95 – Last Times, Los Alamos, Jemez Mountains, Springs, San Ysidro, Zia, Santa Ana, The Room in Albuquerque

Last visit with Michael, who says: “Marie, see you next time…”
We embrace.

Putting the luggage into the trunk!
Getting on the road, as usual, even though…

In the distance the Rio Grande, sheltered in its canyon.
In Pilar, I can’t resist turning right.
To see the river again in the spring, under the trees that have turned a tender green, with the red of the willows looking a little more pale against the rusty grey of the water.
It’s Saturday, and the kayakers are gliding on the current. Lower down, the eddies, the rocks. I wait for them to pass, and I photograph the lonely river once more. A gesture to mark this moment and all the moments that came before.

Towards Española, I turn right, pass through Ohkay Owingeh and continue along the Chama River.

Then comes the unknown of the Jemez Mountains, on Highway 30, which goes to Los Alamos (First nuclear tests!). A “High Way” was necessary considering what was done there and the research place it has become. Very distressing. I avoid the city.
Now Route 4, a regular size, with potholes and hairpin bends, rising up through the pine trees and birches. Back into this wilderness two steps from the highest technology. The immense canyons, the forest as far as the eye can see.


At the very top, a sudden volcanic basin heralding the hot springs along the Jemez River, which I follow for a while as I come down again on the south side.
I cross the small town of Jemez Springs with its thermal baths and then further on, other hot water pools, where it feels good to bathe for free.

When I get back to the plain, there is a bridge over a charming river at an intersection. I get out to take some pictures. An RV stops, the driver calls out me, I think he wants to ask me for information. I smile inwardly at the idea of my probable ignorance. He is very worked up, enthusiastic, happy.
– “Ah, I see you are a photographer, then 10 minutes, madam, 10 minutes…”
I stop him:
– “I’m spending the night in Albuquerque, it’s still a long way away, I have to find the hotel, the sun is almost setting…”
He interrupts me:
– “No, no, you have to take the time, 10 minutes to go to the end of this small road which I’ve come along. You cannot miss it, you’ll see, after the tunnel, you just look, that’s all.”
– “Okay!” I smile at him.
He starts off, delighted by the beauty that fills him.

I take the small road. Drive through one of the many New Mexico hamlets, half-abandoned, half-inhabited by people who live on almost nothing. Beauty all around them. Does it make it any less hard?

Just before the tunnel, there is the mesa that I drove along earlier on the other road without seeing it as I see it now, in its red drapery, a sudden splendor just past the curve.

After the tunnel, the river which was flowing gently in the plain, between the high grasses and the trees, turns into a brown, tumultuous torrent of splashing foam that rushes through the enormous crags between the narrow walls of the canyon.

I stay there for more than an hour (as I feared) to watch and photograph.J’y reste plus d’une heure (comme je le redoutais) à regarder, à photographier .

The sun has disappeared.
I find the main road, which crosses mesas and Indian villages all the way to Albuquerque.
From time to time, a view that’s still sunlit.

The die is cast, besides I knew it when I left: as usual, I will arrive at night due to my imprecise planning….
It has been another gorgeous, full day…

My last night in America, and I’m thinking of you (as I often do, here and elsewhere) because you would really love this room.
I leave tomorrow – a week late.

My time in Taos is over.

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94 – Snow, Red House Visit, Meal at the Outback, Caryn’s Pickup, Last Evening in Taos

Snow and bitter cold when I arrive at the library entrance. I look at my emails while blowing on my fingers!

Sirens in town, it seems serious. Would the cloud come here? Robbie has just sent me some amazing pictures from Iceland.

Strange overtime, everyone is leaving and it’s as if I had planned to stay on I don’t really have the urge to go on photographing.

The snow is melting. I set off towards Gusdorf Rd to find the inhabitants of the red house, the one under the rainbow. I want to give them the picture I took the other day. I can’t find the road up to the house.

A pedestrian, Indian of course, is walking along the other side of the street. I wave to him from the car and ask him where the red house is.  No reaction, I show him the picture.
– “I would like to give it to the people who live there.”
– “Ah! Okay! Make a U-turn, turn right, and down there where you see the curved house, turn right again and go about a hundred meters down the trail. It’s there.”

I can’t find the house. A car with a young couple, also Indians, is coming towards me. I slow down when I reach them.
– “Do you know the people who live in the red house that’s visible from Gusdorf Rd?”
Silence. He raises his eyebrows,
– “No.”
I hand them the photo, add that it’s a gift. They look, smile:
– “It’s there, 60 feet down the road. There are the caravans that serve as outhouses [toilets; or storage spaces?], and the field with the cars. The house is between the two. On this side it’s not red, that’s why you didn’t see it. Great picture, they’ll be pleased.”

I reach the house, a “singlewide” as they say here. To the side, the broken-down cars, the firewood etc… the usual big pile of bric-a-brac. As at Jacky’s, everything can be put to use. The dog barks, but it seems to be tied up.

I knock, no answer, I go in. An Indian woman is lying on the sofa, her leg swollen, a red scab. A low table next to her. A little girl is bent over, drawing. Her grandfather, on the right, gets up and comes towards me. The two adults look taken aback. The television is on in the background. The room is very small. I tell them about the rainbow, the red house… They look.

– “The photo is for you.” Now we start talking. He asks me where I come from.
– “Nice, South of France.”
– “Ah, I thought so, I have a book from France, I think. I’ll go get it, you’ll tell me… “
– “Okay.” He returns with several books. Shows me one.
– “It’s a book published in Paris, by Plon, a Savoir Vivre, to teach politeness to children.”   
– “Ah ok, it was annoying not to know what it was about. My father had recovered this batch of French books.”
He hands me the others; they’re all from the early 20th century.
We look at them together.

I ask the woman what happened to her leg.
– “A dog bit me.”
– “And did you see a doctor?”
– “Yes, I showed him the bite, he gave me some antibiotics, and I have to go back to see him again.”
I press the point:
– “Please, don’t forget. You must go and see him again.”
– “Yes, yes! Don’t you worry. Thanks for the picture.”
We shake hands. Goodbye.

Once outside, I count my lucky stars for having come across only well-behaved guard dogs.

At 5:00 pm, I meet up with Caryn and Mark for dinner at the Outback.

We spend three hours putting the world to rights, from Europe to the USA, from their daughters to mine, from the school Caryn created to my photo projects; and Mark tells us about his band’s recordings and the new communities in Detroit…

Farewells, hugs, and they climb into Caryn’s battered, sky-blue pickup. She had tried for 10 years to buy it from a friend. He finally gave it to her.
Leave-takings that fade away.
Will we continue to talk about everything from Pierrefeu and Taos?

Boucler les valises. Demain matin, Albuquerque.

Shutting the suitcases.
Tomorrow morning, I leave for Albuquerque.
A touch of sadness.

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93 – At Dragonfly with Michael, Esteban Castillo, Jewelry, Rincon Trading Post, Dinner with Robbie and Jim

Pamela and Carolyn are leaving this morning. Michael and I help them with their luggage. Farewell hugs.

Michael suggests we get a coffee and almond croissant at the Dragonfly, the best bakery in Taos: three kinds of puddings, many pies, cheesecakes, tiramisu… and their famous almond croissants. Yes, delicious. We chat, and one of his friends joins us. His wife arrives, she is Swiss. They were supposed to leave last week. Ah Europe! The cloud hangs there still, blocking plans for return.
My fridge has been filled up by all the departures. I have lunch.

Then I go on exploring the town, looking in on the Rincon Trading Post, a small family museum, inn, and store.
Estevan Castillo is a jeweler like his grandfather, Ralph Meyers, the founder of this trading post. He left Estevan his tools, the very ones he had crafted for his creations.

As usual, we talk. He explains the technique by which they gathered up all the silver scraps, remelted them, and cast them in a sand mold. He tells me about inlays and overlays, shows me a necklace with silver beads and a pendant all made by him, bracelets and rings. He fetches the hallmarks that were used for the different designs. Then he brings out old pictures of his mother as a child, of his parents, taken in front of the store, of friends, of parties with the neighbors. It is a pleasure to see the past unfold on the table and to listen to him telling the stories of these earlier lives.

 

This morning, Robbie had invited me to come over in the late afternoon. She wanted to show me the engravings she made from the photos of petroglyphs taken the day we walked along the Rio Pueblo.

She is in her workshop. We look at the prints and the photo-engravings. I admire her work, I particularly like this picture : an improbable bird with a horse’s head , claws firmly on the ground, and wing deployed. Will it have the necessary strength to take flight?

We find Jim in “his” kitchen. A mouthwatering aroma greets us. We relish the meal. Convivial evening, conversation: Jim’s delicious cooking, our photos, Taos, our children, journeys, friendship. Our last dinner together.

We promise to see each other again…

A faint yellow streak lingers in the west.

Traîne à l’ouest un liséré jaune indécis.
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92 – Change of Rules, Endless Farewells, Fechin House, Dinner with Pamela, Mixed Culture

Yesterday, some flights resumed. Let’s see what’s going on in the sky.

I hear an important expert explain on the BBC:
– “The cloud is still hovering over Europe, businesses are losing billions, our economies are paralyzed, and the few flights that have taken place in Germany, France, and England have gone well. The danger of these volcanic clouds seems overestimated. We feel rules are proving to be too strict.”

– “Especially,” I might add, “for a global economy in slight recession.”
The rule was: “When a volcano erupts, no one is to go within 100 miles of the cloud.”
In our high-performance world, the rule becomes: “When you lose too many billions, endangering the global economy, you may pass through the cloud.”

This goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway, I’m pretty happy that others are trying the ash cloud immersion before me.

10:30 am, Liz is waiting for the minibus that will pick her up at 11:00 am. Michael arrives. We chat at my place. We say our goodbyes.
I remind Michael that the heating hasn’t been working for several days. He looks at it.
– “Yep, one of the parts is unscrewed.”
He tries to repair it. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he sends for the plumber. At 1:00 pm everything works.

I offer my suitcases to Pam; she will come to get one. We decide to have dinner together.

Continuing my exploration of the houses of the artists and patrons Taos, I leave to visit the painter Nicolai Fechin’ s house

He himself drew up the plans and built some of the woodwork: doors, windows, furniture. He assembled his paintings there and those of his painter friends.
Another beautiful house, very modern, full of light and opening on the nature.

After the dinner in town, we walk home in the dark. Pamela tells me that she would have liked to stay longer.
-“Taos is an exceptional place, still very intact. How lucky we are to be given this kind of freedom over a long stay.”
She adds:
– “I love Toronto, but you can’t imagine how much I miss the United States.” 
Surprised, I ask her:
– “Oh really, what do you miss so much?”
– “The African-American culture! It’s like nothing else in the world. I love it. A mixed culture is such a rich thing.”

This is true when you think of France, where painters from different countries crossed paths and influenced each other in Paris in the early 20th century, and the strong connection between African, Arab, and French music since the 1960s. Or the impact of India and its music on the Beatles, etc…

Pamela and Carolyn are leaving tomorrow.

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91 – Lunch and Dinner with Liz, Angel Fire, The Wildness of This Land

About two weeks ago, I had exchanged my small suitcase for a bigger one with a laptop bag, a toiletries bag, a big bag on wheels, and a small rolling carry-on bag. After trying to put books in the small one, the small one in the big one, and then stuffing clothes in, I could barely lift the case. I offered the remaining suitcases to Liz, who in the end didn’t need them after all.

Her son, Logan, and her daughter-in-law, Suzan, arrive to help her send some of her luggage by UPS. We chat, and they suggest we have lunch together at Gutiz. They have lived in Angel Fire, half an hour from Taos, for two years. He was a lawyer for a big firm and retired at 39. Since then, they have had plenty of time to take care of their three daughters, renovate the house they bought here, ski, hike, become a volunteer fireman…

The weather is so nice that we have lunch outside. We resume the conversation. They chose Angel Fire for the peacefulness of the schools and their passion for skiing. Now, they are tired of being isolated, far from everything. They are thinking of selling up and settling in Taos.

We talk about America, about bears waking up after winter, about the mountain lion they saw south of Albuquerque, near the road, about the wildness they love in this land.

The dazzling whiteness of spring.


After a walk around town, I share a last dinner with Liz, who leaves tomorrow.

It’s late. I am alone to enjoy the morada in this golden light of the evening that I like.

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90 – Flight 170 Salt Lake City – Paris Cancelled. Floating Between Two Worlds

6:30 am, I’m at Liz’s place. Jean-Pierre sent me a text message to say that the flight was cancelled and that he had managed to secure the last seat on a flight next Sunday.

So we chat over a relaxed breakfast. We try to imagine the gigantic eruption that has banished planes from the sky over Europe. I look for images of the volcano… impressive sight!

Writing, short walk, reopening my suitcases.

 

 

Already almost heading out, I had closed the Taos chapter, my thoughts moving on. The volcano decided otherwise.

The dull weather adds to my inertia.
I find myself floating between two worlds.

A few more days here that I love so much, not bad!

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89 – Driving George to Santa Fe, Tesuque Flea Market, a Russian Jeweler, High Road to Taos

I doubt I’ll leave tomorrow. The ash cloud still isn’t clearing. No need to spend the night in Albuquerque if there’s a 98% probability the plane won’t take off. But I had promised George I’d drop him at his friends’ house in Santa Fe.

We leave at 10 am. While we’re on the way there, he and his friends decide it would be easier to meet up on one of the ramps.

Here we are, waiting for them. George, who is taking a train to Baja California, has two huge bags and a suitcase. I make fun of him because he can hardly lift the larger bag onto his back.

His friends arrive. We say goodbye again and promise to meet up for a few road-trips.
– “I’ve rarely laughed as much as on our excursions!”
he says with exquisite American politeness.

I set off back north and stop at the Tesuque flea market, where Cecile and I had met a photographer of horses and buffalo. We had talked a lot, and Cecile had finally chosen one of her horse pictures. I was interested in seeing her again. I also wanted to find some beads for Pascale, who had liked those we brought her. I find the same merchant. He sells magnificent beads that could have arrived here when glass beads were used as currency to pay Indians. I buy some.

It’s cold, and many stands are closed. No photographer, but in her aisle, an “art brut” painter. He is currently painting. Canvases cover the three walls. The studio is wide open, I enter, tell him that I like his work, we talk.

A little further on, a seller is showing beautiful Navajo and Zuni silver-and-turquoise bracelets, etc… to collectors. He consults a Navajo about the origin of each turquoise and which mine it comes from. He also has some antique jewelry. Other people show up. I listen in. He buys the contemporary jewelry directly from the artists, whom he knows well. There are bracelets inspired by Spanish art, very elaborate, stunning when I see them on the buyers’ wrists.

The Zuni bracelets are often figurative and ultra-fine, and the Santo Domingo bracelets are very geometric and abstract, each telling a story. He especially likes the very delicate ones made by two brothers and a sister.


Little by little, people leave. I ask him to explain some things.

I see one piece that’s very similar to the depression-jewelry of the small Two Graces store in Ranchos de Taos. I ask him about it.
– “No, not this one,” he tells me, “but it’s exactly the same inlay technique, or rather overlay because the stones are not inset but laid on top. The depression-jewels, yes, very interesting, very inventive, alas they now cost a fortune.”

He shows me the different turquoises, some whose shapes and colors suggest geographical maps, others of a solid color, and then the red or pink coral, the black jet, the Utah jade with colors that range from yellow brown to green, the lapis lazuli, the white gypsum, the mother-of-pearl shells.

I ask him where he’s from.
– “From Russia; my grandfather settled on the East Coast. We sold clothes and jewelry. Then one day I came to New Mexico by chance, I liked it and came back to buy jewelry from the Indians. I knew that when I retired, I would move here and sell jewelry.”

He also has a belt buckle with a horse and thin little figures on the silver, a marvel he very much wants to keep for himself but thinks may be too feminine. He tries it on in front of the mirror, and I tell him I think it looks great on him.
He adds:
– “Besides, I know someone who makes beautiful belts, so…”

We go on talking for two hours. I buy earrings and a pendant. We exchange cards,
“But don’t go to my website, I don’t take care of it. Goodbye.”

I return by the High Road of Taos, unrecognizable with the snow now melted, the grass growing, the trees turning green. Water is everywhere, sometimes overflowing and flooding the lowest fields. The church of Truchas is closed. I forgot the phone number of Nora, who opens the church. Nobody in the streets.

After the pass, still covered with a bit of dirty snow, Highway 518, Rio Grande del Rancho, and the surreal vision of two motorcyclists bringing home a huge turkey, or something… 

I finally get home.

L’avion n’est toujours pas annulé. Liz et moi dînons ensemble. Elle propose qu’on prenne le petit déjeuner à 6h30. Je lui dis que

The flight is still not cancelled. Liz and I have dinner together. She suggests we have breakfast together at 6:30. I tell her that’s too sweet of her and really too early.
– “I’m awake anyway.”
– “Okay then, that’s really nice!”
– “Sweet dreams, sweet night!” 

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88 – Spring, Volcano, Hanging Out in Town, Pamela’s Studio

The kind of Saturday where one wonders how long the volcanic dust cloud will last, where I fill my suitcases with everything I don’t need anymore.

I don’t feel like taking pictures.

Catch up with the blog? No, never mind.

Should I make a lengthy to-do list or let time flow on as if nothing was changing?
Better to end the day with joy than with guilt.

Going to the beauty salon, a way of taking a bit of Taos with me in my hair. Today, there’s another stylist , blonde and slim. Caroline, the Spanish girl who was pregnant last time, gave birth three days ago.

People stroll through the springtime streets wearing T-shirts and shorts. In the space of three or four days, the trees are turning green, and colors are replacing the monochrome of winter. The days are getting longer so fast.

I visit Pamela’s studio, we promise to stay in touch, we won’t see each other in Taos anymore.

 I print the picture of the rainbow to give it to the people in the red house under the arrow

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87 – Sand Dunes, Zappata Falls, Pioneer with Clear Eyes, The Rio Grande on the Plain and on the Mesas, Stormy Weather

6:20 am, George and I take off for the Great Sand Dunes, north of Taos, in Colorado. In 2006, Cecile and I had glimpsed them in the distance without making a stop. Jean-Marie Douau described the two rivers that run alongside them: Medano Creek to the south, and Sand Creek to the north. I must see them. Once again, George has offered to come along.

No one on Highway 64 to Tres Piedras, nor on Highway 285 to Alamosa. We make good time. A stop for gas and a cup of coffee..

We turn right toward the dunes. All of a sudden, there they are, brown, spread out at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Softly detaching themselves from the mountains, the clouds roll forward at the passes. Gigantic cotton wool in motion.

At the Visitors Center, a film explains the infinite cycle of these strange dunes: water, wind, sand.

When we get out to explore the dunes, we encounter a freezing wind. We walk a little towards the water that I had seen through the Visitors Center window. But it diminishes as we advance. Close up, it becomes a thin trickle that the sand immediately soaks up. It is too soon; the snow melt is only just beginning.

We get back in the car to explore a little, sheltered from the wind. Then we continue on foot towards the Zappata Falls, drawn by the exciting name. The ascent is steep. Once we get close to the falls, we are seized by doubt. Silence, where is the water? We finally spy a crack in the mountain, and a sheet of ice. It’s the river.

I clamber onto the ice and walk further up. I find an enormous silent frozen waterfall, divided in two. The opening above me is so narrow that I feel like I’m in a cave. Beyond, barely muffled now, I hear the roar of the waterfall upstream. I try to move forward, but the ground is quite steep, and a light film of melted ice makes everything very slippery. I give up; I won’t get to see the water that calls to me so loudly.

George heads out to try and see it from above. He takes a path that climbs to a lake with views of the magnificent peaks around and the endless plain. In the foreground below, the sand dunes. On the sides of the mountain opposite, high pale meadows, almost yellow amid the dark green of the firs and the grey of the other trees.

The path never gets close to the upper part of the falls. We go back down, a little disappointed. A quick picnic.

Le donut, c’est l’inévitable achat dans cette boutique de station service, bazar, super marché de l’essentiel. A la caisse, devant nous, un grand type magnifique genre pionnier de cinéma, en long short sur lequel George fait une remarque et il lui répond qu’hier il faisait très chaud et qu’il s’est aperçu en sortant ce matin qu’il faisait bien froid et oui, depuis le temps qu’il habite ici, il aurait dû se douter que ça n’allait pas forcément se réchauffer, surtout avec le vent qui s’est levé froid et violent. Mais il était déjà parti. Heureusement, il avait sa canadienne bien chaude dans la voiture et tout ça avec des yeux complètement limpides, en rigolant et une tête à peindre et l’allure aguerrie de quelqu’un qui vit toujours dehors. Je lui ai bien dit que cela me plairait de le photographier avec sa veste et son short mais ça ne lui disait rien. Dommage.

A donut is the inevitable choice in this gas station store, provider of basic necessities and odds and ends. Before us, at the cash register, stands a magnificent, tall guy, looking like an early movie star and dressed in long shorts. George comments on the shorts. He answers pleasantly that yesterday was very hot and that he realized, when he went out this morning, that today it was very cold. Yes, since he’s lived here a while, he should have known that it probably wouldn’t warm up, especially with the strong, cold wind that got up. But he was already on his way. Fortunately, he had his warm fur-lined jacket in the car. All this said clear-eyed and laughing, a face to be painted, and the tough look of someone who has always lived outside. I told him I would love to take a picture of him in his shorts and jacket, but the idea didn’t appeal to him. Too bad.

In one of the small villages we pass through, there is a tiny tourist office. We had read somewhere that on the small road we were going to take there were many things to see. I enter the rather dark office, and I hear a “hello” coming from behind the door which, half open, was now hiding a little old lady quietly knitting. I ask her:
– “So what is there to see on Highway 142?”
Great stunned silence.
– “Where are you going?”
– “Taos!”
I repeat what we vaguely read, and she says:
– “No, that doesn’t ring a bell! I have no idea what there is to see on that road. If you want to go to Taos, you’d be better going through Questa.”

Looking at the leaflets at the back, I find one that happens to mention churches, petroglyphs… along the road we are going to take. She looks at it and says:
– “Well, on that highway I haven’t seen a single one of those things, but you go ahead and report back.”

We take the narrow highway, which passes through the high plains, the mesas, and the Rio Grande. Beautiful light. I go down to the river to take photos. Four horses arrive at the gallop, stop just across from me on the opposite bank, look at me, drink, saunter about in the water. There are wild geese nearby. Wonderfully tranquil. The horses gallop off towards the mesa on the right; high up, I see a red-roofed house.

We didn’t see anything else. The old lady was right.

The rest of the trip back, the light heralds a storm. When we join Highway 64, pounding rain.

On arrival, I find a sad message from Stuart of the llamas.
“The wounded lama died. All the others are fine.”

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