When my friend called my room to say she had met a woman in the coffee shop and was headed to an ashram, I thought it was one of her typical, wry, East-Coast jokes. My friend is not the ashram type. The pleasant-looking, salt-and-pepper-haired woman led us across the plaza, pushing her snazzy, red and yellow Smoking Loon (like the wine) cruiser bike.
I knew we were in for an adventure when my friend asked the woman what she did in Taos, and the woman replied, “I don’t answer that question,” and went into a philosophical diatribe about a person’s misguided identification with what they did vs. who they really are (with which I actually agreed), and then her spiritual basis and teacher for her beliefs, on to her great respect for Mother Earth and the perversion of homo sapiens, the “gestapo” that had ruined the planet and destroyed intact host ecosystems (but more on that later). In fact, she said, “I don’t like to answer any questions.” Hmmm, I thought. “What’s she hiding?” Being of a somewhat private and secretive nature, my friend expressed that she thought this was great and agreed with her. I, on the other hand, (being a Sagittarius) like to get everything out in the open.
So, off we went down the back streets and alleyways of Taos, admiring old and new adobe houses.
Our guide took us to the very humble abode of author John Nichols (“The Milagro Bean Field War”) requesting that we NOT take a photo (no reason given — privacy issues?). Our guide expressed disgust for the newer adobe homes, which looked great to us and in keeping with the architectural style. I’m not exactly sure why she didn’t like them — I think it was the people who went with them. A woman in an SUV drove past us, and our guide motioned to her to slow down. I didn’t think she was going excessively fast. Whatever, the woman driver behind closed windows shouted “F*** You!” and sped past.
Finally, we crossed a lovely, tree-shaded creek to the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram. A tiny adobe hermitage sat off in the woods. The ashram houses the Hanuman Temple, named for the revered Hindu monkey god in the Ramayana story.
Hanuman is the embodiment of service and devotion. A dread-locked young man who introduced himself as “Israel” (but looked more like a Chad or a Jeremy) welcomed us, and our guide offered us some chai and homemade bread. As we sat in a field behind the ashram she discussed prairie dogs and how they are the keystone species holding all 150-some other species together. She discussed how homo sapiens had destroyed all the native grasslands, now replaced with sage. Of course, being from Boulder — “prairie dog rescue central” — we agreed with her.
Our agreement, however, did not seem to satisfy her and she became more evangelical about the issue. Finally, we had had enough of the lecturing and needed to leave. We thanked her for her great tour of Taos and her “insider’s view” of things there. Despite this, she rode off in a huff on her Smoking Loon, saying she didn’t know why she was talking with outsiders and we should go back to Boulder. We later learned that she had been banned from a certain grocery store for yelling at a young mother about her noisy child. Of course, being from Boulder — our beloved city of evangelical eccentrics — none of this seemed that surprising to us.
Some of our local hosts who had emigrated from various urban centers said the New Mexico moniker of Land of Enchantment should be “Land of Entrapment.” There’s a lively “expat” community of rat-race escapees, artists, spiritual seekers and nonconformists, which we also experienced first hand at the Greater World Earthship, a sustainable, off-the-grid community just outside of Taos — another entire blog posting in itself. Their homes are built of recycled car tires, bottles, aluminum cans, earthen berms and adobe.
The scenic desert drive over the 650-foot-high Rio Grand Gorge bridge spans the chasm to another world — a world, however, that our Smoking Loon guide disdained because the remotely located Earthship people had to drive everywhere in their nonsustainable vehicles. You, too, can visit the Earthship community at http://earthship.org/
Oh well, utopia does not seem to exist anywhere on the planet. All we can do is keep trying.