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”.
Taos In Winter