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Infinite Points of Time: Morningstar Chronicles

Part II (New Mexico)

By Pam Hanna (Read)


Pam welcomes e-mail with comments and feedback.

That clarion call from Cindy didn't take long to propel us to New Mexico. We went with a man named Abe who had been staying at Morningstar and was on his way East in his elderly car. He dropped us off in Ancones — the town where the Morningstar contingent had landed after they had to leave the crazy Penitente town of Truchas — a part of the true Wild West. Ancones was another strange little berg, a ghost town actually, in Tia Amarilla County, near La Madera. There were some well-kept houses and a Morada there (a church with the dead buried within it). The Morada was so well kept in fact that I said why didn't we just move into that? "Not if you still want to be alive in the morning," I was told. The localistas in the nearby towns were also relativos and they kept a close watch on Ancones.

We had ridden through expanses of canyonland under blue-white skies and landed at this one house rented to Morningstars by one of the localistas. The rest were either locked and/or boarded up or in total adobe ruin with no roofs. Indian summer stretched before us. I doubt if there is any place on earth where Indian summers are more beautiful than in Northern New Mexico.

That first day, David Pratt met us with some medicine — Peyote. We asked where Cindy was and were told she was at the rock plateau up the road from us. So we got into somebody's truck and rocked along old, rutted and rocky dirt roads up to a place of pi๑on pines and cedar where there were immense igneous boulders and craggy pi๑ones reaching up through the white and blue of clouds and sky with great rolling countryside below. We hadn't been able to see for so many miles since the last time we'd been to Bodega Bay.

Cindy was sitting on one of the boulders — wearing — clothes! A long skirt anyway — no top — and her signature beads & feathers. She was fabulously zonked on Peyote and floating through the archetypes before our very eyes. What a trip she was — crone old and wildflower young — healing woman and Coyote's daughter. There was her wild Irish ancestry and a Winnebago medicine woman. Her dark hair was even whiter around the edges than before and she smelled of woodsmoke. Wonderful! We were all ready to chew some medicine and Siddhartha was interested in everything from bottom to top, but we had to get settled first. Cindy came down through the realms long enough to tell us we could camp in Charlie's tent for the night. Don't know where Charlie was.

We ate Peyote and saw twilight images of Indians and ancient graffiti. Larry and I had had Peyote at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but this was different somehow. More in-your-face real. Attached to earth and melded with sky. Throughout that night, a drumbeat was right at the edge of my eyelids.

We went back to the big house the next day but only stayed for a short time. This part about the house in Ancones is hazy — I remember frying a lot of potatoes and people continually going on beer and ice cream runs. As soon as somebody would get some money, there would be beer and ice cream. The rest of the time, we lived on beans and potatoes and chiles.

As usual, Larry and I started to crave more solitude, so we actually moved out to one of the adobe ruins, set up a little tarp inside and had a cook fire in one of the old corners. Near us lived a young couple in one of the intact houses. They were the only ones among us who had been permitted to live in one of these houses, no doubt because the beautiful young woman was pregnant. Her bridegroom was long-haired (black ringlets — matter of fact, they both reminded me of characters from "Fiddler on the Roof"). But can't remember either of their names.

The girl walked over to our camp one morning. Word had gotten out that I'd had both my babies outside a hospital, so maybe I knew something about it. Her water had broken and she was only eight months along. I didn't have any lobelia (which can stop a labor), so there was nothing I could do except keep her quiet and elevate her legs. She started bleeding toward sundown and was bundled up and taken to the hospital in Espa๑ola where she delivered two dead female babies (named Una and Ulna) that night. The bridegroom had wangled permission from the local powers-that-be to bury his babies himself. He went to a Spanish cemetery nearby (by a boarded-up church, not the morada) but got some grief from a local Pi๑a or Medina until he angrily waved the paper that said he was free to bury his babies on his own land. "Ah, but this is not your own land, Se๑or," he was told. I know he did eventually bury the babies, but don't remember where.

The weather was still warm because there was so much sun during the day. The stars at night blazed brilliant and lovely. I learned to find the Pleides and then rediscovered Cassiopeia. We were throwing the I Ching a lot and I was reading the Bible — mostly Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah and Solomon's Song. What were we going to do? I don't remember. Isn't that weird? I don't even remember what our tentative plans were if we had any. There was talk of land, and then of more land, there was talk of the Indians and the Spanish. The Spanish people around here were not Mexicans at all. Their ancestors came directly from Spain and some were Jews who had come here during the Inquisition — the Sepharadim. They had been forced to accept Christianity — but they kept names like Rael, and Moises. And they still had their drindels and refused to eat pork.

Cindy and David told stories of living in Truchas (the town where The Milagro Beanfield War was filmed. "Chamisaville" was Taos.) Cindy said that During Easter week, the Pachucos would come through the town firing rifles randomly from side to side into the houses. That was supposed to humble you and remind you of your mortality — that you were granted the gift of life by God and that that life could be randomly taken away at any time. People would lie on their kitchen floors until the gunmen had passed — sort of a Pachuco Passover.

Larry and Siddhartha and Psyche and I lived on the periphery of Ancones until we got a lead on a house in another semi-ghost town — Servilletta Plaza. There we met an old man named Enrique Jaramillo (pronounced hara me yo). At the time, I thought that the most improbable sounding name I had ever heard. We needed a place to winter and a local hippie named Dennis Smith had lived there the winter before. The house was a 200-year-old adobe with walls two feet thick. Big rooms were laid out lengthwise like a railroad car. We were delighted with adobe. It's cool and pleasant in the summer and with a fire in the wood stove it is toasty warm in the winter. But these Indian summer days were long and warm and dry.

Coyote or Chris Soderberg or Ram๓n — somebody — had sent us a paper Morningstar with instructions about putting it in the window and asking a blessing on the house. We did that, knowing full well that we were thereby declaring it "land access to which is denied no one."

One day after we were settled in, Beatrice showed up with Andre and with Diev at the breast. Siddhartha was overjoyed to see Andre, and they trotted around together in and out of the house and down to the rio — the Tusas. In New Mexico, a rio is any body of water that keeps running all year, even if it's only a trickle. The Tusas was a fairly substantial creek, and Bea got the bright idea of building a sauna beside it. Instead of bay laurel to inhale and fan ourselves with (as we had at the old Morningstar) we had sage — just as aromatic and all-pervasive. After a couple abortive tries we managed to get a righteous steam bath going and then went splashing out into the cold rio — very invigorating.

Bea always had to do something with her hands (as you may remember), so she found some white bones lying around (probably cow bones, possibly deer) and filed them off and strung beads and feathers on a leather cord to tie on the bone making some kind of mojo. Just as she got one all carved and tied, it fell apart. She laughed and started over again.

I don't remember how long Bea and Andre and Diev stayed, but a couple weeks after they left, Ram๓n and Shoshanna (Betty Schwimmer) showed up. We were delighted to see them. Life had gotten awfully quiet all of a sudden and they brought news of the old Morningstar and Lou's continuing problems with the constabulary. We explored the countryside a bit and talked a lot and ate cornbread and beans and chile and read about David and Solomon by lanternlight. They only stayed for three days, I remember, because Ram๓n said that after three days both fish and houseguests start to stink. We didn't think so.

Morningstar people from Ancones came for Thanksgiving, but that Christmas was even more memorable for us because our little family was all alone and snowed in with no electricity — just kerosene lanterns. We had the wood cookstove for heat and water from the Tusas down the hill. Larry cut off the top of a big pinon for our Christmas tree and we made home decorations for it, carefully attaching birthday candles, which we lit on Christmas Eve. Larry played carols on his guitar and I still had my strange brass flute and we sang and played until the kids were asleep.

Psyche was still a nursing baby, but Siddhartha was almost three years old (birthday December 30), so we had concentrated on a Christmas for him. Larry had found a horse skull for a model and made a magical hobby horse complete with yarn hair and leather reins. I wrote two books for him — one was an ABC book that rhymed ("A" is for apple, and awkward and acre; "B" is for baby and bubbles and baker — in that vein — with colored pictures — and the number book put numbers together up to ten with five, six, seven-pointed stars — and of course, the eight-pointed morningstar. I had a lot of fun with these). Larry also made some creative blocks, different sizes and shapes, and painted them bright red and yellow (we had found little cans of paint in the back room) and we got foodstamps just before Ram๓n and Shoshanna came, so there was turkey and other goodies. Then when Siddhartha's birthday came around five days later, I made candles from paraffin I (also found in the back room) for a little birthday cake.

Our contact with the localistas was somewhat whimsical. They had an exotic idea of hippies, but with Larry's full beard and long hair, and my long skirts, they knew we had to be IT. One of the good old Chicano boys came by one day and asked if he could have some of our "smoke." Larry had a can of Bugler on the table and said, "Have at it man," whereupon the guy furiously (and inexpertly) rolled several, thanked us, and bowed himself out the door. Later we learned that he thought it was marijuana. We were told that he was the butt of town jokes for a long time to come after he had lit up and proudly passed around tobacco from the "hippie house."

Midwinter brought a strange happening. One night Siddhartha and Psyche and I were all asleep — Psyche on my side so I could nurse her. Siddhartha may have been off in one of his little space capsules. (He made himself his own personal little spaces from early on). I was awakened by Larry, dressed and pacing by the window in the moonlight. "What?" I said, "What's going on?" He sat down and rolled a cigarette. He had just seen a deep green light — like green lantern — and then he'd heard footsteps in the next room — the middle room. In winter we lived in the room closest to the river. The wood cookstove was there and that was our heat. It was enough. We stayed up and watched and listened, but saw no green light and heard no footsteps. We would have forgotten the whole incident if not for a visit from Se๑or Jaramillo around February or so during a warm dry spell. He very politely asked us if he could show his friend the middle room. He was speaking Spanish, but I made out the word "pisadas — footsteps" and asked him about it. He told us that when he was a boy and lived in the house, they used to hear footsteps in the middle room.

I delivered my first baby when we were living in Servilleta Plaza. Some friends in El Rito had asked me to be there when the baby was born, so since we didn't have a car, our whole family went to El Rito just before Dorothy's due date. When the baby's head came out, his cord was wrapped around his neck three times. I just rotated him quickly and danced him out of his noose. He was fine and squalling from the very first breath. I've been privileged to attend 47 births since that one and never saw a cord wrapped so tightly since. They named him Wizard and we made up songs about him the next day and the next. They renamed him Ishmael or Isaac or something, but for the first year or so of his life, he was Wizard Wylie.

When spring finally started to come in April, I was looking forward to summer in the ancient house, but Larry had other ideas. He had a wild hair about making it in the Pecos wilderness and wouldn't be dissuaded, so we packed up our gear and our kids and Dennis Smith drove us to a likely and beautiful spot beside the bubbling tributary of the Pecos River. We set up our tent, dug a trench around it and cooked our rice and beans on our Coleman camp stove. That was on April 30. As long as I live on this earth, I will never forget the morning of May Day, 1969. When we emerged, staggering a little, from the tent, snow covered the ground as far as the eye could see. There we were  — way the hell off from any visible sign of civilization — but it was too far out and beautiful to be scared.

Of course the snow melted by nightfall — most of it — and we set up an outdoor fireplace and cooked our rice and put beans to soak and explored the rio. New green was everywhere — the rio water cold and bubbling and clear. Siddhartha was all over it in a heartbeat and Larry took him in his backpack to scope out the land round about. We were in a flowered meadow with cows. Always the cows. Ranchers took as big a bite of the government grass as the land would allow — sometimes a little more. I remember one sunny day when a ranger drove up the meadow in his white truck, parked it a few hundred yards from our camp, and came to us with politeness and non-harm in his walk. (Come to think of it, it's hard to put out hostile/aggressive vibes while skirting cow pucky.) The ranger smiled at the little boy dancing around his father, then spotted Psyche sitting in the tent. The tent flap was open on a crate of our books with a hooka pipe on top of it. The ranger rubbed his face. "Did you — ah — pack in?" he wanted to know.

Psyche was a year old now and still thriving on breast milk, but she had been eating rice cream increasingly since Ancones. (Rice cream: roasted brown rice ground up to cornmeal consistency.) We didn't bring our grinder with us to the Pecos, so I used a flat stone for a metate and a heavy chunky one for a grinder. It worked.

I tried planting some radishes and mustard greens and peas by the little rio, but only the mustard greens amounted to anything.

As the summer wore on and the rio diminished and the cows (and esti้rcol de vacas) multiplied, Larry began to get restless for unknown country. He thought we should move on to the main river — the Pecos.

We couldn't take all our stuff, so we stashed books and clothes and other non-essentials under a tarp with some brush over it and started up. The shortest distance to the Pecos according to Larry's topographical map was over the mountain away from the little rio. We had enough food left for two or three days and by that time it would be July and Larry could hitch into town from our new camp for food stamps and supplies.

We started early with Psyche, water, and food in my back pack and with Larry unbelievably loaded down with tent, bedrolls, and tools. Siddhartha walked uncomplaining all the way. He knew it was an adventure and he loved it. It took most of the day to climb the mountain — not a steep one as mountains go — but steep enough. I will also never forget the moment we got to what we supposed was the top and laid down our gear. Trees surrounded us on all sides and there was no indication that I could see that we were on a ridge or a summit or what. All three of us carried canteens and all three were alarmingly low by now — like maybe a swallow apiece. Not enough to get my milk up to nurse and Psyche was beginning to fret and fuss. It was when Larry took out map and compass and muttered something about "triangulating our position" that I got semi-hysterical. The sun was beginning to set for godssake! We had an hour — TOPS! I frantically devoured some dandelion greens growing on the non-path. What added to the general desperation was that Larry was obviously worried. We didn't look at each other. We both knew that we mustn't communicate fear to the kids.

So we started out — and down. I fervently prayed that our direction was not a random choice. We trudged down in silence as the sun was sinking — sinking — our progress slow. Suddenly Larry stopped, finger up. "Hear that?" "What?" I whined. "Water. I do believe that's water." Smiles all around. Then whoops. Larry started singing, "All day I faced the barren waste without a taste of water, coooool water. Water!" We were almost sliding now and Siddhartha delightedly took up the chant, "water, water." "Old Dan and I with throat burned dry you'll hear our cry — for water. WATER!" Now it was unmistakable — the blessed rushing, burbling, crashing sound of the rio! We made it to the Pecos riverbank just as the sun was setting goldy red and we set up our tent by moonlight. I can't think of another incident in my whole life so far that was that much of a cliff hanger. We all slept like stones that night with the rio rumble for a lullaby. (Now, years later, Larry claims it was nothing — piece a cake. He wasn't worried a bit he says.)

The Pecos is a beautiful river. We found a camp upstream the next day. It was in a little woodland meadow across the river where there were no cows! To get to it, we had to cross a huge log. I remember edging gingerly across it at first, but Siddhartha just walked across, erect and chirping happily as though he were on the boardwalk in Atlantic City! He's still like that by the way — rock climbing, rafting, caving. I just wonder if he's like that because of his childhood or whether it's in his DNA or something.

Anyway, we stayed there for a couple months I think. When Larry went to town again for food stamps, he ran into his brother Fred who'd been looking for him. I'm a little hazy on this part, but the story as Larry remembers it was that he had put a note on a tree as we were climbing the mountain that said, "Going Higher" and Lou and Fred found the note and followed us. He brought Lou to visit us in our little Arcadia. Lou brought some "sacrament" too and we smoked it while he told us about the new Morningstar. David and Penny and Jeffrey and Laura and Byron and Charlie and Jane and Al and Barbara and Reggie were building an adobe pueblo for a new commune and all hands were needed. A man named Michael Duncan had allowed Morningstar to build on his 400 some acres.

"This little Shangri-la is fine, dearhearts. Divine!, in fact," said Lou between inhalations, "but don't you want to be where the action is? It would be good for the kids, too. Why don't you come to Morningstar?"

[Next: Morningstar Pueblo (unfinished)]

 
 

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