Take me someplace where we can be silent together.
― Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things
We left for New Mexico before the sun, my one hand in his, the other holding coffee. I’ve always struggled to speak in the early morning, and after 14 years of marriage, I love that he doesn’t require it of me. Instead, music softly wafted through the car. We floated along the highway side-by-side, grounded only by touch and with respect for the dark quiet. Our words loomed with the glowing line on the horizon, a nebulous and powerful light. Over the week, we would speak often and laugh. We would eat, drink, wander, and enjoy one another in every possible way, but we were also silent of heart and spirit. We went away to listen.
Two note-worthy roads lead into Taos from the South, the High Road and the Low Road to Taos. Although not originally intended, we entered by way of the Low Road after missing a turn earlier in our drive. The metaphors feel endless. Winding along the Rio Grande River, between the rising rock ledges and the cold rolling rapids, one cannot help but feel small and vulnerable, a more humble perspective of glory compared to the sweeping vistas of the high road, a path we’d take home at the end of the week. We turned off the highway at some point, onto a tiny two-lane road, a more direct route according to our map. “Are you sure this is the right way?” he would ask. I would merely shrug, looking at our moving dot on the screen, “yes, according to the map.” Eventually, this path would lead us through Orilla Verde and then up a winding dirt road through the Rio Grande Gorge. The nearby Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a common tourist stop, would have been the safer, more obvious route, providing stunning and broad views of the canyon below. But driving up the canyon wall on a single-lane dirt road held a different sort of splendor and gratitude. The low road held quiet beauty and gentle lessons.
We spent the week in a more remote, off-the-grid home on the Taos Mesa, running solely on rain water and solar power reserves. Nestled within the Earthship Biotecture community, this spot seemed both educational and restorative, a perfect pairing for the level of simplicity we had in mind that week. We craved something quieter and more in tune with the natural rhythms of the wild. Souls are rarely stitched back together with city lights and busy streets, certainly not our own. We yearned for creation, to rise with the morning sun and rest with the afternoon rains, to purchase local whole foods and prepare them ourselves, to somehow again become comfortable without agendas and imperatives to see and do.
Over the week, we would read, write, dream, and pray. These routines were not rigid or forced, but organic and restful. Our conversations occurred everywhere without the formalities of deadlines or time constraints. We reflected on God’s goodness in the same breath as our casual banter and joking. The time was slow but not boring, one activity and thought rolling into the next, mixed with idle afternoons and naps, glasses of wine, and long walks. We strategized ways to carry this same spirit into our daily life at home, how in spite of busy days we would live more slowly, more intently focused this coming academic year. For two driven people, this would require practical steps.
The summer air in northern New Mexico is hot and arid. Cold summer rains commonly arrive in the afternoon, soaking the hot earth like tea, infusing the wind with faintest aromas of Silver Sage. Hiking guidebooks warn travelers of thunderhead clouds while in the mountains, as they drop rain quickly and can even cause hypothermia in the summertime due to the elevation. The lower areas near the river can rise quickly. We mostly hiked in the morning, just after our coffee and view of the sun cresting the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I’m convinced anyone could be excited about the early morning if they woke up to this light.
On our favorite morning, we climbed to Williams Lake in the Taos Ski area. The hike is a somewhat steep 2 mile-trek to an alpine lake through national forest and streams and snow (even in late June ). If we ever return, I’ll carry a blanket, books, and picnic lunch with us. We could have stayed all day. Around the lakeside, over the rocky perimeter and tucked behind the trees, a waterfall parades down the mountainside. We found a large piece of driftwood wedged between large boulders there, and he carried it back across the lake and down the mountain so it could rest in our home, a tangible memory.
The town of Taos is casual and varied, as are the people. Like many small and beautiful places, artists flock, earning money by selling their wares in tourist markets near the Rio Grande Gorge bridge or in one of the local shops of Arroyo Seco or Old Taos. My favorite stop was Weaving Southwest, a minimal shop full of hand-dyed yarns, locally woven tapestries and apparel. At the back of the store, one of the shop-owners was giving a private weaving lesson to a beginner. I wished to join them and decided again to learn weaving with our children this year.
We traveled one afternoon to DH Lawrence’s Ranch, now owned and kept by the University of New Mexico. As we drove through the rolling outskirts of Arroyo Hondo, it is not hard to imagine why this British writer might have chosen this sunny place to begin a utopian society. There, Georgia O’Keefe painted his famous tree. The bench and the tree still remain just behind the main house, a tribute to legendary artists and ideas.
On one morning, we visited a public hot spring nearby in Arroyo Hondo. We traveled down single lane dirt roads and bridges and along the grassy riverbanks searching for two naturally-occurring warm pools. Instead we discovered only the higher pool–the lower temporarily swallowed by the river–and four nude strangers already bathing in it. We stayed for almost an hour (swimsuits on) carrying awkward conversations out of politeness. When the sun and two more travelers arrived, we gladly exited the tiny pool and clumsy talk. We changed into our clothes and went out for coffee, where we laughed at ourselves.
Before arriving, we had stopped in Santa Fe to pick up fair-trade coffee beans, wine, fresh bread, and other foods that might make the 2 hour ride north. In Taos, we’d discover Cid’s Market, not too far from where we were staying, and stock up on leafy greens, berries, and locally sourced cheeses and sprouts. We had decided ahead of time to make food on our own, both for economy and simplicity, with the exception of one evening where we would eat at The Love Apple, a quaint local eatery recommended by a neighbor, serving delicious organic foods sourced in and around the Taos area.
It rained that night, leaving the air too cool for my causal sundress, too wet for delicate sandals. I had opted to wash clothes earlier in the afternoon, when the outdoor line was dry and hot, just before the rain came. When it was time to leave, my denim still laid strewn about the studio, damp and waiting for sun. I wore what was dry: a random skirt, a mis-matched tank top, fleece jacket, and my Chacos. Again, I would find opportunity to laugh at myself, to get over myself, as no one else seemed to even notice.
Something foundational shifted in us that week in Taos. It often does when one rests. Over the last few weeks at home, we have been quietly re-ordering our home life, cleaning out unnecessary things both spiritually and physically, simplifying goals and roles, preparing for another academic year and homeschooling. More defined boundaries between work and rest will be a large part of our routine, one I’m sure will trickle out into this space over time.
Although Taos is a small town, with a few obvious musts, below I listed our favorite spots in the area, in the event you ever find yourself wandering there.
- Earthship Studio (or at least stop by to tour the visitor center)
- The Love Apple
- Williams Lake (walk around the lake to the waterfalls up the other side)
- Orilla Verde
- Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
- DH Lawrence Ranch (if you’re a fan of his work)
- Taos Mesa Brewing Company
- Weaving Southwest (if you’re interested in weaving, fabric, or dyeing)
- The High Road to Taos
- The Low Road to Taos
- Cid’s Market