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Seven Pillars by Eva Domschot © 2012

This is the place where stones sing in their spiritual houses.

On Sunday, we woke early to attend church. In fact, we didn’t merely attend. My husband read a sermon from the pulpit because we’ve recently lost our pastor to Florida’s more sophisticated medical system. Our pastor handed in his retirement–which he had planned to do, anyway, albeit not under the dire circumstances of a life-threatening illness. Therefore, my husband, being one of a few men left in church, was enlisted to choose from a stack of published Lutheran sermons to read in the midst of the liturgical service.

He chose a sermon on the building of spiritual houses. It seemed a little too apropos for our small body of believers, a group that has shrunk drastically over the past several years due to its members moving away. With approximately twenty-three adults and six children left, we may, indeed, dwindle into an ethereal concept that once met in a church building.

However, I don’t wish to dwell on negativity and loss. Spiritual houses aren’t impervious to the fluctuations of the physical world, but they are certainly less prone to shifting when a cornerstone provides a strong foundation, as well as a reference point for the other stones built into the structure.

The day, itself–Sunday–built its own walls as though it were a spiritual house, one beginning with a roof and no set foundation. Time and space are inextricably linked, creating a foundation for something, in any case. The physical is interwoven with the spiritual, even if we don’t understand exactly how this tight mesh is bonded. I have no intention of mixing metaphors; a decorator has covered the stone walls of Sunday with woven banners. This requires a sole image and no mixing of thought.

The day began with a roof on a chilly fall morning. We sat under the roof of the sanctuary, speaking liturgical words and singing hymns to the organ, and then we sat under the roof of the fellowship hall, where we sipped coffee. Next, we offered a lift home to a church friend; we entered her (and her husband’s) domain so my husband could check out a broken door in need of repair. Meanwhile, the children and I studied magazines and nicknacks and books. Our friends’ house is one of puzzles, fairies and cats, and shelves of books that would give any bookworm a case of the delirious chomps.

Our friend loaned me a memoir about an Oregon family who, one summer, bicycled across Canada. Gratefully, I held the book close in the crook of my arm, knowing it could easily be the kind of memoir I love.

Family and I drove home, under the roof of our car, then entered under our own red roof, under the blue sky. And we ate avacados and other delicacies, and we allowed the house its disarray. I disappeared in my room to read the memoir, but before I’d finished a page, I fell asleep and dreamed that I didn’t have the proper license for fishing and would have to watch as others let down their hooks into the placid waters while I stood by, my lone figure a scrawny child, ageless and pale. I was a pathetic child in life and dreams; I really was. I woke up with my head missing.

The roof blew off–was it at that moment? The roof disappeared, leaving a sky overhead and walls of sliding dirt and stones, of cactus and mesquite, of wild fall flowers blazing in violet verbena, marigolds, orange mallows–all backed up against the desert mountain. Husband and I walked deliriously up to the seven pillars, a quarried place, the dog in a heavenly house where rabbits ran pellmell through the brush. Then we ran, scrabbling down, down, back to our house.

Under the red roof, head restored, I, in a tangible fashion, made tortillas on my press and cleared the house of clutter. If others have domains of fairies and cats and books, I own a mental world whose clutter is so eclectic and bizarrely shaped that I need an outer one that maintains an orderly distance.

And so the spirit house ended with beans and chile and fresh tortillas grilled in a substantial cast iron skillet.

****

But the house with the fairies and books and cats and puzzles is only part of the whole. Remove the roof, discover stone slabs where rocks sit, piles of them, singing and waiting to be set into houses. A hoard of them crack and pop–insubstantial until somebody breaks a tooth on one.

In the center of a slab bench, a seat waits in the middle of two piles of rocks. Sort them, discover their unique shapes, where they might fit, but leave them undisturbed because this is the place where stones sing in their spiritual houses.

A bent tree (I hear it). A patch of shrivelled vines (I know that song). A triangle of grass breathing a different air in the midst of a city where others dwell (I’ve heard it, but have yet to learn it).

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Oh, Sublime! Oh, Gothic! Oh, New Mexico!

Sometimes, I find that my life is a little too cozy. Yesterday afternoon, I walked into my bedroom and was struck by the scene I witnessed there: brand new, gorgeous red and blue bedspread, gray tabby cat curled at the end of it, piles of clean, folded laundry, my net-book, and several books splayed out (in a manner that bothers my husband due to the damage it does to the spines) in a variety ranging from vile chick lit to 18th C Gothic.

Later, I complained to my husband about my unadventurous life. In characteristic fashion, he thought of the ideal solution. I could start a club on Facebook for those people who like to go out of their way to create their own adventures. For example, one member might create a situation in which she has to be rescued by a tall, dark, and handsome man. Oh, that would be easy, I thought. My husband is tall by local standards, plus he’s dark and handsome. I rose from where I’d been reclining, and I attempted a fake swoon so that my husband would have to rise from his chair to catch me. Instead, I literally tripped over my own feet, fell over, and whacked him on the cheek.

“What are you doing?” he demanded. “Why’d you just hit me?”

“I was hoping you would rescue me,” I meekly said.

“Oh, I see. So in the world of fiction, your adventurers’ club is not a drama, but a comedy. Perfect.” And he laughed.

Could it get any worse? Not only was my life cozy, but it was a cozy comedy. Obviously, I’d spent too much time reading this sort of literature, such that my life had begun to reflect it. Distraught, I drained a glass of wine and stumbled toward the door. I had to take a walk, yes—descend into town.

With the sun setting behind me, I was startled to realize that the view from the foothills made a perfect picturesque. In the distance was an image of a winding river, the mesas rising up behind them in the background, an ancient, crumbling adobe edifice set upon a hill in the middle ground, and a smudge of a red roof in the foreground.

Darkness descended as I zigzagged downward on the dirt road. In the darkness, the scenery both thrilled and frightened me. Shadows flitted before me, and the rising moon cast a strange light over the skeletal limbs of cacti, over the graveyard of cactus bones. The wind whipped something—a grocery bag caught on the cholla spines. It whipped with a ghostly noise.

Then, a very strange event occurred, in which I was transported back several years, and I found myself walking closer and closer to the river, and closer, indeed, to the old adobe house where I used to live. Above me, the sky clouded over; lightning cracked and thunder rolled. The ancient mission bells rang out the hour. From the mist that rose from the winding river, I suddenly spied a figure in a long gown gliding over the sand. She was wailing—it was La Llorona!

Quickly, I turned into the creaking gate of my house and swept under the boughs of the walnut tree. I desperately fiddled with the key in the old lock, as it stuck, and then finally, finally unlocked the door. Thrills of cold and terror filled my body from the dankness that crept up from the porch boards. It was nearly black around me, despite a few city lights and the faraway light of the half moon.

My front door creaked open; my shoes creaked over the floor boards, and then I saw it. A dark shadow sat on the couch in the darkness, and it seemed to be making a growling noise. My gaze darted desperately to the telephone on my desk, where the answering machine blinked madly! With a pounding heart, I leaped for the light switch, only to have the figure on the couch leap back at me with a jolt.

It was my husband, who had happily been snoring until I had woken him. He groaned. I walked over to the answering machine and pressed play: a gravely, thin female voice gasped, “Go not to San Miguel!”

“Why not?” I asked no one in particular. “The festival’s tonight.”

As though it would help me understand, I pushed the play button again. “Go no to San Miguel. . .” At the end, I caught a word I hadn’t heard the first time, a blurred word that sounded like “lest”. Lest I meet my doom?

My husband shook his head and rubbed his eyes. “I don’t know. Jannie called earlier and said something about her ex-boyfriend playing in the band.”

Jannie was my best friend, and her recent break-up with the alternate trombone player for Mariachi Malaise was legendary. “Oh, well, I’ll get on with dinner, then, since you clearly haven’t made it.”

“That would be nice. Thanks.”

In the kitchen, I began to peel the potatoes and boil water for coffee. Twenty minutes later, the windows were fogged, and the tea kettle was whistling merrily on the stove; the table was laid with a checked cloth and my cream-colored china. I sighed wistfully, my heart, my mind still energized from the sublimity of the journey that had taken me to this alternate reality—which just so happened to be as cozy as the one I had left behind. My tabby rubbed her head on my pants, and I comforted myself with the knowledge that, at least, La Llorona still roamed the river and through the streets, crying out for her lost children and snatching any others that remained outside after dark.

Wait a minute! Where were my children, and why wasn’t their dad watching them now that it was dark? Probably, they were still playing outside in the side yard . . .! Oh, terror gripped my soul!

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