We are back in the desert simplicity of Cottonwood again after a weekend in Lake Tahoe attending the wedding of friends who used to live in Angel Fire, New Mexico. I’m trying to understand why I feel so comfortable and comforted here. It surrounds me with soft clarity, quiet and a sense that time is meaningless. I watch and listen as the Mourning Doves sing in the tree behind us, we wait hoping to see the illusive Cardinal or the lizards climbing walls, trees and a large stone by Carol’s Buddha statue. The old mesquite bush on the other side of the wall is finally leafing out. The older larger ones leaf out last. Perhaps it’s due to experience from years past with late frost. Before we left for Lake Tahoe a few days ago, we discovered that our little house, the one we lived in two years ago, was for rent. We went to the Real Estate Office and picked up an application, knowing that we couldn’t afford to rent it, even though the rent is slightly less than it was back then. It was a “gesture,” in Don Juan’s sense, and an honoring of our attachment to the house and the memories of our life together first experienced there. Be well little house!
I still have some cold symptoms, mostly tiredness and extreme sensitivity to tastes and smells. Gratefully, we made it through our friend’s wedding without succumbing to our colds. PQ was almost over his but mine was hanging on tilting back and forth between worse and a little better. However, the trip was magical. Not only was the lake and its surrounding mountains spectacular, but the people we met and those we already knew but now know better were splendid. It was obvious that the lake and mountain spirits were dancing with joy. The newlyweds are in Hawaii now, we hope relaxing from the frenzy of pre and post wedding events, and we are settling into gentle Cottonwood like contented hens on a pillowy straw nest. I hope we have some creative golden eggs coming soon.
Past experience tells me that every time I get this sick it is about an approaching initiation experience of some kind, at least that’s how I like to interpret what usually follows. It eases the stress and satisfies my appetite for meaning. Maybe it’s a cleansing before the next challenge. We will be going back to Taos for a couple of weeks before the end of the month. I’m wondering what will happen this time. With each return, the reentry seems to be another dramatic rite of passage.
From this still Zen like mode, I’ve been thinking about the nature of Taos. I’ve always known it is a feminine energy, and so is Cottonwood, but Taos is harsher and more extreme. It crackles like lightning. In Taos this year we are celebrating the “Remarkable Women of Taos,” artists, authors, and pioneers including Mabel Dodge Lujan who is a part of PQ’s personal history. As I was following that thought, I realized that the feminine energy of Taos is like Kali, the Hindu goddess of time, change, annihilation and redemption. The Taos goddess, also like Kali, is fierce tough, unyielding, protective and resourceful. She lays the scene for the primal power of Mother Nature. The men of Taos often live in desperation, fascination and dependence. This Taos mountain mama is like a lioness guarding her pride.
I witness the powerful female energy of Taos balancing and avenging the disrespect of life, nature, soul and all things excessively masculine in the outside world. It is the Hindu goddesses that typically disport that utter fierceness of creation and devastation that I associate with Taos. Black Kali portrayed with lolling tongue, long fangs and a necklace of severed heads is another aspect of the goddess Durga who is frequently depicted riding a lion or tiger. When the demonic forces inspire men to create destructive imbalances in this world, the gods of creation transmute into that all in one goddess Shakti/Durga/Kali to sweep away the vain debris of false power and corruption.
When I first came to Taos, I was amazed at how easily women from upper middle class families, and city conveniences so quickly adjusted to living in old adobes, draped quaintly over the landscape in accommodation to the earth on which they lay, frequently lacking modern conveniences such as reliable electricity or indoor plumbing. And if not an old adobe, it was probably an equally dilapidated single wide trailer, up on a mesa, down by the river or comfortably wedged along one of the canyons. The Taos woman didn’t live in the lap of comfort and luxury like elegant Venus of the soft tush, but chopped wood and carried water, and rather than living under the protection of men she fiercely nurtured and protected one or more of the many struggling artists and craftsmen that lived in naive expectation that their life was just about to launch them upward on a cloud of fame and success with a little help from mama.
These women simply fell into their true nature because the air, earth and mountain told them who they were. So I say it is Kali the fierce Tantric goddess who dwells between the highest most magical mountain in New Mexico and that deep cut in the earth that takes one’s breath away when rising up the last loop in the Horseshoe as you enter Taos Valley.
Great worldly success is seldom a reward given by this goddess. Life is fraught with extremes of passion, clarity, and loss. Why do we stay? I think because it matches our nature like no place else.
Three years ago I suddenly decided I should visit my friend Carol in Cottonwood, Arizona. It was not explainable, it was a hunch. I needed a change because too much intensity, struggle, loss and even bone stripping clarity wears down the body and soul. I came with a vision, and like everyone else who comes with a vision I went through Mother Kali’s ego grinder. I finally gave up and accepted that I would never have time or resources to develop my art, and the love of my life would never recognize who I was. In other words I accepted defeat, age and poverty. That is when the black goddess morphed into gentle sage.
There is some dynamic psychic balance I’m trudging toward between the harsh clarity of Taos and the indesturbable simplicity of Cottonwood. Perspective and hope are the rewards. And in between there is sphinx like Sedona wedged among and surrounded by spectacular red rocks waiting for someone to catch its true alchemical password. And in the meantime incense, lavender flyers and psychic mumbo jumbo attempt to fill the void of sacred silence. The great red rocks smile, biding their time.