Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why Taos

The Taos marketing people have asked businesses in Taos to write a mini essay 800 words or less called "Why Taos", here's mine...

When I first came to Taos 20 years ago it was due to being hit by a car while crossing the street near Fenway Park in Boston.

Taos was a place for me to come and heal. Many people come for healing, whether it was for cures of tuberculosis in the 20’s & 30’s, or for the various spiritual healing of today. The natural mineral and hot springs of the area are hidden all over, seek them out, you won’t regret it. You’ve got to hand it to the industrious guy in the parking lot wandering around selling a basket of home made “smudge sticks” of the local sage, which grows wild everywhere in Taos. Not quite the charming snake oil salesman of days long gone, but another Taos character nonetheless. For many sage smudge sticks are another of our many healing tools.

Upon arrival the first thing I saw were the great buttresses and back of the San Francisco de Asis Church in Ranchos. The paintings of O’Keeffe immediately jolt into your head from an art history course you may have taken years ago.

That’s where I’d like to be some day I thought to myself.

On the boardwalk of downtown Taos I ran smack into “the Great One” Wayne Gretsky, just out taking a walk.

Now I’ve had my shop Two Graces here at the St. Francis Church Plaza for about 7 years and have had more famous and infamous people come by than I’d care to mention.

Taos is a small town and like any small town across the USA, it has it’s quirkiness, the good and yes, the bad, too. In a small town more people than you can imagine will either recognize you, or know you by name. There’ll probably be a story about you in the local paper, the Taos News, at least once, more likely a few times. When you get pulled over by the local police for a “moving violation” everyone will know about it You’ll hear from people for weeks on end that they saw you pulled over the other day. In the checkout line at the grocery store the person behind you will loan you a couple of dollars if you’re shorthanded and someday you’ll do the same, pretty great if you ask me.

Seasons in Taos are all quite different, in Spring we have the mud and wind but with it we have the most beautiful mountain wildflowers. Spring cleaning in and around Taos means cleaning of the dust that’s been blowing through every crack and crevice of your home. The Summer months are full of activities although I’ve never been river rafting or in a hot air balloon, but that’s just me. Thankfully we have a ‘dry’ heat, not the sweltering humidity of the East or Gulf Coasts. When Autumn arrives it comes quickly, one moment the sunflowers are golden in the sunshine, the next day we’ve had a hard frost ruining the Hollyhocks & Marigolds in our flower beds we all plant. Chamisa brush and the Aspen trees have all turned a magnificent yellow. In the Winter we hunker down, light our fireplaces and snuggle up. No need to go out and about when you can sit by a crackling fire. Of course with Christmas come the decorations, farolitos & luminarias, we head out to the woods to chop down an evergreen tree ourselves and take the time to go sledding a bit on the hillsides There’s great Winter skiing at Taos Ski Valley and other ski resorts here, or so I’m told.

If you’re a visitor to Taos slow down, take your watch off, put your camera down, pay attention, listen and get yourself lost. You may find something unexpected. If this is your third visit then you’ll really want to drive around a bit lost or not, at this point you’re shopping for a home to move here.

People here say that it’s getting crowded, that traffic is bad, it’s getting to be more and more like Santa Fe. I just have to smile to myself and think, try the west coast or anywhere in the northeast, then you’ll see traffic and overcrowding. Taos is rather isolated, the roads into town are mountain roads, not for the faint of heart.

Many years ago at the beginning of the ‘river road’ along the Rio Grande just north of Valerde travellers had put up crosses on the mountainside. These signified a death of someone on the road called Descansos, a small shrine of remembrance. The abundance of these crosses acted in ways as a warning sign they seemed to signal, “do not go any further”. For some they did indeed turn around and go back to Santa Fe, others ventured onward and discovered Taos. Writers and artists began to arrive, and what a discovery they made. Here in Taos a person could take the time to write or paint without the rest of the world crushing in upon your every thought.

My shop “Two Graces” is an eclectic mix of vintage southwestern curios, what you would have seen being sold in the old trading posts. The building is over 300 years old and is part of the original Ranchos Plaza, built 100 years before the completion of the famous San Francisco de Asis Church. This building has a lot of history and as such every now and then someone will come by and tell a bit of Taos history. Shoppers who happen to be in the store will ask questions and the conversation will grow like a big extended family just hanging out telling stories. The art in the gallery is more of a contemporary style not southwestern at all, yes we’re different but isn’t that what it’s all about.

One of my own favorite Taos stories actually happened to me, I’ll try to keep it short here. For a while I subscribed to having the New York Times delivered to me here at the shop. Some days it would arrive and others not at all, I’d call the 800 number and they’d credit me, but no paper. One day I was at the store early when the delivery people, a local couple drove up to leave the paper for me. I asked them why they sometimes didn’t deliver the paper. Their answer was that someone had placed a curse on them and there were days when they couldn’t actually leave the house. A little known fact about me is that my Grandmother was a healer, here they call them a Curendara. Which means I know a little about this, so bringing them into the shop I provided them with, you guessed it a smudge stick, and some things to keep the “evil eye” away, which I won’t go into here, my Grandma would not approve of me writing about it. Soon thereafter they began delivering the New York Times, the Santa Fe New Mexican and on Thursdays the local Taos News as well. I had cancelled my subscription to the Times and yet for over a year the papers were delivered as their way of saying thank you for helping them remove the curse. Now that’s Taos!

When I first came to Taos those 20 years ago it was to find a central location where I could wander from, to spiral out and explore the great four corners of the Southwest. This is a place where you’ll never stop learning, where there’s plenty to explore from petroglyphs to old abandoned mines, waterfalls and hot springs, ice caves and mountain lakes, hail storms and rainbows. And, yes the child still a part of me followed that rainbow just over the hill by my house right here in Taos.


  1. Oh how I miss it! miss you man and will get out there asap! got so much goin on!! glad you are well and just thinking today that you had not posted in a while and I missed your writing! you nailed your town! kudos! xxx's to you and Holly!

  2. Have never met you, bro', but I live right around the corner. Well spoken, all of this...