I can see you cock your head as you organize the space in your mind.
It's just that type of place, Kingston. The type of place you step into and forget the world. There's the century old lodge of stone and shucked logs, tucked in a grove of plum and apple trees. There's the hen house of adobe walls and wagon wheels, adobe walls built from the clay in the ground under your feet, with clusters of ripe table grapes falling heavily across the warm cob finish. There's the greenhouse with the banana trees, the garden growing salad greens, and the trail by the creek.
There's the balconies and the porches, alive with groaning.
But the guests are always weaving in and out of the kitchen. Because in the kitchen women in long ringlet hair and beautiful bosoms bake fresh bread. This guest refills his coffee, these three talk at the table with slats of sun falling over them, that one drys her hand on the corner of a paisley apron, walking away from the sink with a satisfied look.
Who works at the lodge and who's staying on for the weekend is difficult to discern. In fact, one must ask to be sure. But I don't. I move through the heat waves of the open oven and the filtered light of the sun-room and out the back door.
We came close to here once, though we didn't know we were near. It was an afternoon when we drove the Gila wilderness in settled silence, took a side hike and watched a hawk hunt us in the sky. His large circles drew around us again and again, and were made smaller and smaller with every lap. I squatted down on the hard granite and picked sharp grasses while you prepared the pipe. You kicked a stone down the canyon and I listened to it's descent with both eyes closed. We didn't have much of anything to say that day.
I don't have much to say to anyone today either. Just my book.
A woman walks from fruit tree to fruit tree, shaking the bountiful branches. The ripest fall in a sequential thud on the red earth, like dropped juggling balls. She picks them up with hands that are stained with it- red clay in the cracks of her calluses, clay under her wedding band.
It's the red clay Gillian sang about on the radio as we wound down and out of the pass, a top exiting it's spin.
Kingston Clay. Since it never comes out from your fingernails they figured it was good and sturdy and they built the pots and the tiles and the bricks with it; they built the walls and the floors and the ceilings; they built the casitas and the cafes and the banks. They found silver underneath the clay, and then came the post office and the schools, the junk shops and the brothels.
It was the capitol of New Mexico then. Until the day there was no more silver and only the red earth, and all these red buildings, and no use for them.
Now, a hundred years later, there's just the lodge and 12 little adobe houses. Down the road is Hillside, the nearest town with a general store and a for sale sign on everything else. There's the community center there, where concerts are held. (It had been the high school until there were no children left.)
I write down some lyrics in my book.
Listening to the knocks of bamboo plants and porch swing creaks. The breeze billows the pillows and the drying sheets, blue as the Southwestern sky hanging there on the line. Bugs dance in the noon day sun and monks are chanting from inside the wind chimes.
If you sit down to read here - at the table under the shade of grape vines - you must be very careful what you're reading. Perhaps philosophy or poetry, but the news would feel particularly phoney. And notice how you'll never hear a television, but just the indecipherable tones of conversations floating out through the windows of the lodge.
Straining, I can almost hear ours.
We're giggling uncontrollably, trying to sight read old folk songs from a book you found on the coffee table. Long, shaky notes drone out of our mouths and cross into dissonance before landing in a crash of howling laughter.
And I can't forget to tell you about the people here, who are as warm as the spaces.
There is 70 year old Avery Hall who hikes into the wilderness to photograph every pictograph he can find, since he noticed nobody else cares to take on the task of preserving them. He spends all his money on film and frames, and proudly sleeps next to his campfire year round. He always wears a dapper vest, a blue silk scarf and a black cowboy hat, with whiskers poking out of his nose and ears.
Catherine is the owner of the lodge. She is pixie thin with a bashful smile. It springs up on her face as her eyes turn down in delight and humility. Her patterned dress is cotton, soft with wear, and all the lovelier for it's simple cut. I can see it has hung from clothespins many mornings, swaying beside the linens.
And there is Bonnie that carries the baskets of clean bedding, and Tom who sets out the tea, and the Bennants, who live just down the street, but come to the lodge at night to play fiddle in the great room lined with history books.
Though you would like Gary best, I'm sure of it.
Gary is a masseuse and a builder. He has quiet kindness circulating through his body and beacons of blue eyes. His hands are rough with earth and soft with grape-seed oils and he has given me a tin can of Kingston clay that was just dug from the side of the hill. It's been sifted into a red flour and can be mixed with water and applied to the face for relaxation. I watch him move across the lawn unhurriedly, his head seeming to follow his body, his body seeming to follow his booted feet.
I prop mine, now bare, up on the seat of a chair and set my book on the table. I let my skull fall loose on my neck and think how all that day, all that night you were so sad to be happy.
I'd never seen a sadder happy person.
"We're just a bunch of bodies following our heads around," Gary had said to me. "It takes years and then we realize, Hey, there's a body down there!" His Adam's apple shoots out like an arrow when he smiles, and lines fan around his face.
I feel my body underneath me. I feel my heart tell-tale on every rationalization my mind has ever made. I wiggle my toes a bit, check in with my shoulders and back, straighten my spine, yawn and settle back into the chair.
I try to bring your face into my mind, but I'm loosing its structure, day by day. Like the silver, I've mined out most our memories. I wish they wouldn't go. But the pits are more like wombs than tombs, and they are being filled by a series of new moments, revelations, joys. I marvel at each tick-tock second as it passes, marching tirelessly into the future in a beautiful spiral of infinity.
Who needs to mine the past when you can construct anything out of all these present moment bricks?
Or like those here at the lodge might gently point out -- who needs silver when you can build anything out of Kingston clay!
If I return, I'll invite you to come with me.