The meaning of life is just to be alive…

I had counseling this morning and my mini aussie and the counselor’s chihuahua ran in circles, growling, while I sat on a shabby couch drawing up a list of pros and cons to staying and the pros and cons to leaving. The winner by a landslide was the cons to staying. 

In fact, I had so many cons to staying that it took over the section for the pros. I noted that he could change. He could- as he explained- go to Red River and come back clear-headed and sober, and ready to give it 100%, and even as I noted this it felt like a sham. Again I felt like my internal monologue was being serviced by an Old West Traveling Salesman on a trashy horse named Harold.

It’s May 17th. This is Dennis Hopper Day in New Mexico. The governor made it so in 2010, giving Hopper a key to Taos city. Charley, Dakota and I go to the start of the “Easy Rider” rally. It’s held in honor of Hopper’s directorial debut, back in the 60s, with a young Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda. The film introduced us to a low-budget genius who brought indie film into the mainstream, and it introduced Hopper to Taos, where he discovered Mabel Luhan’s 10-bedroom “Los Gallos” and another wife. 

The rally is at the Center for the Arts. I want to buy buffalo nachos but I have two dollars in the bank and Charley- who tried to hide a bowl of oatmeal in the bathroom- is not only broke and helpless, but feeling guilty about it.
I find it curious that Charley’s sponsor dislikes Hopper for once getting a classmate hooked on cocaine. I thought he would have more empathy for fellow addicts. But Hopper eventually did get clean (and scouted AA meetings with my dad) so I personally like the guy, and his crazy story. Maybe tomorrow I’ll return to the Mabel Inn, Hopper’s Mud Palace, next to the Birdopolis of bird houses and the enchanting wood swing beside pines, cottonwoods, wildflowers and a creek. 



“The house is full of pianists, painters, pederasts, prostitutes and peasants.” Mabel wrote Gertrude Stein, ”great material.” I don’t know why I’m so drawn to it- partly the history but mostly the peace and separation from the rest of a dusty, dull town. It’s a beat removed from the road construction, New Mexican macho hombres and aloof tourists.
And it feels funny being so calm and solitary in a place with so much social history. Sitting to read a book with Dakota and listen to the gurgle of the creek, I think about who sat and spoke at this very spot; this is the very location where Mabel hosted extravagant garden parties with writer Willa Cather, photographer Ansel Adams, photographer Alfred Stieglitz and his wife and desert painter Georgia O’Keeffe, writer and painter D. H. Lawrence, and his wife Frieda. 

Author Lois Rudnick in Utopian Vistas recognized that “many who came to the Luhan House were at a critical point in their lives, physically, psychologically, or vocationally. For them, the house functioned as a kind of life crisis center breaking down and healing, making – and sometimes unmaking – love affairs and marriages. Because several visitors often stayed with the Luhans simultaneously, the opportunities for mentoring, cross fertilization, and feuding were enormously rich….”

Patricia Leigh Brown wrote in The New York Times that it was a place of epiphanies: “It was at Mabel’s house that Ansel Adams, then a pianist, decided to pursue photography as a career. It was at Mabel’s that Georgia O’Keeffe did her first paintings of New Mexico.”

This is the very spot where bikers and hippies congregated; a lady tried to shoot herself and Playboy bunnies had orgies in bathtubs; monks and shamans meditated; people ate magic cake and LSD with Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley perched on rocks under Cottonwood trees. Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan sang folk songs. Alan Watts wrote: 

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

Watts sat at this creek watching it meander around stones. All of these people sat and breathed in the moment and caught visions of what they wanted to make and wanted to be. D. H. Lawrence painted petroglyphs in bathrooms. In this spot Mabel’s spirit returned by moonlight. 

I wish I had been here in the 70s, when Hopper played Bergman, Fellini, Truffaut, Godard and Disney cartoons  at El Cortez. 

“Los Gallos represents a conjunction between an elite and progressive world community of well known artists and thinkers and perhaps one of the most enduring native societies in the western hemisphere – Taos Pueblo” -says a description on the Mabel Dodge Luhan house website. Los Gallos or Mud Palace was host to a thousand bohemian parties and yet remains- even today as an inn with a solarium and yoga center- a spiritual retreat for the outsider. 


I am in a critical point in my life: physically, psychologically, and vocationally. Charley is kind and quiet today. I thought about what I thought the future might bring and for the first time I felt like maybe if this did end I wouldn’t be too upset about it because for the first time I felt like maybe I was supposed to be here and whatever happened, I had a future in a town Mabel described as the “dawn of the world”. And that future could be with my baby and me. Or maybe it could be with Charley. I didn’t feel too worried about the outcome for once. 

It’s so nice to go outside when only frogs, owls and crickets are awake. 1am and not a star in the sky. The dogs don’t ever look up at the sky. I wonder what they think about and what they see. Rain and pot and daydreams. Life is easier to look at through rain and pot and daydreams. I feel like I’ve been asleep for months.

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