Chock-full

This installment is chock-full of pictures and notes on a variety of things.

Mystic Bluffs Fly-in

Our neighbor, Cindy Crawford, owns a piece of land near Ramah Lake, less than a mile from our home. She is a pilot and built a dirt airstrip there, which she calls the Mystic Bluffs Airstrip. Each year she and Perry Null, her co-sponsor, invite pilots of small planes from anywhere in the country to a fly-in, and this year it happened on the weekend of August 21.

About 25 small planes from all over began floating in Friday evening and Saturday morning. The folks here in Timberlake put on a wonderful breakfast on Saturday, and then the pilots engaged in a number of exercises and contests, including a flour-bombing competition. It was wonderful fun for us locals, and the pilots loved it. Here is a link to an excellent article by one pilot who was there: http://blog.aopa.org/vfr/?p=2371.

Pretty Birds

Parked and Ready

Breakfast is Ready

Along the Ancient Way

This year’s Ancient Way Fall Festival took place October 3, with tents and booths and events along both sides of Highway 53 near the El Morro National Monument. It included the last farmers market of the year; Zuni, Navajo, and other artisans; contests for the prettiest chicken and the weirdest vegetable; Zuni Dancers and folk music and bluegrass; brisket and gourmet Zuni pizzas and home-baked desserts; blacksmiths and tarot readers and cake walks. Hundreds of people had a great time.

It is called the Ancient Way Fall Festival because it is on Highway 53, which has been designated by the State of New Mexico as The Ancient Way Arts Trail and Scenic Bypass. The highway overlays a road going back thousands of years. It was the traditional route between the Pueblos of Zuni & Acoma, and the route taken by Coronado’s expedition. The conquistadors came along looking for treasure, and cavalry and settlers also traveled the route, heading west.

Here are a few pictures, including one from an earlier final farmer’s market.

Pretty Festival Day

Home-grown Apples

Prettiest Chickens

Last Market of the Year

An Explosion of Sunflowers

Normally the rains don’t begin until the middle of July but we had great rains this year, beginning the first of June. The flowers and grasses grew lush and abundant, especially the sunflowers, which painted large swaths of meadows and hillsides bright yellow.

Here are pictures of Reuben the burro in a field of cowpen daisies taken by Kathleen Haldeman, a rainbow taken by Zachary Frederick; my wife, Lucia, beside Zachary on his horse; and my favorite picture of Lucia and me, taken by Nancy Dobbs.

Sunflower Carpet

Reuben Among the Cowpen Daisies

Zach's Rainbow

Zach and Lucia

Beautiful Walk

Two final notes: First, the Rainbow House is still for sale. Here is a link to it’s write-up:
Click This Link

and here is a video of our beautiful home: Click This Link.

Second, the poem in my last entry, Do You Remember the Light, is available in my recently published book, Vanishing Point. The book is available on Amazon. Click This Link

Vanishing Point

Because this blog is running long, I won’t tell you about the huge sparking shooting star we saw on the night of the lunar eclipse, or Lucia’s wonderful book, Breaking Eggs (also on Amazon), or the singing toads. I will leave those for you to conjure up with your rich imagination.

The Road to the Dump

Because spring is dry in our area, plants wait till early summer to green and blossom. We water our garden so it begins blooming in the spring, but outside the garden wall spring brings only a few flowers, such as evening primrose, that can advertise their fertility despite the lack of rain.

NOTE: Click pictures to enlarge

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Most native bloomers await the monsoons that begin in early July. Then the grasses green and the flowers come on one after the other, yellow and orange and purple and blue and white, Indian paintbrush, pale trumpets, bee flowers, asters, Navajo tea, sunflowers, on they come until autumn when the pallet is complete.

Blooming patterns vary from year to year. One summer bright yellow sunflowers drape fields and hillsides, and the next year blue Rocky Mountain bee flowers and orange globe mallows dominate the landscape.

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Birds are more consistent from year to year. A few, such as ravens, stay through winter, but most are gone till warmth returns. Then the swallows come back to build their mud nests along the cliffs beside the lake, the phoebes raise their young on top of the drainpipe outside Lucia’s office, and the nuthatches, my favorites, chitter and peck for morsels as they walk up and down the trunks of the pines just outside the garden gate.

The sky also changes with the seasons. In summer the blue sky is scattered with great mounds of white clouds that bring lovely sunrises and sunsets, winter cold brings clear star-filled nights, and during monsoon evenings we often drift to sleep to the flickering of thunderheads cruising along the Zuni ridge.

There is joy and comfort in this, the roll of the natural world through the seasons, always anticipated and always delivered. And also, of course, joy in unexpected moments of connection and beauty that stop us in our tracks, turn off the nagging things we should do and the grind of small worries that run faintly in the backs of our minds.

I wrote about one of those moments in my last entry, “The Flame,” the evening when a bright yellow pillar of light appeared in the dark along the canyon road leading to our home. Now I’d like to tell you about two more that happened, of all places, on the road to the dump.

The dump is on the edge of town, along a dirt road that has a fenced pasture on one side and a wide expanse of grass on the other. Lucia and I were making our weekly sojourn there, trying to ignore the aromatic nature of a summer’s week of garbage when suddenly three pinto horses, a mare and colt and stallion, galloped through the field on our left across the road directly in front of us and up to the fence on our right, over which an old brown horse reached his head.

We stopped our car and watched as the horses clustered by the fence, a family visiting their neighbor. The brown splotches on the white hides of the mare and colt were similar in pattern and color and their tails were also alike, long drapes of blended white and brown.

We sat in our car and watched the colt, full of energy, as it jittered about the group. Suddenly the colt stopped and looked at us, and we saw the white star on his brown forehead, an almost exact shape perfected from the irregular white splotch on his mother’s head.

This was one of those startling moments, and the smell of the garbage and the litany of tasks fell away, as we sat immersed in the scene.

Our second experience along the road to the dump was similar, except that this time the beast was a llama. I stopped and rolled down my window, and he sauntered up and greeted us, as you can see below.

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Finally, a poem that describes yet one more unexpected moment of connection and beauty out here:

Do You Remember the Light

that lay like slabs of yellow diamond
upon the sandstone bluffs last evening?
It is the same light

that ambered the willows and sage
beside the Montana river thirty years ago,
when father and I reeled in our fly lines
and stepped from the water.

It buttered the cathedral in Oaxaca
that late afternoon we sat in folding chairs
and listened to a trio of old men playing fat guitars.

My father is gone and the men
in the zocalo that afternoon
have moved into other rooms of their lives,
but the light endures.

I saw it this morning, a bright cloak
draped upon a sheep herder
in a painting of beech trees by Durand.

It’s as if the light forced him
to use it as leavening in his work,
as last night it held us
briefly bound.

Really finally, I have included these garden pictures, just because I think lovely pictures are a nice way to close a blog entry:

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At the bottom of this website are a few general notes about our area and who we are, and a link to a great overview website that tells all about organizations, artists, and events out here. Also the Rainbow House is for sale, and links to the realtor and a video are at the bottom as well.

The Flame

The first of September was Red, Green, and Blues, an annual labor-day celebration that takes place at the Inscription Rock Trading Post and the Ancient Way Restaurant on Highway 53 near El Morro National Monument. The restaurant managed a chili cook-off dinner, with seating under tents between the two buildings. Then the trading post put on the music, Jon Pickens and his transcendently grand blues band, the Billyhawks. About 150 people were there.

We were all looking forward to the music on the open stage beside the trading post, with the great sandstone bluff behind and the stars draped like Liberace’s diamond cloak above our heads. But it had been an on-and-off day of hard rain and hail, so the music was moved into the Old School Gallery across the street.

The band was smokin’, the old school house shook to high energy blues, and the applause and whistles of the audience, and the bounce of the dancers. Then about 10:30 we drove toward home, tired and full and stoked on the music.

Home was a drive of 17 or 18 miles, down the dark starless highway to Timberlake Road, where we turned onto the gravel and began winding through the valley and around the mesas, toward our house.

Just past the old corrals and before the spread where the Navajo man, Mr. Pino, had his fields and sheep and a few horses, Lucia pointed out her window and said, “What is that?” I glanced where she pointed, then moved the car to the edge of the road and stopped. We sat there agape, staring at a long bright yellow light at the top of the mesa, that shimmered against the black sky.

My first thought was that it was some strange manifestation of the moon, but that wasn’t possible; the sky was totally obscured by clouds and the moon was dark. Gradually it dawned on us what we were seeing. A tree was engulfed in flame, burning bottom to top like a slow wavering candle.

We stared quietly for a few minutes at the yellow flame. We’d never seen anything like it. It was an amazing sight, something that confronted us with mystery, an exotic vision that transformed our mundane drive home into a dream.

When we gradually came to ourselves and pulled back on the road, we saw two cars parked ahead. A pair of Zuni Tribal Police were leaning against their cars, watching the tree burn. The tree had been struck by lightning, they had called it in, and the firefighters would soon arrive to climb up and put it out.

In the days that followed, we talked to a few others who returned through the canyon that night and encountered the burning tree. Each of them were moved by the sight, grateful for being blessed with a glimpse outside their ordinary lives.

Lucia and I are now in a major shift in our lives, hanging in a pocket of uncertainty, thinking about a possible move. In the middle of all this we encountered the burning tree, an extraordinary gift.

We each took it as a sign that we are on the right path. We don’t know whether the future carries us to Albuquerque in an immediate rush, or if we are here for another season or two. But we believe we’re going in the right direction.

Hidden Driveways

Dear Reader, I have been fascinated with road signs for years. I hope you enjoy this departure from the usual fare:

While visiting our kids in Virginia, we went to the library one day and saw a sign on the short entrance road that said, “Hidden Driveways.” We looked around and couldn’t see any driveways, and then smiled as it hit us both at the same time. We wouldn’t see them, would we?

Hidden Driveway

It became a little joke, watch for hidden driveways, but I started looking for them for real and spotted one six months later from our patio on a September evening, a faint left-hand diagonal loop across the bottom of a cumulus, briefly visible where pink and blue met.

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Once I knew they really existed, I remembered one from my childhood. There was a high redwood fence that ran along the side of the garage of the house in Wichita where I grew up, the house where my father’s grandmother had lived and died before we moved in and stacked our long years on top of hers.

Even as a skinny kid I had to turn sideways to squeeze along the space between the garage wall and the fence, pushing my way through the overgrown honeysuckle and Virginia creepers. There was one spot where the firmness of the fence disappeared beneath the vines; you could stick your arm through the vines and the fence wasn’t there. I never tried to fight my way in—I was usually on some mission, and the narrow grasping of the place always had me too creeped out to do anything other than get through as fast as possible.

Then Lucia realized that there was another hidden driveway in the house of her childhood, the old rambling house on Ward Parkway in Kansas City where she and her dad and sister lived. She had the third floor pretty much to herself and there was one small room beneath the eaves with pink roses in the wallpaper and a low hidey-hole, and way at the back, behind where she kept her dolls in a tumbled pile, the wall was insubstantial. She remembered this in a dream.

Hidden driveways and secret exits are especially appealing to us where we are now, 67 and 71. We could probably enter the one in the cloud if we became buoyant enough, jettisoned enough baggage, swapped some ego for whoopsies. I would have to learn to dance the boogaloo and orange uptown twist, the long skirt dervish and the jiggle hop. Lucia could show me.

Come to think of it, we don’t even have to look for them. After all, we created the modern universe. When we were children in different cities, different years, we drew it on our bedroom walls with crayons. I used ecru and you used chartreuse, and we put our pudgy little fingers on the universe and pulled it out. That’s how it happened, how the old two-dimensional universe unflattened, we pulled it out together at the same time in different cities and different years. If we could do that, don’t you think a little thing like a hidden driveway would be a piece of cake?

So when we’re ready, maybe twenty years from now, we’ll share a simple dinner to center and blend our creative juices: vichyssoise, a cold asparagus salad, lobster bisque, and a cold bottle of Prosecco. Then we’ll put our fingers together on the back of the old shed at the end of our driveway in Albuquerque and pull together, whoosh, and open a hidden driveway. We’ll jump into our green 1926 Bugatti open tourer, Lucia will toss a pink silk scarf around her neck and I will don my Harris tweed driving cap, and we will roar through, listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.”

And who knows, maybe we’ll slash a loop across an evening cumulus where the blue and pink meet and glide on up to a zeppelin tethered deep in the sky, or slip into a little yellow farmhouse that waits for us patiently in the Kansas Flint Hills, or perhaps we’ll just jam the gas pedal to the floor and scream with the rush as we tear a new hole in the universe.

Do Not Stop in Box

said the sign over the street just before a railroad crossing. Is it just a sign or something more? I am suspicious, given our recent discovery of the “Hidden Driveways” sign and everything to which it led. I mull over other signs we have passed that also seem heavy with meaning, “Gusty Winds May Exist,” “Limited Visibility Ahead, ““Loose Gravel.” Maybe we should disobey the sign and stop.

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We didn’t, we obeyed the sign and drove through the box; one of the reasons we moved to New Mexico, after all, was to get out of the box. But what if we had stopped?

I was tempted, it piqued my oppositional nature, but I’m glad we didn’t. Not after the hidden driveways thing. We just passed it by, moved on through, eyed the sign with curiosity in our mirrors, and carried the unanswered question on down the road.

Kenny’s Stellar Application (Stars Revisited)

A couple of years ago, Lucia’s son Matt and his wife Eed and their two sons Kenny and Nate were with us for Christmas. It was a typical high country wintertime, cold nights and gin-clear skies filled with crystalline stars.

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A few days after Christmas, Kenny was nearing the end of his process of applying to universities, and he had one more application to send over the Internet. As he was about to push the button on his laptop that would transmit the document, Matt said, “Why don’t we all go up on the roof and send it from there?”

And that’s what we did. We bundled up, got a flashlight, turned off the lights in the house so the only light outside would be from the stars, and crunched through the snow and up the stairs to the roof.

We settled into the cold, and Kenny turned on his computer and hunched over the lighted screen. The rest of us held hands and counted to three, and Kenny pushed the button to fire his application into the glittering canopy that stretched above our heads.

Lucia said she could almost see the message streak into the heavens and arc over the earth to a computer the admissions person would turn on in the morning. It felt to me like magic—this small circle of family on the roof of a remote house in the frozen winter night, sending a request into the universe that was palpably manifesting itself above and around us.

Here in this high remote place, we live among the stars. We are aware of the phases of the moon and we have learned that its path in the sky is opposite that of the sun—higher in the winter than the summer. We know that the pole star is the stationary point around which the night sky revolves. We can find the seven sisters, the Pleiades Cluster, a small fuzzy blur to the naked eye that jumps into a dense clump of stars through binoculars. We are aware of these things because they are part of our lives.

Like our ancestors for whom the night sky was a constant source of wonder, our daily life beneath the stars maintains our sense of awe. Their visual impact never fades. When we return home on a clear night and pull into our garage, after the car is quiet and the garage light has clicked off, we still step out under the stars and one of us will almost always whisper, “Look at that!” as we stare into the star-blasted expanse.

A majority of people living around the world today will never see the Milky Way. To us that is a very sad thing, perhaps even a subtle limitation on our ability to be a global tribe together. Wondering at the stars is an experience that gives us common ground, a strand woven throughout the long rope of our history as a species that is rapidly fading away.

But hopefully that’s not the end of the story. Perhaps the dimming of the stars can be reversed. As we deal more effectively with air pollution, there could be a collateral benefit. We might begin to bring back the brilliance of the night sky.

The Old Zuni Mission

One chilly gray day in April, we took a couple of visiting friends to the Pueblo of Zuni to see Our Lady of Guadalupe, the old Spanish mission. Zuni is one of nineteen pueblo tribes with reservations in New Mexico. The pueblo tribes have retained their culture and identity more than most other Native American groups. Pueblo Indians still dance the dances and wear the costumes and fast and pray communally much as their ancestors did many hundreds of years ago.

The Zuni Pueblo is located in Northwestern New Mexico, about 20 miles west of our home. Zuni is the name of both the reservation and the town, and it is the old pueblo part of the town where the ancient heart of the Tribe still beats strongly.

Zuni Sacred Mesa (Dowa Yalanne)

Zuni Sacred Mesa (Dowa Yalanne)

The mission we went to see was built in 1629 with the forced Indian labor the Spanish generally used to build all the pueblo missions. It had partially collapsed, been rebuilt, and continued to stand in a square in the middle of Zuni old town for over 270 years. It looks just like you’d expect an old mission to look–massive plastered walls topped with a bell tower, fronted by a gated courtyard filled with ancient graves, old wooden windows and doors framed with huge weathered beams. It saw blood when conscripted Zuni people built it, and again when at least one Spanish priest was killed in it during the Pueblo revolt of 1680. But the main reason we took our friends to visit the mission was the painting going on inside.

When we pulled up to the small wooden door on the side of the mission and parked, there were four or five other people, tourists from Florida, waiting to see the inside of the church, which was locked. One of the people waiting said a call had been made to the Catholic office a couple of blocks away, and someone was coming over with a key to let us in. We stood there beside our cars with the folks from Florida and smelled the fragrant pinion wood smoke, and watched the dogs and children who went on with their lives as if we weren’t there.

Old Zuni Mission

Old Zuni Mission

In a few minutes a little boy came up to us and said, “They are dancing!” This was a welcome and unexpected surprise—a dance had begun in the small plaza that adjoined the church’s plaza. Lucia and I had wanted to see a Zuni dance for two years. Although the Zunis dance often, there is no schedule. The religious leaders of the Tribe usually announce dances the morning of the dance. Today we were lucky, and a dance had begun.

We walked through the alley between the mission plaza and the dance plaza, and there they were. One of the kivas, a spiritual society, was performing a rain dance, thirty or so men clad in painted deerskin shoes and brightly colored outfits with pinion branches in their belts and blue and red and black masks covering their heads, chanting and shaking rattles and stepping together in circles and lines that wove sinuously back and forth and around the small space.

We had been told that as non-Zunis we were supposed to be watching from the roof of a building on the other side of the square, but it was difficult to get there during the dance, so we stood with three or four other tourists and watched, entranced. These men were members of a kiva that had existed for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. They hadn’t put on their costumes and danced to entertain tourists, but as a religious practice to bring blessings to their village. They were from one of six kivas that would dance for rain on various days, and dance for other reasons on other days. We felt honored and touched to be allowed to watch this ancient religious rite and listen to the chanting song as we leaned against the old adobe wall in the chilly gray afternoon light.

Eventually a woman came up to us and asked us to leave the alley so the dancers could move through to continue their dance in the plaza beside the mission. About the same time a woman came from the mission office to open the church, and we went inside the mission, where we could still hear the dancing and chanting as it continued outside.

The inside of the mission is basically one large high room filled with old wooden pews, and a loft at the back. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the paintings that covered both side walls of the church. There, life-size, were dozens of the kachinas of the Zuni kachina religion, and priests and dancers and others performing religious functions of tribe and kiva and clan.

Traditional Zuni life is a complex interweaving of clans, societies, and religion. The centerpieces of Zuni religion (and that of some other Pueblo Tribes) are the kachinas. Kachinas are spirits of things in the physical world. In terms of their power and influence they somewhat resemble Catholic saints. They are powerful manifestations that can bring good things for people: rain, healing, abundant crops, or protection.

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On the left wall were the warm month activities, rain dancers and initiation rites and the alter of a medicine man, all under blue sky and rainbow and sacred serpent, birds and plants and sun gracing the procession of kachinas with the gifts of the earth. On the right was the winter when Shalako, the biggest annual celebration, happens (there will be a later posting here about out experiences with Shalako), and there were the Mudheads and the Longhorns and the Shalako Kachina himself, and the Shalako priest and the other kachinas of the cold months. Above them stretched a snowy sky and snow lay at their feet, all sparkling with glittered frost.

Alex Seowtewa, a Zuni man, has been painting these kachina scenes since 1970, when he convinced a priest that despite his slight artistic training, he could capture the images on the walls of the church. He wanted to depict the traditional Zuni religion in this Catholic place, and preserve images of Zuni culture that may be otherwise lost. Zuni priest functions are sometimes lost when a priest dies before he can teach his chants and songs to another.

With two of his sons, Alex paints high on a scaffolding against the wall or up in the loft where they are working on a large panel depicting the church as it was many years ago, including a Zuni Christ figure above pouring corn pollen blessings upon the church and the town below. When Alex or one of his sons is here and visitors enter, they will stop their painting to explain what they are doing and why, what the figures mean, some of the history of the Zuni tribe, and its religious beliefs and its painful encounters with the Spanish.

Kachina Figures

Kachina Figures

These are wonderful, openhearted men engaged in a life-long creative passion. In addition to recording aspects of their culture and beliefs, their work is a correction, a purging—in the middle 1800’s, at the order of the priests, the walls of the church had carried paintings of disciplinarian kachinas, probably placed there as warnings to the tribe of punishments that would be meted out to them if they failed to attend services. But the Seowtewa paintings are in danger. The plaster upon which they rest is separating from the walls, and despite a number of proposals over the years, no organization has yet come forth to implement a solutiom.

We stood in the back of the church and listened to the faint droning voice of the church representative at the front, as it intertwined with the muffled chants and rattles of the dancers outside. I thought about how we white folks from Kansas City and Florida were experiencing glimpses of this ancient indigenous culture as if it were exotic and unusual, when in fact we were the exotics in this place.

We walked outside, where the rain dancers continued to move to rhythms rooted in time and earth. Finally they began to move from the plaza toward a nearby house for food and rest, weaving through a cluster of automobiles in which Zuni people sat watching behind rain-streaked windows,

As I write this, I am struck by the the gaps we saw that day: between we white observers and the Zunis, and between the modern and ancient worlds inhabited by the Zuni observers in their cars as they watched the dance.

Lucia and I recently heard an interview with Richard Blanco, the young gay Cuban American poet who had been chosen to read a poem at the second inaguaration of President Obama. When asked by the interviewer the theme of his poem he said it’s about the question, “How do we belong together?” Whether standing in the Zuni rain or feeling the tumult of the world, that seems like a right question to ask.

Beside Sacred Mesa Road

Beside Sacred Mesa Road

Folk Music

The Rainbow House sits outside Ramah, New Mexico, in high ponderosa red cliff desert. We call it the rainbow house because we have seen more rainbows here than we’ve seen anywhere else, and they are often double rainbows, which neither of us has ever seen before. They appear in the valley outside the front windows, and beyond over the forested hills called the Zuni Mountains.

We will talk some about the house (it’s for sale), but we will focus more here on adventures and the phenomenal beauty of this place, and the diverse creative community scattered through the mesas and valleys around.

A few miles down the road from us on Highway 53 is El Morro Village, a cluster of businesses that are in the vicinity of El Morro Monument. In three of the places, the Old School Gallery, Inscription Rock Trading Post, and Tinaja Restaurant, live music is a regular occurrence. The music is varied, eclectic, and usually very good. We sometimes say that we have seen more great performances out here in the second row of folding chairs than from the second balcony in all our years in Kansas City.

First is the Old School Gallery is the home of our arts council, where the work of local artists is for sale. It also contains space for performances and classes and workshops. Here is a picture of the Old School Gallery during a May Day Celebration:

Tinaja is a restaurant recently purchased by Ira, a young Navajo man and his family. He is a trained gourmet chef and very interested in the performing arts, so music is often available there. Ira also hosts a variety of other events, such as a recent evening of Sumo and Sushi. Here is a link to their Facebook page. Check out the great pictures.

https://www.facebook.com/LaTinajaRestaraunt

Finally there is the Inscription Rock Trading Post, operated by Pam and Jon. Inscription Rock is an Indian arts store, a coffee house, and a place where musical performances regularly occur on the adjacent open-air patio.

Music at Inscription Rock usually involves Jon, who was a Nashville musician, and some conglomeration of visiting or local musicians. The combination of glorious setting, terrific music, and good friends means we try to never miss an Inscription Rock event. We think Jon’s most recent group, a blues band called the Billyhawks, is his best. It includes Don, an accomplished mandolin player; Tim and Johnny, a guitarist and bass guitarist who appeared at an Old School Gallery open mic event one night; and Jon and Pam’s son Walker on drums. It also features Cindi, a local blues singer, and they all really cook together. Here is a link to the Billyhawks website, where you can hear their music and buy their songs. All the songs are excellent but two of our favorites are “Call Me” and “Hollow as the Moon.”

http://thebillyhawks.bandcamp.com

The most wonderful music there, though, is the music of friendship. One night a couple of years ago, eight of us, all old friends, gathered for dinner with Pam and Jon and their son Walker, on the Inscription Rock Trading Post patio. We sat around a long table beside the store under the evening sky and chatted as dusk faded into the star-filled night. Some distance behind us a huge mesa, striated in pink and red and white, stood sentinel. Small lights hung in the pinions and junipers at the edges of the patio and rows of small candles on the table flickered in the light breeze, but the main light came from the night sky.

Pam had served a meal of tamales, frijoles, calabacitas, and salad, and we were relaxed into our chairs, sipping sherry or port, the soft murmur of conversation floating through the glimmered night. Jon started talking about an event that happened at the store a few days earlier, when a group of Zuni men came in to the store and asked where they could find a particular type of tree. They wanted the right kind of tree to harvest boughs from, for use in the rain dances that would be performed in their pueblo the next day.

Jon pointed them toward a gravel road that meandered across the Zuni Mountains and a few hours later they returned to the store, their truck full of boughs. Their purpose in stopping again was to leave Jon and Pam and Walker with the blessings of their ancestors, whose spirits rode with them now that the gathering was complete.

This had gotten Jon thinking about a conversation he and Pam had a few days earlier about people they met in dreams, people they knew during the dream but who were strangers when they awakened. They had discussed those people, wondering if they were ancestors, people from previous lives, or what. Later, as he pondered about the dream people and the ancestors who rode with his Zuni friends, Jon noodled on his charango (a Andean string instrument), and a song had emerged.

We all, of course, asked to hear the song and with a little coaxing, Jon got out his charango and sang and played.

The song, called “Suenos”, was a gentle reflection on the people that we meet in dreams who lovingly lay their hands on our shoulders or give us a smile or a warm word. His fine soft voice wove with the notes of the charango in that still New Mexico night, and intertwined with the stars and our friendship on one of those illuminated evenings that occasionally fall into our lives.

Since that night each of us has wended through the dark and light of our paths. Three people have fought life-threatening illnesses, Jon and groups of local musicians have cut two CD’s, mostly of Jon’s music, and Walker has fallen in love and out again and moved on in his life. But for us that evening still sits in our memories as a soft and safe interlude, a breathing space, a moment of grace.