Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Unbroken Wild West Still Invites Exploration and Adventure

I grew up in what is sometimes called “The Wild West.” We went camping and traveling throughout Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Oregon. Parts of the West are still as they were when Lewis and Clark and the early pioneers traveled for the first time over this rugged terrain.

In our travels, one of my favorite places was Taos / Pueblo, New Mexico. I still have a turquoise necklace I purchased from a Native American artist for $50. I fell in love with the artist community and the prolific galleries that dotted the streets. My dream was to return to live and work there. But you know how that goes.

According to a travel guide: “Taos is art. Art is everywhere: on the walls, in the streets, in the landscape and architecture. There are more than 80 galleries, museums, two major art festivals, several film fests, a Poets and Story Tellers festival, and four music fests.”

The grandeur of the mountains invites tourists and artists in summer and fall, and skiers in winter. The history of Taos is replete with Native American lore, an actual Pueblo village, and details about famous artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, D.H. Lawrence, John Marin, Andrew Dasburg and many others.

The broad sweep of rugged hills and jagged mountains provides year round recreation that has increased both the size and scope of Taos along with a rise in the cost of living. But a visit is well worth the experience.

When the word “wild” comes to your mind what does your imagination conjure up? The word itself makes me think “feral, uncontrollable;” not a good thing if you’re trying to harness your skill to describe in words or artwork what you see. 

Writers and artists must think in images. If you can’t visualize your subject matter, you can’t describe it or illustrate it.

Wild is one of the reasons people throng to Taos. Uninhabitable spacious vistas go on and on for what seems like forever. The color, the fusion of value and space is intoxicating.

I have a love affair with deserts. Teeming with life and color in the springtime and then withering to prickly dry sagebrush and cactus through the scorching heat of summer. Tumbleweeds blow across the roadways and line fences with woody entwined growth. They roam across the desert orchestrated by the wind in a primordial gracefulness; rolling and tumbling, following least resistance.

Taos gets under your skin. The brilliant sunsets, Native American colors and sounds, the howl of a wolf or coyote, the fresh air caressing your skin, filling your lungs. Prickly cacti needle you into submission. The stalwart saguaro look almost human in the evening shadows.

This lovely verse from the Poet Society’s Jillena Rose describes it well:

by Jillena Rose

Bones are easier to find than flowers
in the desert, so I paint these:
Fine white skulls of cows and horses.

When I lie flat under the stars
in the back of the car, coyotes howling
in the scrub pines, easy to feel how those bones
are much like mine: Here is my pelvis,
like the pelvis I found today
bleached by the sun and the sand. Same
hole where the hip would go, same

white curve of bone beneath my flesh
same cradle of life, silent and still in me.

(Poem copyright ©2011 Jillena Rose all rights reserved)