Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Rejuvenation in the Land of Enchantment

This is a story of friendship, the rejuvenation of our body and soul and the exploration of an area of the world with a long and interesting history - Taos, New Mexico.

The tribe gathered for a week long powwow in Taos. Little did we know how our interactions and experiences with each other and the world around us would be so magical.

The tribe this week consisted of Flaming Sage, Singing Willow, Cloud Bear, Red Feather and Laughing River. These names represent each tribe member’s personality and their place in the tribe as decided by the other tribe members.

Our tribe formed when we were all living in London. Cloud Bear is our common denominator. She draws each person in with her pure love and honesty. She is a good judge of character.

Flaming Sage is quietly elegant, intelligent, so strong, stunning and an enigma with poise.

Red Feather is daring, kind and confident wherever she is. She describes things in a more beautiful way and is an enchanting wordsmith.

Singing Willow is engaging and positive. She is beautifying in her manner and being. She makes things special. She is always happy, often singing and has an eye for beauty and design.

Laughing River is an unconditional and laughing adventurous spirit. She is amazingly tenacious and funny.

Cloud Bear is open, loving, transparent and not judgmental. She is pure-love personified. She is the common denominator.

The inner courtyard of the Taos Inn (Adobe Bar)

Wine-tasting was a highlight. ;-)

This week away from the daily routines and 24/7 responsibilities was so needed for each one of us. The list for the home logistics was completed and plans in place at home to make sure our families could cope without us. We knew it would be fun to get together again but we didn’t realize how amazing it would be and how hard to describe the feelings and experiences but I am going to try and do it justice.

Life is about living it. During the week, I had the rare moment to reflect on life and I realized that life is about travelling and intersecting (life and living) on different planes each and every day. Each moment is an interaction or intersection with something in the world and it is unique for each of us. But the joy of sharing these experiences is what makes life fantastic.

My week was all about these interactions:
·      Exploration of time and places
·      People experiences
·      Food experiences
·      Body and Soul rejuvenation
·      Friendship with a lot of laughter
·      Taking pictures to capture “it” somehow

ABBA Arrival

It took us many hours to travel to Taos from Houston, Decatur, London and Sydney. Those first hugs were joyous as we arrived to Albuquerque airport. Our group circle hug jumping up and down looked like a team that had just won the World Cup. We hopped in the rental cars and started our 2,5 hour trek to Taos through the mountains up to an altitude of 2,125 meters and the last part was in darkness which made it all that more exciting. We arrived to the adobe house of Flaming Sage, our hostess for the week, dropped off our luggage and headed to the first of many fantastic restaurants called Quechua Peruvian Restaurant in Taos. Our conversation was catching up on the past few years but it also felt as if we all still lived in the same neighborhood.

The Red Willow people use the Rio Pueblo as their main source of water.

Taos Pueblo- over 1,000 years old

Sacred mountains as seen from Taos Pueblo

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. The bluest of blue skies is in Taos. Breakfast was at Doc Martin’s Restaurant. Yum Yum.  After the fantastic breakfast, we headed a mile north of Taos to the Taos Pueblo. It is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. This pueblo has been continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years. There is neither electricity nor running water. It was inspiring to learn about their history and amazing to meet some from the current generation who carry on these traditions and way of life.

Our next destination was via the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge. The bridge is the 2nd highest suspension bridge in the USA. It has great views. Laughing River is afraid of heights and stood on the edge of the bridge while the others walked to the middle of the bridge for amazing pictures.

View from the bridge over the Rio Grande river

It was quite fitting that we needed to cross the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge to travel 1,000 years to the present and possibly the future in regards to modern sustainable housing at the Earthship world community.  From their website “Earthships can be built in any part of the world and still provide electricity, potable water, contained sewage treatment and sustainable food production. The Most Versatile and Economical sustainable green building design in the world.”


Used re-cycled materials to build

Self-sufficient house

Already 70 homes have been built here at Earthship.

The contrast of the history, people and the buildings they have created was not lost on any of us this day. The world seems like a crazy place at times but meeting individual people and being curious about how and why brings home the point that we are all humans and we are all amazing in our own way. We just can’t lose sight of this.

Dinner on our first full day in Taos was at The Love Apple and we celebrated Cloud Bear’s milestone birthday and Red Feather’s birthday also. It was amazing food, amazing service, amazing ambience, amazing Cloud Bear and amazing friendship.

We checked many things off our list this day that we didn’t even realize were on the list. Flaming Sage had researched and planned for the entire week with restaurants and sights. Her meticulous planning made everything flow gently down the river as we took it all in the presence of natural wonders.

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” –E.B. White
 (This day it was all around us.)

Rio Grande Gorge

Monday dawned earlier for some of us with jetlag and dehydration from the altitude adjustment; the sky was once again an amazing and mesmerizing blue. 

We left the house in good time to get to the Ojo Caliente Health Spa for a yoga class before soaking in the pools. Our journey’s route was over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. As we approached the Bridge the traffic was stopped both ways. On the bridge were a fire truck, an ambulance and a crane. They were involved in a body recovery. We were all very sad as we waited the hour for them to finish on the bridge. A loss of life is always sad. It was quite distressing as just the day before we had all been on the bridge. A reminder that we only get one life, we need to live it to the fullest.

So it was quite a somber mood on the rest of the journey to Ojo Caliente’s secluded oasis. When we arrived the surroundings grabbed us with their beauty.” Ojo Caliente is deemed sacred by Native Americans of Northern New Mexico, Ojo's legendary waters have been soothing body, mind and spirit naturally for thousands of years. Ojo is one of the oldest natural health resorts in the US and the only hot springs in the world with four different sulfur-free, healing mineral waters.” (From Ojo’s website)

We arrived, checked in, picked up our robes and went to the locker rooms to change. The idea of relaxing the body and the soul for our tribe does not include “whispering.” There are signs everywhere that it is a whisper zone so that everyone can enjoy the peace and quiet. Talking in a whisper was the day’s biggest challenge. There was even a male employee walking around all the pools with a sign “Please whisper” (That actually made me laugh every time.)

Sitting in each of the hot pools with the different elements (iron, lithia, zinc, arsenic, soda and even a mud pool) was very relaxing.  There was also a dry sauna and a steam sauna. I had the most fun in the dry sauna at the end of the day because I had an uncontrollable giggle fit and I got everyone else in there to join in too. After a long day of whispering, soaking in mineral baths, enjoying another fabulous lunch and drinking wine- the laughing fit was bound to happen. Just thinking about it, well it makes me smile.

Ojo Caliente


"What is ABBA?" "It's a famous band."  

View from the mud pool

Late afternoon and we headed back to Taos, back over the bridge, all of us content in the knowledge that we rested our body and souls. And of course that meant that dinner and drinks had to be at The Adobe Bar, which makes the best margaritas in Taos.  We can confirm that it is true. OH MY.

Did you know that almost every establishment closes at 10 pm in Taos? Well, everything except the Alley Cantina. After a couple of margaritas, we meandered over to the local’s hot spot to hear some live music. The Alley Cantina had some live musical acts playing -- I can’t describe the acts so suffice it to say different but mostly they were good. The locals noticed us, bought us drinks, challenged us to billiards and chatted us up.  I loved those interactions with the locals. It made my life richer.

Tuesday morning dawned again with light cloud cover. It was supposed to rain on and off this day but it held off until later afternoon during our shopping day in Santa Fe. I really loved the architecture and the vibe in Santa Fe.  It was a bittersweet day and Cloud Bear needed to head back home earlier and headed to the airport just after noon. It was and is always strange when you have to say “bye” from one minute to the next. We all suck at goodbyes. Cloud Bear headed back and left a hole in our tribe, but her presence was still felt the rest of the week.

Now we were four and it was time for lunch. Flaming Sage to the rescue again and takes us to the most delightful place called La Plazuela in La Fonda. After lunch some more window-shopping and a not to be missed visit to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

As we came out of the Cathedral it was starting to drizzle as we walked to where we had parked the car. We were in a little bit of a hurry as our aim was to make it back to Taos before dark so we weren’t driving through the mountains in the dark. We piled in the car and made it a few blocks in the rain before we noticed the note on the windshield that was typical Cloud Bear and almost caused a catastrophe as we tried to get the note off in the rain on a busy street. It was rainy and dark for the drive back to Taos but a soak in the hot tub that night made everything OK.

La Plazuela at La Fonda

The sweet note from Cloud Bear
St. Francis of Assisi

Red Feather reflected, “We were brought together by a common need of friendship in a foreign country. We enjoy each others personal quirks and that’s why we remain friends.”

Wednesday and Taos doesn’t disappoint with another beautiful blue sky. We started our morning at World Cup Cafe. It was a hopping little coffee shop with all the locals and us standing in line to get some great coffee before our drive to Abiquiu and Georgia O’Keeffe’s house. 

Our drive to the Abiquiu Inn for lunch before the house tour was again amazing scenery as the sunlight shining on or reflecting off of the ever changing mountain views. I can’t really explain it but it is something to see and experience for yourself. My pictures don’t do the incredible views of nature the justice they deserve. These mountains need to be experienced in person.

Lunch at the Abiquiu Inn was another successful choice of restaurant by Flaming Sage. (My mouth is watering thinking about all the good food we ate every day.)

I can totally understand why Georgia O’Keeffe bought her house where she did because the views are amazing and inspiring. Georgia O’Keeffe was a woman ahead of her time, a painter with an amazing eye and friends with Ansel Adams, (my photography idol) and she must have fallen under the spell of enchantment in this part of New Mexico.

I can relate to and I am inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe and her paintings and find the beauty in looking at the actual objects and then how she painted them.  Post-cancer living the “new normal” makes life so acute in regards to every intersection or crossroads I come to with each place in time being special and memorable. I realize that these experiences can’t be recreated but can be remembered (with photos, lots of photos) and cherished.

Inspiration for Abstractions

Panoramic view from her studio. Inspiration.

Back in Taos that evening it was the Taos Mesa Brewery for dinner and some live music. Again it was another memorable experience with the locals, music and food.

Thursday dawns with yet another BLUE BLUE SKY view through the window. Finally it was a slow start to the morning when we ate breakfast/lunch at Gamal Restaurant. It was the 4th time past the place during the week but for November (a slower tourist season in Taos), their opening hours were 11ish to 3ish. Yes, those are the real hours. Also, this place was worth the wait.  We walked around the shops in Taos and met many of the locals and helped the economy. ;-) I realized I had an obsession with Kokopellis.

Our last full day of the powwow was spent at the Taos Ski Valley. It is located at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and is just 18 miles northeast of the town of Taos.  The Taos Ski Valley is the highest municipality in the USA and is located at an elevation of 2,806 m (9,207 feet) but the village limits reach 3,835m (12,581 feet). Lunch was enjoyed at 192 at The Blake and after we took a walk up the hillside at just the right pace for such a high altitude.

“Sunsets are evidence that there can be beauty in goodbyes”
(Thank you @projecthappiness_org)

Our last night was celebrated back at The Adobe Bar listening to live music and drinking margaritas because they were that good.

What did I learn that night? The Taos Shuffle is very common.
The Taos Shuffle is when you live in Taos and just to make ends meet you work 4 jobs. Our waitress worked at two different restaurants, walks dogs during the day and mucks out stalls in the area.
I am sure this happens in many more places than Taos. :-(

Saturday morning dawned too soon. We packed the car and drove through the mountains, the valley and next to the Rio Grande back to ABQ airport meaning that our journeys home in different directions would break the spell of enchantment that we had been under all week.

The spell was broken but our friendship bonds were stronger.
Cloud Bear so aptly described our tribe: “Honestly, it is the strength and vulnerability that is amazing about this group.”

The world = earth, sky, air, animals, plants and us humans.
We were looking at beauty from another angle and lens all week.

Our place in the world, what impact can we have on the world?
What interactions should we seek with the world?

I choose to receive STRENGTH from interaction.
I get INSIGHT from interaction.
How about you?

I would recommend all of the restaurants mentioned.
I would recommend visiting all of the sights we visited.
I would recommend you to find out more about each place by using the Internet (if you are so inclined) because it is absolutely fascinating.
I would recommend getting up early and watching the sunrise and then savoring those amazing sunsets after a day of looking up in amazement at the blue, blue, blue skies.

(Some of the events that happened in Taos during our powwow will stay there to protect the innocent.;-)

I have many tribes that I belong to; my life is kind of like a Venn diagram of tribes. Each one is important and essential to my life. None of these tribe mates in Taos knew me before I got and beat my cancer. I can’t really believe I’ve only known them 3 years. Lucky me.

My week was all about these interactions:
·      Exploration of time and places: Taos, Taos Pueblo, Abiquiu, Ojo, Rio Grande Gorge
·      People experiences: shopkeepers, chooky, waitresses, tour guides, random people
·      Food experiences: I tried new stuff. My favorite was the fried brussel sprouts. (OMG)
·      Body and Soul rejuvenation: mineral pools, hot tubs, mud pools, laughing with friends
·      Friendship with a lot of laughter: Flaming Sage, Cloud Bear, Red Feather and Singing Willow

·      Taking pictures to capture “it” somehow: A picture is worth a thousand words.

1 comment:

  1. Darling Daughter: what a fascinating adventure with your amazing friends. Having met all of them, I know that these ladies are truly special, loving, accomplished young women. Laughter and true sharing of your spirit always make your friendship and bond stronger. How wonderful that you all met in London and now travel the world together. The pictures are fantastic, and looking at them makes us feel like we were there too. Your journal about your trip is inspirational.

    Love to all of you. Michele and Joe Pilo