Yesterday was a strange day for weather! I was up by 5:30 am, at which time the sun was shining out in perfect rays from behind the Sangre de Christo mountains, but by the time I got back at 6:30 a huge cloud bank had rolled in. Today I went back to the pit house excavation after spending 2 days working on my own project and one day helping Albert at Turley’s Mill. It was nice to get back to work on the pit house and see all the changes that have taken place there in the 2 days I missed! When we started yesterday morning there was 4 units, and we started in on units 5 and 6 together in one large 4 by 2 meter unit. We knew we were going to work only a half day, so we dug extra hard. I spent the whole day sifting and carrying buckets to and from the screens, but I actually find that this makes me less sore than excavating because it’s more natural for my body to stand up than be crouched in strange positions. We found lots of nails and tacks in 5 and 6, also a lot of soft brown-green paper that maybe was used in the growing of plants? Some more silver jewelry pieces and tools plays into the story we heard that some of the commune residents were making their silver jewelry in the pit house. For me the most exciting things I found were a piece of bark with blue pigment on it, indicating that the bark was still on the vegas when people were living there, which suggests that the construction of the house was a quick and dirty job (as does the location on silty volcanic ash and the lack of a good floor), and a very small piece of square paper with a red “7” printed on it.
The morning was a beautiful time to work because of the cloudy weather and mild temperatures. The only bad part was when Sev dug into the red ant nest in unit 6 and everyone was getting bit! But now hopefully the ants are gone since we dug them out and carried the dirt away. by 12:30 pm the wind began picking up and never stopped. The gusts were huge. After excavating I went and helped Andrew and Mason, two of the gardeners here at New Buffalo, to weed the garden. They have this special hoe that makes it so easy to weed! And on top of that the gardening is so much less stressful than screening dirt. I could stop every now and then to look over at the mountains, with the large thunder clouds and rain curtains moving over them, and the mottled sunlight slanting through the clouds. The wind gusts just kept getting stronger so Andrew decided to postpone transplanting the squash from the greenhouse until the evening.
Then Sev took our field crew to see the earth ships, which was pretty neat to see. These are houses bulit of recycled tires, aluminum cans, and rammed earth, among other recycled mateirals. They are totlaly off the grid without plumming or electric, and are able to harness solar power and collect rain water. The houses are beautiful, with strange architecutre that makes it look as if they really are spaceships that have landed on the rolling high altitude sage brush flats, with three peaks to the West and the Sangre de Christos on the East side. Due to the wind dust was everywhere, obscuring the usually expansive views, and making it look even more like we were on some other harshly beautiful planet. Another interesting thing about the earthships is that they are partially burried into the ground for temperature control, which makes them seem to dissapear into the sage flats. I think this architectural aspect of them is very fitting since they try to leave little impact on the environment, and so they don’t even obscure the views really. Visiting the earthships in times like these, with the oil spill still weeping into the Gulf and countless other acts of violence on our already ravaged planet is very troubling for me, making me really want to do something about the heavy environmental degradation wrought by humans today. However, it also reminds me that the modern world is what it is, and is not all bad at all, in lots of ways our lifestyle is much more aware of the environment than the lifestyle 200 years ago. If we can all do our own little part to lighten up our misuse of the earth that will be good.
On the way back from the earthships we stopped at the Gorge Bridge, which I had been to several times before, but I think some of the other new field crew members had not yet seen. What a day to walk across it! The whole structure was undulating in the gusts of wind, and it was so strong you could just lean into it and the wind would bouy you up! I got some good photos of that. As we walked across I looked over at the car wreck that is still visible from one of the many suiciide attempts at the bridge. It is at moments like this that I think we can access some of the terror and beauty of death, since we look into the void and a fear of salvation hits us. We instinctually know to not jump or fall, but the Gorge is so painfully beautiful, and terrible, all at the same time. Then I would watch the little birds far below, darting up, down, and accross the void, even in the high winds. How amazing and luck birds are that they can fly. So much of terrestrial movement seems to be bounded by paths and roads, constricted by the practicalities of geography. Flight however seems truley free, for birds at least. For most people even their flight is highly regulated by the power of government as planes have so many restrictions and flight paths that are like invisible roads in the sky. It seems that movement for us is now never free, even if our perception of “hitting the road” makes us feel independant and free of a sedentary “home” place. The bridge crosses the gorge at a narrow place, with shear cliff walls going down hundreds of feet into the Rio Grande far below, looking like a shining ribbon winding through the deeply carved landscape. The wonders of modern technology are what has made this crossing place possible, as even 100 years ago people would have chosen a wide part in the canyon walls to cross this natural boundary. The trail I have been working on for the past 2 days down in the Orilla Verde Recreation area is just such an example of an old, natural crossing place, as the gorge gets very wide at this point, with many sub-rims that lead down in natural ramps and terraces, making foot and horse travel over the area relatively safe.
As the sun set on the Taos Valley the winds began to calm, and I helped Andrew and Michelle (another NB gardener) to transplant the squash seedlings into the garden. I learned several new things: to make the plants have a better chance of surviving the transplant they should be planted into standing water. So we dug out the holes and before placing the root balls into their new homes we filled each whole with water. Mason planted the corn, which eventually will have squash and beans planted with it for a three sisters section of the garden. Andrew was picking out the really bright yellow corn kernels because they were a recessive strain of the plant, and he wants to save the seeds so they need to be pure. I thought the corn planting was fitting given that tomorrow would be the corn dance at the Pueblo.
Finally we all went to the hot springs after dark. How neat to sit in the springs and look up at the deep night sky! I was also struck by the sounds there at night: crickets singing overtop of the gurgling and rushing of the Rio Grande. We stayed in the springs for a long time even thought they were luck warm at best. We kept rotating positions counter clock wise since there were cold patches every where. I also think that the springs had those small guppy-like fishes that I saw at the Jemez falls hot springs last year, because you could feel something fish like brushing up on you occasionally. Finished the day off with a great music jam in the Buffalo room, and my first time using the real shower since I got to NB, and that was not even worth it because the hot water heater had run out and it was probably just as cold as the river. Oh well. At least I have not really been wasting water on showers, and instead have been washing in the Hondo or the Grande every day, which feels great and gives me more time to appreciate the wondrous landscape in which I’m privileged enough to get to live in for a short month.