A La Fonda Adios

Posted by on Oct 23, 2018 in Blog | 2 comments

La Fonda SF Room 40 years later (From THE KID FROM SANTA FE to be published sometime)

It’s almost four on Sunday in La Fonda and the eight mariachis walk past us in the hallway by the patio restaurant to the Santa Fe room in back carrying guitars, guitarrón, violins and trumpet. The violinists are two women in black Charro suits with ornate silver trim and long skirts and flamenco dance shoes. Ben and Rachael have checked out everything and we are okay now, ten minutes to go.

Ben says a lot of Betty’s friends are out of town, even Wally, her closest Santa Fe friend. It turns out few of her friends show up, many have died, many others come to see Ben, my eldest son, and my brother Fred’s daughters, Rachael, Cordelia and her children, and one another. Fred, dead, is there through them, and his best friend, Mac Watson, and our mother through the lusty Mariachi music and laughter. Friends of mine wander in and everyone is happy to be together, there’s embraces and shining eyes but not much drinking going on. The hotel will refund Rachael most of her bar deposit a week later. The laughter and love and shared memories here are all pure-driven by love, music and laughter.

Outside in the hall there’s a woman I think at first is Diane Keaton, looking directly at me. There’s something about the eyes. She knows me but who is she? She laughs at my expression. Me: ‘Judy? Judy Adler?’ She: ‘Didn’t Ben tell you I was coming?’ I say ‘He did, he did, but, but…geez, Judy.’ Ben comes over to introduce his mother to some people she knew long ago when he was a baby, and I take the steps back down into the room where it’s sounding like cicadas on a hot Fiesta day. The mariachis are into Guadalajara with such passion I want to belt it out with them. Marilyn is with two women in their eighties who knew Marian when she was in her twenties, one of them the sculptor Donna, who did the History of New Mexico bronze fountain in the park next to St. Francis Basilica, and the thousand pound brass doors into the church.

Tim, the waiter from The Palace for thirty years, comes over and again it is one of those eye to eyes without recognition for about five seconds, going on for what seems ten minutes, waiting for something to jell in memory. He knows all the stories of all those who were the heart and soul of the Santa Fe Bohemian scene because he got all the renditions each night, so all he needed to do was shake them up later and let the truth bubble to the top. Betty wrote a book called My City Different that presented a condensed version of what only Tim knows the full stories of now. The New Mexico Archives people need to start debriefing this man. I tell him if he ever decides to write his memoirs, Augusta Wind Press will publish it. He suggests we wait a few more years till the rest of the main players are gone. I say I don’t want to risk him being among them. He laughs.

Later Judy returns to thank me for what Ben has become and for Betty taking Ben-of-the-Wind and rebranding him Ben de La Corazon Sacrada. I tell her all I did was ask him to come down from Portland and he took it from there, but she insists gently there was more to it, and that’s what she’s talking about. It wasn’t selfless of me, I say, I was near death myself when Marilyn came in the nick of time from Minneapolis to take over Betty’s care for a week, and then Ben arrived. Betty needed fresh life force, and Ben was it. She treated him well, they stood around the fridge gobbling vanilla ice cream at 2 in the morning, and he made her live longer through laughter and his real caring of her. Now Ben is still jigsawing where she ends and he begins.

When Judy’s said her piece there’s that flash of recognition that first brought us together in the New York City days 30 years before. We hug and she goes over to where Marilyn is dancing and joins her.

A tall, trim and casually aristocratic man standing by the bar asks, ‘Do you know me?’ He has a week’s growth of white beard and mirthful eyes. I ask how many guesses I get. He says he was five when he and his brother Mac and their parents picked us up at the train at Lamy station sixty-five years ago. He says he also came to visit me at 46 Hilárion Eslava in Madrid in 1959 when I was at the Universitária. What?!!! John Watson? John Watson?! It is. I throw my arms around him though he keeps his drink up between us. I haven’t seen him in 40 years. He has kids in their late thirties I’ve not met, we went to Wood Gormley Elementary in Santa Fe. He’s in town from Santa Monica because his father, Jack, died here a few days ago at age 100. We talk for a while and when I leave to go get some air for my soul he grabs my shoulder, nails my eyes and says, ‘Goodbye, my friend.’

I cut onto San Francisco Street and over to Cathedral Park to sit on a bench. The fountain sculpture shows five hundred years of the Spanish and Yanqui occupation of Indian New Mexico. It is a busy piece of work. For two hours I’ve moved among the hundred or so people and talked with them. I haven’t talked with that many people in my entire life. By the time I meet John Watson I am drenched, legs trembling. I’ve done it, whatever it is. A celebration of one life finished and another begun?

People in the park pass and nod my way, some of them smile as if they know me or what I am feeling. It is friendship. Imagine. Am I transparent? From the steeple Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound begins to play where the great bells tolled long ago, sometimes all day on Easter and Christmas when we were kids. It is my favorite hymn, and my theme song. I have to smile. ‘You are really something,’ I say to the treetops.

When I return to La Fonda Marilyn is coming out the door and we cut down San Francisco to Galisteo Street and back to the old Santa Fe Inn. This is how we used to meet whenever we got separated by chance and on some inner timing. She takes my hand and says ‘Oh good, I thought I was going to have to find our motel alone.’ I thought, Not anymore, not any more.

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Hard Heart, Soft Soul…

Posted by on Oct 19, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on Hard Heart, Soft Soul…

To Meet Mother Love…

When I took Marilyn to meet my mother in Santa Fe I’d forgotten about Marian’s jealousy. For 75 years she was desirable and witty and made people feel good when she was around. Rocking as she walked with a cane tamed her some but her laughter was still strong. And her wicked side. So here’s Marilyn the singing nun and professional nurse, and lover of children, meeting Betty Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, with a drink in one hand and a sword cane in the other, a gift I’d gotten her at the Rastro in Madrid in 1960 as a wall ornament. There was a Sevilla sword hidden inside a hickory wood cane with a carved deer antler handle with a release button. Since her hip operation, one of the first in Santa Fe when St. Vincent’s was on Palace Avenue, she used it for dress-up to toddle around with.

We walked into mother and Betty’s adobe on Calle Paula out by Quail Run at five, and by 5:30 Marian is saying how very much Marilyn looks Black Irish, and how all the servants at the family mansion in Oswego when she was a child looked a lot like her, the cooks and butler and groundskeepers and chambermaids. Marilyn might not know what Black Irish means but she sure can’t miss the twist of the words. Mother prattles on about how Marilyn’s forebears had no doubt boated over during the Potato Famine, and how if her family had only known they might have had the coachman meet them at the docks and offer them jobs.

Marilyn excuses herself and goes out on the porch where I find her weeping. I’ve just told Marian to knock it off or we’re leaving, and she does her bewildered innocence look saying all she‘s doing is trying to make my Black Irish friend feel welcome and at home. I say she may as well have drawn the sword and run her through. Mother laughs gaily and toys with the flower on the bone handle shank of the cane that unlatches the blade to be drawn. She looks up at me coyly.

A few years later Marilyn and I are driving west to our home in San Diego from a visit to Minnesota and she suggests going by to see Marian and Betty. I think her admiration of their turning a local 12 page pamphlet into a five color international glossy magazine overrode her memory or good sense, or maybe she was curious as to whether she’d only caught Marian on a bad day.

It is late summer where in the afternoon a storm usually rolls in from the Pecos Wilderness over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Half the sky to the north and west is turquoise blue and the other stacked with blue-black thunderheads. When we reach the plaza a mortar barrage of lightning hit setting off burglar alarms. Indian vendors under the Governor’s Palace portal throw rugs and themselves over their stuff as straight line winds channel down Palace Avenue into the plaza streets kiting umbrellas, hats, souls, paintings and folding tables.

We’d hear the crackle of the lightning and feel the shock, big hail side-winding in and more burglar alarms coming on; and now the big siren from the fire department just behind us comes on. I’d lived in Santa Fe since 1944 and never seen anything like it.

It is over in five minutes, the sideways hail turning into a hard rain, then a downpour where we can’t see beyond the hood of the car. When it clears the streets are rivers, so we hang a right onto what is now the Palace Acequia and boat toward Albuquerque. Ten miles out of town at La Bajada the sun is out, the sky turquoise blue and the air crisp and warm; Marilyn’s been saved.

The next year we returned with my little son Zachary to spend a day. The relationship Marilyn had with my children was a part of life neither ladies’d had, my mother and Betty’s mothers crisp and cold and proper dames embarrassed by being mothers.

This time Marian isn’t tracking too well, so when she opens the front door and sees Zach she gasps, bends over before him with arms open, ‘Oh, my Johnnie, my Johnnie, they found you, they found you, it’s your mommy, I’m your mommy!!”

On the porch where the piñon firewood was stacked, where Marilyn had wept that first night from mighty hurt, my mother says to her in tears and breaking voice, ‘Thank you, Marilyn, oh thank you. I wish you’d been my mother. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please forgive me.’ They hug and cry.

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Posted by on Oct 18, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment


Jack Underhill

Hormones pretty much run my life. When they get into the bloodstream
on some order from my brain I have as much chance of holding them back from their assignments as the tides. But their assignments can be modified and redirected in specific ways that may serve me better than the monolithic
momentum of genetics. How about docking a measure of the death or aging
hormone into whatever physical or mental aspect that is killing me, say the
unabated passion to work or run or talk or hide or punish?

The sex hormones can be diverted away to an artistic or organizational passion when urges get too obsessive, the tranquilizing or anesthetic hormones, like endorphins, dispatched to painful and debilitating parts of memory or body at will, the metabolic regulators detoured to alternative viscera to slow down some functions and stimulate others, growth hormones too. For example you could shunt hormones that shut down hair follicles on your head over to your back if you are wooly, or to your legs or armpits if you’re a woman, in no way resisting the hormonal directive, just providing slightly altered work orders to the proper ductless glands or other hormone slips. What does your endocrine system know about your specific vision of yourself unless you tell it directly? It’s generically gene-oriented, has no capacity to understand style or editing.

You alone can change this, educate it, you alone have the key to the override system of the autonomic system of your hypothalamus, pituitary and pineal to incline their function to your personal conscious input; you can grow pink hair on your fingertips right now, change the color of your eyes and skin, shut down your gall bladder to let the body dissolve the stones chemically, do the same for any organ afflicted in any way by giving it a rest with conscious commands channeled through the master gland there in the home plate of your head. You can replace brain cells, the big No-no of Science, or develop certain brain areas while reducing others. (“I’m tired of being so smart, organized and responsible, I want to live!!! Let my IQ be halved.”) You are unlimited to what you can do. Give yourself 20/20 vision, dissolve cataracts while you sleep, grow bigger or smaller breasts or nipples, fingers, noses, ears, a more sensitive olfactory system, ream out your lungs of the tars of smoke and emotional stress by your decision alone, your heart of hardening, for this is your body and everything that goes on in it you know down to the last detail.

Make yourself sterile when it serves, and radiantly fertile when you’re ready. You don’t have to remember any of the details of how the trillions of interactions per nanosecond spark, you have only the power of your desire, the power of your omnipotence and imagination, your humor and daring. It comes down to, “Am I brave enough to take such command of my body, for I know I can do all this and more. But do I dare? Do I dare reassume control of my body and mind? My life would never be the same”. This is the healing that the Christ in each of us is capable of. This is the miracle. As long as we go out to the Savior we have only hope working for us, and hope is a New York City taxi driver speaking in tongues. The direction is in to find the Messiah. This is real religion. Anything else is carnival.

“What have you done to yourself?” some guy bellows at his beloved in horror, “where are your Sacaretti tattoos, what’s wrong with your eyes, did you have breast implants since breakfast, a face lift, liposuction and a skin stretch? I can’t stand it, why are you doing this to me?!”
Or, “Daddy, look, I’m as tall as you!”
Dad: “Arghhhh!!!!!!!!!!!”

Or, “Ralph, what, what…Ralph, you’re walking,, you’re looking at me, the
rheum is all gone from your eyes, is that a wig for crissakes?, you’re smiling. God, stay away, stop puckering, I won’t kiss you, back off, I, I…nooooooooooooo.”
“Mona, Mona, Mona…”

Too upsetting to conventional reality and relationships (“I think I’ll be Joseph today. No. Mary?”) to mess around with mastery of our body and mind, but it’s there and anyone can do it. It isn’t done because we don’t want to know about it.

But secretly we can come onto speaking terms with and feel affection and
Camaraderie for our hormones, for the spiritual centers of us that direct them. We can become good buddies where they want to please us and in doing so increasingly please themselves. No good ol’hormone likes to have you hate or resist it. (From “I’m just an ol’ prolactin on assignment from the hypothalamic-hypophyseal portal system, ma’m, ” to, “Heck, let’s round up an’ rope us a GHRF and see what happens here.”)

These spiritual centers are easily accessible once we fess up to it and allow
them to teach us their language. This can be done in dreams or meditation, and always with the clear understanding that each of the millions upon billions of cells in our bodies are not just poor orphans but full-on aspects of ourselves in intimate communication with one another, and everybody else, at all times. The universe of us, and everyone else, is “contained” in a single cell or any part of it, or better said, expressed. The endocrine systems are you, the center of your Universe, the hormones are you, and the effects in any combination too. You are not operated by anything except your faith in being operated by something other than you.

The world is an expression of you, whatever you are aware of is where you are in your mind at that time. You can change the world in an instant, and any part of you, that is your power, your private pilot certificate from God. But maybe you have to work up to it, replace that painful shoulder or knee joint by way of the hormone of Love growing new cartilage and sinovial fluid glands, those painful teeth by having new ones grow in ( “I didn’t get nuthin’ from the Tooth Fairy, Milly.”
“You’re 77 years old, Estes, dammit, now snap out of it!”), those painful memories that eviscerate you, or be masculinely hung the way you always wanted to be (“Oh my God, Frank, I stepped on it, are you alright?, does it hurt? I’m so sorry!”), free yourself from all dependence on other systems of thought and people and beliefs and laws and regulations and religions, just become a goddam Anarchist with love for all of what you are. And this gets around, you know, once you’re free, you feel good and people notice this and it makes them feel good and that gets around too, chain reaction. When they see your new head of hair and aquiline nose they’ll be terrified at first but in time they’ll sidle up and want to know how you did it, and they’ll try it out, and that gets around too.

Hormones are you, your ideas, your beliefs, your fears and pains. Yours. Re-
sculpt them to where they make you laugh outright with amazement. Science says it can’t be done, Religion too, everyone you know, all of historical precedent, the AMA, even the Music of the Spheres, but so what?, they’re just you on a bad day.

Today‘s totally new. Live it up.

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Posted by on Oct 10, 2018 in Blog | 3 comments

I was living in Santa Barbara in 1986 before I met Winter Woman or Marilyn and was on a commuter flight down the coast to LAX to connect to a flight to Rochester, NY. On that half hour flight I sank into the peace that passeth all understanding, I was in some sort of place where everything was better than it’d ever been. I was free.

But when we walked down the steps to the tarmac and headed to the terminal the peace let me know a bomb was planted in the terminal that was set to go off as I walked by it. It wasn’t planted for me, but it was my destiny to be by it when it blew up. There was nothing I could do about it, nor did I want to. I was still too at peace to care. But I was still curious.

All senses were optimal, seeing everyone and everything in detail and scanning it all for the source of my destruction coming up. I made it to the American ticket counter to check in and sat waiting for the night flight. The peaceful part of me couldn’t calm the flesh and bones me picking up on this information of my death. When no bomb went off in the terminal I shifted expectations to a bomb onboard and falling out of the sky through freezing air from 30,000 feet at 150 miles an hour trailing a plume of smoke from scorched clothing. The peaceful part of me was amused. How do I put this…a more fundamental me didn’t care but my body sure as hell did? Yeh, that’s it. I was two aspects of awareness, one grizzled with fear and the other chuckling with tenderness and compassion.
When the safety belt signs went off I dropped into meditation. This is what I’d been about in those years, it was what blew me out of Santa Fe on a dream quest in the early 1980’s–wanting to be more than I’d been, wanting to wake up. Santa Barbara was a hotbed of this awakening thing then and all sorts of people’d been drawn by it.

Some inner source said that in the next few days something huge was gonna happen, some elemental force beyond comprehension was gonna move into me and if I was to resist it’d blow me to pieces. So, all I’d have to do was let it in. Oh, is that all? Yep, it’d be fearsome because of its immensity, but it was benign, it was coming into me because I’d asked it to. The snake at the base of the spine was about to come out of its slumber and move up my back and out the top of my skull. This would open me to what I’d now call a download of upgrades, though I didn’t have that concept then. I wouldn’t discover the personal computer till I met Marilyn and she taught me to use her Apple 2e. But I understood what was coming up, though it didn’t do much for my body with its big-time willies. Still it took heart that it’d made it through LAX terminal and most of this flight.

I shared with it my decision to open to this thing whatever it was and take my chances. Easy for you to say, my body replied. What evidence do you have that this is benevolent, it asked, it feels devil-based to us. I knew it was just the opposite. Any devil in me would be vaporized by the intensity of this thing. I think that’s what it was all about.

I checked into the Strathallen Hotel where my grandmother was putting me up for three or four days for our visit. On the last night we were meeting at the posh restaurant downstairs for a last supper before my return home. As I was sitting on the bed pulling on some shoes I suddenly knew tonight was it. When I felt it coming I’d be more frightened than I’d ever been, but here’s the thing, my soul said, it is beautiful, it is pure love and so huge you’ll feel you can’t hold it all. But you can. It is the rest of you. In your fear, feel the love. Jesus!!

Nana had a Manhattan straight up with a cherry. I wasn’t drinking since I’d started inventing the LifeTimes magazine. We ordered and she had a second drink. The dining room was full of people in suits and ties speaking in low voices, liveried waiters moving around almost invisibly. Then I felt it at the tip of my spine, a thought almost, an intention, a tiny blue flame. I sensed the invitation–Can I come in? At that I tried to leap up and run from the room over the tops of tables headed for the elevators. I can feel fragments of that panic even now, so many years later. If I could just make it there and get an elevator up maybe I could escape, but it was too late. I could not move.

The rest of it started up and something in me said Okay…but when it came I screamed in silent terror that I was only kidding, really, but it was too late. It shot into me, up my spine and exploded from the top of my head and I was in a white room without walls suspended.

There is no thing here. There is no thought. I want to say it was bliss but that’s not true, it was reference-less because I was no longer Jack, I had no history, no place, no time. I was in a vibrating, humming whiteness. I wasn’t just tapped into it, I was it.

The dining room began to fade back into the whiteness. I saw forms from thoughts taking shape, saw people redefine in detail, felt senses programming. Coming directly from forever I see with cool accuracy the world of this room form, beginning with tables around us and people eating, the murmur, a waiter gliding into frame and setting down a white plate before my grandmother with things on it, and then before me. I see the green of fresh peas, the first color I’ve seen, then the red of the cherry in her cocktail glass. A moment before I was this green and red, now I want this green and red.

Nothing’s familiar, it’s all first time. I’m taking in others’ gestures and movement, discovering my arms. My hands are learning how to pick up a fork from Nana. It’s as if I’ve dropped into body from being spirit, I’m like a baby. I have a grown body but it’s new to me. It was like that time on Rowe Mesa in that divine glade of straight piñones, me carrying an axe and chainsaw and then getting shot in the head.

Things begin to come faster now, a half century of learning life lost in a whiteout, and now jig-sawing back together in a new puzzle. I feel organs and muscles and tendons individually as pieces. I touch a fork and feel its own memory of its genesis and use and awareness of being, I pick it up and spear a pea with a tine and bring it to my mouth. I chew, muscles on automatic, tongue knowing how to work and get out of the way of the teeth, to take its part in delivering and taking away the single pea from them. I’m chewing a pea and tasting its life.

The central clearinghouse of being human is loading an astronomical number of gigabytes of hands-on information. I am not aware of it because I have no sense of lacking anything, of there being something previous to now. My mind is as simple as a screw’s. No identity, fear, wonder, just turning by some invisible loving force and being part of the carpentry of a fine cabinet from just seven billion years ago. Or was it a minute?

Now that I have the hang of some of the silverware I spear a shred of pan-blackened redfish and make an offering to my mouth, tasting it and knowing the fish through its flesh, translated by my tongue. I love this whatever is going on. I don’t know eating or that this is just one of the things we do, I could sit here forever with transfiguration of the flesh of a pea and shred of Cajun fish into first time tastes by way of nerves of every hue and cry wired to a brain to register as pleasure and amazement. Now I am feeling the food rearranging itself into energy.

My grandmother watches, there is something wrong going on here. ‘Is that all you’re going to eat?’ she asks, and I say yes, my first word ever. I have tasted God and it is enough. ‘I will never eat again,’ I tell her gently. I love the speaking, the ensemble production of all these things moving in me in harmony to make words. It is a miracle. Everything is.

What came in, what came out? I don’t know. But for a time I was at the source of life. When I flew home the next morning I was fully whoever I had been and was now again. I knew no secrets, had no more knowledge, was no more pious or understanding or easy to get along with. But one thing was different, I’d touched raw love, it had touched me, ripped me a new one and opened me bare to life. I had no way of knowing that in the next three years I’d fall in love, have two children, lose them and their mother and my magazine, and plunge into an abyss as deep as imagination into Sister Marilyn’s arms.


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Posted by on Oct 7, 2018 in Blog | 3 comments

Hey, How About Us Fingers? Geez!

Fingers are servants to the entire body and universe, they scratch where the universe itches, write down the thoughts and poems of brain and soul, pick fruit and flower and lint, and point out bears and lions and heroes of the constellations at night.
They explore the jungles of lovers, the rivers, volcanoes, laplands, and saharas of their vastnesses, opening flowers and melons and seedpod for the soul and loin.
They test for heat and cold and wet and dry and enemy and friend, tend to wounds on the body they work for and others they love, sketch the air with emotion and didactics. They cradle small living things and pieces of old life and new they find, and bring these treasures to the lips or heart or mind they give away free.
They are born to serve and bring unto us everything we can imagine, and introduce us to what we never imagined. So they are creators too, weaving us matter-of-factly into tapestries of adventure our brains are a bit too contrived to.
Fingers have ten individual souls working at the weaving rack of our lives, playing our lives like harpstrings or keyboards, our brain just the plainsong of right and wrong.
True, fingers are in service to mind and brain, but they are masters of our expressed happiness. They do what has to be done and wave away what mustn’t, they unite in prayer and ring-around-the-rosies, they slip bands of love onto others’ fingers to wear as ID of belonging to something or someone, they slip into infant mouths as creators of peace, and adult mouths as invitations to paradise.
Our toes balance the known universe with the feet, our fingers the universe of our desires with the hand. Our hands nailed Christ to the cross, but our fingers wrote his story and passed along his love.

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Rio Grande Pueblo Dances

Posted by on Oct 5, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

Aristotle & Pueblo Dances in the 1940’s

Marion saved us kids from secure mediocrity when she decided to head west on a troop train to LA in 1942. We got as far as Silver City, New Mexico and got off. The troops had been too drawn to her and having two young kids and a babe in arms didn’t deter them. Bates and Edie Wilson met us at the station and we lived with them a few months before we moved to Santa Fe, taking the train to Lamy and driving into Santa Fé with Johnie Gordon in his two door green ’38 Chevy.

She rented an adobe hacienda from Joseph Bakos at 576 Camino del Monte Sol. He was one the gringo group of a hundred or so artists calling themselves Los Cinco Pintores, The Five Painters, the nucleus of a Bohemian art scene she got caught up with right away since most of them lived within shouting distance. Bakos lived above his garage in a studio, Will Shuster was a few doors down and Wyatt Davis a few up. They lived the way God meant man to live, having fun, being in amazement at life and the simplicities of Santa Fe where desert meets the Rockies and the air is alive, the sunlight imported from primordial times and people deeply, irretrievably and desperately in love with somebody new every day.

Through the artists she discovered the Pueblo dances along the Rio Grande on their holy days for planting, hunting, rain and harvest, to all the river pueblos like San Ildefonso, Zia, Santa Clara and Taos, and those farther west in Hotevilla, Oraibi and Mishognovi of the Hopi Mesas. The dancers were in another space than the one we watched from, their bodies and bells and feathers and sacred corn meal patina here, their spirits among the guiding nature spirits. It is Pueblo religion where the two link up and prayers are granted reality.

I was telling Marilyn about this as we drove and she asked about the smells and mentioned Aristotle and his observation that all knowledge comes through the senses. In spirit we know everything, in body we have to learn it in liaison with our physical mind and body. She was pressing me to remember the dances from my senses so she could be there more closely than my words were taking her. What did you smell. I said pine boughs, piñon burning, dust raised by moccasins shuffling along, side-stepping, stamping in irregular breakaways from the boom boom boom of the big drums’ beat. Sweat, sage.

What did I hear? Gourd rattles, bells on leather straps around ankles and upper arms, sometimes the mission bells tolling away from the dance plaza, the thump of the bass drums and the ting of the smaller ones, the chants of men in women in one voice, locked in like their steps, a few hundred in union, the spontaneous yowls and yips like lightning out of a rain cloud breaking up the union for a few moments before it finds its way back together. And see? Dark people of all ages smeared with earth colors, the men bare-chested wearing black fabric kilts and head pieces I can’t describe, holding gourds and feathers and pine branches, carved zigzag lightning sticks, a language of things nature spirits understand the dancers to be saying, asking, offering, thanking. I see mud brick houses plastered with mud mixed with straw rubbed on by hands, turquoise sky. I feel caught up in a primitive and direct communication between us all, not only the dancers, and the gifts being asked for and offered.

The dust motes and dance fragrance pollinate with the rhythm and bells and prayer the fields of the real farmers the pueblo Indians were talking to. The nature spirits were the real farmers of the fields, and the Indian their plows and seed.

Without our mother’s decision to go west we would’ve grown up on the east coast as hand puppets. Instead we were let loose in Santa Fé to run wild among three cultures in conflict where there were few fences and no signs to not do something anywhere. No Thou Musts except to be home for supper most of the time or come in with a well-prepared preposterous excuse. If it got a laugh we were safe, otherwise we had to hope she’d gone out for the evening or be prepared for her anger and a whipping. If we got whipped we’d plan to run away and make all the necessary plans until someone reminded us that Santa Fe was where runaways head.

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