Taos, New Mexico & The Enchanted Circle

So I think I interrupted the motel owner’s tryst with another man… it was right out of a movie. The lobby door was locked, I heard giggling and frolicking in a nearby room, and after ringing the doorbell and knocking a few times, a shuffling and a “hold on!” and finally the two of them show up, one guy smiling and the other (the owner) buttoning up his shirt and letting me in the building.

At least the room was cheap.

As, apparently, is the owner. 😛

But that seemed to be a perfect ending to this day. It has been quite… full. Since five o’clock this afternoon, I have walked through a ghost town, traveled to Colorado, put my feet in a lake (the first water I’ve been in for months), hiked up a hill while following the stations of the cross, eaten fantastic Mexican food in the oldest town in Colorado, and drove through the mountains while lightning illuminated the sky.

And that’s only a brief glimpse at some of this day.

It was a good day.

I woke up knowing that things needed to change. The woman I was staying with in Taos was a nice person, and I felt safe with her, but she was definitely a Debbie Downer. I have to give her slack, though, for her life seemed pretty horrific. From what I could piece together, her daughter was killed right in front of her, as was her dog, Ocito, who had been her companion for the last few years. She had traveled to South Africa, started her own charity, and had recently lost one of her best friends over there, to AIDS. So those are just a few examples of the weight she carried on her shoulders, so I can certainly understand that, but after being woken up by her in the middle of the night, as she cried, and I comforted, I realized that this might not be the ideal situation for me to get myself balanced.

Yesterday, I woke up, happy for a decent sleep (and my life) and headed over to the Taos Pueblo. Since Magellan told me to, I illegally drove through the Pueblo land, but luckily I didn’t get in trouble for it. Instead, I got to see how these people live, tucked away on their reservation, without water or electricity, and lots of dogs and horses walking around freely. Mostly, though, the drive was filled with empty desert land, beautiful in its simplicity and loneliness.

The Pueblo itself was gorgeous, even though I felt as though I were trespassing. A couple dozen people of the Pueblo have little shops, and they don’t mind the tourists, but the rest of the people who live there must be pissed! I know I would be. The entire purpose of living on the Pueblo is to maintain tradition and distance, and then suddenly you start charging people 10 dollars to witness this incredible life choice, and I don’t know… it would piss me off.

The Pueblo people really liked me, however. Especially… the men. Cheyenne, when I got home that night, said “yeah – they like the big, beautiful women.” I was initially going to be affronted by this comment, but then realized I was talking to a 5 foot one, 90-pound individual. She would probably be offended if I called her… squirt. So I let it go, and accepted the truth of it, because during my couple days in Taos, I think I had the potential for about five marriage proposals if I had just smiled one more time, or stayed a moment longer. It was nice, to feel so beautiful and mooned after, but it was… odd, since the culture I come from isn’t that way.

The winner for best ‘mooning after’ was definitely Joseph, however, He was a Pueblo man, who lost an arm a dozen years back while… carving a buffalo, or something. For some reason, it was as though I walked into his Pueblo and changed his life, because he lit up and hugged me for about… five minutes too long. After talking to me for a while, he also decided to bless me and my journey, so he lit a sage smudge stick and covered me in smoke and whispers. Wait, I made that sound too mysterious and sexy. It was definitely mysterious, and it was a beautiful Pueblo tradition he was allowing me to be a part of, but sexy it was not. Just to clarify. However, after this he asked me if he could take me to the mountain that night, and play his drum and sing to me the native music of the Pueblo people.

I mean, how could I turn that down.

But I did. I wasn’t about to put myself into another situation like that, however more innocent and authentic he seemed than Scott in Roswell. So I might have missed out on the most life-changing drum-filled spiritual experience of my life, but I had to let it pass.

I felt a bit of a stronger affinity to Cesar, who was a young man who worked in one of the stores in town. I didn’t notice him much at first, since I was enamored by all the beautiful jewelry, but eventually I needed to ask for his assistance, and we talked for quite some time while I was being wishy-washy about which pieces of jewelry I wanted.

In the end, I spent farrrrr more than I expected to, but not really since I had been waiting since Georgia to get to the Southwest and purchase the jewelry I wanted. I had wanted some inlaid jewelry (I expected it to be Zuni at the time, but the pieces I bought were Navajo, I believe), and I wanted some of the… green stuff. I think it’s just green turquoise, but I’m not completely sure. You think I would have learned the stones by now, but alas. I have not.

However, Cesar was extremely kind, and I didn’t think about him ‘that way’ until I was leaving and he said “see you tomorrow.” I turned around, and he said “Please?” I told him I wasn’t sure what I was doing, and I didn’t end up going back, even though I happened to drive by the shop today and was tempted. He was a good person, with intelligence and drive. He wasn’t what he initially presented himself as, and I liked that about him. He had definitely grown on me. But the last thing I want is to suddenly be stuck in Pueblo town.

Another fascinating individual I met was… well, Aspen something was his Native name, and I forget his real name… so I’m basically useless. But anyways, he was a 14-year-old boy from the Pueblo, who was selling the family wares that day with his grandma. They were such sweet people, and I bought a piece of inlaid work in the shape of a turtle, which his father, a master silversmith, had made. The boy, however, was fascinating, because at 14 he was one of the smartest, well-spoken individuals I have ever met, which is not just rare for the world, but extremely rare for this area of New Mexico. He painted cards, and was working on the Micaceous clay pottery, and was studying Law, and was basically a fascinating young man. I wanted to kidnap him and show him the world, and see what he had to say about it all.

Today was a tough one. I woke up, really unsure about what to do. All I knew was that I had to keep moving, and that the air had very quickly gotten stagnant while staying with Cheyenne, as interesting and kind as she was. So I packed up, and left Taos around noon.

The funny thing is, I left Taos again around five.
Haha.

The reason for this is that I drove the Enchanted Circle, an 80-mile loop around the Carson National Park area, which is wonderfully scenic, and drives through quaint little mountain resort towns. I especially liked Red River – it would be an ideal place to have a family vacation. There was even a ghost town, Elizabethtown, along the way, which used to be a thriving gold rush town, and is now essentially a shadow. Of course, I loved that… being surrounded by the history, with only remains acting as proof that anything was ever there. The woman working at the “museum” was really kind and gracious to me, and it was strange to be in the middle of nowhere, looking at old stuff. Really surreal experience, though, even if I’m not bothering to describe it very well. As I was driving out of the “town,” four horses were walking alongside my car.

That was fun.

And since the time between this morning and this evening, everything has changed. This must be the most life-filled day I’ve ever lived.

The most life-filled day I’ve ever lived. 🙂

John O’Donohue: in memoriam

“To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life… you learn to see how wonderfully precious this one life is. You begin to see through the enchanting veils of illusion that you had taken for reality. You no longer squander yourself on things and situations that deplete your essence” ( 78 )

I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about John O’Donohue. It is unlike me to care so excessively about the loss of someone I’ve never met, and of a sort of “celebrity”-like status. However, I can feel the loss of his presence on this earth, and it saddens me on a very selfish level that I was never able to meet him, to shake his hand, to tell him how profoundly he has affected me.

I know that it’s a beautiful thing that he has returned to the earth that he has always cherished so dearly, but as I said, selfishly I was looking forward to many years of him bestowing his wisdom to the world, and to me. I also anticipated joining him for one of his week-long retreats in Ireland, and it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that this can now never happen.

As a (small) tribute to him, I want to take the time to type up a few excerpts from my favorite of his books, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace. This is a publication which has absolutely changed my life. I mentioned it briefly in my earlier post, saying it is a book of which I have been unable to read past the first 100 pages; its effect on me is that profound and brilliant. I hope you take the time to read some of this, even if only because I took the laborious (:P) effort of typing it out. Ignore the fact that I type 75+ wpm, and humor me. 😛

“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere – in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are of beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of the soul… In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act… Without any of the usual calculation, we can slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us.” (2)

If you notice, this passage can be located on page TWO of his book, and it is just a small glimpse into the genius that is his piece of art. I remember the day I found this book – I was with my Aunt Gin, and we were in Tatnuck Bookseller in Worcester, MA (now out of business) and I wandered over to the Spiritual section. The title caught my eye, and as soon as I opened the book and read a passage, I thought I was dreaming. I turned to another page, found myself transported again, and could barely believe my heart. Here were words that perfectly reflected the secret thoughts and dreams of my Soul. Here was a man who was unafraid to write about the great Truths and Beauty of this world. And after that glimpse, I was never the same. For a while, I would read a page or two a day, but after a bit even that became too intense for me. Now, I usually read a couple pages a month, and that is enough to carry me through, to transport and inspire me.

“Beauty is mostly forgotten and made to seem naive and romantic. (3) Sadly, whether from resentment, fear or blindness, beauty is often refused, repudiated or cut down to the size of our timid perceptions.” (4)

This following passage calls forth ideas that I am currently considering for a book of my own:

“There are secret sources of courage inside every human heart; yet courage needs to be awakened in us. The encounter with the Beautiful can bring such awakening. Courage is a spark taht can become the flame of hope, lighting new and exciting pathways in what seemed to be dead, dark landscapes.” (6)

“When we awaken to the call of beauty, we become aware of new ways of being in the world. We were created to be creators. At its deepest heart, creativity is meant to serve and evoke beauty… The wonder of the Beautiful is its ability to surprise us. With swift, sheer grace, it is like a divine breath that blows the heart open.” (7)

“Our deepest self-knowledge unfolds as we are embraced by Beauty.” (8)

A section of his book that really started to unfold secret parts of my heart was a section called ‘In Difficult Times to Keep Something Beautiful in Your Heart’. It begins like this:

“There are times when life seems little more than a matter of struggle and endurance, when difficulty and disappointment form a crust around the heart. Because it can be deeply hurt, the heart hardens. There are corners in every heart which are utterly devoid of illusion, places where we know and remember the nature of devastation. Yet though the music of the heart may grow faint, there is in each of us an unprotected place that beauty can always reach out and touch.” (16-17)

Honestly, this is taking a lot out of me to even glance back at the passages in his book which I have marked up and starred- words that have completely altered my paradigms and encouraged my soul to breathe again. I wonder if without the seeds of hope and beauty Mr. O’Donohue has planted in my heart with his words, if I would ever be where I am now – on this incredible journey. Dreaming dreams long forgotten.

John O’Donohue writes about how a single thought can alter a person’s entire life-world, and that concept has always held so true with me. He writes that “a person can dwell inside a thought. Sometimes a thought is the most intimate and sacred temple, a place where the silence of the earth is wed to the fire of heaven.” (43)

“It is everywhere, and everything has beauty; it is merely a matter of discovering it.” (49)

Oh gosh, I will stop this now. Partly because I don’t want to go on too long, and lose your attention, and partly because I may burst. I guess all I’m trying to convey is the profound effect this man and his words have had on me, and how he will continue to inspire me on my own journey to touch the world and people with my thoughts and words. We have lost a great man, but the world beyond has reclaimed something pure and beautiful, which always belonged to another dimension. I will attempt to gracefully accept that, but damn it!

Damn it.


“True poetic beauty emerges when the poet is absolutely faithful to the uniqueness of her own voice… the depth of that exposure seems to call beauty.” (81)