Taos stands resplendent in the late afternoon sun, magnificent against the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains.  Taos is the jewel in the crown of the 19 New Mexican Pueblos, unchanged throughout the centuries, despite the influx of visitors who come to marvel at the three- story architecture still inhabited by this proud people.  The tourist town of Taos and the Pueblo village of Taos are separate places, and no where is this more apparent than in the peace and quiet of a sleepy summer afternoon, with a few wispy white clouds drifting around the mountain, and the buildings painted hues of pink or yellow with deep purple shadows,  all accomplished with a solar paintbrush.  It is the most highly photographed of all the villages, and the camera fee has increased throughout the years.  In the 1960’s it was $5, but a number of years ago when Dr. Advice and I were there, it had grown to $15.  There are restricted places where visitors may not enter or photograph, and  of course, common courtesy demands that permission must be obtained before photographing the people, and a fee tendered, whatever the going rate.

During the summer, my Laguna/Isleta friend and I visited many of the villages, sometimes to renew longtime friendships of Georgia’s, and sometimes to attend a seasonal celebratory dance.  All villages do not welcome outside guests, and those which do, expect that strict rules of decorum be observed.  This includes no cameras, no unnecessary talking during the performance, and to my great shame, no quick drawings of the dancers!  I was unaware of doing anything wrong, until I heard Georgia’s whisper not to look up.  Keeping my head down I saw two moccasined feet directly in front of me, and heard Georgia say that I was writing a letter home.   I guiltily looked up into an old and angry hawk-nosed face, deeply tanned and wrinkled, with not an ounce of compassion or forgiveness.  I smiled weakly and quickly looked back at the dancers.  After an abnormal length of time, the old man moved on to try and find any other miscreants.  I realized that the best sketchbook is frequently in your head, and a lot safer too!

As the summer drew to a close, we spent a lot of time in Santa Fe, which was not completely taken over by the tourists yet, and was beginning to develop a thriving gallery business on Canyon Road.  I entertained highly unrealistic dreams of living there, being quite sure that Dr. Advice would thoroughly enjoy running a gallery while I spent my time painting and sculpting off in the hills somewhere.  Alas! he did not agree, but did agree that we would make an annual pilgrimage, which we did, if not annually, at least frequently, for 40 years.

In the week before we departed for home, there were many bread bakings, stewed chile feasts,  and much laughter.  On one such evening, more women seemed to be dressed in traditional clothing, and there was lots of giggling and whispers as if a secret were there trying to escape.  I became aware that I was the object of their mirth when they scooped me up and announced their intention of bestowing a new name on me.  I was overwhelmed and waited breathlessly to know what it was to be.  The governor of the village approached and said a few words in their Tiwa language, and then asked Georgia to come forward.  She said that after much discussion, she had suggested the name of “Pacho Fa” which means “Three Feathers” denoting the three paths my life takes of family, friends and Art.  It was a special moment for me climaxing a long visit which began as strangers wary of one another, and ended with being a part of an ancient civilization which had embraced me and honored me as “one of their own”.

May we all walk in balance. Aho    

Taos In Winter

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

10 thoughts on “TAOS”

  1. I’m glad to know the origins of the name.

    I can’t make out whether those shapes are representational of an abstract or impressionist of the actual or neither. It is a quite remarkable piece of art.

    The picture and the description have a magnetism for me – one who previously to this post and to Cheri’s posts had only the vaguest of ideas about New Mexico.


  2. This is just beautiful. I remember you telling me this story when we were all together at Irene’s….seems like so long ago. Just as I pictured it. Such a gift
    you have.


  3. Kayti, i’m so happy to read this story! Mom told me about it some time ago, but I’d forgotten some of it, and then, of course, there wasn’t this wonderful painting to go with it! Beautiful! I absolutely love it! You’ve capyured the smooth texture and colors of the buildings so perfectly!

    We’ve been to Santa Fe. Very beautiful with its big sky… I love the food, the buildings — and the street vendors with their gorgeous silver jewelry and amazing works of art. Even if they weren’t there, just seeing the sites are enough to fill you up. : )


  4. Well, I am late to the siesta here, but as both you and Richard know, New Mexico is one of my favorite places on earth. In fact, Richard, when you and Glenys make it to the U.S., we’ll meet you in New Mexico and show you Santa Fe and Taos. Bring your camera with a wide angle lens…the skies are magnificent.
    Kayti, as usual, a well written story full of images and color. The best was your description of the silent punishment from the elder.


    1. I have spoken to Glenys about your kind suggestion, Cheri, and her eyes widened.

      I feel, somehow, that it will remain a dream but a beautiful one.

      Thank you.


      1. You never really know, Richard.
        You might want to pursue why Glenys’ eyes widened.
        Widening of the eyes is all about anticipation.

        And should these travel dreams remain just dreams, they still can provide a lovely reality.


  5. Wow! Marvellous story and painting. What a great honour to be named. I do like your name tremendously, Pacho Fa. The Three Feathers or Three Paths also means something very specific to me in my present life. I’ll think of you when I’m involved with it.

    Love the detail of the old man standing over you for “an abnormal length of time.” Brilliant.

    I’ve always wanted to visit Taos after reading Willa Cather’s books and knowing that DH Lawrence and his wife took up residence there after they’d lived in Australia. Now I want to visit even more.

    Wonderful post.


    1. Thanks so much Narelle. When I first visited the Southwest 50 years ago, Santa Fe wasn’t th town it is now. It had a few art galleries, but nothing much. Taos on the other hand, drew me in like a magnet. Old Taos, the Indian village was especially fascinating to me due to location against the Sandia Mts. and that marvelous 3 story pueblo. I became friends with a few people living there, and when I visted last I told someone it hadn’t changed a bit. He answered “We don’t want it to”. I’m very glad. I hope you will visit there. I know you will love it too.



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