21– Melody Gardot, Old State Road 570, Dead End, Rio Pueblo

It’s snowing.
Pamela is here, with a package for me which had been delivered to her by mistake. We drink tea. She speaks about her painting.
– “Before beginning to paint I go on bike rides or hiking, having a look around and picking up leaves, tree barks, stones… For example, here in Taos every evening I go to the same place along Kit Carson Road where I lose myself in nature and for 20 minutes I watch the sun setting. There, because of the mountains, the darkness rises; it disappears first from the fields, then the trees and finishes with a pale, golden yellow red line along the edge of the peaks.
She reads a lot of history of Spain because as she tells me, they invaded New Mexico and she is interested in how it happened here.
I tell her about Las Casas stories, cited by Howard Zinn in his American history. Then naturally we come to “natives”. We talk about Plainsong by Nancy Huston (she is also Canadian), Dalva by Jim Harrison and the Border Trilogy by Cormac MC Carthy (the story takes place in New Mexico, he lives here).
She will use all this for her painting.
At 2:00 George arrives for his French conversation with an article in French about Melody Gardot whose songs he has discovered and adores. We take time to read it, to understand it plus a few digressions about expressions such as “j’en ai mare” (“I am fed up”) and “je n’y arrive pas” (I can’t) and the story of “shut your mouth.” He is, in fact, the third person since I have been here quoting me from a textbook in which there is a translation of “shut up” as “ferme ta bouche.” I explain that no one uses that phrase in French except to a child who is speaking with a full mouth. Then we speak in English and French (the hour is up) about American Beauty that he has just seen.
Despite the gloomy weather, I go out into the area surrounding Taos and explore a little more each time.

Today, I take a right and then a left and find myself in a landscape with endless views towards the south, with mountains in the distance, black bushes on the snow, Indian houses which seem to have been brought and placed there complete with clutter expanding all around, sometimes one or two horses, an old car.

The road becomes a trail and emerges after several miles onto “old State Road 570” which I take to the right.

Suddenly no more road. Boulders block the way. I stay for a quarter of an hour to watch, to photograph the nothingness, an icy cold afternoon without sun.
Absolutely alone, I think, until I see improbable silhouettes appear (rub my eyes to be sure): a woman with six dogs and a cowboy hat over her ponytail, approaches, coming from far, far away. A car, equally improbable, arrives by the same route as I and heads down the track she is coming along. The woman waves to them. The dogs run ahead.

– “What is the immense fault way off in the distance?” I call to her.
– “Dead end”, she answers, probably thinking that I am asking her about news of the road.
There was wind and we were not close. I had thought: let’s talk to her so that she holds back the dogs as I was afraid that they would jump on me. The dogs, perfectly well behaved, not at all aggressive or excited, obeyed her. I ask her again in a proximity augmented by the immense scale of the stark landscape around us. She explained that the fault continues for miles and the Rio Pueblo which we cannot see flows through it into the Rio Grande over there, and she points to the northwest.
– “Can one go there?” I ask.
– “On foot, yes, but it’s quite far.”
– “How far?” “An hour and a half. You go down the road, and then take a path that runs along the river to the Rio Grande.”
– “Ah well, I will try when the weather gets better.”
Usual farewells.
I take the old 570 to its junction with the highway that goes from Espanola to Taos. Familiar territory. The headlights come on, I pass the church in Ranchos de Taos, and take the side road that I like to come home along.

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