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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Red Sky at Morning

The old saying goes, "Red sky at morning -- sailors take warning." Though sailors are few and far between here in this inland sea, what is certainly meant is that the afternoon will be especially windy. This has certainly been the case as we slide into the holiday season.

Photograph by Melody Romancito at 6:15 a.m.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Christmas Eve Procession of the Virgin at Taos Pueblo

Photo by Rick Romancito.

It is just before sunset and the bell at San Geronimo Church at Taos Pueblo calls everyone to Vespers. Already, parking is difficult and grid lock grips the road that leads directly into the Native American village from the Northern New Mexico town.

Hundreds of people stand and wait or troop through the crunchy snow and follow what is left of the sunlight as it warms the clarified air with the last of its horizontal rays. Frigid temperatures, high altitude and fresh snow on Taos Mountain make everything brighter and clearer while the shadows lengthen and deepen. Stacks of fragrant pitch wood arranged in a lattice pattern, called luminarias in Spanish, stand ready to be set ablaze just as the sun goes down.

The Village on Christmas Eve

The plaza of the Taos Pueblo village is divided by the Rio Pueblo. The adobe apartment-style buildings have been continuously inhabited since about 1000 C.E. They are arranged on the north and south sides of the river. People who live on the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation still maintain homes in the village and some even use their family’s ancestral dwellings as their main house today. Within the village walls there is no electricity or running water.

People from town who come to the village for the Christmas Eve Procession come for various reasons. Some non-Indians have ties through marriage or other close relationships. Whole sides of old Spanish families are represented by their delegates (primas y primos, in-laws and exes) on the plaza at Christmas Eve. Others – often the more alternative factions of town-dwelling Anglos (geezer and neo hippies, artists, poets and movie stars) cluster in their buffalo coats, purposefully goofy Andean headgear and lined Sorrell boots. There are even tourists.

Everyone is waiting for the procession to begin. The sun is down. People are always asking “what time is it going to happen?” and the Indian answer is always “when they’re ready.” No matter what time your watch says, when it finally happens, it is the right time. Men with lighters start up a couple of the smaller bonfires. People crowd around trying to get warm. Anticipation builds.

Los Matachines

This year, the tribe will be dancing the Matachines dance. Called a beautiful dance of subjugation by anthropologist Sylvia Rodriguez, the dance is said to have its roots in medieval folk dramas symbolizing conflict between the Christians and the Moors. Rodriguez writes that while the dance may have been brought to the Americas as a way to Christianize the native people, it has become a contemporary method of “coping with and commenting on the history of ethic domination as it continues to unfold in the upper Rio Grande valley.”

Taos tribal members do not consider Los Matachines to hold the same sacredness afforded the Deer or Buffalo Dance and other performances associated with their native religion, however the Matachines remains a vital aspect of their traditions.

To be selected to dance is an honor and much care and expense is taken to make sure each part of the costumes are just so. The cupillas (mitre-like headdresses), ribbons, palmas and jewelry must all be within traditional guidelines. The young girl who portrays La Malinche is usually dressed like a little bride.

The Abuelos and El Toro, seem to represent the rough, animal side of nature. They are frightening as they stand on the rooftops of the buildings and shout rude things onto the people below. They jibe and their antics provoke laughter, but one is careful to move out of the way when they shout to move along in Spanish or Tiwa and crack their whips.

At one bonfire, a handful of Texas college boys are getting warm. Suddenly, the one on the end realizes Abuela is standing next to him. He gapes at the ugly paper mache mask and misshappen head, the stuffed chest in the sweater with dollar bills pinned to it and the loud, flowered skirt. He nudges his friend. In appreciation of the boy’s curiousity, Abuela raises her dress over her head.

This year, there is a nearly full moon for Christmas Eve in a clear, darkening sky. The smoke from the bonfires is thick. Sometimes the columns of black smoke lay down on the ground – swamping us in their sooty storm. Sparks fly in the frigid wind that flows off the snow-capped mountains as night falls. The church bell sounds, marking the end of Vespers.

The Procession

San Geronimo church is fronted by an adobe wall courtyard enclosure. The doorway is arched and now, as everyone is assembled just outside the archway, torches are lit. Huge bundles of kindling are bound together. They are heavy and must be carried in both arms and when the wind blows, sparks fly in all directions.

Several men with rifles fire into the air. People flinch and cry out if they are not expecting it. Even if you know it’s going to happen, when the first gunfire sounds, it still makes you jump and start.

Men playing hand drums and singing in Tiwa follow, and the sea of people parts for them, but not quite enough. Los Abuelos yell and scold everyone to get back. Whips crack and curses are hurled.

In the courtyard of the church, the statue of Mary, which is usually displayed at the front of the church instead of the usual crucified Christ, is now dressed as the Bride of Heaven. She is carried on a platform decked with green pine bows. A canopy of white material is carried over the santo – perhaps as a reference to the Jewish marriage ceremony, but maybe the canopy is just there to protect the painted face and white vestments of the santo from falling ash and sparks from the torches and bonfires.

Some years the Archbishop of New Mexico and other important priests from the Diocese take part in the procession, carrying the crucifix. This year it is just the local luminaries of San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos or the church downtown, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Matachines dancers follow, with their musicians, a rhythm guitarist and a violinist. They scratch out a strange and repetitive tune that the dancers must move to over and over, both in the procession on Christmas Eve, but also Christmas Day.

Next is a group of women from the choir singing carols in Spanish and Tiwa. Behind them, everyone files in behind.

The fire burns into the night

Once the statue of Mary has been taken around the plaza, and the dancers have performed the dance in the necessary places, Mary is returned to her place at the altar while the crucifix takes its usual place to the right hand side of the nave.

The bonfires burn down to embers. We go home and have hot chocolate before heading to the family home to open presents with our relatives. As we cross the bridge my husband turns to take one more picture of a group of maybe 200 people standing around what had been the biggest bonfire on the plaza – as tall as three men.

Now the embers still glow hot enough to warm all these people and send them home with the warmth of a shared tradition and the promise of a return of the sun, when we take this light we have found, and escort it into the New Year.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wood Run

The television news said it got down to nearly 20 degrees F last night. If the usual seven-degree difference for Ranchitos held, that meant it was about 13 degrees or so at our house. No wonder everything was covered with a sheen of frost after the sun rose.

It looked like we had enough wood to build about one more good fire. It was time to go for a wood run. We’d talked about it for a while but the reality set in we made plans to make the run this weekend.

To make a wood run you need a truck, a chain saw, some gas, an axe or two, heavy work gloves and a wood cutting permit. Another strong person is a big help but it depends on how many people you can fit in your cab. The problem is that then you need to split the wood with that person – unless everyone is getting warm by the same fire. Don’t forget water and a little something to eat because even though the wood run only takes a couple of hours – the hours are active ones and you can really work up an appetite.

I learned how to chop firewood when I lived in Oregon. I remember learning in the rain. When it was suggested I go chop some wood for the household (there were five of us students sharing a two-story house with two woodstoves and a fireplace), I said “But it’s raining!” My housemates – seasoned Oregoonies all -- chuckled and handed me the maul and sledge hammer and showed me the chopping block and the stack of rounds out back.

Then there was the second-story apartment I rented when I first moved to Taos. It was 10 miles up Taos Canyon, and on the shady side. There were vaulted ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. I carried 10 cords of wood up a flight of stairs that year.

But even with all this rich wood burning experience, I’d never gone on a wood run until today.

Rick, Ella, Rick’s brother, Jeff, and I headed west to one of the little mountains just past the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The mountain is covered with a green furze of cedar and pinon. There have been a couple of years of drought plus an invasion of bark beetle, so you see that there‘s a lot of dead and down wood for the taking.

Evidence of other wood getting excursions is everywhere. Those who have preferred to carry out the big rounds have left the smaller branches lying in piles. Since our pickup will only carry about a cord, we decided to go for a mixed run of smaller stuff so we wouldn’t have to split so much once we got home.

We took a break under the still living but scrubby remains of a cedar tree. The mound of black gold from the rotting needles and branches was soft.

Coming back we only lost a log or two, jostling under the full load of heavy wood. Our portion will keep us warn until about Christmas time. We need to go up there a couple of times more to get enough wood to keep us through the winter.

There's something about the warmth from a fire you've built yourself out of wood you went up into the mountains to cut yourself -- rather than buying it from one of the wood guys who hang out at the entrance to the rez or calling up Olguin's and having them deliver a cord. It seems to burn hotter and longer. Every time you look at your woodpile, you think: "That's a mighty fine wood pile."

Friday, November 04, 2005

R.C. Gorman dies after lengthy illness

R.C. Gorman passed away Nov. 3, 2005 at 12:20 p.m.This photo of Gorman was taken in his gallery in 2002.
Photograph by Rick Romancito.

By Rick Romancito and Virginia Clark, The Taos News

Nov. 3 - 2:05 p.m.
Taos artist R.C. Gorman, age 74, died today (Nov. 3) at about 12:20 p.m. at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Gorman was remembered "as a great spokesman for New Mexico and the Navajo nation and for artists around the world,” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said.

His art was an indelible presence on the Taos scene, and internationally he was known as one of the foremost Native artists working today.

Gorman, who owned the Navajo Gallery on Ledoux Street, was being treated for a bacterial blood infection that proved to be highly resistant to antibiotic treatment. Consequently the infection resulted in multiple complications including pneumonia.

Gorman appeared to be doing well last August during his annual pre- Santa Fe Indian Market gallery party in Taos, where he debuted a new lithograph and new painting. Both received positive attention from international collectors who attend the event.

Richardson referred to Gorman as "a giant in the arts ... He was a dear friend, who will be sorely missed. I spent many an evening at his home with him. I always stayed there when I came for the Taos parade or campaign events. I will very, very sorely miss him. He was not only a giant in the arts, but as a human being.”

He was born Rudolph Carl Gorman, the son of Carl Gorman, who also was a famed Navajo painter and member of the World War Code Talkers and Mrs. Adelle Katherine Brown. He was born July 26, 1931 in Chinle, Ariz.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Review: The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas, Stories by Davy Rothbart

Are we there yet?

"The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas (2005, Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone Books, New York, New York, $12 paperback) by Davy Rothbart

Davy Rothbart's “The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas” stories are snapshots from road trips and collages cooked up from scraps of paper found on thrift-store bulletin boards and gas station restrooms.

Much like the lost, discarded and forgotten items Rothbart collected in his book, “Found,” the stories in “The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas” capture the exotic in the mundane – the treasure in the trash. In these stories there are small towns populated by ersatz heroes and thugs with hearts of gold. There are cruelties. There is grace.

The first story, “Lie Big,” is promising. “Hey,” you think – “this guy is good.” The story of Mitey-Mike unreels like a good fish story and makes a filling meal of the old chestnut “everything I say is a lie.”

It’s like coming along while your younger buddy makes their first trip around the block. You know what’s coming before they do and no matter what happens you let them think it was all their idea.

Nearly every story is about a girl. His main characters – boys all -- watch these women while they sleep. These boys yearn for them, fight over them and agonize over this or that next move. One character leaves his cherished girl-child behind yet doesn’t seem to even get it when she chooses not to be rescued when he returns much too late.

The stories are an unwieldy mishmash of sentiment. Rothbart doesn’t have the maturity to get past the exotic otherness and capture the person or move out from characters and find the resonate meaning of the story.

Rothbart has garnered some decent praise for this second book. There’s a quote from Arthur Miller, ("Davy writes with his whole heart. These stories are crushing."), and kid lit lion Judy Blume ("It's always exciting to discover a talented new writer. Davy Rothbart writes with such energy, wit, and heart.")

"I believe in Davy. He is a force to be reckoned with," writes Ira Glass, host of public radio's This American Life.

It’s safe to say that Rothbart will be – in time and with a lot more living under his belt -- a force to be reckoned with.

What separates good fiction from great fiction is the ability to not only tell the story but find the story’s rhyme and reason and let the reader in on the big picture. Every once in a while it’s entertaining to go on a ride without expectations of destinations. But when we set out on a journey that takes us through the landscape of humanity with a final objective in mind we know we’ve read something great.

We’re not quite there yet.

For more information, visit http://www.simonsays.com.

Melissa Zink’s Distinct Peculiarity

Melissa Zink’s new show at the Parks Gallery in Taos, New Mexico, is called “Quiddities: Precise Ambiguities within Interrupted Continuities.”


First, you may have to look up “quiddities,” or its singular form “quiddity,” which means the essence, nature or distinctive peculiarity of a thing. It can also mean “a trifling nicety; a cavil; a quibble.” We all know what it means to quibble over the small stuff.

But that is something Zink never seems to do – quibble over the small stuff. Even while exploring a microcosm of meaning, she can be tuning the Big Picture into sharp focus. Her obscurities aren’t really hard to understand – they are just so basic we think there must be a more complex answer.

For instance, in this show Zink has a piece called “Glorification of the Miniscule,” which shows a ponderously huge and encrusted frame cut down to surround and set apart something small, while topped with an even more important frame glorifying the last three letters of the alphabet. The work makes us laugh – how silly! Such amplification of the unimportant is worth a hearty chuckle, but inwardly, we know this kind of glorification of the miniscule is exactly what popular culture uses as a diversionary tactic from the bigger issues.

It is possible the name for the show comes from a book by W. V. Quine called “Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary,” where, moving from A to Z, Quine roams through more than 80 topics, vigorous thought, wordplay and wisdom. “Couched in easy and elegant prose,” the review presented by its publisher, H

Fall and Winter Recreation in Taos

Five of the world's six climatic vegetation zones lie within a 30-mile radius of Taos. In a single day visitors can experience alpine lakes, high mesas, evergreen forests and deep gorges. You can picnic by a roaring mountain stream, watch beavers build a dam, sight elk or take a brisk hike in these ancient mountains. Northern New Mexico's five primary resort communities are the Village of Taos Ski Valley, Angel Fire, Red River and Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort. Each of these locations has recreation year-round, but winter is when this paradise in the Southern Rockies really shines.

About 90 percent of Red River's lodging is within walking distance from the slopes and two out of six chairlifts rise directly from town. "Red River is a true ski area and ski town," said Red River Ski Area owner Drew Judycki. "A family can come up here and there's something for everybody."

Activities include skiing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing (at the ski area after hours), sleigh rides, horseback riding (usually in late winter, early spring), massage, concerts, two-steppin' and, naturally, shopping.

Is snowboarding your thing? Red River Ski Area loves snowboarding (although snowboarders should be at least 8 years of age). They love snowboarding so much they offer First-time snowboard packages which include all you need to get riding: board, boots, and a two-hour beginning lesson in the morning and a lift ticket.

Intermediate to advanced snowboard lesson packages employ the same method of teaching and continue into more advanced moves. Rates include a 90-minute lesson, equipment and a snow pass. Visit redriverskiarea.com.

No matter what your level, Angel Fire Resort has a lot of choices. Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and sleigh rides. With two high-speed quads, four free-style terrain parks, a half pipe and a big mountain, Angel Fire in winter has enough to keep the whole family happy. Visit angelfireresort.com.

Do you spend the summer dreaming of the first snowfall? Are you searching for a mountain that will challenge you? Can you do without the hype, the crowds and the snowboards? Then grab your gear. Taos Ski Valley Resort is for you. The resort features a ski school, varied terrain and abundant. Snowboarding is not allowed -- just classic alpine skiing for all levels -- expert to beginner, children, teens and adults.

This season marks Taos Ski Valley's 50th anniversary and better, not bigger, has always been its motto. Last year, plenty of the skiers gracing Taos Ski Valley slopes were doing so on the Millennium Pass, the ski pass that allows for 70 days of skiing during the season. This year, the pass gives skiers even more value, with fewer Taos blackout days and 12 bonus ski days at four participating Colorado resorts. Anyone who plans to ski the Southwest nine days or more this season should look into the Millennium Pass. Visit skitaos.org.

If you’re looking for something slightly less challenging you might want to consider Sipapu. The village has a down-home family ambience with kids making their way down the friendly mountain on their own, and families coming together in comfortable accommodations near the lifts. A large sun-drenched deck and the soothing sounds of the Rio Pueblo greet skiers needing a break or having a snack. Inside the lodge there's always a roaring fire. It's the perfect place for families or groups seeking a friendly, relaxed, winter vacation. Visit sipapunm.com.

If cross-country skiing is your idea of winter fun, you’ll want to check out Enchanted Forest -- New Mexico's largest full-service cross country ski area offering trails groomed for both classic and freestyle skiing. The facility, located 3 miles east of Red River on the Carson National Forest, has stunning mountain vistas and meandering forest trails which give a back-country feel in a groomed, patrolled area.

Enchanted Forest offers beginner, intermediate and advanced lessons, including classic and skating techniques. For those who don't yet know how easy cross country skiing can be, the Enchanted Forest offers a complete lesson package including boots, poles, skis, trail pass and a one to one and a half hour lesson (for ages 3 and up) for less than the cost of a lift ticket at most downhill areas. Visit enchantedforestxc.com.

If hunting is more your speed, there are several outfitters and game preserves in the region. High Mountain Outfitters offers elk hunting expeditions. Since the mountains contain vast tracts of public lands populated with elk, mule deer, bear, cougar, bighorn sheep and antelope, the region is a hunter’s paradise. Pete Trujillo is a native of Northern New Mexico and has been hunting the area as a professional outfitter for more than 20 years. His services offer hunts on the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests and state-owned lands, which together comprise over 3,000,000 acres of prime hunting areas. He also offers hunts on some private ranches. Visit huntingnm.com

Would you like to take your significant to an enchanted getaway -- along with your horses for an autumn ride in the sparkling New Mexico landscape but don’t know where you’d find a horse-friendly property?

Check out Taos Recreational Rentals. Whether looking for a relaxing getaway or an adventure, you’ll have seclusion, scenic beauty, and adobe casitas that are "horse-friendly" with corrals, horse sheds and room for horse trailers. These beautiful vacation getaway rentals border the Carson National Forest and have easy access to all the different activities in Taos, New Mexico. Visit taosgetaways.com.

Robert Mirabal's Trail of Fears

And your little dog, too!Robert Mirabal puts on an annual spookhouse called "The Trail of Fears," with this year's theme being the "Hellbillies' Revenge." Friends from the Rez (Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation) and town (Taos) were on hand to scare the bejezzus out of kids and grown-ups alike.

There were two versions of the spook house planned -- one for family fare, where it was (possibly) OK to bring the kids -- and the other version of the spookhouse was planned for after dark. One can only imagine what it would have been like because the nighttime version was rained out. Over the years, the event has become legendary as being tremendously scary.

Sitting around with the folks

Photographs by Rick Romancito

Family - Nourishment for the Soul

An ounce of blood is worth more than a pound of friendship says an old Spanish Proverb.

If you grew up in Taos, you probably already know what it’s like to be part of a large, extended family. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and elders line the picture wall of your home. The same faces you saw over the edge of your crib are the same faces you saw at your baptism, first communion, confirmation and wedding. They were present at the baptism of your children.

If you grow up in the same town where your mother and father grew up, places have an accumulated significance. It’s not just your favorite fishing hole, it’s the spot your father showed you and the one his father shared with him. That lonely stretch of road where your grandmother took you to harvest pinon nuts is the same place you’ll take your grandkids some day.

The rivers and streams that tumble out of the mountains flow across centuries of time. When the church bells toll in Taos Valley, they not only count the hours but the generations as well.

Thomas Moore was talking about family when he said, “It's difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.”

Family life is full of drama large and small. There are the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce. Family is full of all kinds of characters. There are the stubborn ones and the crazy ones – the ones who have led charmed lives and the ones who have suffered at Fate’s hands. Sometimes you think, the family must have only two purposes: to provide warmth and love in time of need and to drive each other insane.

Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet sometimes we behave as though we take our family for granted. We have to be reminded to respect the people whom we love the most and remember that we may see them all the time now, but that might not always be the case.

Family is tied to places, events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into our memories and personalities. How many nights have you and your family sat around the table after a family feast and told stories on each other until your sides split with laughter -- or the stories about the ones who are gone now -- fond tears whisked away.

You say you don’t believe in ghosts? Then you’ve never been to a family reunion.

Harmony is a word that describes the combination of simultaneous musical notes in a chord or the structure of music with respect to the composition and progression of chords. It is also a word that means a pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts; correspondence, accord, internal calm and tranquility.

Harmony also means an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative. The songs of our families mingle and blend through the generations to tell our story. The individual tunes are strung together -- one big family heirloom of joy and sorrow – fear and courage.

Being part of a family means you have someplace to go even when your last friend has turned you away. But it also means you must realize every decision you make – for bad or good – is a decision that effects more than you alone. Your failures belong to your family as much as your successes.

The family is a strange little pack of characters that go through life sharing colds and deodorant, coveting each another's wardrobe. We hide cookies from each other. We borrow money. We lock each other out of our rooms. We inflict deep wounds and then kiss it to make it better. We love, laugh and defend each other. We and try to figure out the common thread that binds us all together.

And if you didn’t grow up in Taos, but found yourself here after years of hopeful searching for the family luck did not seem to give you, you might know what it’s like to roll into town and feel like you’re home at last.

Spellbound by Joe Hayes

“Corn, beans, melons and squash – good to eat -- good to eat!” Joe Hayes, eyes sparkled as he told the tale of Yellow Corn Girl for the first and second graders at Taos Day School at Taos Pueblo Friday (Oct. 21).

Hayes was here for the SOMOS Sixth Annual Storytelling Festival and he’s made it a habit of dropping by Taos Day School for a round of stories.

In the story Yellow Corn Girl hears this “corn, beans, melons and squash” song of Grasshopper and wants to learn it so bad she promises to allow Grasshopper and his brothers and sisters have a day in her garden in exchange for his teaching it to her. The moral of the story tells us that we should understand fully what we promise rather than be surprised and dismayed like Yellow Corn Girl when Grasshopper and his thousands of brothers and sisters stripped her garden in one day.

There’s something about the way Joe Hayes tells a story that pulls you in from the onset. It could be his subject matter or the way he tells his tales, but most likely it is his degree of sincerity and the ring of the genuine article that reels us in.

His stories are not so much memorized word for word as they are understood so thoroughly that if he needs to embellish here, or condense details there, to keep the audience’s attention, the story holds together. He knows what the story really means and why it needs to be told. He knows when listeners are getting restless and he is aware when they are hanging on every word.

The stories Hayes tells are a combination of the traditional lore of the American Southwest and his own imagination. The traditional part of the story is based on things people have told him and on what he’s learned from reading the work of folklorists and anthropologists. Hayes’ own contribution is based on his instincts as a storyteller and what his experience tells him listeners need in order to feel satisfied with a story.

For many years, Hayes has been the resident storyteller at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe. He has told stories at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn. This year Hayes received the Talking Leaves Literary Award from the National Storytelling Network, an award given to members of the storytelling community who have made considerable, serious and influential contributions to the literature of storytelling. Hayes has taught storytelling to teachers at the University of New Mexico and been a guest lecturer at many colleges and universities, delivering the commencement address for the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at U.C.L.A. He was designated a New Mexico Eminent Scholar by the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education, and in 1995 he received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence.

Hayes began sharing his stories in print in 1982. His books have received the Arizona Young Readers Award, two Land of Enchantment Children’s Book Awards, four IPPY Awards, a Southwest Book Award and an Aesop Accolade Award. His books have been on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List twice. His book The Day It Snowed Tortillas was chosen by the editors of The Bloomsbury Review as one of their 15 favorite children’s books published in the past 15 years.

As Hayes said goodbye to the children, he asked them if they would be kind to their teachers and not sing Grasshopper’s song over and over once they got back into class. Then he sang it one more time and by now the children knew every word of the song and sang it with him loudly with cheerful abandon.

As he said goodbye to each child individually, he pulled up a chair because he said he knew he was tall and he didn’t want the children to have to crane their necks to look up at him. The children immediately crowded around him – their eyes gleaming because of what has been shared. Spilling outside into the autumn afternoon they continued to sing “Corn, beans, melons and squash – good to eat – good to eat!” They’d never forget the song, the story or Joe Hayes.

Photographs by Rick Romancito.

Take Back the Night March - Taos Pueblo to Taos Plaza

Take Back the Night was observed in Taos October 20, 2005, as a contingent from Taos Pueblo met a group waiting at Kit Carson Park in Taos. From there, the group marched on to Taos Plaza where there were speakers and others who had something to say about violence and harmony.

Take Back the Night is an international rally and march that is organized in local communities with the purpose of unifying women, men, and children in an awareness of violence against women, children and families. The event is a collaboration of community and campus and other interested persons who are ready to
take a stand against violence and make the night safe for everyone. The march is set to occur around sunset and twilight -- to make that point.

Participants were either given signs and t-shirts or they came bearing their own signs, calling for an end to violence against everyone -- not just women and children. In some cases, people caried signs with photographs of their loved ones who have died because of violence.

Since I have lived in Taos for nearly 20 years, I recognized many of the faces at the march and on the signs. I remember their cases as they came before the public and before juries pleading that those who had done the violence be punished for the heartbreak they had perpertrated -- not only on the woman who had lost her life, but on her family.

I remember the fear that certain cases brought up -- revealing just how thin the membrane of order and safety is. I have seen in other Taos Blogs, mention of Taos' darker side. It is almost as if all the light and grandeur Taos stands for is also balanced by darkness and pettyness, which together, blooms into an awful sickness that leaches out -- day or night -- in our little mountain village.
Take Back the Night rallies and marches began in England as a protest against the fear that women encountered walking the streets at night. The first Take Back the Night in the United States occurred in San Francisco in 1978.

Photographs by Rick Romancito.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Strawbale Coldframes -- Taos Style

I've built two cold frames in the backyard using strawbales and large (48" x 48") sheets of tempered glass I found that had been used for solar panels. The panes are large enough that I was concerned about them becoming airborne should the wind hit them just right, so I secured them with bungee cords.

I have one end of the bungee hooked onto the orange plastic twine that holds the bale together, and the other end is hooked onto the edge of the glass. Since the glass is very heavy, I have a stump set up to hold one panel, and a space bale to hold up the other.

To allow for ventilation during the peak sun hours I have a couple of fence-post ends to help prop the panels of glass open.

The second frame I built doesn't have dirt in it yet, but I am cooking a layer of horse manuer and compost at the bottom. In theory, it should keep the frame warmer in the cold months because of the "hot" manuer and because of the decomposing matter in the compost. Already the temperature difference between the two can be felt with the bare hand.

EPILOGUE: It's April 2, 2006 and the first crop's harvest has come to a close. I'd been meaning to photograph the excellent lettuce and greens we'd been eating out of the garden, and because I finally got a decent camera, I decided to snap a pic, even though the crop is going to seed. Though it took several months to grow, it stayed alive through many sub-zero nights and though I tried to be diligent, I left the frames open all night a few times. That didn't seem to phase this hardy crop, and the stawbale coldframes have come through with verdant success.