In September 2011, I began this column.
9/11 was a decade ago, (at that point,) and we’d moved back to Taos 6 years prior.
Those first couple of months, the column looked nothing like today.
I reviewed three books at a time; only a couple of paragraph-blurbs per book.
There was no trademark rant, no random connections, no absurdist tricks like opening a column with a short story, or a treatise on gaslighting.
It wasn’t until Thanksgiving, 2 months later, when one of my deepest fears came true, and it unlocked an entirely new writing style.
Late that night, it was pitch black outside, just after Jessie and I went to bed.
Suddenly, we heard a bashing knock at our bedroom door, and my Mother-in-Law, Bonnie, was brandishing a gun, yelling about trespassers.
Somehow, when we moved into our house in 2009, I had a premonition I’d be woken by a knock at the door, by a gun, late at night.
And here it was.
My Father-in-Law kept a cool head, and I accompanied him into the field.
Some local kids were trying to visit a friend, back for the holidays, and had gotten lost.
(Then stuck in the irrigation ditch.)
We towed them out, sent them on their way, and that was that.
But my fear became reality, and it wasn’t so bad.
Now that I think about it, around the same time, some wild animals in the canyon brought down a deer in our stream.
I found it in the morning.
I chopped off the deer’s paw with a hatchet, to make a photograph, and when the farm dogs chewed off its head, my Mother-in-Law, Bonnie, fought them for the trophy and won.
(Bonnie was tough as nails.)
She put the deer head in her garage freezer, in a black garbage bag, and insisted I take it to make a photograph.
When I wrote those stories down in 2019, for my book, “Extinction Party,” we’d just noticed Bonnie’s decline.
By mid-2020, the dementia became progressively worse, and the pandemic turbo-charged it.
Bonnie loved my book when it came out, and knew I’d honored her in it.
But now she knows nothing at all.
My main point is: things change.
And I’ve spent the last 11 years sharing my life with you each week, from a working horse farm at the base of the Rocky Mountains.
In the American Wild West.
But Taos Mountain loves nothing more than symbolism, and she’s not subtle in her teaching.
Yesterday, while getting myself prepared for Antidote, our photo retreat, (which begins Friday,) I was petting the new horse, Penny.
She’s my first horse-friend, and her tawny hair catches the light just so.
But my kids are mildly allergic to horses, so I went down to my favorite spot by the stream to wash my hands.
I looked to my right, as I crouched by the water, and noticed a dead deer; a huge carcass, a few feet to my right.
It had been eaten, BIG TIME, which explained why my dogs were hanging by the stream all morning.
It was a jarring moment.
Later, I saw part of a jawbone here, a piece of stomach there.
Primal nature, right in my face.
I checked with a shaman friend, (via text message,) who suggested I honor and respect the deer’s spirit.
(To make up for exploiting the other deer 11 years ago.)
Unless the coyotes work together and drag the carcass off, I’ll be grabbing the shovel and some work gloves. Then wedging the deer out of the stream, before our students come.
I’ll be swatting flies, and covering my nose for the smell. (Unless the cold water staved off the rot.)
I’ll move the deer to a more permanent, peaceful resting place.
And that will be my penance.
See you in two weeks!