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Tales of the Southwest part 3: Taos

Taos. The English name Taos derives from the native Taos language meaning "place of red willows". During the trip I wrote the least about the place I loved the most. I find tidbits scrawled in my small notebook, sentence snippets, not much. Can the lack of recording my experience be akin to failing to take pictures at an event because you’re too busy experiencing it? It happens. I did take snaps, but I find it hard to verbalize what I experienced there.

I felt a strong visual impact, a total absorption of beauty, the stimulus of art, brilliant skies, and friendly people. All of it spoke volumes. Instead of linear paragraphs, I offer impressions, ocular “snaps” as I saw them, observations.

A random digital road signs on the small highway driving to Taos: Speed Limit: 45……..Your Speed: W3

Gravesites in cemeteries are given great care and attention and tremendous respect. Mostly they are mounded dirt with wooden crosses, surrounded by a ring of stones. Every cemetery is bright and alive with sprigs and bunches of plastic and silk flowers, flags, ribbons, and mementos. And they are fresh, new, not bedraggled or weather beaten. Each headstone may have four or more bunches on it and around it.

The skies are a piercingly brilliant blue with the whitest clouds. Do the skies appear so blue in contrast to the adobe houses, the smooth, adobe tan color, the turquoise window trims and doors? Did you know that the Taos “blue” or “green” (whatever you term it), used on the majority of doors, was originally used by the Indians because the color prevents evil or witchcraft from entering your door? The light is dazzling, the air dry. Is it due to the altitude, at 7000 feet? Are we closer to the sky?

Flowers, flowers, flowers…Hollyhocks everywhere, tall and proud, This is the back garden at the Kit Carson House. Small sunflowers smile on the sides of the roads. Dahlias in every color, pink cone flowers, white dusty miller, multiple colors in cosmos, columbines. Flowers cascade from gardens, hang from pots around the Taos Central Plaza. Welcoming flower boxes, pots, and tubs, jammed full of blossoms and blooms, greet you at the entrance to every shop. Lavender and flowering sage bushes line the sidewalks, with hints of fragrance following you on your way.

Art everywhere: Native American/American Indian art, western art, contemporary art, innovative art, sculpture. Galleries big and small, galleries sparse and packed. We were intrigued by a sculpture outside of the Charles Collins Gallery and went in to see more. As the gentleman inside greeted us and began to tell us about the art, he looked up and said “Oh here come Charles now.” Charles Collins, friendly and forthcoming, turned out to be a man immersed in his art. You can see for yourself in the link below.

Did I mention great Mexican food? Duh...And a surprising shrimp scampi in an Italian restaurant with a piano player plunking out some noisy jazz. A breakfast spot we could walk to where you could choose breakfast tacos or huevos rancheros or pancakes or bacon and eggs? Where the bakery counter in the front of the restaurant/diner that reminded me of a ski lodge with lots of wood and beams, had the largest cinnamon buns and Danish I have ever beheld and where one morning as I gazed salivating, the cowboyish hippie next to me recommended the Chili Stars, a star shaped pastry studded with chilis. “I heat em up and put lots of butter on em – watch out!”

A handmade peach empanda eaten at the Taos Pueblo community the afternoon the heavens opened up and the cold rain caught me sprinting (my version of sprinting) across the dirt field to the shelter of the church, splashing in puddles that appeared in seconds, the mud dotting my white shirt. Others were huddled in the doorway as we watched the rain turn to sharp stinging hail and we smiled to see the Pueblo Indians smiling at the much-needed downpour. We ran when it let up a bit, stopping into an open-door adobe with the hand lettered sign “Bakery.” The woman smiled at us, dripping and mud splattered, and handed us paper towels to dry off. We chose the peach empanadas, warm and doughy. All their cooking and baking is done in hornos (outdoor ovens)

A little more "Taos" in upcoming part 4: finding Dennis Hopper's grave.

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