Pip’s first road trip had its challenges. Sitting bolt upright in the passenger seat, his favored position for viewing the changing scenery, means that he is jolted forward now and then when I put on the brakes.
Recovering quickly, he again sits up and watches intently as though monitoring our progress through the sixty miles from overpopulated Santa Fe to the little mountain town of Taos, still so remote the developers and the second housers haven’t yet found their way there. Louis Rubin’s monstrous development of the Taos Ski Basin, the last relatively modest, rustic, family owned ski resort in the West, and the threatened expansion of the tiny Taos airport may change everything.
Pip and I spent the night at Auntie’s House, a two room cottage at the edge of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s place. The Luhan house, now a B&B, is the only house I’ve ever known that keeps its owner and creator’s original intention sixty years after her death: to provide sanctuary for visitors who come to learn about the pueblo culture that made Taos what it is.
The house has a magical ability to draw visitors from all over the world who do not need in-room television and large bathrooms; they are an astonishing group and I’ve made many new friends there at the communal breakfast where we all sit together as guests did in Mabel’s day—not for breakfast, though, which Mabel took in bed in her room with the view of the Pueblos lands stretching to Taos mountain. Men ate their breakfast in the big, well-used kitchen while women were served in bed.
Pip was not happy to be left in Auntie’s House in spite of his familiar orange bed, bowls and food. When I left to go to my writing workshop, I heard his howls from afar, but by the time I came back three hours later he was peacefully asleep.
Bonnie Lee Black’s writing workshop, sponsored by SOMOS, the literary society of Taos, is a miracle. We are different kinds of writers, of different backgrounds and ages, but we meld together as we listen to each other read new sections of long non-fiction work under Bonnie’s benevolent gaze. Bonnie is a crisp organizer and the two and a half hour meetings never dwindle off into small talk; we write down our comments, discuss them—the writer whose work is being discussed remains silent—then pass our written comments on to be referred to later.
After the workshop, Pip and I slept soundly in Auntie’s House to the loud crack and pop of the piñon fire in the corner fireplace.
Next morning, after a feast of food and new acquaintances, we headed out to walk on Pueblo land. As in all of Northern New Mexico, the Pueblos’ hold on their ancestral land is the only block to remorseless development brought on by us invading Anglos.
During our walk Pip was shy, sticking close to my leg as he cautiously investigated new sights and sounds. His first sniff of sage seemed to mesmerize him, but he was oblivious to the mystery of the old Penitente church that has served that secret brotherhood for years. This group, outlawed by the Catholic church, until recently re-created the passion of Christ at Easter time, including flagellation and, according to rumor, actual crucifixion. It seems quiet and peacefully deserted now.
A Pueblo truck hauling a backhoe rumbled by with friendly waves. At times, Taos Pueblo has fenced off this large spread of land, but as they say when they dance for us at their ceremonies, they have now, at least for the moment, opened their land to us.
Then it was time to pack up my car and Pip again assumed his front seat position. When we go to Taos again next week, I expect he will feel more at home.