Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Monday, June 27, 2005


Dearest readers, the last ninety minutes of my work -- telling you all about the weather, current events in Taos, and interesting Taosenos just got deleted. I don't have the patience to recreate this so plese bear with me and wait for the next post.
Posted by Hello
In the meantime you can check the Taos webcam, Jim Kimmons blog on Taos real estate, or Joel Gottlieb's unofficial Taos blog. As for me I'm going off to sulk and curse at my computer.

Friday, June 24, 2005


It is with many misgivings that I close out my writing week and with it the current chapter. This is the chapter on cataloging, and struggling with it has put me a whole week behind in my schedule. I AM a cataloger and have been for more than twenty years. Now I'm trying to explain cataloging in simple terms to non-catalogers, and can't seem to see the forest for the trees. I've been writing, excising text, rewriting, simplifying -- so my folder of "rejected text" is larger than the text that I have saved. I ended up with a mediocre draft, and I hope if I put it aside for a while -- distancing myself from it will give me some clarity to continue.

The chapter I begin tomorrow is on legal & ethical issues in oral history. In contrast to the last chapter, I know nothing about this one. In fact nobody does. There is very little legislation that applies to oral histories, and even less case law, which is supposed to apply legislation to real life. Everybody asks about it but no one likes to give answers, so here I plunge in trying to come up with some standards and best practices.

One not-so-good writing week, but a new one on the horizon. Just another day in the life of a writer.


La Senora de Dolores church Posted by Hello


Leon Gaspard home at sunset. Leon Gaspard was a Russian artist who settled in Taos in the early 20th century. Posted by Hello


Taos at sunsetPosted by Hello

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Photo taken on I-70 early near the Continental Divide early one morning.Posted by Hello

I drove to Boulder Colorado for a meeting this week. I had envisioned a short trip -- after all I'm in the Rockies, but I logged 730 miles and one day each way. It was all worth it, though -- my meeting, Boulder itself, and the scenery between here and there.

My parents went to college at CU Boulder in the late 30s, so I had a special interest in the city. I tried to envision it as it must have been before World War II, but I couldn't. Boulder doubled (?) in size, gentrified, and made a name for itself as a city on the vanguard. Naropa Insitute, Celestial Seasonings, Shambala and the Nature Conservancy, after all, make their home here.

I visited the public library's branch for local history, in a restored Carnegie Library building. The library holds a genealogy collection, hundreds of thousands of photographs and more than 1000 oral histories. Manged by a few dedicated staff and many dedicated volunteers, it brings alive the entire history of Boulder, not just the recent. The work of this library is a reminder that Boulders history goes way back into the 19th century when Colorado was being settled -- it doesn't begin in the 70s when it became a New Age haven.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Solstice greetings form 9100 feet, Dillon, Colorado.

My visit to Boulder, Colorado reminded me an interesting audio preservation project at the Naropa Institute. Over 7000 hours of recorded readings and lectures from the past forty years at Naropa are being digitized and mounted on the Internet. When the project is complete, users from around the world can listen to Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac and other poets of the Beat Generation read their own work.

Naropa’s unusual tradition of recording every lecture and performance over the years is paying off. This was poet Anne Waldeman’s idea. The portable tape recorder was becoming popular, affordable and easy to use in the mid 60s and for some artists on the vanguard, it was a natural extension of their work. (For others it was not. My own memory of the Be Here Now Generation is the opposite -- that to record or preserve any kind of performance was anathema – the point was to let it go.)

This enormous multi-year project is being funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Save America’s Treasures, and the Grammy Foundation. The online archive is hosted by the Internet Archive. For more information contact, Naropa Audio Archive Project Director Steven Taylor, Allen Ginsberg Library, Naropa Institute, Boulder, CO, 303/546-3507.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Posted by Hello
Before I lose my city-girl perspective, I want to share a few observations about how it is with the land, here in Taos and Northern New Mexico:
  • My casita is two blocks from the center of town; even so, this horse and her pasture are between my home and the center. If I go along the road in another direction, toward the city park, there is an empty field with an abandoned irrigation trestle.
  • About a third of the roads I walk or drive on are dirt. A fair number of New Mexico state highways are dirt. Most of the time, I can walk along a highway (paved or dirt) as though it were a trail, since the traffic is so light, I welcome a driver when I see one.
  • However, I hear many sounds when I walk: the birds, the crickets, the prairie dogs if I go out late in the afternoon. If it is a windy day, I hear ONLY the wind. Never did I realize how noisy wind could be.
  • As I opened my gate this afternoon, there was a snake right at my feet.
  • The power went out all over town this afternoon, the second time since I've been here. Streetlights didn't work and stores had to close. Nobody cared much.
All these details are becoming part of my personal landscape and I hardly notice them. By the time I go back to Oakland, I'll have to adjust to walking on sidewalks again.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Remains of a Spanish mission, Pecos National Historical Park.

I decided to take a break from writing and go exploring this afternoon. Destination: Pecos, NM, east of Santa Fe. Reason: I read Pecos was the home of the late jazz musician, Herbie Mann, a good enough reason to check it out.

Driving south towards Santa Fe on Hwy 68 reminded me that Saturday is mercado day. Not only were there flea markets and a farmer's market and some fruit stands, but businesses and households displayed their wares on the roadside for sale. And the new crop of ristras are also appearing at fruitstands. A colorful sight.

Moving south, the Rio Grande gorge opens up and joins the highway at Pilar and I drove through the canyon alongside the very swollen river. I had hoped for a river raft ride this summer, but after reading about two fatal accidents the first week I arrived, my enthusiasm is dampened. All the rivers and streams are bulging, and its wonderful news for New Mexico, just not for river rafters.

Passed quickly through Santa Fe, which just seems like a big city from this Taoseno's perspective, and on to Pecos. Not much of a town though the country is gorgeous. I think I was wrong about Herbie Mann living there (I think he really lived in Santa Fe), but it got me out exploring.

I moved on to the Pecos National Historical Park, for a look at the site where the Pecos people lived from A.D. 800 till the late 1700s. Lucky people they were, for the land is gorgeous and friendly to human life and at the height of the culture, supported a community of 2000. There is a one mile circle walk through the site of the city, though only some kivas and the remains of this very photogenic mission church remain.

This site also has significance in archeology. Archeologist A.V. Kidder came to Pecos to test his theory of dating stratigraphy against the trash mounds here.He knew that the site's bottom layer would be the oldest. From changes in pottery and other remains layer by layer, he hoped to be able to relatively date sites and to work out a time sequence for Southwestern unwritten culture. His work opened up doors for a new way of studying the cultures of the Southwest.

It was a long trip, as distances are great here. Got home just at dusk. Total mileage: 230 miles!


Aspen on adobe


Rio Grande Canyon at dusk. This image displays wonderfully on my computer. Sorry the blog software distorts it. That's the moon above the mountain peak.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


This is my fourteenth day as a "full-time writer, " and my first day being discouraged. Yesterday I deleted and rearranged more text than I wrote, backstepping from my rigorous schedule of a chapter a week. I tend to make things more complicated than they need to be -- afraid of being incomplete or incorrect -- yet simplifying and simplifying and simplyfying needs to be my mantra. This book is intended for people who know nothing about curating oral histories and need to know only the basics.

Three of my chapters are very technical -- recording technology, cataloging and preservation -- don't know how to dumb it down. Should I leave them out?

I need to keep in mind Georgia O'Keefe's words that the gift of the artist is to see and to select -- to peel away all the extraneous to expose the essence.

In other ways things are going well. I went to a writer's group the other day --- fiction and poetry writers, but still good to meet Taosenos doing the same thing I'm doing. Went to the play "One flew over the Cuckoo's next" done by the local Old Taos Players, an incredibly professional group. One of the main characters was played by Robert Mirabal, Taos' claim to fame. Everyone is friendly and laid back here -- am getting to know people by name and greet them in the streets. In many ways, Taos is like any small town.

Next week I travel to Boulder CO to visit Maria Rogers Oral History Project, one of the oral hsitory projects in my study group. Looking forward to meeting these people, and to taking a break from my routine. These visits with actual oral history projects always inspire and stimulate me.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


We're celebrating Saturday night here in Taos with a gigantic thunder storm. You can see the sky working up to a big storm in the following photo. I always thought thunder storms came in the afternoon not the evening, but I guess I have a lot to learn about mountain weather.

I took this afternoon off and drove up to Taos Ski Valley, and then around the Enchanted Circle. I stopped along the road to photograph the river, to show how full all the rivers and streams are around here this year. Some nice ladies from Texas stopped and offered to take my photo by the river -- I think they felt sorry for me being alone and couldn't understand why anyone would just photograph an old river with no person in the photo. Anyway, here is the result. Posted by Hello


These are wild iris are in a growing in a field -- field is a misleading word, more like a steppe it's so vast -- new Eagle Rock, NM. That's north of Taos on the Enchanted Circle and the topography is entirely different.Posted by Hello

Friday, June 10, 2005


Today marks my eighth day as a full-time writer. You will notice my desk is getting messier. I had no idea what would go into writing an entire book -- how much blood, sweat and tears sitting at the computer, and I marvel at my naivete of even a week ago. My plan was so utterly vague -- I thought I'd come to Taos, explore the mountains, take pictures, read, hang out -- and write the entire book in my spare time. In fact even a few days ago I had this plan of maybe write 8-2 and then put it aside.

The good news is the I'm in an extremely productive state, and have kept to my schedule so far -- well, it's only the first week -- of a chapter a week. The good news also is that I'm so focused that I do begin about 8 in the morning and knock off about 10 at night and hardly know where the time goes inbetween.

This writing journey is a new one to me and it's nice to know that in my 60th year there is still space for new journeys and new horizons. I'm so grateful to Taos for providing my a nourishing environment to work, and to all my loved ones who are willing to put up with my inattention in this writing frenzy.Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


St. Francis of Asissi Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos is billed as the most photographed and painted church in the US. I cast my lot this afternoon with the greats -- Ansel Adams, Georgia O'Keefe and a whole lot more. In fact there is a book on the art inspired by this church: Spirit and vision : images of Ranchos de Taos Church, by Sandra D'Emilio (Museum of New Mexico Press, 1987).

The town of Ranchos de Taos (directly south of the real Taos) was settled by the Spanish in 1716 and the church was built in the early 1800s. The courtyard surrounding the church has not been modernized or gentrified in any way. Low lying buildings in their own tumbledown disarray surround the church on three sides. If you can suspend your modern sense of order and regard the plaza as a look backwards into history, then it comes to life as little spot on this isolated plain where human history has played itself out for more than two centuries.

Here is a link to some more photos, and another one to a description.

Monday, June 06, 2005


There is a great deal about the Taos experience that can't be conveyed either in words or images.

... like the wind that came up today about noon and blew relentlessly for four hours. When it stopped, it stopped completely and the world was still again. When the wind blows in New Mexico it stirs up the dust and dirties the air; not like in the Bay Area where the wind clears the air.

... like the sounds of the world when I take my daily walk, of birds singing, of streams flowing, of occasional dogs barking, of wind, yes the constant wind IS noisy, and the pickup trucks that go barreling down even the tiniest road.

... like the vastness, the utter vastness of everything -- the sky, the desert, the mountains -- the way space and distance must be measured (though must is a poor word)in megaunits, and time as well

... like the character of the sky, which in its own way is predictable -- completely clear at dawn, and building up with clouds as the day progresses, especially over Taos mountain. I understand that by July the daily build up of clouds will climax in an afternoon thunderstorm. I'm looking forward to this.

I'll share part of an article by Bill Whaley from the local alternative paper, Horse Fly. I hope he doesn't mind.

Taosenos live in a high semi-arid valley, balanced precariously in the natural landscape between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande Gorge. A double rainbow appears from time to time and frames Taos Pueblo's sacred mountain. The rainbow always reminds me of God's covenant with Noah and how we all ended up in the boat together. Whether you were born here or arrived in some other way, you receive a gift when you settle down [in Taos] for the duration. Here, you get to pick your poison or your treasure and abide with your karma and your fate. The Big Fella (God, not the guv) lays downthe cards on the mesa and you watch the storms sweep in and out under the blue skies, yearning for answers and getting sand kicked in your face. As you stare into the sky above or the abyss below, you experience a kind of positive personal freedom and realize that all the conventional restrictins of society seem to have disappeared.

... The first wave of visitors -- the natives of Taos Pueblo, settled here in the valley circa 1100. Then came the second wave: Hispanic conquistadores at the end of the 16th century. The third wave -- mountainmen and merchants, symbolized by Kit Carson -- arrived around the mid-1800s. The fourth wave included the Broken Wheel Artists, circa 1900. [Then there is the] fifth wave -- the smelly, longhaired, blissed-out hippies who arrived in the 60s. Now, a sixth wave of dreamers - retirees and aging yuppies who have left their corporate masgters behind to spend their pensions and realize their dreams here in El Norte. .... [he goes on to talk about the slowdown in tourise trade in Taos]

Sunday, June 05, 2005


I came across these Icelandic poppies at the side of the road this afternoon. Generally desert colors are very subtle so these poppies jump right out and the Taosenos love them. Of course they are exotic to this area, but nobody cares.


This grave is from a cemetery very close to my home. In fact, I can walk two blocks in one direction and be in the middle of town, and a few blocks in the other direction and be entirely in the country!
Taos is the place for me!! I like it more every day.


This completes my third day as a "full-time writer." I'm making progress in my writing but have yet to find my own rhythm. With no distractions except the great New Mexico outdoors, I thought a natural schedule would evolve, between work and breaks (breaks always being walking, hiking or doing something outdoors). I work on my book about ten hours a day, try to walk at least two hours, sleep very soundly about eight hours and mess around for the rest of the time.

As I was driving into Taos I woke up to the fact that the period of creative thinking, background research and making outlines are over. If I'm serious about writing this book I MUST sit here at the computer, hour after #$@$# hour, and transfer the words and concepts from my brain into the computer. There is just no other way to get a book written.

I've set a reasonable schedule for myself -- a chapter a week for eight weeks, and I'll have the first draft complete .

But now the sun is setting on my little patio, and I must go take a look.

Friday, June 03, 2005


This is a typical afternoon sky in Taos. I was hiking along the Rio Grande Gorge and could have pointed my camera in any direction to get such an image. Later, in fact just since I've been working on this blog, a "storm" blew up and then blew over.

I need to learn to read the skies .... Posted by Hello


This is a mural by George Chacon, a respected muralist here in Taos. It is at the main intersection in town and has been photographed by National Geographic and other travel guides. I like the image because the mural fits so well with the sky in the background. Posted by Hello


I moved into my casita yesterday, am happily settled and, with much difficulty, now internet connected. I couldn't ask for a better situation for working without distractions, but still squeezing in time to enjoy exploring Taos and the southwest.

This is a photo of the outside of my little casita. It's a fairly un-Taoslike situation (also un-Nancylike)-- with manicured lawns a buzzer to let guests in. But it's very quiet, and right in town, and very spacious. (In fact I forgot the advantages of being a tenant. I had some very minor things that needed fixing and the maintenance man was her within an hour and got everything straightened out. No fuss, no muss. )

The condo complex is called La Buena Vida and my landlady/booking agent is Lovey Supple. She runs Taos Lodging, and is a very interesting person, as are most of the people Ive met here in Taos.


Here is a photo of the inside of my casita. Very comfortable!!Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


"I thought happiness was Lubbock Texas in my rear view mirror" *

Well, not so with me.
This may be my last visit to Lubbock and I am sad to see the city in my rear view mirror. When Christiaan decided to go to law school in Lubbock I had to look for the damn place on the map. But I've visited four times in the past three years, each time I had a great time and discovered surprising secrets about the city. Lubbock has been good to me.

A few of the surprises:
West Texas hospitality
A home cooked Albanian feast
A great sculpture garden on the TTU campus
The largest archive for the Vietnam War in the US
Buddy Holly Center (Buddy was born and raised in Lubbock)
Great public radio (89.1)

I�m sorry to see Lubbock in my rear view mirror, but my son and all my young friends are moving on to other things in other locations. I may not return physically, but Lubbock remains a fond memory in my heart.

*From a song by Mac Davis, Texas in my rear view mirror. The lyric is:

I thought happiness was lubbock texas in my rear view mirror
My momma kept calling me home but I just did not want to hear her

mac davis

Posted by Hello