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I waved to a man
A bodyguard watching the remains
Paid by the hour, an overseer, a Forman
New nostalgia and advertised dystopia
Feeding temporal claim of a mountain
Only vague recollections replayed in a drum of endless revolution
Thunderbird, wild turkeys, and sacred land
The grass grows green
With blood dripping like sweat from the palms of our hands
And the mad cow mocks every passer…
Rio Grande Resources
Very far from the Rio Grande
Still a cosmic joke, but unkind at best
Polite, but never welcome
Another pipeline points at the peak
Covered in green rust
Blank stares at a dry river bank, and a loss for speech
What was lost in the choice to trust?
From the tops of many towers
to vats with cyanide
Water flows in pumps, a homestead
Very far from home
In between the canyon people, petrified in stone
Only shadows of the dead remain
Moments in time, spinning in circles
Yet, only the few are brave enough to turn their head
and even more enjoy the poison
Irradiated soil, green as the grass was before the agents in orange suits
And the mad cow mocks every passer
Poverty of poison
In the middle land
Abandoned mobile homes and children’s toys
Meth labs and isotopes, frozen in decay
226, 228, 230
Internecine, and the paper only buys more hell
Closed, chained like before, and forgotten away
Our mother of common abuse ponders the injustice
The need for bodyguards has expired
Only drugs, reclamation, and dirty water
And all the land they stand on is worn out and worthless
Over many country miles
Chaco’s for sale or slaughter
Just a tailor crying in the wind, when only seldom can hear
Time passes, and passes again
People curl like dead leaves, the shapes reminiscent of past transgressions
Crushed, another washed down memory in a can
Thrown out of a car window
Always on the move
Always craving more
And everything left for the future contained
In only two words:
Nukes and Budweiser
And the mad cow shouts at every passer
“Long time passing. Long time ago”
Weeks have gone by, maybe its been months, or even years. Who can tell with this crazy amusement ride we try to so desperately control and establish significance to. For me, none of this information is important. All I know is the flowers here in ABQ are starting to bloom and all the pollen flyin’ around only gives me the mountain fever. Or canyon fever. Either way this mental prison I have counted on to get me through the last few months has become too overwhelming for me to deal with at home. My solution is to run from this problem and let it catch back up to me when I get back with a clearer head. The pressure of navigating superfluous human interaction and staying afloat is about to convince me that the illusion is real. Perpetuation of this only causes sickness. On another level my soul just cant deal with the city right now. I feel a visceral gut reaction every time I realize what a living hell I am a part of, and that’s another sign. So, “Clinch your fist, and shake your head, and head to the country. I got no doubt about it friend, that’s where they’ll find me.”
A momentary lapse of reason comes over me as I begin to feel abandoned by friends I had planned to go camp with. All bailed. Friends like these huh?… My models of how it was suppose to be are crushed and that only leaves room for grace and awakening, but I’m having a hard time abandoning thoughts stuck in my head like cement. A sledge hammer for my brain is what’s needed. Whiskey? Oh yes, ill have some. Now, lets get it together and get the fuck out of town. Pack up the truck and come back to grips with the reality of the waking world, that sometimes the trip calls for a lone wolf to howl at another full moon. The lonesome valley has my name on it and I cant opt out of such a perfect opportunity. My dog has no worries about my silly models, and neither should I.
The smell of freedom aint’ what it used to be. Gasoline, stale cigarettes, and mother nature. Oftentimes, the best time to be out is early week, Monday –Wednesday, because the whole scene with the weekend warriors is a tragedy. All barreling through paved roads in search for a picture and a picnic. And along with them come all of the superfluous human concerns well adjusted people have, and that’s precisely what I am trying to escape. Fortune has it that I’m hitting Taos at the perfect time for some solitude, and hopefully some Freaks, heads, painters and potters. Ski season just finished, so the mountains are too soggy for recreation, and too cold for picnics. The ordeal of going out to the mesa and walking down the gorge will hopefully escape most peoples minds and they will look somewhere else for their kicks. On this drive, the highway is a perfect call to the soul, and an opportunity to peel back some layers and discover truths.
When I get into Taos I meet up with some friends. Tonight we sin, and tomorrow we purify. What else you gonna do? A night of drinkin and playin country music loud as possible slowly morphs as the evening cycles into midnight. The moon is nearly full, so the stars will rest for a few nights. It is another sight that sends a shock to my soul like its part of a set stage that has already worked itself out before. It has, I just keep forgetting. When your sippin silly tea in front of a fire… it burns. Instantly transported to the 4th dimension, I am now alone in front of not a fire, but the fire. The eternal fire that burns the sitting log. Everyone else disappears for what seems like a small eternity as I am confronted with a truly profound void of form stretching endlessly in the distance from the fire. It is here we come to dance with the flames before returning to the waking world. Soon I can begin to make out other souls, or forms of energy, and pretty soon I can make out faces and bodies of friends I am sharing this space with. A soft glow of firelight so warm and fuzzy that it only feels like a dream repeating itself into infinity, the way it is in William Blake’s mind. The meditation has already begun again, and no one has to say anything about it. More pickin, singin, and smokin, as the celebration draws to a close.
The morning dawns, and its time for some good ol’ home cookin’. Beans, chile, fresh eggs, goat cheese and fresh chard all from the garden. What a life. We pack up the trucks and head down to the mesa springs across the gorge. 4 wd is handy in these parts. We call em them “waving country” roads. Locals know what I mean. Nearing the end of the trail, we realize that it is just a few weeks too early and the river is just a bit too high for the pools to stay warm. The clouds have cleared and the sun is out, but the melt water is far to cold. A long hike is what the day is calling for, and responsibilities must me met. We have 4 in our group, and it reminds me of the early scenes in easy rider for sure. Taos, hippies, and frolicking around, except with two trucks and no money to get us to New Orleans. The river is wild and is making no effort to hide its swollen spring melt water rush. After a while on the trail, we decide to take a dose of psilocybin and continue on the hike. Just enough, nothing above a gram, so to stay functional when we must drive trucks again. The choice determines the course of the rest of the night. The juniper in the canyon is so pungent that it is about the only thing you can smell. The birds are coming out again. Bluebirds, magpies. A few deer are spotted, and a giant gecko. It all seems to be coming to life again after the winter season. These few weeks are hard work. The mesa goes from a muddy baron sea of whitish sage brush, to a light green when the sage comes back out. Flowers begin developing and bloom and go. Everything comes out of its hole for the first dose of new sustenance of the year. The river rises and falls as the snow in the lower part of the mountains takes a ride down the slopes to become tomatoes, trees, and flowers. You cant expect much else.
Somewhere around 5, and it is far out. The change of light begins to paint shadows across the rocks in the canyon, it’s the first sign that we should be heading back if we want to make it to the west rim for a full moon gathering with family. We find a great rock overlooking a large pool followed by rapids in a bend in the canyon and sit on it to watch the magic and listen to the rivers song. Endless and constant like the beat of a metronome, yet continually changing. The echo in the canyon reverberates as the sound of the river becomes the only sound you can hear. One could sit and listen for lifetimes and still have work to do in understanding its uncompromising wisdom. The river has no sympathy for the cupidity of hippy hugs, or for dams for that matter. The nightmare of Powell enters my brain and I realize I’ve lost the point. Well, Shit, I guess we better be getting on our way soon. Trippin’ back down the hippy trail the colors are saturated with vermillion and orange as the sun gets low in the desert. The canyon walls flash and quickly there is only ambient colored light penetrating the canyon. The magic of this transformation, all New Mexicans take for granted, is not lost when you’re a small step out of the waking. We time it just right and top the canyon just as the last bits of sunlight are touching the world we know. Fitting time to stop and appreciate the view. The gorge cutting a wide strip out of endless miles of high desert. To the back of us, the Sangre de Christo mountains of Taos, and out in front, the dinosaur like ancient interspersed volcanoes starting with Tres Piedras and fading into the distance. Further west you can see the horizon of the lone peak of San Antonio mountain. Eventually, and after a good smoke, we head back across the mesa to rejoin the pavement in the iron horses.
As we cross the gorge on west 64, we stop and take a look over. I always do, cause I don’t live around here. The moon has just begun to rise, and boy is it a big one. Not quite full, but almost there. Bright enough to light up all the tops of the landscape in a cool glow. Past the gorge west 64 is a long stretch of mesa high desert interspersed with earth ships and trailers. Everything from well built efficient recycled ones, to depraved squatter residents with a love of crystals and hatred for gluten. There is little water lines, and minimal electricity. In the empty night sky, it is only the moon keeping us from seeing all the stars. In another dreamlike string of events, we begin to notice a pair of very bright lights moving extremely fast in the sky. All of a sudden they separate very quickly and spread across the desert. We flip a bit, then stop the trucks. The other party of folks behind us observed the same situation we did. We look back south across the desert to where they disappeared and begin to gossip about the many UFO stories told around these parts. Even some native groups claim to have been seeing them for centuries. A few minutes pass and then they re appear again coming from separate parts of the sky east and west. They meet and hover for a few minutes over Tres Piedras. We are all stunned. If these things are military, its something we as a population are not informed about. After a few minutes, what seems like 30, the two lights shoot upward at a speed, and with agility, that I have never observed before, and disappear into the night sky. We waited a while and talked about what we saw, more gossip, but never saw another encore. The cow crossing signs on west 64 from Taos to the town of Tres Piedras are all marked with a sticker of a flying saucer, something I always thought was a good joke, but from the stories its not, there does seem to be some kind of otherworldly presence here. Iv heard stories that Taos is a convergence of energy magnetism lines sometimes referred to as ley lines, which many UFO theorists claim are some kind of ancient mapping system. There are reasons to give these theories credence too. Many are quite well thought out and this world is a strange place, as we have just seen. The Taos area definitely contains some form of cosmic energy, one can at least be sure of that. Only being here a full day, or seeing one grand sunset turn the mountains vermillion red, can give many people that impression. This was my first time I could say with certainty that I have never seen such strange shit in the night sky before in my entire life. It gives all of us a somewhat sullen, and creeped out feeling. At least, a feeling of significance within insignificance. Who knows? Is the truth really out there?
Sunrise, and it’s a cold morning out on the mesa. We fix food, then chop wood for the house. There’s a good gathering of friends from the night before so as everyone rises, the kitchen is full of people and conversation. After a good meal, a few of us hike to Tres Piedras, about 3 miles away from the west mesa compound. We take along a bottle of san pedro tea, so the hike is quite pleasant. The mesa is quiet this time of year, no bugs yet, except from the occasional gecko scurrying about, or the raven flying by. As we reach one of the saddles of Tres Piedras we stop and sit under a tree and look out over the mesa. Miles and miles. Looking south one can see the lower chain of the Sangres towards Santa Fe and the Jemez mountain range to the right. Even hints of Mt. Taylor can be seen. To the north you can see the still snow covered more jagged San Juan mountain range in southern Colorado. This is the general spot where the flying lights were hovering over the evening before. Why not? It is a spectacular view. I hope at least that whatever it was enjoyed what the place has to offer. After we get back to the compound around noon, I pack up and head out to camp in the gorge overnight. There is a great stretch of canyon to camp just north of the tres piedras, however it is on the other side of the canyon, and that river is pretty high right now, so I get in the truck and head back east across the gorge.
I arrive at my destination around 4 and get together my backpack, tent, and dog. The day today is pretty warm, so I have the freedom of a short sleeve shirt for now, but it will get close to freezing tonight even in the canyon. Everything’s check, so I descend into the canyon for a night under the moon. The canyon descends almost a mile so the change from top high desert to river eden is something well worth the hike. On this night, I had the entire canyon to myself. No cars at the trailhead, and no one else spotted on the trail. What a life. Ponderosa pine and juniper line the bottom of the canyon by the river, and pockets of meadows dominate the minimal flat land at the bottom. It’s a perfect spot to sleep with the song of the river and relax before I must head back to the big town tomorrow morning. Tonight I will only see the moon for a little while as it passes between the canyon walls. The sun goes down a little after I make camp and the magic hour is doing its thing again to the soundtrack of the Rio, wild and free. Now this is what freedom used to smell like. As the sun disappears, so do my worries. A little guitar, a little smoke and this boys goin to bed. Goodnight, America how are ya?
The next morning I pack up the gear and hike back up the gorge to my truck. The rhythm of the river still pulses through my veins as I ascend the cliffs. A constant stream of face melting even Neil Young wishes to aspire to. There are no goodbyes. It’s all a passing show.
As I set foot on top of the gorge, I am reminded of the nature of our kind. Rapacious. We rape and rape and rape again and again. Its so hardwired in our culture that we regularly rape ourselves and wish to be raped by others. I wonder if its guilt sometimes, or if its just the way its suppose to be. Sure doesn’t feel like it sometimes, I know. A beautiful peak outside of Questa, NM completely removed, exploited for human progress. Molybdenum, a heavy metal not fully isolated till the 18th century, has a very high melting point making it ideal for all sorts of human construction and destruction. Id lean more toward the latter. Never mind the chemicals from extraction, and trace elements of this insoluble heavy metal, washing down the Red and into the Rio. Where else you gonna put it? Feed it to the kids. The moms’ll love it. I happen to be beginning a project to pint these mines in an effort to reconcile in some way with the creator from which I have separated myself for so long. So, back in the iron horse and up the trail I go. I follow the Red River up a couple miles through what should be pristine wilderness. The views are nice. Green pines, meadows, no flowers yet, and an expanding mountain in front of me. How short the memory is. Confronted soon with the beast. Chevron! “We’re committed to always.” I laugh. What else you gonna do? I drive around a few more bends in the road and find the entrance protected with high gates and security cameras. They aren’t just letting any monkeywrenching jackass in these days. You gotta work for it. All the service roads are marked with a no trespassing sign, as Woody’s rollin’ in his grave, and I don’t feel particularly like getting arrested this time, but I will take pictures of everything I can.
On my way back down towards the entrance I stop to take pictures of their cameras. How Metta! Bro! I’m noticing the same anonymous white truck with a couple unpleasant looking dudes passing me over and over. Just making sure this radical freak stays in his place. I start imagining the chatter on the CV. “Hey Joe, we got another radical hippy taking pictures in front of the entrance. Should I wait and see what he does, or go for the billy club to the face right away. What you think?” CV: “10-4, I can see him on my screen in here. Looks like he could use a little beating if you ask me, the queer, but we got orders from up above that we want to cut down on some of the bad PR so, … I think we should stand down for now, but keep an eye on that bastard and if he makes any sudden moves go ahead and take him out.” CV: “10- 4. Ill keep watchin him. Don’t think he’ll make it to the next parish.”
The click of the camera only reminds me that we blew it. I mean the big one. The only thing that has any real significance to anything in the cosmic joke. We blew it away like it was old tissue paper. Somewhere along the way we forgot to honor and became a slave to the illusion and the lament of perpetuation. It became insignificant, and so we blew away the sustenance of heaven for a moment of distraction. Everyone, who is at this moment enjoying an ice cold brew, rolling their eyes in the back of their head in front of a meaningless screen, is distracting themselves from the awful sorrow of truth. We fuckin blew it man! Chevron! “We’re committed to always blowing it up our ass.”
Throughout this summer I have been working away for the two exhibitions I participated in June and July. Though I love the feeling of working like a madman for a show, I spent many days longing for the beauty and allure of the wilderness. For good reason too. It was summer. The perfect time to escape the city for a week away from the human being and its vast egocentric display of development. I had work to do however, so the mountains and I had to wait for the creative circle to run its course. After two successful shows, it was time to see the city of Albuquerque off and embark on the kind of adventure that does not include pavement, street lights, motor vehicles, and the most wretched of all… Super marts.
Since it was late summer, the cool and lush Eden of the Colorado Rockies overshadowed the allure of Utah’s many mysterious canyons. Our destination would be the Weminuche wilderness, named after the native people who inhabited this place. It is Colorado’s largest wilderness area nestled the middle of the San Juan mountains. Home to a few 14ers and numerous 13ers as well as a bountiful biological ecosystem that includes numerous deer, big horn sheep, black bears, and a wide variety large raptors.
Day one we left Burque and headed northwest through Farmington, Aztec and eventually hit Durango. From there we went west to Vallecito Reservoir. We arrived at around 6 pm, cooked burritos for the next few days and put on our packs. We made it in about a mile past the official wilderness sign (3 miles in) and set up camp. Spending the evening suckin on smoke, beer, and pure water from the Los Pinos River. Dali went wild chasing ducks while I baptized my head in the mountain waters. Reborn once again, I began to investigate the brightly colored fungi, ferns, and the many plants of this forested alpine paradise. The landscape was a spectrum of forest green framed by dark grey browns of the volcanic rocks and the lighter granite peaks. Living as visitors in densely packed forests interspersed with meadows, and catching glimpses of Pine, aspen, and mixed conifers rising to alpine peaks nearly 14,000 feet in the air. A bit more smoke, some food, and a good night rest await. The journey really begins at the next awakening.
Over the next few days we hiked another 12 miles. Some of which was very intense uphill ground winding on endless switchbacks going straight up, mixed with sloped crossings of ridge after ridge. The beauty of the place however, far surpassed the strenuous climb up to the next juncture. Emerald Lake! Atop the last ridge crossing was yet another less steep uphill. At the top of the mountain was two very sizable pristine mountain lakes framed by another set of peaks towering into the air. The lakes, abundant with many species of freshwater trout, begin at the banks clear and reflect the red brown color of the rocks below. Once the water reaches a couple of feet deep it transitions into a bright emerald green that slowly fades into a deep blue green where the water is deepest. Little Emerald is about a half mile long in each direction and emerald lake is about two long, but only a half mile across. The abundance of the lake and the meadows that follow the pine river up to the next mountain peaks make it easy to spot wildlife of all types. Lots of deer, marmots, a few elk, eagles, hawks, and potentially some big horn sheep. In the valley and headwaters that feed the emerald lakes the land is lush. A perfect home for the wild at heart and in manifest.
This land is the kind of stories of old, paintings of the west, and naturalist writers. A testament to what the American west used to be, Pristine and untouched. Aside form the trail, there is very few signs of the human footprint. Solitude with abundance during day and dark skies with trillions of stars at night. It is truly amazing to look at the sky without light pollution, which hides at least 80 percent of the stars in larger towns and upwards of 90 percent in cities. It is truly amazing to me that the majority of the population has very little connection with these vast and wonderful celestial beings. Talk about an ego crisis. Looking at the sky, bright with thousands upon thousands of other suns and galaxies existing thousands of light years away, the layers of ego fall like cooked layers of an onion. A true map of the past. Here and now. Best of all, it is real! Its not on a tv screen, or a backdrop, or some digitally enhanced scene too mathematically stale to be a real place. It is the reality of life on earth. A peek into a past not so far away from now. A reason to rethink the current state of affairs in global and national politics. Ahhh…. The stars. My brothers of wisdom. Peal this modern day ego and send it down the pine river to the Los Pinos and eventually down the San Juan to the Colorado and out to the pacific ocean. That is if it can get through all the dams that have made the river nearly run dry as it approaches the delta in California.
After reflections of a night with the stars it was up the pine river, crossing even steeper passes and sometimes having to rely on one arm to stabilize the ascend up past 12,500 feet. The forests become more interspersed and the alpine meadows begin to dominate the landscape. The rising peaks are the headwaters for this canyon and small, but beautiful waterfalls riddle the landscape. The birds seem to like it up here, especially eagles and hawks which most likely find the near by fishing and marmot hunting to be exceptional. After crossing high mountain streams and climbing another thousand feet through sometimes steep and rocky terrain, we find ourselves below another waterfall. The ridge seems to end above it. Weaving through another set of rocky switchbacks, my body longing for the promise of yet another high mountain lake, we ascend up the rock to meet the small valley. At the top of the rocks lies Moon Lake. A higher section of Eden characterized by the sparse and small twisty trunks of the Engelmann Spruce that extend at the most about 20 ft into the air (much smaller than the forests just 500 ft below). The temperature is much cooler and one can see the trees gradually become smaller and sparser as they rise to the next ridge close above moon lake. Above that the trees lose their hold and the bare granite rocks rise out of the green vegetation of earths highest meadow. Framed almost perfectly in center between two smaller peaks is Mount Oso rising to 13,690 feet characterized by its stark likeness to a bear head. Im sure there are Osos that visit Mt. OSO.
Moon Lake is a much smaller lake that wraps around a shallow ridge which provides 360 degree spectacular views of the mountains just traversed and more sharp Rockies up the pass to the southwest. Here you can see how far the climb was. On the opposite view is Mt. Oso and you can see the saddle that extant over Half Moon Lake and over the pass to rock lake and eventually to the flint creek trail. This was our planned route, but our supply of food is low. We made a grand mistake of forgetting granola, crackers, and potatoes. We had plenty of protein with beans, nuts, cheese, and a few fresh veggies, but we had been running very low on the quick carbs that provide quick energy and full stomachs. Our bodies felt a little under nourished, and the sight of low amounts of food made us decide that two to three more nights would be risky. We decided to enjoy the pure splendor of Moon Lake for the rest of the evening and well into noon the next day. Watching the birds below the high ridge fly from tree to tree chasing marmots, and having coffee with groups of deer makes you wonder why we traded it all for the stale comfort of McDonalds and Wall mart.
At around noon we departed from the majestic alpine wonderland and headed back down the same steep slopes we climbed. After passing the first 7 miles with relative ease, we decided to do the rest. There seemed to be enough light. Soon however, the relentless pounding of rocks beneath our gracefully falling bodies straining against the natural process of gravity took its toll and all of us had passed our fill. The faster paced fading of light was another concern as we were still about 4 miles from the truck. Adrenaline and promise of nutrients and a cigarette somehow fueled us to keep going long after we had reached our point of near exhaustion. At a little after nine, after hiking a good hour and a half in the dusk and dark, we made it to the truck. The sudden quench of water later made us throw it up less than a half hour later. On an empty stomach we made our way to camping and replenished our bellies. All of this totally and completely worth it to spend a full 5 days away from all unnecessary annoyances and dramatic behavior created by the festering population of the contemporary human. Possibly the strangest and most fucked up animal on the planet. A renewed realization of what heavenly realities could exist and furthermore, for the sake of humanity and the earth itself, should exist.