... it's the questions that matter

I think and I write about racial violence and terror. I respond to despair with gardening and kittens. I take 1 John 4:7 very seriously -- Beloved, let us love.
Diggin' On:




The beginning of the Santa restoration is here. As I pulled weeds and tilled soil, I found Our Lady buried in various places in our front yard—her torso in one place, her head another, pieces of her arms in others. She had weathered and chipped and I worked for several days to remove caked on mud and old adhesives. I still have not found all of her, though I am always attentive as I garden. In thin layers I have tried to repair the concrete and this week repainted her base color with a shade chosen by a viejita in Española. I am not trying to perfectly put her back together—instead, I feel like we were sent to each other. We have a matching suture across our necks, scars on our arms and chests. We’ve weathered some furious storms, and now we’re taking care of each other. Next I’ll begin with the detail colors and building and tiling her altar out front. 


Tucson. All the files of unidentified dead bodies found at the Arizona border. (Taken with Instagram at Pinal County Medical Examiner)

The view is ridiculous. This is the opening of the earth, snakelike in purples and rusts, just past Horseshoe Curve.

We’ve started to see the harvest from our front yard. Everyday a bowlful or two of green gage plums—sweet and tart; and the apricot tree I was nurturing out of extreme neglect with household compost and mulch, also blessed by the monsoon rains has turned out, instead, to be a peach tree, with perfect velvet fruits. Last week I was thinking, that apricot is getting damn large… then I got out the ol’ 12-foot ladder, and up on the topmost branches I found peaches, orange and red, warmed by the sun. 

Our green chilis, a variety from Chimayo are container-grown and watered by the small drip in our bathroom faucet. A couple of times a week, I take the glass jar from the bathroom sink and pour it in. It will join us soon inside the sunroom that I’m converting into a greenhouse. And I now have great green and yellow bell pepper seeds from the Espanola Community Market, grown for generations in the Espanola Valley, which I’ll be be able to grown throughout the winter.

Through high altitude, high winds, drought, and burning sun (UV at 9-10 mostly), Taos thus far has proven quite nurturing to everything growing. The yerba buena and sage have bushed out, and when Cameron the hound dog comes in from a sun nap, she often smells like mint tea from cooling herself near the yerba buena bush. I am so thrilled at planning for Spring.    

About a month after settling in, we visited our Taos Tack and Pet Supply, and a small kitten decided to reach out and adopt me. The little guy was grey and white with the most remarkable pointed ears and white boots. I walked away, but not for long, and a few days later we were off to adopt the guy, who we decided needed some kitten company.

The good folks at Stray Heart Animal Shelter took us out to their kitten cages and another grey boy adopted me; while the other kittens ignored me, this one jumped from cat tree to cat tree chasing me, rubbing my ankle, and impressively climbing the wire cage, showing off his leopard-like belly spots. They both came home with us the next day—Oscar Zeta Acosta is our wild one, he challenges dogs and cats and moths; while Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles, the littler guy quietly finds new places to nap. Corky seems to prefer laying about in meatloaf-pose, front paws tucked in, while Oscar climbs, falls, gets chased, and tries to eat dog kibble. The length of his paws is a bit ominous. They do a little running around during the day between Corky’s siestas, and sweetly, they find each other at bed time and tuck in wrapped together.  

Inside view of raw adobe. The cooling muscle of our home can be seen in the closets and pantry. So in-love.

Trying to encourage more life in the garden after neglect left the soil compacted and abuse left it depleted. On a budget this means no fancy raised beds, rototilling, drip irrigating, using “soil amenders,” or those cool rotating composters. Instead it’s been the harder double digging of the soil and the re-purposing of found materials.

As it turns out, using the plastic bins we moved some stuff in for composting is perfect. We drilled some holes, placed in the shade, and the compost is easier for me to maintain and turn when I am feeling weaker. Two containers are plenty for us to rotate and turn in our coffee grounds, veggie tips, banana skins, tea bags, and melon rinds.

Our efforts at making the home welcoming to life are showing— with birds, butterflies, ladybugs, sprouts, and spiders making themselves comfy. And now our first little Chimayo chilis are showing themselves, and sending a scent you can smell from 2 feet away.

I am thinking so much these days of my auntie Bell (Isabel, but my big sister couldn’t say her name, so she became Bell for every niece and nephew). Auntie Bell built little rock gardens and collected flagstone near the river to build pathways and plant flowers in the rocky silt of Jemez. Under the pinon and juniper were her collections of plants in coffee cans and halved milk jugs. She used her kids’ red wagon, which they’d long grown out of, to move rocks up the steep hill and to plant cuttings around her travel trailer, in which she raised 3 kids. With every rock I move I love my auntie Bell more.

Our home was built by two sisters. They lived next to each other all their lives. These two small houses were joined into the place we live now. I like to imagine these sisters, in each other’s business sometimes, but also helping out when one couldn’t afford groceries, and meeting up on the middle space while weeding or picking apricots.

Our house has two very obvious east and west sides and strange little things join them in the middle now, like the front patio and in back, a bathroom, whose tub tile means to hide a doorway that once led outside. On the ceilings, between the vigas there are small round metal plates that cover the old stovepipe holes where wood stoves used to heat the house, and where the sisters once cooked their meals. 

The acequia just on the west side of the house predates it by decades and their careful tending means that water still flows in a slow path beside us. Our home, all adobe, 12-inches thick, knows how to keep us perfectly cool in the day and perfectly warm when the temps dip into the high forties at night. The more I spend with their gardens, the more I find their careful, small patches, ringed in rocks to store the sun’s heat and protect the plants at night, they understood “thermal mass” and “landscape agriculture” long before most. I am trying to learn from these sisters.   

While pulling weeds from the side of our long-neglected house, I began finding pieces of an old santa— broken, lost in the dirt, branches, and overgrown burdock. Her head was closer to the house near the mint and rain barrels. I’ve assembled most of her, I think, and I’m beginning a recovery project. This is “before,” next week, “after.”