Taos Writer Lost in Blizzard
I left Houston, Texas, on a spiritual quest in the balmy fall of 2005 and, after much wandering, found myself in Taos, New Mexico in the cold white month of January 2006. I was working on an intriguing spiritual writing project with hospice doctor, John Lerma about people who see angels when they’re dying.
Several times I tried to leave Taos, but the Taos Mountain had decided I was staying, and the weather cooperated with the mountain to keep me here. At the end of March, I took a little jaunt up to Valley View in Colorado, having always wanted to be at the hot springs when it was snowing. It was a lovely place to work on my angel book. After a few days, the weather seemed to be worsening, with five or six inches of snow on the roof of my car every morning, so I decided it was time to go south.
I intended to go down to Albuquerque and re-evaluate staying in Taos. I just really was not used to the cold weather and the snow after 35 years in Houston. As I headed down 285 south, a huge black raven-like cloud appeared in the distance, flying directly toward me. It was kind of mesmerizing. It seemed as if it touched the ground and flew back into the air. I suddenly feared there was a tornado in that cloud formation, and recorded a quick message to my kids about how much I loved them, just in case.
As I headed toward the giant raven cloud, it headed toward me, and suddenly I was under it, and although there was no tornado, the snow surrounded me and whitened my entire existence as if I had died and was in the midst of the clouds before the light appears. I could no longer see the road, and I could barely distinguish where the side of the road dropped off. A mightly wind hurled me across the road, and when I tried to steer into it, relented and I skidded perilously toward the drop-off. I quickly corrected and slowed down even more. It was the closest thing to a blizzard I had ever seen.
I was alone. I slowly dialed the radio and found only scratchy blankness. I set the automatic search and forgot about trying to get a station. I flipped open my cell phone. Nothing there either. I was deeply alone and did not know what I should do in this case. I could not pull over because I could not tell where the drop-offs were, and I was afraid my car would run out of gas while I ran the heater, and I would be found frozen in a hill of snow. So I inched my way forward at about five miles per hour. I could not see what lay ahead of me, and I prayed no one was stalled on the road because I could not have stopped by the time I saw them. I just kept moving forward even though I had no idea where I was headed.
After hours of inching toward my impossible destination and battling with bouts of wind, I had not made much headway, and my only company was an occasional raven clinging to a fence post or walking along the ground, their ominous blackness directly contrasting with the pure white surroundings. I was so scared that I began to cry and plead with whatever power there is to help me get somewhere safe. The silence was truly deafening. I recorded a few more goodbyes on my digital recorder. Finally, the radio blared, and I was blessed by the sound of a human voice. The announcer read off the road closings, and the road I was on, in my little red Mazda Protege, was closed to all but those with chains. I barely had decent tires. Oh well, how could I have known, with no radio and no cell phone?
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to do. I knew the altitude before I got to Espanola was higher than where I was now, and likely more snowy and frozen. At long last, I saw a turnoff. I was at Tres Piedres, the point where they were telling people not to continue south. The only turnoff was left and it headed directly to Taos. I wondered if I could even make it there as the road was deep with snow. The radio announcer said 32 inches had fallen in the last few hours. Wow, what was I doing out here?
I noted a few tire tracks heading toward Taos on Hwy 64, so I ventured forward. I knew my friend Madeline would let me stay at her house again. I at least had shelter there. I drove in the tracks of trucks that had gone before me and safely crossed the slippery Rio Grande Gorge bridge. I knew I could probably make it the rest of the way into town, and my mood lightened a bit. After OBL, the old blinking light, I picked up cell phone reception again and called Madeline. When she answered, the stress finally let go and I blubbered my plight to her. Although she was currently in Houston, she called her realtor who delivered a key to me while I enjoyed a very belated breakfast burrito smothered in Christmas chile, red and green mixed, at Michael’s Kitchen and told my story to a few strangers who had also just completed their harrowing drives. Coffee sure does taste good when you come in from the cold.
After that, I stopped struggling to leave and just accepted my fate. Like many others, the Taos Mountain had claimed me for its own. I had no choice; I might as well enjoy the view.
Sandy Penny has been a writer, teacher and spiritual seeker for the last 35 years this lifetime. She currently writes a healing arts section called the Butterfly for the Horse Fly monthly in Taos, NM. Read her work on WritingMuse.com, WritingMuse.Blogspot.com, and TaosButterfly.Wordpress.com