Sunday, March 3, 2013

DENVER AGAIN BUT DIFFERENT




We were in Denver for three days last week. The fact that I haven’t been in contact very much with my Denver family since mom passed began to gnaw on me about a month ago.  I’ve noticed that when something like this comes to mind there is a reason and some event is likely to put it up front.  That something was an email message from my cousin Dan that my aunt Ruth had passed on.  I felt immediately that this was something I must honor even though we are trying to be more frugal lately and avoid traveling unnecessarily.

Although my aunt had been gradually leaving this dimension for several years due to Alzheimer’s, I believe we are all connected in ways that don’t fit within any orthodox religious or scientific model. There is a definite association between her passing and my recent thoughts.  Although we were settled in after the last trip to Arizona and PQ was focused on painting for his upcoming show in Jerome Arizona in May, I’ve learned that if I don’t follow my intuition I will certainly regret it later and it will become an obstacle in the natural flow of life.

Rachel and PQ, Coffee Before Heading Home
 The drive to Denver was surprisingly easy. There was snow on the ground, and threatening clouds swirling in four directions around us, but there wasn’t any snow on the highway as if a shield surrounded us.  Our friend Rachel invited us to stay with her and the offer was gratefully accepted.  We were saved from hunting down a motel and it definitely aided the budget. Besides, being in her home gave us good catch up time, since we’ve been out of touch since our crazy and somewhat magical shared adventure in search of the Denver train station last summer. 

As long as I can remember when something comes to mind as “I wonder why I’m thinking about this”, it will soon be up front in the space/time world. Aunt Ruth and uncle Bob may be the reason I ended up living in New Mexico and traveling to Arizona whenever possible. My parents traveled primarily for family emergencies and weddings. Dad never had a paid vacation and anyway he leaned toward the utilitarian. Whenever we went more than fifty miles from home, there was a specific reason and we drove straight through without stopping for “points of interest.” 

When I was twelve, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Ruth took me on a road trip through the Southwest.  It truly was the land of enchantment for me.  I remember climbing the hill to see Camel Rock near Santa Fe, eating fiery hot enchiladas for breakfast in Albuquerque, then off to Arizona for the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. We camped at the Grand Canyon, and on the way to Monument Valley, we picked up three Navajo men and took them to their horses about fifteen miles down the road.  Only one of them spoke a little English. 

I remember back then, there were still many hogans (traditional Navajo dwellings) made in the old style.  Each hogan sat alone almost blending into the desert except for the inevitable late model Buick parked nearby that appeared larger than the house. It was my first awareness that comparative proportions were a cultural value. I found it fascinating.  This was on the way to Mesa Verde.  I loved everything about the Southwest.  Cedar, Pinon, cactus, red dirt and the unlimited sky unchained me from dreadful things like school, church and unhappy parents. In the Petrified Forest, I felt that I was walking on jewels, in Monument Valley, earth and sky were in love with each other as Mother Earth and Father Sky should be. Inspirited magical items such as Hopi Katsinas, Navajo Sand Paintings, rugs and Pueblo Pottery, inhabited each trading post and curio shop.

Although I traveled the next year with Uncle Bob and Aunt Ruth to the Northwest and into Canada and enjoyed it enormously, the Southwest distinctly changed my soul. Mesa Verde reset my life direction in several ways. I still recall sitting on the stone and adobe wall surrounding Spruce Tree House while imagining life there 600 hundred years earlier. It held something primal and essential missing in the present.  Perhaps it was the clarity of the sky, the powdery red dirt, strangely familiar Juniper and Pinon and the idea of actually belonging to a people whose way of life directly connected them to a place and its creatures.  Perhaps this is the reason for a lifelong fascination with history, archaeology and tribal peoples including my own Celtic ancestors. There is this deep desire to go back to the essence and source, hopefully for a vision of that stage in time before things began to fall into disconnected pieces as if this discovery would reveal the place where the fabric of human life was torn.

Approaching Blanca from the East
My Uncle Bob is the last family member of his generation as close as a days drive.  This brings to my awareness how quickly time passes. PQ and I have discovered ourselves with surprise in the shift that accompanies membership in the oldest generation of our immediate families. What is being an elder all about? It seems that our homogeneous contemporary culture has no place for this stage of life beyond decrepitude and the nursing home. Sometimes I wonder if that is the real reason that so many people succumb to Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases. The medical priesthood suggests that the cause is that people are living longer now.  But, this isn’t necessarily true.  One of my husband’s ancestors lived to age 120, and his close friend lived even longer. There is a well-known picture of him and another of a Taos Pueblo woman who was also well over a hundred when photographed. They had deep wrinkles and history in their eyes but they were not senile.

Blanca west of San Luis
Our trip back to Taos was awesome.  For the first time in years, I could feel and see the landscape as I first saw it.  Well, not exactly the first impression, but as I experienced it in those first years after moving to Taos with clear eyes. It is comparable to seeing through the window of a long neglected house after years of scum are removed. The way to the future seems to come by mending broken roads from the past.

The Sangre de Christos were strikingly accoutred in white robes as we headed west from Walsenburg. I had to take a few shots from my iPhone as we approached and passed Mount Blanca. The trip home was surprisingly short but rich in sites and memories. As I write, PQ is painting with Kiowa Gourd Dance music playing in the background. This reminds me of several trips to Denver with his parents, Joe J. and Frances Suazo. Joe J. would bring his hand drum and the two of them would sing to me all the way home.  I suppose I’m feeling nostalgic.