A Taos Field Evokes the Extraordinary/By Henry Shukman
A field outside Taos, with Taos Mountain in the background. The earth here has been tended for at least a thousand years, and the setting may have inspired notable 20th-century.
The field is the kind of small, almost accidental place that, for visitors and residents alike, seems to quietly capture the essence of the entire area. In northern California, it might be a hidden stretch of rocky beach; in upstate New York, it might be an untouched stretch of woodland beyond the garden fences at the end of a small-town street. For me, in Taos, it was this field.
Twenty-one years ago, a young man, I arrived in Taos on the TMM & O bus, the local Greyhound, and after a night in a cheap motel, I rented a weekly room in a small adobe apartment complex. I had no car, and I did my shopping on foot.
Every day I’d saunter out under the cottonwoods, their leaves stirring silver in a breeze off the mesa, and cross the irrigation ditch into the nearby field. I had to negotiate an old wire fence rusting amid the undergrowth, then find my way onto a faint, narrow path that ran across the broad space of tall grass. The path was just a pale ribbon of dirt no wider than a sheep track, invisible except when my stride brushed the grasses aside.
I never knew who used the path besides me, and never saw anyone else on it. Why was it there at all? Who had made it? It crossed the field to the main road, and from there it was a short walk to the grocery store. I don’t know whether I would have ended up spending much of my life in New Mexico had it not been for my daily crossing of that field. It became a sort of bridge between my childhood in the English countryside that I hadn’t realized I had lost and my unknown future.
I had come to this far-flung desert town to write a memoir about searching for traces of one of the heroes of my English adolescence, D. H. Lawrence. Taos was the only place where Lawrence had ever actually owned a house, and I suppose, as a visitor, I was hoping some of the inspiration he had drawn from the land and people might rub off on me. I had imagined the landscape would all be bare desert and mountains. READ THE ARTICLE