The difference was dramatic. Taos is a much smaller town than Santa Fe and perhaps that partly explained the greater neighborliness I noticed. Everyone seemed to know everyone; no purchases were made at the stalls without at least a few words of greeting and conversation. Since our market is largely attended by tourists, most purchases are made efficiently with little talk.
My favorite vendor was the Ten Dollar Poet, a slender, pale young man waiting patiently behind a small table with an ancient Corona typewriter resting on it. He asked me to give him a word, and began at once to compose a short poem, typing it neatly on a scrap of handmade paper. I remembered the sound of typewriter keys from the early days of my career as a writer, and found the sound comforting compared to the minimal, soulless tap of my computer keyboard. And what a way to make a living—from imagination and daring. I hope he had a lot of clients last Saturday.
Having bought a bunch of green vegetables, a delicious nut and blueberry bread and other treats, I went on to visit Anita Rodriguez at her house a few miles from the market. Floor to ceiling displays of her brilliantly colored and gilded art gave me an idea of her conversation. Noted in Taos as one of their most successful artists—she won first prize at the Taos Art Fair—Anita displays the straight-talking, truth-telling gifts of the mother or grandmother we all wish we had had.
What a day, what a way to celebrate the vibrant heart of a small town, partly pueblo Indians, part native Hispanics with a few Anglos like me thrown in, all tucked away in the mountains of northern New Mexico.