Thursday, May 04, 2006

Collection of Phonebooks

I have an odd habit of collecting telephone books whenever I travel overnight to locales I find intriguing enough to consider the possibility of returning to live for a while. Last night, I was rearranging some furniture from the house to the studio and ran across my most recent stash of phonebooks which included: Jackson Hole (Wyoming); Calgary; Libby (Yaak Valley, Montana); Seattle and Taos (New Mexico).

Ironically, I never had a Santa Fe phonebook, but I’m now living fairly close to Taos. The Sangre de Cristo range’s high mountain rises north of that township are inundated with spiritual retreats and utopian-influenced communes. Occasionally, I wish I had taken the time, before starting a family, to experience a spiritual journey whether it was to climb a mountain and visit an ashram in India or simply spend a year or more somewhere like the Lama Foundation in San Cristobal, New Mexico. Instead, I vaguely recall a youth that encompassed an infinite number of college parties and various part-time jobs to pay for that lifestyle. My final year of college, I married (which now seems very young); but I do not regret the decision. I have had innumerable adventures with my wife over the past ten years. She has adopted my view of life as a continuous quest and equally treasures the excitement of each new move or simple geographical exploration.

A few weeks ago we took a day-long drive that looped me north of Taos into the ski valley. The road is called the Enchanted Circle Highway and sways only a few miles south of the Colorado border. There were moments throughout the drive that reminded me of Montana more than anywhere else I have known. Even now, I can clearly recall every detail of at least two herds of elk, just off the main road; the second herd I approached with camera in hand and snapped a few memoirs. Tragically, since my drive above the ski rim, that region has been ravaged by wildfire. Like most of the remaining beautiful wilderness in this country, the territory north of Taos is saturated with wealthy partial-year residents and it seems that one of the fools instructed his maid to toss hot ashes into a plastic trash receptacle. The can melted, the ashes continued to smolder and now the forest is wiped clean. I don’t know how many years it will take for the area to return to the former splendor as I recently experienced it, but it brings me both pleasure and pain to know that if I had not chosen to take a break from my painting and drive north, I would have forever missed out on that memory of a high desert forest that was eerily reminiscent of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Blackleaf Wildlife Area that I so dearly miss from northern Montana.

Once again, it seems there is a certain joy to life that can only be discovered by living. – DN

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