Friday, December 24, 2010

CHRISTMAS IN TAOS

Yesterday we drove around town and to the rez several times trying to get the last minute Christmas items taken care of.  As we moved from one end to the other and back again, I looked at this town that has become as familiar as my personal family (maybe more) and tried to sort out my emotions.  Do I love this place? Do I find it repulsive? What is this strange confusion about, what happened to my undying loyalty?

I’ve often explained to newbees and visitors that this place is the most beautiful and dangerous place I’ve ever been.  Most casual visitors and even long time visitors who haven’t actually lived here can’t understand this description.  First, there is a rawness about Taos that even new sidewalks and traffic lights haven’t touched.  It leaks up from the earth and flows over the top of all modern improvements.  The old adobes, homemade wiring and leaky roofs always win in the end.  I once saw it as quaint but that is an insult to this place with attitude.  When I came back from Arizona this summer, I lost patience with the Taos attitude of, “don’t bother me I’m talking to my cousin” from the clerk at the checkout line of our forever understocked WalMart. I used to just flow with the slow and inept.  Now I’m not as patient with the glitches. Much of it seems like an attitude of imbedded hatred toward the outside world.  Taos fancies itself to be a kind of low key, homemade Shangri-La that can’t be fathomed or understood by outsiders.

Things don’t run very smoothly here, but it all works out in the end.  It is organic and it is old, and impatience isn’t tolerated.  You don’t push Grandma around, not here anyway. All the same an apologetic attitude doesn’t work either. Although there is something different about this town that pulls in visitors from more American places such as Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona, places that are next door neighbors, Taos tests its visitors, the way an old horse tests an inexperienced rider. 

When I came back from Arizona this summer, I began to realize that you mustn’t let an old horse get away with its tricks either.  If you do it begins to lose its spirit and becomes spoiled. You can’t coddle it, but you let it know that you know its tricks, won’t participate, but love it anyway.

My partner, PQ, is happy to be back this Christmas.  We had a great time in Arizona, grew very close to each other and Cottonwood/Sedona, and made wonderful friends.  It was truly a second home.  However, family is family and you can’t divorce them.  Taos is like that.  PQ is a Taos Pueblo native, so the tie is forever.  Since we lost his mom and dad holidays have not been the same.  Since he is now the family elder it has been nagging at him to continue the holiday tradition.  So we are having a potluck at his rez house.  The old pueblo house still needs some work to bring it back into shape for feast days.  He’s been very frustrated that with his lung problems he can’t participate in the kiva ceremonies or do the physical repair work needed by the old house.  One son is supporting a family while going to school and helps here and there as he can but the house needs some concentrated work.  The other son is in Denver trying to make a living, not easy here in Taos.

I spent the last three days making biscachitos, prune pies, green chili stew, and other traditional goodies. One of the Pueblo ladies is making red chili and he acquired some traditional horno bread from another. An horno is the traditional outdoor adobe oven introduced to the Pueblos by the Spanish who got it from the Moors. It was important that the menu be traditional to honor Frances (mom).  He is so happy putting this together and wrapping presents for his grandchildren by himself (with a little coaching from an experienced wrapper).  This year on Christmas day the Pueblo is going to have the Matachines Dance instead of the Deer Dance. We love the Deer Dance most of all.  We both carry deer energy. While all the Pueblos have a Deer Dance, the one at Taos conveys the power of life, death and rebirth in the rawest form. Much of its power comes from the simplicity of presentation.  The deer men wear the skins of recently killed deer on their backs.  The ongoing passion of life becomes cosmic in this dance. But the Matachines is quite mysterious in its own right.  Although the Spanish introduced this dance and used as a morality play, it has taken on a mystery that is neither completely Spanish/Moorish nor Indian.  It expresses much of the emotionally laden historic journey of the Spanish Moors, through Spain to Mexico and finally New Mexico.

I feel better having written this.  Like with a marriage, after you’ve been in it almost 20 years there is a need to re-evaluate.  Yes, I still love Taos, but I’m no longer in love with Taos.  It can’t schmooze my independent viewpoint away anymore.  In fact I think I’m a better family member by not being enchanted by the “Land of Enchantment” as I was so long ago.  Now I’m remembering my first Christmas in Taos, but I don’t have time to get into that right now.