 'wrong' things to happen to our bodies, the earth allows people to have control over her that do harmful things to her.
Finally she loaded all our stuff in the car and even opened and closed the gate to "protect" my freshly washed curls which I wore down around my face.
All too soon (for me) we were in Española hunting for the new convention center which was still unmarked. We kept driving around this fantastic adobe building but felt that it was too special to be the place where we should be going. As we finally found some other cars we pulled in to a parking space but all ready a red-haired woman was leaning out her car calling to me. It was Marion O. – she recognized me from photos. She was so joyful, so happy to see me, so open and accepting of me, I suddenly felt welcomed and at home.
As we walked up the broad sidewalk, there came Higginson swaggering toward us as if he owned the property. We greeted each other kindly and carefully as two porcupines, and I had fond hopes of this meeting under New Mexico's sun would be a rare warm one. Inside the door my biggest job was making sure Marilyn got the reluctant permission to film – which was given and she spent the rest of her time hauling in equipment and setting it up.
I met so many people who seemed to know me, and the process of putting faces to names I knew only by mail or computer was very disconcerting. I sailed on intuition regardless of the outcome or the persons opinion of me. I had asked Martin for the courage to be myself and I was.
Elizabeth L., so tiny and frail, yet vigorous and charming, did her perfect hostess bit on me and I played my new role just as perfectly (I think ). While we were still speaking of our many years of correspondence, a small man, about her size, dressed in jeans with an Indian woven vest took her in his arms and said "I see we were in the newspaper together this morning". She smiled widely at him and made a small comforting phrases to him. He continued to chat as if he was an old lover. Feeling shut out of their conversation I asked, "who is this man?" Then and only then, did she introduce him to me as Thomas F.. He had nothing to say to me and walked away as if he had been pulled by a malignant magnet.
Penney H. saw me riffling through the pages of a book obviously looking for something. She began to brag how good she was at finding things. She took the book out of my hands and actually sat down to help me to find a quote in the Georgia O'Keeffe book. She looked surprised when I told her where on the pages the quote lay . So for this brief second we did have a moment of sharing. I complemented her on her loss of weight. She said that when Bill had been ill, she had started losing weight and then went on a diet to reach this point.
I met Don E., who looked so Indian I couldn't believe it. Now I know (if he is part Indian) why he accepted all my help of his haiku before publishing them.
I met Charlie "crumble pool" who turned out to be a young Michael Welsh . I told him, first off, that I would never forgive him for putting the message up on the Shiki list, that he wanted to see me and Wendy Bailey fight naked. This threw him off-guard and put him at a disadvantage which I was not sure was to my advantage. But done was done.
At first I had laid my things on a chair in the back row in the middle of the church. Then, fortunately I noticed there was a side door which, when opened had a slight breeze so I moved over to that part. Marilyn was also bothered by the paint smell of this brand new reconstruction of an old adobe church with carved supports with the exposed peeled poles (vegas) laid between. The walls still showed the bits of straw in the adobe which glittered like trapped sunlight. Dennis (the organizer) kindly left the door open a crack so I was always properly cooled.
Everyone who was listed on the program sat in a half circle around the podium I was not invited (thank goodness) but was left of the outer rim – strange, but so accurate.
Dennis opened the meeting by mentioning that I was there – all the way from California, etc. Then each of the people on the program were given five minutes to read a selection of haiku. "Dawn unit" Don E. was the first to read and his first words were ones of thanks to me for helping him with his haiku and with the book.
Everyone was very well prepared and did a fairly good job of reading. One of the local artists, Julie Wagner, had made an installation of crow like creations on dead gray, bare branches which filled, very nicely, the curve to blank alter area behind the podium. The church was just the right combination of sacred space without being denominational. Marilyn quietly filmed with natural light so no one even noticed her.
One local man, Amalio Madueño, a Mexican-American, gave the best reading, though his haiku where the least haiku-like. He was a great warm addition to the staid mix.
Another man, Daniel Sogan, a Buddhist monk with shaved read the most haiku-like selection. Extremely Japanese with his mild manner and big ears, he seemed to represent all of Japan. He alone of all the readers, had haiku only which one could call haiku and know they were not senryu.
One man I learned to know from his reading Noor Singh Khalsa, a man from India dressed in traditional garb. I had seen his work on the Shiki list, and now I know from where his ku come from. I was prepared to like him but couldn't.
This session of poem reading took over an hour and I was glad I had told Dennis I did not want to read. However! When Higginson started bragging of his trips to Japan, his sensei in Japan, his translations, his acquaintances in Japan, my competitive spirits got the best of me.
Grabbing the Fumi (White Letter Poems) book at intermission, I asked Dennis if I could read and he seemed pleased I offered.
The intermission was such a blur of faces and voices. I had no time to contemplate my own state of nerves or even compose a 'speech'. Undaunted by my lack of preparation, I asked Dennis, as we reassembled if I could go first to get it over. Again Dennis's opening remarks revolved around mentioning me.
I walked right up to the podium. My first thought was how much smaller the crowd was since intermission allowed many to escape. I held up the Fumi book, its bright yellow cover giving me courage, wanting to talk about her work. But somehow I felt I had to tell how I met Hatsue and that involved mentioning the invitation to the palace. When I mentioned that I could feel (I thought) a ripple of interest, so I elaborated a bit on that. Suddenly I noticed I was rambling on far too much. I pulled myself up short and my mouth went dry. How I wished for a drink of water as my tongue roved around my mouth looking for a drop of moisture. I was sure my face looked as lost as my mouth felt. I managed to sputter out two of Fumi's poems. I heard someone gasp at her 'moonlight poison' poem so I continued to make a small pitch for tanka writing. When my mouth cotton would let out no more words I sat down, quaking in my sandals.
Again, in the order of their names on the program, everyone got a second chance to read. This time the monotony was broken up with haibun, a rengay. As people read it became obvious that the only ones left were the readers! And a few of their friends.
Penny H. read only from anthologies in which her works were included. Higginson read a work-in-progress – a translation of a Japanese poet's haiku. He does have beautiful pronunciation and made me wish I had read Fumi's poems also in the Japanese version. Sorry I did not practice that along with the rest of my remarks!
Fortunately this portion was brief. But still the program had run over by 45 minutes. Even so, Dennis decided to open a question and answer period. Someone asked about early haiku in America so Penny, Bill and Elizabeth talked long about Haiku Society of America – how great, how many members and how important HSA was to the movement. Then someone mentioned Don E. and he got to tell about haiku in America BEFORE the HSA. Bill got up again to tell how important his Haiku Handbook was for introducing haiku.
My cup boiled over so I stood, in the back of the room, so far from the inner circle in the front. As the first words came out of my mouth, Penny stood and tried to talk me down. I was just ready to give up and sit down when a man I did not know spoke up in a loud commanding voice. "Jane Reichhold has a comment." I was shocked to see her sit down! I gave my quote of how Georgia O'Keeffe was introduced to haiku in 1931 by the poet Witter Bynner, right here in Española. This was a bid for the local crowd so they could feel their history which reached back farther than HSA.
That took the HSA wind out of the chapel and the next question was asked: "Why do editors refuse to publish haiku?" Several people rather talked around the problem – being very careful. Finally Dennis stood up and said the reason was because there were so many "god-awful haiku out there". He complained about Spam haiku and the other Internet sites which were spreading 'bad' haiku.
By now Marilyn had quit filming and was sitting beside me. I was bouncing up and down on my chair trying to control myself. She whispered that if I did not say something she would. This gave me the courage to stand up (again) and give an impassioned plea for people to honor their haiku as gifts, to save them, care for them, and honor all of them. I asked them to be only judgmental about their work when pick haiku for a specific project like a reading or a book or a contest. I became quite carried away and was trembling and my voice was quivering.
When I sat down, Dennis, whose comments I had blasted, closed the meeting. So I got the last word, but I was not pleased with myself. I was dictatorial and I felt I had ruined the meeting. I am not a good game player.
The group adjourned to go to a restaurant within the building complex. I did go to Dennis to apologize. He said he was okay believing we were basically on the same ground. (Not true, but peace-making.) I think he was numb from nerves and had no desire to feel anything.
I talked to the librarian at El Rito – Ginger L., and she thanked me profusely for the big load of books I had sent there. By the time we stopped talking books and rubber stamps, most people had left the church so I went out the front door. A tiny Japanese woman came toward me and shyly said, "I am Keiko." It was Keiko Imaoka who had worked with me so much on the Shiki List (especially over the copyright mess). I was so glad to see her and we had a polite hug.
As I asked her how she was doing since her divorce, she put her hand, wrapped in her sweater sleeve, over her mouth – such a typical Japanese gesture – to control her tears.
I did not want her to stand alone in her grief so I pulled her into my arms and stood there rocking her. She started to apologize and I told her I was honored by her sharing her tears with me. The she laid her head on my breast and wept to her end.
One of the organizers came up behind us to remind me everyone was already eating. So we started walking to the restaurant. I asked her if she would come in but she said "no". We talked of poetry and her ceramics and she said she was not writing anymore.
Again I took her into my arms and whispered a prayer and blessing for her. We both were crying as we parted. I kissed her hands as our bodies created the first spaces between us. She looked back with all the longing her race has practiced over the centuries.
Marilyn was waiting for me and walked into the small restaurant of about 10 tables. There was not one place available. The "Santa Fe Group" had pushed tables together so they were one big group. Marilyn, in her marvelous assertive manner, walked in to discover a second room where tables had been put in the gift shop and places for 5 persons had been set. They had sold tickets to the dinner and knew how many were expected. There were still 3 empty places at the table, but Marilyn and I sat down to start eating the salads which were already in place.
I could hardly force the food down. I felt so ostracized – though it was no one's fault but my own for staying outside with Keiko. Finally, as our food was served – a tomato sauce with corn, peppers and slivers of chicken over rice, a couple sat down beside Marilyn and soon then a woman joined us. All were locals – one was the artist, Julie Wagner who had done the installation and had been delayed by taking it down. We had such a good time. They loved Marilyn and she was very involved with getting to know 3 more of her neighbors. We all talked so much the others were ready to leave as our custard was being served.
Now because I was off in the spare room, those leaving who wanted to say good-bye to me had to come all the way to the back room and around to the very end of the table in the corner where I was. Marian asked me more about tanka and I gave her a Tanka Splendor 98. She asked why HSA wasn't involved in tanka and I told her the situation. She asked whose doing this was and I told her to ask Higginson. I think her red-hair energy will make him squirm.
Elizabeth did come back, also to talk to me. Dennis sat down with us and I again cleared up things between us. Several people complimented me on my answering him and seemed impressed with my ardor. (or?)
Suddenly I had to go to the bathroom where my nerves produced the horrible, green stuff. My body was rejecting the green venom from the HSA people. As I was walking back to the restaurant Higginson and Penny came out the door. Bill looked so gray and fragile and beat-up I felt sorry for him. More good-byes to everyone and I realized we were the last ones out of the building. Typical.
On the ride home it was good to get Marilyn's feed back and opinions. She was very kind. At 'home' she had 14 messages and a mess with the housing for the Elk Workshop. Still she let me use the phone first to call Werner. He sounded very glad to hear from me and said he and cat were fine. He had his hotel reservations and new the number for my shuttle service from the airport to Santa Rosa.
Then I read Georgia O'Keeffe until my guts settled down. Marilyn called Martin (she was worried about my condition) and he said I needed to eat more protein and walk more! Does he realize how much one has to walk in Marilyn's place just to get dressed or do a project? But basically he was right-on.
Monday, April 12, 1999
Last night I only got three hours sleep (because I worked on these pages) but amazingly enough I had a really good day. Of course, I did not do much, either.
Marilyn was up a while before I quit writing and got dressed. By being gone with me all afternoon and evening at the haiku meeting she had a lot of catch-up work to do. I got my breakfast – half a piece of pita bread with cheese melted in it and tea. Her oatmeal was made but she was so busy we ate separately as I was too hungry to wait on her after losing so much last night.
I think "wait" was the operative word for today. While I was trying to decide what to do: take the car and camera to El Rito for some shots, or paint here? Marilyn said, "Well, we can go soon to Chimayo, so just stay here. This was 9:30. So I went to my room (warmest place in the house) and tried to paint. One attempt worked and the second one was a wash but finally with a collage I got something interesting. Then I sat in the sun by the indoor garden (mostly to get warm).
every one waits
For some reason my hand was very shaky (there it goes, doing it again) so I laid down to rest and read (waiting on Marilyn). Then I heard her yell. There was a job she had forgotten she had to do. The schedule for Martin's workshops had to be redone. Would I do it? She easily found the disk with the old schedule and it seemed a snap to type in the corrections. However, I could not get her very old Macintosh to recognize the diskette and load the file. So there was nothing for me to do but to type it all in again. The changes Marilyn had scrawled in were made for herself and not an unknown working on a strange machine. Fighting the Mac I learned the program. Typing in all the info was a snap but getting it to fit and to stay in columns was a true headache.
Added to this problem, M. kept changing her mind on what should be in or out and where it belonged. I couldn't change the page set-up so we had to get a certain amount of information on the one side. It was noon before I finished. Marilyn continued to wade through phone calls and rake in her indoor garden, do laundry, run over to Martin's, lose her favorite pen (twice) and her glasses (once). But she was almost ready to go! So I changed my clothes. Do you have any idea how long white stays clean on cement floors, large, huge dog and a dusty wind at every crack? I got all my stuff ready for the car and she still had this and that to do. I took her clothes off the line because she still had that to do before she could go.
Finally, I gave up and laid down to wait and rest. Just as I was drifting off to sleep she discovered she had given me the wrong phone numbers for two of the people. I told her to type them in. She began screaming as all the lines changed places. I got up and untangled the problem and made some other changes she wanted.
the tin roof sings
She still was not ready to go so I laid down again. About 2:30 she said she was ready. She told me to get into the car while she locked up the place. I sat in the car – the hardest place to wait. Finally, feeling I was missing a whole day of New Mexico, I got out and walked slowly up to the road and took some photos on my way. Finally she came out and we were off – but not to see the weavers in Chimayo or the potters but to go to the copy shop to have copies made of the brochure I had typed.
the shower between
brightens the peaks
She refused to go to the regular copy shop (because she hated the man who ran the place) so we drover all over town trying to track down the address of a new one. Saw some really rough areas of Española! You could spot the dope dealer's houses - ig cars and bars on all the windows. We got weird looks from every brown person on the sidewalks. Pulling into a weedy vacant lot we were parked by the printer's which looked, smelled and felt like Mendo Litho in Fort Bragg.
So again I waited while she had 1000 double sided sheets printed and folded, plus, plus, plus. I went out doors to wait but when a carload of men drove by and slowed I went back inside. Finally (have I used that word yet?) at 4:15 we were on our way to Chimayo.
clouds race across the skies
It wasn't far (on the map) but evidently we missed the turn-off. She insisted it was farther down the road to Santa Fe. At the rock shop I talked her into turning back and we finally found the road (almost in Española!)
As we drove out into the country side, away from the freeway, the homes got more dilapidated and there were more bars on the windows. Yards were full of old vehicles and lounging men. We saw homes advertising weavings but we were both afraid to stop the car or even think of getting out of it.
along New Mexico roads
When we were just about to turn back we arrived in Chimayo and found the weaving store which was very upscale and organized. I loved the feeling in the big, high room where there were about 25 looms of various sizes, all strung, all active. Huge windows let in the cold, sharp light that had the feeling of shuttles flying back and forth. I was afraid to let my soul out. Afraid it would sit me down on one of these almost familiar benches to take on someone else's work.
Inside there were so many blankets and rugs (and fairly expensive) so I bought postcards. I got the feeling that Marilyn really wanted me to buy something (after her driving so much to get me here) and I thought "I'll probably never be here again" so I got some place mats. Searching for a matching set out of 20 three-foot tall stacks meant the clerks could not close the store while we were still 'buying'. They and I were relieved to get us out of there.
Marilyn had heard of this church in Chimayo where people made pilgrimages for healing that was surely just up the road (and surely closed at 5:00, I thought) so we drove on. The church was hidden down a narrow crooked street with houses without yards built against the blacktop.
in the section of town
that's the poorest
The huge parking lot in front of the church gave it an open friendly feeling. Except for the huge signs placed everywhere one's eye went warning against leaving valuables in one's car and that they were not responsible for thefts the place had a nice feel. There were only two other vehicles so it seemed one should be able to see the bandits coming. Besides we had nothing in the car but a lot of dog hair and the 100 posters. I was eager to get out of the car.
The low afternoon sun was warm and welcoming when it broke through the day's clouds. The cottonwood trees behind the church were more branch than leaf so that the sky and mountains entered the courtyard with us. The weathered wood gates to the adobe fence seemed to have been colored and created by ages instead of commercialism. The junipers between the few graves were carefully trimmed and formed.
Ahead of us was the chapel. It was a charming adobe structure and to our surprise, was still open. Stepping over the threshold I felt as if I had been hit in the chest with holiness. This was not a cold, dead monument to the fear of death, but alive with the holiness of a healing spirit given to life.
greeted at the door
by bees wax smell
Inside were no signs of prohibition but over the box of candles in glass a hand-lettered sign "here, take free". Even the usual sign prohibiting photographs only requested that one not use flash. After looking at everything in the main chapel – there were interesting roof-high panels with painted pictures of saints' lives. In some sections were recesses where statues and scenes in 3-D portrayed the saint. It was all painted rather crudely but seemed totally appropriate. Reds, greens and blues or else the yellows had faded into being the pine wood.
the paint moved about
faces of saints
in the healing grotto
Then in a side room off to the left were the crosses and crutches of the healed. The miligros and rows of plaster statues. Letters of thanksgiving with photos stuck to every available wall. Rosaries hung from every finger of space. I had never seen such a thing. An art installation with heart (no many, many grateful hearts!). We sat and listened to the cooing of pigeons in the rafters – our only music.
prayers in Spanish – English
In another smaller room which was bare except for one wall filled with candles and statues and a kneeling bench. In the adobe floor was a hole down to the ground (or at least a foot deep well which must have been someone's job to keep filled with "pilgrim dirt".
before the saints
straight from the heart
Marilyn knew how to genuflect and manage the holy water (which was in a steel tank the size of a water cooler and leaked a puddle which ran across the floor). She made prayers and lit candles for Anne and I did the same for Werner. (Now in December, Werner is still free of his cancer, so I accept the honor of having my prayers heard.)
paying for prayers
I loan my friend
Outside there were pigeons to photograph going in and out of charmingly broken and dirty windows. I knew it was artistic so I took gobs of shots getting closer and closer. (Later I saw the very same scene painted in an art magazine!) I had been afraid of frightening the birds into flight but they were better actors than that.
in the country church
As we walked around the church we met a Mexican man carrying a large, handmade cross. He had come to pray for and be with his two lovely daughters – one of which had a "medical problem" which he was hoping could be cured. We could hardly get away from him as he witnessed his faith to us as we nodded and backed up around to the front of the church.
spirits in passing
And then the sun shone out again from the clouds which had gathered for the evening. With the dark clouds on the ridges behind the church and the low sun seeming to illuminate it from within, the scene took on an unrealistic aspect. There was no time to see the potter, so we headed home in a marvelous sunset getting to the supermarket when the skies were just at their best.
into sun's glare
the house melts
its tin roof
We had stopped before a grocery store full of dark-skinned people with the largest shopping carts I have ever seen. Most of the items were offered in giant institutional packages. This was definitely a different family culture here. As we checked out, under the eye of sweet-faced boy security guard two toughs came up behind us with a cart full of beer and pop. As Marilyn hustled me out of there she told me they kept eyeing my purse. We tossed the sacks in the car and spun out of the parking lot before they could get checked out to come to follow us. We were very scared and extremely cautious.
Naturally Marilyn had to take the scenic way home (through Ojo Caliente) which extended the evening.
the sand bed smoothed
by the wind
She had gotten a bag of the popcorn she knew I liked and we were so hungry for dinner that we ate it all. she wanted to stop to get me more in a tiny store in Ojo. Also she needed some string for the Elk workshop. When I saw what she got I had to have some, too, so we went back in. The reason they had so much of this special white cotton string was for tying up the red chili peppers to dry in the big ristras which hang from the vegas of every adobe place.
We had decided to have baked potatoes and veggies but we couldn't wait. Marilyn took over and made pasta (she is a good cook) but it was 9:45 before we ate.
I had hoped to go to Albuquerque tomorrow to stay overnight with a friend of Marilyn's so we could go to a conference (one Marilyn had given up taking part in due to my visit). Steve Beahrman was speaking and I really wanted to hear and see him since I had a tape of his routine and it was so funny. Marilyn called and the woman had a terrible cold (she could hear that over the phone) and was going to leave tomorrow. So we must still decide whether to go to Albuquerque on Tuesday evening or leave on Wednesday morning for the airport.
Even though we could not stay at the friend's house, I suggested that we go to Albuquerque on Tuesday so we could save the drive in the next morning. I offered to pay for a motel room and the extra night for Tayra's boarding kennel if this would help us get out of the house during the daylight hours. But Marilyn wanted to stay at home as long as possible so I accepted this. She assured me that she could get us to the airport in plenty of time on Wednesday.
Tuesday April 13, 1999
If I were the mistress of this house, if I were preparing for a week away from home, I would be packed by now and cleaning up the house. Even as just me today I would feel best if the suitcase was ready to be placed into the car by afternoon.
I was awake before the first light and used the time to catch up my journal. When I heard Marilyn talking on the phone I got up. I was very hungry so even though she was still folding her blankets from the couch and blessing the house and dog, I made a peanut butter sandwich and cup of peach tea. I sat in 'my corner' by the indoor garden in the sun, but all too soon (I was not yet warm) it went behind a cloud. But the futon chair was warm and comfortable to stayed in place and wrote some haikuy stuff.
tiny hairs catching the light
in the tiny hairs
a larger plant
and then the haiku
At 7:30 Marilyn said, "As soon as I eat my oatmeal we can go to Ojo to the hot springs." I said, "okay" and continued writing. She continued to putzt around until 8:30 and then we had to go to the post office. On our way, it seemed, she then needed a Coke so we stopped at the grocery store in El Rito. While she bought her coke and a candy bar I photographed the buildings (such as they were). Again we were really on our way. As soon as I paid our way in she had to run off to the hotel to make a call – so I dressed (or undressed and went out and sat in the Iron Pool so I did not feel I was waiting anymore). The water seemed a bit warm (it was morning and I was the only one soaking up the thermal heat), so I was glad when she came and wanted to try out the Soda Pool. It was roofed in so it felt a bit claustrophobic at first with the plastic panels dripping into the pool. But the water was cooler and had such a silky feeling that it was a real joy.
When Marilyn couldn't stand the look and feel of the roof anymore we moved to the arsenic and iron pools which were outdoors. Here were the good "down the river" views and the water was much cooler. There was some sun on the cliffs and flickering in and out on the river plain. Small fluffy clouds made the morning perfect.
As soon as I got into this last pool I had felt an electric shock in my damaged Achilles tendon. I was very surprised and amazed. The only reason we finally got out was because we were both starving. We began to plan lunch. But then I found a power bar in the bottom of my bag which we agreed to share.
Again Marilyn was 'delayed' in the shower so I got dressed quickly and went out doors to sit in the shade while eating my half of the bar. She had seen some Indian women selling jewelry in the lodge and being Miss Tourist Guide, steered me over to the hotel. I was in the 'after hot-tub' lassitude and had no interest in their jewelry which obviously contained fake turquoise dyed in Mexico. The room was hot and I barely glanced at it and we left before they could even get their hopes up that we would buy anything.
On the way home Marilyn again reminded me we had wanted to visit Felipe Ortega – the potter. I was very sleepy and tired and hungry. All of a sudden Marilyn said, "Decide now or we will be past the turn-off." "Yes." I said almost hoping she would miss the road. She didn't and we were soon in a town which consists of a few adobe and wooden houses and one store. Marilyn was not sure where his studio was so the car barely rolled along as we looked for a sign. Then we saw a tiny wooden plaque with "owl peak" painted on it. We ground the gears as the car went straight up the drive where we pulled into a tiny area for cars beside an adobe building. On the doorstep was a typical Indian's dog – all spots of black and orange on white. Marilyn was determined and not scared of any old dog so she marched right up to the door as I hung back by the car. When I saw the dog did not even stand up when she stepped up on the cement slab porch, I followed her. There was a note on the door that said, "if expected, walk in" Marilyn boldly opened the door and called in, "Felipe!"
A middle aged man with a flying ponytail came running to the door and welcomed us into his real adobe home. The pole-crossed ceiling beams were smoked black. A couple of cow hide skins were on the floor. In the middle of which was a large incense burning still smoking. Hanging from the ceiling were several drums of different sizes and styles. On the walls were feather wands and crucifixes. In the tiny dining room, barely wider than the trestle table and benches, were plants in the deep window sill. Holy pictures filled the walls. Only a wide arch separated this room from the kitchen which had a huge old wood-burning stove sitting next to a white gas stove. A wooden rack was filled with his own made cooking vessels and dishes. The kitchen was the size of a closet but had windows over looking the road the river on three sides so it did not feel small.
Then he led us as we filed through the dining room into his studio. It was the biggest room in the house (about 24 x 16) with again mostly just a central table, clean and bare except for a few tools. He set some pots down from shelves over the windows which were headed for his gallery. In one window was a broken but gorgeous pot called a 'wedding pot'. Price was $100 an inch of its two foot height. It was a commissioned job for someone else. He lead back into the dining room where he set pots we had not even noticed out on the table. These were ones with small defects which he sold for $25 a quart! He had casseroles to cook in. He also had an open pot which I could have for $175.00. Later I felt he had set this price high expecting to be bargained with. When I didn't try that, he offered me one (taijin) casserole for $50. If alone, the taijin was $75.00.
Without waiting on us to say whether we wanted to buy anything, he lead us outdoors by the bread-baking oven – the Indian beehive style we had seen in use at Taos. I kept looking for his kiln. Finally around behind the house we saw lying on the ground a metal grate over an ash-filled pit. Behind it was a stack of pine bark. He explained how he warms the pots in his bread-baking oven up to about 500 degrees F. and then puts them, open end down, over the grate. He then piles the bark around them and burns them only 8 - 15 minutes and the clay was vitrified. The clay was the very soil in his yard and full of the mica (or pyrite flakes) that makes it so very special. The shovel was stuck into the hole where someone had been digging it loose from the nearly frozen ground. He doesn't wedge clay. As soon as it is damped and rolled 30 minutes in a pug mill it is ready to use. No seasoning, no aging. It is not very elastic but it is incredibly easy to manage. Filipe laughed out loud as Marilyn and I both grabbed up handfuls from a wooden storage box and started to pat out shapes.
We washed our hands in a nearby tin drum of water before going back inside. As we walked in the back door, Marilyn spied an eagle feather on the threshold and bent as if to pick it up. "Don't" he commanded and she stopped in mid-motion and stood up as if she had never bent over in her life. Earlier he had explained they had just done a healing circle ceremony (that was why the incense was still smoking) that morning.
Looking over the pots again, I picked out two pots which he will mail to me by the post office. He got a bag of beans and a quart jar. By filling the jar and pouring the beans in the pots-to-mine he was able to establish how many quarts they held and how much they would cost. When we had agreed all around he said he wanted to demonstrate something. He took us both back into his studio where a younger boy had brought in a pot and laid a lid beside it. He showed us how the lid had shrunk too much so that it was able to slip down inside the pot. It was already completely dry and had been finally trimmed. He simply dipped the lid an inch or so into water standing in a pail and immediately began to add on the extra clay the lid needed to fit. This is not something you do with a dried clay piece. Dry clay will not stick to wet clay without separating as the add-on dries. You would have to wet the whole lid, keep it covered and damp for several days until it had the wetness of malleable clay before adding on more. Also you would have to scratch the finished piece to roughen up the edges so it would bond properly. This clay is truly amazing.
We went back into the dining room to get my address. When Filipé heard 'Gualala' his eyes lit up for the first time since I had met him. He knew the place. He has worked with the potters in our area and knew the whole bunch. He had come to Gualala to demonstrate pot making and had loved it here. When we talked again about firing and pots and I don't know what else. I do remember he mentioned being impressed by a book about 'sabi-wabi' and I told him that is in my poetry. He was so touched his eyes simply twinkled. He reached out his hands, taking both of mine in his clay-covered hands and said, "Oh Jane, we have so much in common."
living a clay life
an adobe house
As we walked out the door with his blessings on us we both had goosebumps on our arms. I was no longer tired but filled with joy and energy.
Back home I had a sandwich while Marilyn fried potatoes for herself. She is doing more of her business – Martin's work. She does her work so well and I am thankful for the bits and pieces of a day she can carve out for me. As soon as she gets these calls taken care of we will go back to Chimayo yet this afternoon. I have no idea when I will pack.
Wednesday April 14, 1999
I was so tired last night by the time I got my suitcase taped shut and corded. It had been raining since dark and even though Marilyn had backed the car up to the door I hesitated trying to load it when we both were so tired from the day's doings, plus packing, plus nervousness. But she insisted, I gave in and with just a couple of shoves the suitcase was in the car and taking up ¾ th of its tiny space.
"Where will Tayra sit?" she moaned. I was too tired to answer and truly felt there was no kind answer. I took a quick shower, folded my clothes into my carry-on and went to bed.
I woke at 2:00 for an hour and then slept from 3:00 - 4:00 Took tranquilizers and slept again until just before dawn. I laid there telling myself this was the most comfort I'd feel until I got to California so I should just enjoy it as long as I could. Finally I heard M. in the kitchen and was eager for a cup of tea. Got dressed and packed away the last of my things and folded up my blankets. It was now 7:15.
with the first light
frost in the meadow
We had agreed to try to be out of the house by 8:00 or earlier as M. had to stop at the ranger station to send a fax. When Martin had sent the revised preface to his second book he had failed to include all the sheets. So we had to go fax off the missing part and the ranger station had the only fax machine in town. Also Johanna had failed to ask the post mistress to hold their mail until Marilyn returned. They were leaving even earlier than we were and would be gone a month on trips to workshops after the one to be held in Elk.
the mountains ripple
Marilyn began doing the 1001 jobs that naturally needed doing. (Though I must say that the night before she had done all her packing and cleaned up perfectly ). She made herself oatmeal, took Tayra for a poop walk, watered plants. I took my tea and sat in my sunny morning place and concentrated on writing haiku. I got more nervous as 8:00 crept by us. She called the post mistress only to find that she needed a written notice to hold mail. So I wrote the note and M. signed it (after reading it like a contract – twice).
I had all my things in the car and was going nuts waiting so I offered to take the trash up to the road and open the gate.
The morning was fresh and cold. There was still heavy frost in the shadows. I picked some sage for my buttonhole (and later wished I had filled all the crannies of my suitcase with it).
in the near meadow
a white horse
closing the gate
locking it securely
end of vacation
Finally I could lock the gate, get in the car and were on our way – just to send the fax. Tayra and I stayed in the car. Tayra didn't like being left by Marilyn with me so he roughly pushed aside my shoulder to sit in the front seat. Pain or nerves – I cried and then put on my sunglasses.
At 8:30 Marilyn came back out – the fax machine would not work but we were on our way – to the post office. This job went quicker and I barely had time to tell Tayra how much I really hated him. Again we were on our way – driving out the post office parking lot. There she met Lezlie, the woman who was to feed the horses in everyone's absence. We sat side by side in cars while the two of them chatted and I gritted my teeth.
leaving New Mexico
on bare cottonwoods
leaves coming out
On the way to Española Marilyn said, "Oh, we are making good time! Aren't you surprised I got us out on time? Oh, I am used to going to airports on time." I popped a secret Librium and kept my mouth shut.
Tanya knew he was going to the kennel and would alternate standing between us on the console with his face on the windshield or his head on my shoulder slobbering nervous dog spit down my white shirt. Fortunately a quick, unexpected stop in Española which threw the dog against the windshield and would have injured a less brutish beast convinced M. to force him to sit down. It was only my shoulder which kept him from hitting the window with his full force. She finally forced him to stay in the back after this and the ride got much more pleasant.
I asked (and somehow knew) on which side of Santa Fe was the kennel. Naturally the far side. So I got to ride all the way through Santa Fe's downtown with this dog's head at the side of my face as if our individual beauty was being compared. Then Marilyn missed a turn and we had to back track 10 minutes add to the 15 it took to drive to the kennel.
One good thing about stopping at the kennel. We got to pee in a nice bathroom. After we were back on the freeway (and had honked and waved good-bye to the unseen Tayra again) we began to discuss how to get to the airport on time, clean out the dog hair, transfer all our luggage into a shuttle bus and then check into the airport. Marilyn was flying into San Francisco and had a flight on another carrier which left at the same time as my Oakland flight. This was one of the coincidences which made this trip so possible.
As we drew closer to the airport it seemed to me that Marilyn got whinier and whiner. I suddenly got fed up doing things her way. I felt she had not kept her promise to get us there in plenty of time so I suggested we go by the airport, check in our luggage and then take the car back. She didn't want to do this as it was not her idea so she did not know how to get from the airport to the car rental place. As Albuquerque stretched out more stores, more streets, the time got so short I simply asked she take me to the terminal and do whatever she wanted with her stuff and getting the car returned. She started whining that if she missed her flight it would cost more, etc. I hardened my ears. I felt she would get the job done her way and in time. (Which later proved to be so.) She dropped me off at South Western and then checked in her luggage and we said 'good-bye'. It was almost angry – barely civil.
begins and ends
in the airport
I felt light and free in the big, attractive terminal. Part of its bigness, airy openness is the reality that one has to trudge miles to the gates. I thought about getting a book but they were either on Southwestern living or Georgia O'Keeffe (I wanted to read, not look at her artwork) so I passed up that pleasure. It forced me to write more haiku.
the roar of planes
smell like chili
I got to the gate at 11:30 and the lady was still processing the preceding flight. So I had to wait (one can only get a boarding pass one hour before the take-off). When she announced she would give out the passes for our flight I was right there. What a different feeling than dragging up to the desk as the red light is blinking – winded, sweaty with things falling off the shoulders and out of pockets.
at the airport
reading a newspaper
seeing no words
I sat in the front row of the waiting area and ate Librium and Dramamine while I watched crews clean the plane for us.
Then at 12:15 we began loading according to the numbers on the cards in the order we received them. First came the people in wheelchairs and with small children. And then our '20'. One lady with a '40' tried to go by and the guy caught her and sent her back. She was a short, compact, blonde with groovy Berkeley-like clothes (full skirt and denim vest) and a face hard enough to set off dynamite.
after our visit
all the women share
the sound of your voice
Once on the plane everyone was clotted at the front stowing their things overhead. I simply walked to the very last seat by the window. I scrunched down and ignored the rest of the boarding people.
talks to his one hand
waving his other
As the plane filled up a medium sized young girl sat on the aisle seat and we were able to keep the seat between us free all the way to Phoenix.
matches the mountains'
ride into the sky
I looked out the window most of the way or got my journal brought up to the minute.
how mighty the rivers
following the rivers
even when sand
The girl was young – in her early twenties, lives in Texas but goes to school in Phoenix. As the place took off she sweat so much it was as if perfume (with a terrible odor) had been sprayed around.
the take-off smell
She had fancy diamonds on every finger. Her 'husband' must have been a dope dealer to afford so much gold and carbon. They all looked like diamonds and not zircons, but I am no expert.
pulled by a tractor
into the wind
into the smell
As the Phoenix passengers began to get off, the stewardess announced that this was the end of this flight and we should all get off and take all our belongings. I mentioned to the girl it was my understanding the plane continued to Oakland. She was kind enough to tell me that information would be on my ticket. She looked at it and said she felt it indicated that I should not have to change planes. Just then I saw the pushy blond going against the stream of passengers getting off as she plowed toward the stewardess standing in the back of the plane. I could hear her asking the same question I had: aren't we supposed to stay on this plane for Oakland? The Texan girl and I exchanged knowing glances. As soon as she was able to proceed down the aisle, I stepped back where the brassy blond and stewardess were talking. I told the stewardess I had the same impression. As she began dialing her phone to talk to the head honcho someone in the opposite seat wanted out. The only place for me to stand was if I passed between the stewardess and the blond. I asked her if she would move aside and let me pass into the galley behind them. "No!" she spat. I explained again I had the same problem and wanted to stand at the back to how it was settled. She would not budge. A large man pushed by squeezing me into her face. Then and only then did she take the one step back into the galley giving me room to stand behind the stewardess.
the tears of someone
who weeps again
She got her call through finally and the correction was made over the inter-com. Zoom the little blond was up the aisle pushing past all the standing departees. I lost sight of her and just fell gratefully and gracefully into 'my' old seat.
the cheerful stewardess
turning on the air
the flight levels out
advice on how to fly
down ski slopes
how did God know how
to draw rivers
elder flier exclaims
look how wrinkled
the earth is!
over snow-covered mountains
I loved the views over the Sierra Mountains and what a joy to see the green, green hills of home and California. I had already forgotten how necessary green was to my eyes.
shaping the cloud
on the edge of the ridge
Being in the back of the plane which was so small it only had one exit meant I was one of the last persons to get off. I worried that I might miss my shuttle bus to Santa Rosa. At the baggage claims Southwest had the wrong flight numbers on all three carrousels so I stood where the people were who I recognized from my flight. I waited and continued waiting by one rack while looking at all of them. All the ropes on my suitcase made it easy to spot out of the herd on the next rack.
the suitcase checked
again and again
out of my button hole
a sprig of sage
in the airport
I found the shuttle bus stop was just across the street but naturally the Santa Rosa Airporter came to the farthest stop. But it was good to walk and it was good to be outdoors, to be in California even with the traffic fumes.
taking off and landing
in fuel fumes
There on a bench sat a young Mennonite-looking girl with a blond braid long enough to sit on. I asked her about the shuttle us and she really knew about it! She was a flight instructor and rode it every day. It came at 3:30 instead of 3:45 as Werner had been told. And five minutes later it was there.
cruising the tarmac
the sun moves from
side to side
I loved the ride in it. So high above the traffic, air conditioned, restroom in the rear, only about 15 people so we all had a seat to ourselves.
to the oak trees
At last I had some hunger and could eat some crackers and water out of my backpack. I was glad to discover that the bus ended its ride at the same hotel where Werner had a room for us so I did not have to take a taxi.
At the desk I told the lady my husband had a room and had already arrived. She demanded to see my ID to make sure I was Mrs. Reichhold. I was no longer sure myself. As I turned to go to the room, there sat Werner on a bench reading a newspaper. He had not known that the bus had already arrived and was still waiting for it. In the room, which had a high smell and the dirtiest green rug I have ever seen! he had salami and bread and good water from home which was cold. I washed up and we discussed supper. There was no place nearby and he hesitated to have to sit in a restaurant. So I ordered pizzas (it was weird to hear him order a vegetarian one). They arrived within ½ hours and were delicious and twice as much as we could eat.
I knew I was out of Dramamine (never thinking to look in the car) so we drove just down the freeway and I bought some. I felt Werner was very tired and I saw there was no way he could have made the drive back home tonight.
We showered and watched a bit of TV. Werner kept telling me what he had viewed that afternoon while waiting on me. Evidently he had gotten his fill already so we went to sleep.
Thursday, April 15, 1999
Werner had gotten up 7 or 8 times in the night. For a long time he couldn't sleep but as soon as I held him he dropped off again. Near morning I had a dream and the only part I remember was trying to catch rabbits with my hands already full of rabbits. Later on, I dreamed of rabbits again.
first California dream
About 7:30 we both woke and got up and got dressed. Werner had a hard boiled egg he had brought with bread and I ate a couple of crackers and water with Dramamine. We quickly loaded the car and by 8:00 were on our way. I marveled at how well we fit together – both able to get ready at the same time with no one pushing ahead (me) and no one pulling behind (Marilyn).
The weather was clear, warm and wind still. We took the Bodega Bay way home. Werner was feeling much better today so we only made one stop at the Tides Restaurant.
yes trees bloom with daisies
There was very little traffic so we got home in no time. Here I cooked eggs and made coffee while he rested. After breakfast I opened my suitcase. The cat jumped right in and immediately found his gift though wrapped in a plastic bag – the rabbit skin which he dragged off to his room to open.
Werner's desert rose rock came through without breaking. He seemed to really approve of and enjoy all the purchases and he seemed glad I had gotten a special outfit for the haiku meeting.
In the afternoon we sat on the sunny porch without wind. Not a ripple on the sea. It was a metallic glare. I typed up my haiku and we had sandwiches for dinner. I am still having diarrhea and no appetite. There were moments when I wanted to attend Martin's workshop in Elk, and yet there is something in me that refuses to go that route. Strange.
Oh, once when I rested, the cat jumped up, put his new rabbit fur on my chest, laid down and purred as if to say "thanks".
Copyright © Jane Reichhold 1999
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