Rowe Mesa

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off on Rowe Mesa


Santa Fe

Excerpt Nov. 30

…When I had a firewood business I’d drive from Galisteo over to Rowe Mesa near Pecos. I had a 1949 3/4 ton Ford pickup that came off the assembly line black and was now sea blue. I loved the wood business because it put me alone with the wilderness. I’d been cutting on Rowe for a couple of years off and on. Even pre-Spanish Indians from the nearby pueblos cut here. I’d find the stumps of juniper and cedar with stone axe marks.

One day I came to an island of tall Douglas fir mixed in with what looked like desert piñon except these had straight trunks and grew as tall as the fir. I entered a lush cool fragrant copse of trees and a spring seeping along a rock bed growing fern from its banks. This was unreal because Rowe Mesa is high desert, dry as a bone in summer and the trees are gnarled because they come from the gnarled that were passed over for bigger, better trees for so long only the gnarled were left to perpetuate the species.

I’ve never seen tall straight piñons even in Truchas where I lived, high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Santa Fe, where there was plenty of snow and rain. There were big ones but their tops were like other trees’ roots, all over the place. These were majestic and twice as tall as the tallest I’d seen. I strolled around with my axe, tried the water, spoke to the trees, mainly questions. There was no cicada buzz or bird song. It was still. No litter. A sanctuary, that’s the word. I could still see the same sky way up there but everything else was different. I was in a parenthesis in time.

I knew I was being allowed to see this, to be here. To others it must just be land with cactus and stuff, otherwise it would’ve been cut down long ago. Part of me was at peace and wanted nothing more than to be here, another wanted to go get the chainsaw and start cutting. There was enough to keep me working a week. The problem was that once I started I’d break whatever invisibility it had and others would move in fast. I’d laid down truck tracks in the grasses getting here, someone else would follow these out of curiosity. If I left now could I find my way back here? There were no landmarks I could see driving in, just craggy mesa top on all horizons.

The part that only wanted to soak in the stillness and beauty kept acing out the part of mind that was the woodcutter. Eventually I found a big-trunked cedar on what felt like a boundary line between the sanctuary and the rest of the mesa top and decided to start there and see how it felt. It took an hour to saw through because the dry cedar wood soaked up the oil on the chain so I kept having to stop and sharpen the cutters and refill the reservoir a half dozen times. When I got nearly through the tree didn’t lean into the notch and fall as expected, it just sat down on the blade. I used the axe as a wedge and axe as hammer to lever it up and pull the blade free. But nothing would budge the upper part.

Farther out from the cedar was a towering dead fir riddled with wormholes. It was easily a truckload, cut to length and stacked to the top of the Ford’s barred sides, maybe a cord and a half. It was around noon and would take the rest of the afternoon. I’d check out the cedar tomorrow and see how I felt about toppling it.

I cut the notch in the dead fir and took a break before starting in from the other side. There was something spooky about this one. Nothing was regular about its branch arrangement. There was a fullness toward the top where all the branches were twisted and tormented as if the tree had been in pain during its life. If a tree can have slow motion epilepsy this one did. Seizures of its spirit guided the wood growth. My feeling was to leave it alone. I was good at telling where a tree’d fall but couldn’t figure this one. Still I was here, it was here, I had a saw and truck, and it had worms and nowhere to go.

The vibration of a saw will travel up a dead tree and sometimes loosen broken branches, so I kept glancing up ready to move away if anything dropped. When I was almost through I stood up to take a breather when something tapped me on the top of the head. I felt a stick not bigger round than a pencil but twice as long arrowed into my skull at the soft spot where the cranial plates join. I pulled it out and looked at the end that’d been in my brain. No blood, only wetness. I felt okay, but figured I better sit down. There was something not quite right and I needed to track it down. I sat with my back against a tree, clicked off the switch to the motor and checked my body out mentally. There was an itch on my cheek and something moving across it. I swatted and a big violet and cream-colored centipede hit the ground running and chased itself away. How did it get there in the few seconds since I’d sat?

The light was odd, the sun way over there. And it was chilly. I got the feeling I’d been in a sweat. I touched the Husquavarna and it was cold and that didn’t feel right. I felt wetness on my neck and traced it up to the crusted over hole in my skull. There was a burning itch all over my face and neck now, even my lips hurt where the centipede had been exploring.

I stood and looked around, didn’t have a clue to where I was. When I came upon the truck in wandering around I didn’t know what it was. I’d never seen a truck before. All there was in memory was an impression of three old bearded men in gray robes angry with me, and that happened just when I felt the centipede on my face. I saw them in profile next to me emerging from wherever I’d been those six or seven hours.

There was no worry. When a person doesn’t know who he is or even that he is supposed to know, there is no worry. I was free of everything that wasn’t automatic, a just-born babe in men’s wear. I was untagged consciousness becoming aware of where I was by virtue of being there with it, whatever it was.

Putting the saw in the truck was automatic, tying it down and watching my hands do something I didn’t know how to do was fascinating. What smart hands. I looked into the cab and didn’t recognize or understand anything more than the seat. I touched the things I saw but there was no connection. I climbed in like a little boy and sat there holding the steering wheel and then some things came to me. I made a motor running sound. My left leg twitched. I looked down and saw the clutch pedal and tapped on it with the boot. It went down. My right hand was holding the knob of the floor gearshift.

Savvy nerve patterns got the truck started and scouted the way out by following the squashed down grass, and knew where to turn once we got to a Y on a dirt road, and then the main road off of Rowe and through the village at the bottom to the freeway where I drove at ten miles an hour till I understood the meaning of all the horn honking going on from passing cars. Same thing when I got to the turn-off to Lamy, and then the village of Galisteo where I rolled into the wood yard at sunset. A woman came out the back door and smiled. Who was she? Where was I? Who was I?

I stayed at home for a few days till my memory came back. Never did go back to Rowe Mesa. From then on I cut only standing dead Engelman spruce over on Santa Clara Peak, north of Santa Fe…

(Online version of TKFSF to be published in January at Amazon Kindle, Macbooks, Smashwords, & bookstore copies nationally in February)