After leaving the Super8, I discovered I hadn't gone far enough the day before and hadn't really gotten into Taos proper. A few minutes of driving north brought me into an area known as Taos Plaza, which is where all the galleries, shops, music events, and cool hotels are. Out of curiosity, I looked up Taos on Airbnb, and then kicked myself for spending $136 the night before when I could have stayed in a private bungalow in the the heart of town for half that. Dammit! Note to self.
I ended up spending most of the day writing at a place just outside town called the Farmhouse, sitting at a table next to a little pond with goldfish. Sunlight filtered through the cottonwoods surrounding the outdoor patio, and a steady breeze came from vast fields across the quiet two-lane road.
I wrote and wrote and wrote, finally catching up with myself and my story up to Day 9. I looked up to see that several hours had passed. I ordered more coffee so they wouldn't throw me out, and a new server brought it to me, the first one having gone home.
Pausing to stretch, I discovered that largish, bright-red-and-black, winged insects were nibbling at crumbs under the table, forming an orderly circle like deer around a watering hole. I watched as birds vied for the best drinking spot in the pond. Suddenly, a wall of wind hit the patio, scattering napkins and menus. People yelled and glass broke somewhere nearby. I think a dust devil went right over us! It passed as suddenly as it had come, leaving dirt and leaves in my coffee and grit in my teeth. It was like this.
Finally, I finished my work for the day as the glaring sun and heat started to diminish. I've been pondering the delicate dance between experiencing and writing about my experiences. I mean, in order to have anything to write about, you have to get out and explore and talk to people. On the other hand, writing out the story of it all takes a significant amount of time! I thought of Anthony Bourdain, who I just learned had killed himself earlier in the week. I'm devastated by that. He was a hero to me for his writing, his wit, his genius at drawing people out of themselves, and his adventurousness. I too have suffered from many years of depression, insomnia, and substance abuse. It chilled me. I wish I knew why he did it, now, at the height of his career.
I've noticed also that since I left that desert-themed beer back in the fridge in Kingman, AZ on Day 2, I can't stop writing. All of this is just pouring out of me, and I look forward to it at the end of the day, kind of like I used to look forward to red wine to relax. Is it a new addiction? Or am I finally doing what the all the buzzy nights were keeping me from doing? I don't know. I wonder what will happen when I get to Maine. Does anyone need a travel writer, lol? I do know my mind is much sharper and is always writing stories now while I walk around experiencing stuff. I'm watching that and trying not to let it get in the way of being present, of direct, full experience, because that presence is what makes the best stories. But I'm really excited about this process of documentation--of taking people with me through my storytelling and getting them to tell me their own stories.
I bundled up my stuff and got ready to leave the Farmhouse. Suddenly, it felt like I was leaving home again. On the road these past 10 days, I've started to get oddly attached to the places where I spend any amount of time. I leave a little reluctantly, although I'm looking forward to what lies ahead. This moving anew every day is a challenge for me. I'm quite the homebody, although I move from home to home quite a bit. Now I feel like a hermit crab who will move into any old container it can find. It's a little vulnerable-feeling. Is there such a thing as an adventurous hermit crab?
Remembering my Airbnb lesson, I'd made a reservation to camp on some land that was supposed to be about a mile from Taos Plaza. I still wanted to see my painting guru Agnes Martin's work at the Harwood Museum. A hermit herself, Agnes had "disappeared into the desert" in her 40s, according to her dismayed friends and many fans, and built herself a little home with her own hands. There she sat on her front porch, waiting until inspiration struck before creating one of her distinctive, minimalist works. One of my favorite quotes from this wildly different, brilliant woman is this: "When we realize that we can see life, we gradually give up the things that stand in the way of our complete awareness." I love her.
The Airbnb guy got back to me about his campsite, sending me the coordinates for his place. Yes, coordinates. As in GPS. He also sent a Google satellite photo of his land, which featured desert scrub and a dirt road. No trees. And 30 minutes from anywhere. Um.
I drove back toward the Plaza and decided to walk around a bit while I thought about this idea. It was close to 6 and everything was closing, but the nightlife was just getting under way at the historic old Taos Inn in the middle of town. I walked in on the odd chance they might have a room left. A "looper" musician was setting up to play in the old Adobe Bar inside and people were gathering to listen. The sun was setting, and I should've been heading out to my $14 campsite, but all signs pointed to yes at this antique lodge, so I signed up for the night. Another moderate splurge, but when I opened the varnished wooden door to my room, I was sold. Here's what it looked like.
As I walked through the door, the ancient wood planks underneath the carpet creaked and groaned. Anxious-looking saints stood on tiny shelves here and there. Pleased and relieved to be out of the wind, I hung my new Stetson cowboy hat (thanks again, Daniel!) on a bedpost and settled in for the evening.