Monday, February 24, 2014


Habitat for Humanity Casita
 I awoke yesterday morning from a dream about houses.  There were a number of the houses I've lived in over the years and some I'd lived in only in the dream .  Each contained a part of who I am.  In a way they blend together as if they were different facets of the same house.

On August 6, 2014, I will have lived in this house for eight years. It seems unreal. My memory of the old Upper Ranchitos house is still so vivid.  I find after all those years I am still ambiguous about this new house, and have been from the beginning.  Why is this?  Originally, I just wanted to be with PQ and thought we could someday live in his house but as time went by it looked like that would never happen so I decided to be practical.  I always get in trouble when I try to be practical.  It’s a denial of intuition and I have always been better at intuition than practicality.  This is a life lesson that I may or may not ever get a passing grade on.  My early programming about the importance of practicality and ephemeral nature of intuition is still operating, even when beneath the radar of consciousness.

I love this house but it’s a complicated love. It was a standard Habitat layout for a single person and is too small for what we do in our real lives (small bedrooms) although it's adobe, well built, affordable and cute. Also, being chosen for a Habitat for Humanity home was a miracle, kind of like winning the lottery but on a smaller scale. . However, it’s actually a model example of what I do wrong to myself as well as what I do right. We are trying to fit our lifestyle into a house that needs at least two more rooms. Always my artistic bent has made do with a bare minimum of space that requires me to compromise what I undertake to the available space instead of the other way around.  Again and again, the house comes out ahead of the occupants and their purpose.  

First Taos Casita, Upper Ranchitos
The old Upper Ranchitos adobe also had a cramped work space, but to tell the truth painting in the tiny laundry room worked a bit better than painting in the small kitchen and dining room as we now do. On the other hand, I have truly enjoyed planting trees and flowers, making the flagstone patio behind the house, choosing my own curtains and paint, putting tools, and gardening supplies in my first garage.  The yard is a bit small to accommodate an adequate tool shed for the contents now in the garage, which would free it to be a workspace, and anyway we don’t have extra money for a tool shed.  We are usually operating on a bare survival base with no room for extras while crossing our fingers in precarious faith that there will be no expensive emergencies.  I can look backward and recognize the source of this programed pattern but it’s amazing how long it takes to wake up, and then it comes only one eyelash at a time.  

In the Jungian style of dream interpretation, a house represents the incarnated self. Since I believe that life is a dream, this would make my house the degree and quality of incarnation that I’ve achieved, up to now.   Early on, I learned to be small. It was a form of protection.  Nobody took me seriously so I could go on my way with minimum interference. However, it is also confining. I’m not essentially small or invisible. Oops! I let the cat out of the bag.  This may also be a reason that I have an ongoing issue with weight. I don’t get seriously obese but I never get slender either. Instead, I go back and forth, gaining and losing the same five pounds for decades. The perfect weight and the perfect house are always beckoning on the Western horizon. Arizona is also west and that would be nice.

Cottonwood Arizona Casita
When I imagine the house we would like in Arizona, I feel a bit ungrateful. I was the oldest person and the only single person without children chosen by Habitat. Taos is our beloved hometown, how could we ever leave and I don't believe we could permanently.  But, Arizona is home as well.  Somehow, they work well together in our system. Everyone who lives in Taos needs to get away now and then.  Living in Taos can be like dancing on quick sand. You grow tired and begin to sink.  A break in environment can restore sanity and faith.
 I’ve learned that a great piece of luck, such as winning a prize or a house can be the kind of rich ego food that will make you sick. Even if it doesn’t make you sick, it may move you slightly off course because you keep telling yourself that you are really lucky and should be grateful. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” as the saying goes. As I approached retirement age, I realized that paying rent on the Upper Ranchitos house would be much like treading water, I wouldn’t drown but I wouldn’t get anywhere either and it gets harder with time. Besides, my landlord had recently retired and was getting restless to start another project, which he hinted might be tearing down the house and rebuilding. I knew that finding another house in Taos with rent I could cope with would be impossible.  The Habitat for Humanity solution arose and it seemed like cosmic intervention.

I’m not saying that I did the wrong thing, but rather that every decision brings with it complications that we don’t expect. And, if you feel some hesitation or lack of enthusiasm for a piece of “good luck” it is a strong indication that there is something going on that you can’t see but you can’t dismiss either. Good luck or any kind of luck brings up the “Maybe” story. I’ve used this story in previous blogs but here it is again:

“There once were two old farmers who had a fence between their property.  Every morning farmer A would meet farmer B at the fence and they would exchange news and gossip, as neighbors do.  One day farmer B’s best horse jumped the fence and ran away in pursuit of a band of wild horses. Upon hearing the news, farmer A came to visit. “Such bad luck,” he said sympathetically. “Maybe,” farmer B replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbor exclaimed, now you have four horses and they look young and strong.  “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son decided to train one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg.  Knowing that farmer B was getting old and needed his son’s help, the neighbor came to offer his sympathy on this misfortune. “I’m so sorry those wild horses were bad luck after all”, he exclaimed. “Maybe,” answered farmer B.  Very soon after this misfortune, two military officials came to the village looking for young men to draft into the army. Seeing that the old farmer’s son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. Farmer A congratulated farmer B on how well things had turned out after all. “Your son would be drafted and you’d never have any help on your farm if his leg had not been broken,” said farmer A.  “Maybe,” said farmer B. An so the story goes…

Last Casita in Denver
For instance, everyone that knew us would agree that my first marriage was a disaster, but I recognize more than one layer of reality. It was definitely the most intense learning experience of my life.  It stripped me of all I had worked and hoped for and yet there were good times too. Hope is an unreliable guide. In Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan’s terms, my ex was a worthy adversary. I nearly lost everything but finally acquired Taos, my husband PQ and the life I had been seeking from the beginning.  Without someone to pull me clean off the stage of the familiar drama, I probably would still be fooling myself about what was really important to me. Nevertheless, it scares me a bit to think about why I may be writing this even though I know the next episode will come whether or not I’m comfortable with it. In a way, it’s a sign that I’ve been accepted for graduate school, maybe.

Friday, February 7, 2014


I’m tired of winter and while waiting for spring, I’m depending on nature to do what it has always done. But, has nature really been that predictable? We are in a big melt on a world scale and it is going to change everything.  Maybe we civilized humans need to be reminded that we live here by the grace of Mother Nature. No matter how innovative we of the so-called developed world become, we are still dependent on Mother Nature. The incongruity of this topic is that it is a topic at all. We humans, especially those of us who consider ourselves to be members of the developed world live in the delusion that our world is normal and stable. By choice, we live much of our life in the equivalent of a zoo enclosure. I suppose the people wiped out by tornadoes or forest fires feel the same sense of safety in their comfortable living rooms until nature shows them the reality of their circumstances.  

Have you noticed that the homes built along Tornado Alley are frequently two-story wood frame homes perfectly designed to blow down. Or else, they are fragile mobile homes also easily airborne.  Then there are the homes built within a forest just waiting for the fire, and all are homes built for a fantasy of comfort and prestige not safety. Next, there are the coastal cities that are essentially doomed, but billions of dollars are going to go into resurrecting them each time a hurricane comes to shore. Our modern world doesn’t take nature’s processes seriously yet. It’s as if we believe that eventually nature will tire of fighting us and go away.  All that steel glass and concrete made for looking grand and staying put parades our confidence in our power to rule, if not now, eventually with better engineering.

This morning during my reading time on the old green rocker, I heard squawking, chirping and scratching coming from the bathroom. At first, I was startled and then recognized the sound of our Starling couple coming home again.  They didn’t stay long, just checked the place over (bathroom air vent) and took off. There are probably some repairs needed before they settle in for the season. They have been nesting in that bathroom vent for eight springs. Usually, in early March, we begin hearing high-pitched chirps from the new brood. I remember when they first moved in. I was alarmed. I started thinking of ways I could get them out of my house. My dad would never have tolerated birds building a nest in the bathroom vent. It was important to maintain the division between nature and us.  Somehow, I didn’t get around to evicting them. In the beginning, I didn’t want to throw them out while their kids were still at home. Later, I acknowledged that their family activities were quite entertaining and it gave us something to follow, like Facebook for wildlife. The downside is that I can’t grow zucchini because they eat the young sprouts. This would be worse if we depended on our own garden. This small lot makes that unlikely, and so for now there is no conflict.

In most ways, life has been at a standstill. Venus planet of love, beauty, balance and money is retrograde, and so is Jupiter the planet of expansion, generosity, discovery, and overdoing.  Perhaps this explains our lack of movement and the bleak dry weather, while back east they have way too much. I am expanding internally but have nothing visible to show for it.  The stillness outside is unsettling because I sense that it is an illusion. Already this year we have had several shocks. One of our dear friends passed away suddenly from a heart attack. He was in his prime, and always positive and encouraging. He seemed healthy, anticipating a good future in a new house, and his life plans were moving forward. Then, this week a motorist ran down one of the iconic figures of Taos.
Melody Romancito's photo of Dave on the wall
across from the Taos Inn

 Taos’ loss of David Salazar has affected me more than I would ever have expected. Long ago, I considered writing a book about the walkers of Taos.  Most of them are gone now; David was one of the last. He was Schizophrenic, held conversations with people that the rest of us couldn’t see, often wore shorts and a down jacket in winter, and sometimes in summer. He was an authentic Taos walker. I’ve known him since he was in his twenties. Two of his brothers are well-known carvers of traditional Santos, and my previous employers regularly bought their art. When Dave died, he was 44 and his beard was beginning to grey though his face kept a certain childlike freshness even as his eyes focused on a different dimension. He always asked for money and I usually gave him a little.  The exchange wasn’t really about money it was more a personal gesture of acknowledgement. I’m sure that people who didn’t know him thought he was homeless, but actually, he lived with his mother and had many friends. Several times a year, he would travel to Santa Fe where he also had friends and contributors, and then back to Taos.  One of his brothers once told me, “Dave makes more money than I do.

I suppose, if there is a lesson in any of this it is that the future is a surprise beyond our imaginings. For this reason, I read all doomsday predictions the same way that I read utopian plans. We can never outguess a future that never can be nailed down either by hopes or fears. Even though January is an invented beginning, the very act of designating the start of something seems to unleash change. The ice begins to crack and melt as the world wakes up. I’m both interested and cautious about melting ice, since we can’t choose the outcome only what we do with it.