I love it more each time I go there. Is it possible a place can become more beautiful? Or, is it that I see it in a slightly different season each time I visit, and am therefore presented with more and more by which to be delighted?
My parents moved to Taos, NM a few years ago, built a house there, and have made the place their home. It is my new family home, and although as a family, we have never lived in one place for long, my parents' house in New Mexico seems so stable and rooted that it feels like it is the long-time family seat. Going there feels so good, despite its quirks (and believe me, there are many), that it is where ECG and I have decided to get married, knowing that our friends and family will be happy there too.
This last trip to my parents' house started elsewhere. They picked ECG and I up in Denver and we spent a couple days exploring Southern Colorado, especially the sights surrounding Colorado Springs.
We went to Garden of the Gods.
Can you believe that this used to be someone's back yard?
In 1909, the descendants of the family who owned The Garden of the Gods deeded it to the city of Colorado Springs with the stipulation that it be free to the public forever.
We drove through the windy, narrow canyon to visit the kitschy but fun 7 Falls.
The waterfalls are lit up with colored lights to glow in the evening. I know, I know. Cheesy. But, I have to admit, it was entertaining at the same time. I tried to take pictures in which the colored lights didn't show as much, but if you look closely, you can catch a strange blue glow in the wet corners of the rocks.
My parents had booked us rooms at Red Crags Bed and Breakfast, a charming old mansion on a hill that is now owned--get this--by the original Doublemint Twins. I saw two blondes on a tandem bicycle ride by me while we were there, and of course, I had to believe it was them.
ECG and I stayed in the Teddy Roosevelt Room, so named because he was an occasional guest of the home's original owner and would stay in that room. I wonder if he bathed in this tub?
The last day in Colorado, we drove to the top of Pike's Peak.
The trip takes drivers along a two-lane road, winding along, switchback after switchback, and changing from asphalt to gravel to asphalt again. The views from the road are spectacular, but the trip itself is pretty harrowing driving and not for the weak in the knees. Pike's Peak, you see, is pretty darned high.
The altitude shift knocked the wind out of our sails. I felt okay, but just slow, as if had I tried to be my bouncy self, I would find that I was glued pretty tightly to the earth. Despite this, standing along the edges of the peak, it didn't feel as if we're part of the lower earth. We felt more a part of the sky.
People and other creatures come from all over to visit this place.
After climbing so high, we drove back down and south, towards Taos. Finally pulling into the gravel road leading to the top of the rise and my parents' house was like slipping into a warm bath. Even though I've been on vacation, I haven't felt as if I'd relaxed nearly as much as I'd expected to by this point in the summer. ECG has been experiencing the stress of transitions at work as well, and the both of us nearly collapsed into incarnate forms of inactivity the moment we arrived.
We spent most of the first day watching the sky.
Another full day was spent on wedding preparations: getting the wedding license (New Mexico is pretty lax on quite a few points about which other states have strict stipulations--we were able to get our wedding license 8 months early!), visiting the bed and breakfast where we will both marry and hold our reception, and spending an afternoon with the minister who will marry us. Doing all this talking about the wedding helped me imagine the event a little more clearly, and with each step closer to the day itself, I'm more and more excited. ECG and I both know that a marriage is much more than a day, but still, what a day it will be!
While at my parents', I was also able to wander around the fields and hills near the house with my dad and family dog Maddie. It is beautiful country, one in which each shift of light changes the entire atmosphere.
My mother, the woman who has taught me most of what I know about most of what I know, has started a very productive kitchen garden this year--the first year the fence was in place to keep at least some of the wild critters at bay. Her squash, strawberries, tomatoes, and other plants are all quite happily producing away, but what really takes the prize for healthy productivity is her rhubarb. Planted just this spring, the plants are already hefty and harvestable. ECG caught this picture of me considering whether or not a gargantuan rhubarb leaf could serve as an umbrella in the impending storm.
The summer storms are a way of life in northern New Mexico, but this summer has been particularly wet, and the hills seem greener than I've seen them in summers past. Oftentimes, agriculture in the summer time can be tough, a battle against the sun, the wind, and the quick draining soil (and in fiction at least, against other people; remember The Milagro Beanfield War?) . However, agriculture is a centuries-old way of life in northern New Mexico, and one that has been managed at least partly by the ancient acequias that the Spanish started to build when they settled in the area over three hundred years ago. Each area has its own mother ditch and each mother ditch is managed by a council of landowners in the area. The president of the council is called the mayordomo, and he oversees the fair distribution of water from the acequia to people in the community.
It isn't a perfect system, but it is an ancient one, one that has seen little change in the centuries since its inception.
On the day we headed home to Pasadena, we were to fly out of Albuquerque, and since we had the luxury of time on our side, we decided to take the high road to Santa Fe and explore a bit, rather than the straight shot to ABQ. The high road is the old road (and in northern New Mexico, remember, old means centuries, not decades), and it is dotted with tiny towns and old stucco churches.
We stopped in Chimayo, the home of El Santuario de Chimayo, a church built on ground that is believed to have sacred healing powers. On Maundy Thursday each year, hundreds of thousands of people pilgrimage on foot to the church, with the hopes of taking away some of the soil and being healed.
When we got to Santa Fe, we felt hot and dusty, just as if we had traveled the route years before, except in a wagon, not a car. We didn't rise to the prospect of wandering around the beautiful city of Santa Fe. Instead, we chose the simple, quiet sanctuary of the park next to the church, a place full of dappled shade and benches. It is a place we've rested before and I'm sure we'll rest again on the way from Taos to Albuquerque to catch a flight to places far away.
Taos isn't a home I chose, but it is one I've fallen into and in love with. This place reminds me with each visit back how lucky I am to have more than one home.
P.S. If any of you are curious about the emu from the last post, I didn't see that bird on this trip, but on the day-long road trip to Santa Barbara wine country for SWW's birthday last week. That is a whole other story . . ..