Archive for July, 2008

July 18, 2008

Taos Rocks!

The 12th was an “off duty” day for me, and I set out to explore what I could of Taos. I had addresses for several pushers (aka LYS’s), and the Taos Pueblo was having a big pow wow this past weekend, so I hoped to spend a few hours enjoying frybread and watching dancers once I had “taken off the edge” with some fiber fondling.

My first stop was Taos Sunflower in Arroyo Seco (mentioned in the prior post),

where I was greeted by the lovely and very helpful Connie (backed by the sunflower painting that corresponds to the name of the shop.)

The store is tucked behind a courtyard off the main drag (all one block of it!) and is bright, airy, cheerful, and gloriously tempting. They specialize in artisan fibers, be the artisan spinning or dying or whatever else you might think of, and the colors and combinations are, in a word, stunning.

The shawls show off some of the wonderful combinations that can be found at Sunflower, and that wall of yarn is all Malabrigo. Of course, you can find them online and order up all kinds of wonderful stuff to amuse yourself!

I came out with two skeins of complementary blues that are going to become baby garb of some sort for a new cyber-friend, Logan in NJ, whose grandma passed away a short time ago. Logan had mentioned this loss in a comment on the Yarn Harlot, and I was moved to contact her and offer to be a surrogate grandma-knitter. It may be a Baby Surprise, or it might be a tiny hoodie – but since they’ve decided not to learn the baby’s gender, I wanted something that was suitable no matter what popped out. And I have until February to come up with something that will be just right!

Then I headed down into Taos proper, seeking out further enrichment. The first thing I saw was this fantabulous fish – I do love me some yard art (no plastic flamingos for me) and if it hadn’t been bigger than my patio, I would have been hard-pressed to not have it shipped to me! The colors, the vibrancy, and the slightly bemused expression just made me giggle!

Strolling around the few blocks of downtown Taos is wonderful – the people are friendly, the weather was just right, and it made me feel very much at home. After some meandering, I located La Lana Wools just off the Plaza (the center of any small Spanish-influenced Southwest Town) and was overcome by the wool fumes.

“Overwhelming” doesn’t begin to describe the incredible variety of yarn and fiber and garments and implements and tchotchkes imported from all over. (Click on the tiny pix to enlarge and enjoy.) When I came to, I’d managed to grab three skeins of a multi-blue and one of a yellow/green/blue; I think the yellow skein will be the trim or edging on a sweater for the adorable Kira. I won’t trouble you with the sticker shock, but I’ll be counting on a goodly amount of babysitting to cover that little “oops!”

Almost as good as all the fibery wonders was Lynn (holding my bag o’ swag), who was one of those people who immediately felt like a sister.

She had a wonderful tale of leaving her high-end design job in NYC after a spirit quest, coming to Taos, and finding exactly the niche that was right for her. If I had to describe her, I’d say she is pragmatically joyous about life. And absolutely unabashed at pushing good fiber, too.

After blowing the yarn budget, I still wanted to spend a few hours at the pow wow, so headed for Taos Pueblo; what I didn’t realize was that the pow wow was not at the pueblo proper (it’s a historic site and certainly couldn’t handle the traffic of a major gathering). After discovering my error, I got back to the car and a fellow in the parking lot showed me that the right rear tire on our rental was ready to blow out the sidewall.

Off I went in search of a place that would change the tire. I knew there was a gas station at the intersection of the pueblo road and the main highway, but there was no service available – just the cheapest gas in town. So I headed up the road, and there on my left was a tire shop. I pulled in, only to find a “Closed” sign in the window. Now what? I’m in a city where I don’t know anyone or anything (not counting the nice lady in the yarn store) and am sitting in front of this sign without a clue when a nice young man walks up. He’d just closed the store, but sent me through to the other end of town where there was a chain tire store open on a Saturday afternoon.

I made it there about 1:30, and they closed at 3:00; the fellow at the front desk asked if the rental place would cover it, but I had no idea. So I call the Hertz office at Albuquerque airport to try to figure out what to do. A new tire was going to run about $120, and the guy on the phone couldn’t approve it without a supervisor’s OK. I ended up spending about 20 minutes on and off hold (on my cell and with roaming charges – what joy!) before I finally got an answer and an approval to buy the new tire, which would be taken off our rental charge when we returned the car. Then it was only another 45 minutes before they were able to get to my car. Apparently everyone in Taos needed something tire-related done to their car this afternoon – when I walked in, there was no one there, but by the time I got the answer I needed, there was a family of four, two different men, and one young lady all ahead of me.

So to pass the time I took pictures of the sky outside the tire store – scenic Taos indeed! But by the time I’d finished with that chore, I would only have had about an hour to spend at the pow wow, so that outing was put aside and instead I did go purchase some small yard art – one for me and one for a friend’s birthday that is coming up.

Sunday was a slow day for Lesley, so we did get back down the mountain to the pow wow in time to see the grand entry, hear some drumming and singing, and eat frybread tostadas – YUM! Sadly, my camera chose that moment to wear out its batteries, so only a few pix were taken before its demise.

This is the dance ground; I was a bit south of the western point, and you can see the entry at the eastern point. Right in front of us was one of 22 drum circles; they were spaced evenly around the ground.

This is the beginning of the Grand Entry, with the flagbearers carrying the US, New Mexico, and Taos Pueblo flags, followed by the two head dancers (one man, one woman) barely visible behind the standing crowds.

Here’s the male lead dancer (the woman is behind him in this shot, but I think she was a grass dancer – the ones with all the silver cones jingling on their dresses) followed by one of the elder warriors. In this and the previous picture, you can get a glimpse of some of the dancers as they begin to enter the dance ground. The parade was awesome – I would guess about 300 dancers from all over; I could recognize fancy dancers, grass dancers, shawl dancers, and what I think was Kiowa men doing a bird dance – but that was only about a quarter of the groups on display.

Pow Wows are very moving experiences for me; my great-grandmother was from the tribes that were forced onto the Trail of Tears, and I remember visiting a great-aunt on an Oklahoma reservation when I was about 5 years old. Though I look completely North European, thanks to both Swedish and Scotch/Irish blood, when I hear the drums, I hear them with my whole body and soul. It was hard to tear myself away and come back up the mountain for the evening sit-time.

Today (Friday) was another slow day so I went back into town, and traded the La Lana yarns; Lesley picked some lovely vibrant purples (plain and heathered) at Taos Sunflower for Kira’s sweater, so I wanted to trade the wool for something else – about 350 years of a silk boucle that will become a shell of some sort for me instead.

By Monday afternoon, I’ll be back in California. I do love the travel, and Taos has been a very special experience for me. Part of me wants to just stay forever, part of me wants to go home, and another part (the small rational part) insists that I really need to make a plan if I’m going to do a major move like that! We’ll see which part wins out…

July 10, 2008

A Room with a View

That there picture is what I am seeing out the dining room sliding glass door of a condo in Taos Ski Valley, a small alpine desert enclave about 40 minutes (along a winding mountain road) outside of Taos proper, where I’m doing another travel nanny stint with the charming Kira and her mum Lesley. We arrived Monday and will be here until the 21st, when I return to California and they head to Maine for another chamber music festival. Still having some altitude adjustment issues – we’re over 9000 feet – but every day is better, and you can’t beat the scenery!

This is the river running right outside our deck, burbling along happily. Since this is New Mexico, I don’t know the plants, but this gorgeous flower is growing alongside our unit.

It reminds me of passion flower, but whatever it is, it’s a glorious addition to the setting.

Tuesday evening the chamber workshop students, faculty and support staff went for a picnic along the rim of the Rio Grande canyon; Lesley caught me in action.

Beautiful views, amazing sky (did you know that it actually goes on forever? That’s not something you can really appreciate when you live in an urban area) but the picnic was curtailed as an enormous black cloud covered the western sky, and we hightailed it back to the village before there was a chance to get mired in sticky adobe mud on the climb out of the canyon. 10 minutes into the drive, we were in a downpour, but we made it home safe and sound.

Of course, one part of travel preparation is checking for yarn pushers. I found three shops in Taos, but since we’re a bit out of town, it’s not that easy to get to them. But when I went to look for food, I found Sol Foods in Arroyo Seco, which is just out of the valley we are staying in, and noticed that there’s a yarn shop there! Arroyo Seco is only a block long little business district, and the shop is off the main drag, but I went to look and discovered they’re open Thursday – Sunday, so I am planning to get in there tomorrow if I can. And I will certainly get into the Taos shops (at least 2 of them) before leaving, so there will be another post soon to show off more swag and report on the status of yarnaholics in New Mexico.

Before I left California to meet the girls here in New Mexico, my friend Pam came by to get the skinny on the new microwave and meet the resident foster-cat before she settled in for two weeks of house- and cat-sitting at my place. I pulled out the sweater I’d spent so many hours on that came out too big, and she tried it on. Presto, a perfect fit!

Doesn’t she look great in it? She looks so poised you would have no idea it’s about 85ยบ. So rather than frog the entire body from the armholes down, I sold it to her for enough money to buy another sweater’s worth of yarn. She gets a sweater that looks like it was made for her and I get to knit some more. Now I just have to pick a new yarn to play with, and decide what it’s going to be. I’m determined that I will have a sweater for myself by the time cold weather comes back to the Bay Area.

One of the reasons there’s been little knitting to post is that fruit is at its peak season right now. The first Saturday of July, my friend Dianne and I trekked out to Brentwood to go picking. Brentwood used to be a farming community, and then the housing crisis meant that a lot of land was taken over by housing – giant McMansions that were bought by a lot of people who couldn’t afford housing closer to the Bay, which are now standing vacant as the mortgage crisis forced people out. It’s quite sad, as the communities never really had a chance to form, and now will probably disappear. However, the picking was good and I came home with pounds of peaches, apricots, and nectaries, which became jam!

Here’s what I did with the week of the Fourth – five batches of (from left to right) Double Nectarine (white and orange fleshed fruit), White Nectarine/Strawberry, my much-admired PAN (peach/apricot/nectarine with cinnamon), the last and partial jar of Olallieberry, and GingA Peachy (mostly peach, a quarter apricot, and fresh ginger). Sweet work!

And here’s one last beauty shot – this is what I see when I look up in my backyard, a growing young redwood and the clear blue sky. Sometimes the color and vibrancy is so much it almost brings tears to my eyes, and I realize all over again how fortunate I am to live in such glorious surroundings!