Just now: the crickets are chirping, the kitchen staff are banging dishes around cleaning up after a delicious dinner, the class and Natalie (Goldberg) have gone to slow walk out to the battered cross made famous by the painter Georgia O'Keeffe, and for the first time since I began coming here in 1999, I've stayed behind, mindful that my pace needs to be slow and steady, mindful that if I crash, my mind won't work, that I'll lose language, a commodity as precious as rain here in Taos, land of high desert. The wind is blowing steadily through the cottonwoods, a friendly low roar to keep me company, as I sit on the bench outside the zendo patiently waiting for my classmates to return. The Tibetan prayer flags are waving as if to say hello--squares of yellow, green, red, white, blue. The sun is going down, and the sky is pale blue, the low clouds grey--spread wide across the horizon. A motorcycle rumbles in the distance. Yesterday, I flipped through a book of photos called The Monks Return To Mable's. It was winter when they were here, their robes a flash of orange against the snow. I studied the stunningly beautiful mandala they built using piles of colored sand.
I'm glad I warned my new husband not to expect phone calls from me once the silence began on Tuesday morning, happy that he trusts I'll call only if I need to. I can't wait to show him just where I've been coming all these years. I don't know if he will get why I love this place so much, but it doesn't matter. He knows that writing has held my heart since I was fourteen--the poems rising up out of me like bubbles when I began journaling all those decades ago in that Ohio bedroom at the top of the stairs at my grandmother's house, putting pen to paper to keep myself sane as my mother's core family died around me--first my grandfather to old age, then my aunt to wet brain from alcohol, then my grandmother from stroke--all gone, leaving no one in the house but my anxious, grieving mother, my alcoholic uncle, and me, a seventeen year old girl whose only solace was music, books, and the pen, that magical tool that would take me on amazing journeys of my mind.
The darkness has settled, the staff all departed, the drumming and singing echo from Taos Pueblo. I don't know exactly how long I've been writing out here in the chilly night air, but like my black shawl circling my shoulders, I'm wrapped in deep gratitude that I felt well enough to come. Ahh, the crunch of tires on gravel, small beams of light pierce the black. They're back. Welcome home, I've been waiting.