Sunday, August 26, 2007

Taos - Sunday

Sunday morning we left early for El Pueblito Church. Pastor Steve, giving us every opportunity to serve this week, had invited us to come help set up for their outdoor service. So we helped to move chairs, hymnals, and sound system outside.
The morning's scripture passages were from Isaiah, on beating swords into plowshares and from Mark, recounting how Jesus, when criticized for supping with tax collectors and other undesirables, said I'm here to save the sinners -- I gotta talk to them to do it. Steve's sermon applied those teachings to current-day issues.

About 60 people attended, not well-captured in this picture, and we enjoyed meeting and visiting many of the friendly folks in the congregation before the service and afterwards at the church potluck.

Here's the cross behind the outdoor altar and the view beyond. Steve preached his first outdoor sermon from the back of his horse in this location. He told Helen afterwards that they needed a cross out there, could she find one. She did, from a clothes line.

After lunch it was back to the RV park to disconnect, ease carefully out of our parking slot in the sagebrush and head home. We rendezvoused at the Santa Fe Wal Mart to deliver grandson Tony's college necessities. Trip was uneventful, under cloudy skies and occasional rain.

Great things are happening in Taos through El Pueblito United Methodist Church and we are glad that we had a chance to contribute in a small way for a few days. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

As a final image, here's a painting of the church:


Susie and Rob

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Taos - Saturday

Lots going on Saturday morning and we take it in. We start with Michael's Kitchen for breakfast -- a traditional favorite. Still haven't seen Julia Roberts or Donald Rumsfeld hanging out in the local eateries.

Then, El Pueblito church is having a benefit yard sale -- we help by buying a wicker picnic basket that may have belonged to Ginger Rogers, plus some books. Next it's the farmer's market downtown and the city library is having a book sale near by. We get some veggies, fruit, longhorn bratwurst, and a few more books.

After that we stroll through a few shops on and near the Plaza. Susie has an inspiration. Let's find some chips and guacamole for a snack -- it's approaching noon, but after our big breakfast, a snack is all we want. Turns out we're standing next to a deli/cafe and their menu shows guacamole and chips. Outside dining, too. Priceless.

There's also a car show in town, but we pass that up. Ditto for the county fair. Spend the afternoon in TuziTwo's air-conditioning. We have a bowl of green chile chicken stew for dinner at the historic Sagebrush Inn, pick up some Albertson's brownies for tomorrow's church potluck, and that's it for the evening.

For excitement, I climb on top of Tuzi for another sunset shot. (Living in Cedar Crest, on the east side of the mountains, we don't see colorful sunsets, so I guess that's the attraction here.)

We've decided to head home tomorrow afternoon after the church potluck. We've had a great and relaxing time in Taos.


Susie and Rob

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday in Taos

Mid-morning Friday we went to Ranchos de Taos, site of the oft-painted and -photographed St. Francis of Assisi church. Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe had their shots. Here are a couple of mine. Try to ignore the power lines, second picture.

We visited an adjacent gift shop. Proprietor asked, "Are you on the bus?" No, we said. "Good," he said. Tour buses used to stop at Ranchos and give passengers enough time to see and photograph the church and visit gift and craft shops around the plaza. No longer. Take your pictures and get back on the bus, is the order. Motivated us to buy something, though. We're suckers for sad stories this week.

From Ranchos we angled NW across the Taos mesa (On the Mesa, by John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War, is a passionate evocation of this mesa, the more remote parts, if I recall correctly) to US 64 which crosses the Rio Grande Gorge. We were looking for Lorraine's house -- Lorraine being a volunteer we had worked with Wednesday. Across 64 we found the road (unpaved, rocky) to her house and followed it several miles NW across more mesa with scattered houses. Just past her house the road ended, but there was a two-track path leading south toward 64, apparently. I had the Magellan GPS with us and it showed some lines across the mesa in that direction. Surely, we can get back that way, I said. I hate to backtrack.

Well, the main problem was that if we drove in the ruts, we'd high-center on the ridge between them. So, I tried to keep one wheel on the ridge, the other on whichever edge seemed the more drivable. We kept going and going, across a few washed out places until we finally came to ... a fence. No choice but to turn around and backtrack all the way. Fortunately, we didn't get stuck or Lorraine might have found a couple of stranded travelers on her doorstep.

Helen, at Shared Table, told us that the best Mexican food in the area was Lena's, in Arroyo Seco. That's where we headed for lunch -- up the road to Taos Ski Valley. Trouble was, other than an upscale restaurant that wasn't and couldn't have been Lena's, the only place to eat in Arroyo Seco was Abe's Bar, Grocery, and Grill. Thought maybe I might have gotten the name wrong from Helen, but the place looked good. Lots of pick-ups parked outside. About six tables squeezed into the half of the building housing the grill and grocery. Menu definitely Mexican, including homemade tamales, order at the counter. Wallpaper and table vinylcloths with matching chile patterns. Midway through a tasty lunch, I heard one of the patrons saying Hi to Lena in the kitchen. We WERE at the right place!

After lunch we strolled the shops in Arroyo Seco. Met a personable young man from Midland, TX in this A-frame pottery shop -- he lives upstairs and seemed to be really enjoying life. Would he go back to Midland? No way, not after he's seen Arroyo Seco. Susie bought a coffee cup to help his economy.

Speaking of pick-ups, old pick-ups are depicted in lots of local art. This one in Arroyo Seco may be the model:

Arroyo Seco also features an historic church -- this is the La Santisima Trinidad church, dating to ca. 1834.

We drove to the ski area and back and called it another pleasant day in Taos. We've had fun, also, on our excursions the last two days, exploring residential areas. Lots of dead-end streets, winding streets shaded by tall cottonwoods, adobe walls and hidden haciendas.


Susie and Rob

More Taos

We promised more info on Steve Wiard and his Taos ministries. From our visit with Steve and a 2006 article in the United Methodist Reporter:

Steve was raised in Kansas and taught high school social studies for 18 years. He became active in politics and ran for and was elected to the Kansas state senate -- quite an accomplishment for a pony-tailed Democrat -- and served three terms. Door-to-door contacts did it for him, he told us. He also began part-time preaching in the 70s and became a lay-preacher in the Methodist church -- a level below being "ordained," as I understand it.

At some point he let the church know of his interest in a move to Taos and that came about in 1997. The church had started Shared Table a few years earlier as a meals program. In '97 they switched to distributing commodities in order to feed more people more substantially and to help low-income workers with large families. The program also provides at-cost prescriptions and short-term emergency assistance, such as lodging and transportation for those in need. Steve says he gets calls from the police for all sorts of situations.

If you would like to contribute to the Shared Table ministry, the address is:

El Pueblito United Methodist Church
6981 ndcbu
Taos, NM 87571

The church and Shared Table operate under separate Boards. The Methodist church is not a sponsor of Shared Table, but the NM/NW TX Conference of the church did make a special donation last year.

People coming to Wednesdays' Shared Table are not seen as prospective Methodists. The message is subtle - here is a place that cares and people who treat them with respect and dignity. Steve characterizes the church as a "guilt-free zone," open to anybody. The church has grown and they recently knocked out a wall next to the sanctuary to expand seating from 65 to 85. We're looking forward to being in church Sunday, though as the fourth Sunday in a summer month, the service will be outside under a tent.

Steve's bottom line in the Reporter story: Anne Frank's quote comes to mind: 'In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.'

Speaking of good hearts, here's Steve and Susie with a proud new papa and his baby

Susie and I have had conversations this week about how to improve the lot in life of those in poverty. There is a real issue on the types of assistance to provide. You have to meet people's survival needs, but you/we also need to provide ways for people to improve their status. It's one thing to be in poverty; it's another to be mired in poverty, to have no hope of a way out. One of the saddest things Wednesday was watching three-generation families come through the line. How do they and we break that cycle? They need skills and attitudes. We're reminded of the familiar sentiment:

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”—Author unknown

That's the original. The website I retrieved this from also had this modified version:

"Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you can sell him fishing equipment.”—Author unknown

Now, that's the entrepreneurial spirit!

Steve told us the first Methodist church in Taos is now a residence. We drove by. The front view didn't look very churchy, but the side view, second picture, does -- note the windows.

If you should happen to be in Taos and would like to see this church/house, the address is 115 Quesnel. As you approach the Plaza area from the south, turn right at the light just past McDonald's.

I need to find out the history of this place. I recall a story that the Rev. Thomas Harwood, largely responsible along with his wife, Emily, for establishing the Methodist church among Spanish-speaking New Mexicans in the late 1800s, told. I need to look this up in Harwood's History, but, as I recall, in Taos one night a gun-wielding gang of toughs crashed a service he was holding. Cooler heads prevailed, but this was but one of several life-threatening adventures the good Reverend survived in his 40-some years of ministry in NM. Taos Methodist preachers also figured prominently in the Colfax County War of 1875. It was sparked by one preacher's murder, fanned by another preacher's zeal to find the murderer.

Speaking of history, we're coming back to this area next weekend for a New Mexico Methodist heritage event -- stops at several sites from Espanola to Cimarron.

Thursday evening we tried to catch sunset over the mesa.

Storm clouds over the mountains, reflecting the sunset, got our attention, too.

They say the New Mexico sky helped launch the Taos art colony.

Cheers for now,

Susie and Rob

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shared Tables - Taos

Wednesday was Shared Table day. Sunday, at church, we had filled Tuzi's basement with food and hygiene products donated by St. John's members. Our "toad" PT had grandson Tony Hinkle's college stuff that he had stored in our garage for the summer. He's returning to the College of Santa Fe for classes next week and we're going to deliver his things to him in Santa Fe on the way home. Maybe all this weight contibuted to yesterday's Tuzi overheat episode.

At any rate, Wednesday morning I unloaded Tuzi:

and then packed the PT (hope you can see the generosity expressed by the Albq folks),

for transport to the El Pueblito Methodist Church.

In case this is not what you expect a northern NM church to look like, this building was once a gas station, bar and cafe. It became the church in 1960. The lower left area is the sanctuary. It was a covered driveway and gas pump island. The upstairs is now mostly storage for the Shared Table supplies.

Steve Wiard wears two hats, one as the minister at El Pueblito and one as the Director of the Shared Table food bank (although these two hats were disguised today as a Boston Red Sox cap). He introduced us around and chatted with us about his background, the church, and the program's history. We soon started helping the staff and volunteers get set up for the distribution which started at 11:00am. Susie and I helped in the toiletry section -- filling plastic bags with toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, diapers, and "personal" items. Also had school supplies for families with school-age kids.

Here's Steve, with assistant director, Helen, showcasing the day's produce.

St. John's donors brought us a lot of toothbrushes and toothpaste and they should know it was all distributed! Diapers and Depends, too. Didn't keep track of the canned food, but I'm sure it either was passed out or is stored in the pantry for future dispersal. The toothcare stuff were products they had run out of recently and they were in much demand. The policy is not to distribute willy-nilly but to provide what the folks asked for. Most everybody who came by our table asked for a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Each recipient starts off with bags of canned vegetables and fruit, plus meat, bread, and dairy products. Also, a roll of toilet paper, I noticed. The aim, Helen told us, is to provide food that a person could survive on for three days, if needed. Our understanding is that for the most part, the recipients have homes or other access to cooking facilities. Fresh corn, cabbage, apples, and potatoes were also available today. The program's food comes from individual, restaurant, and grocery donations and purchases from the Food Depot in Santa Fe. (A statistic: in 2006 the Food Depot distributed 2.5 million pounds of food and related products to some 100 agencies in seven northern NM counties.) One of the Table's part-time paid employees is a van driver who does pick ups around town. Santa Fe delivers.

Here's the fresh vegetable table with Helen and a couple of volunteers. The young man in the orange frock(?) was a volunteer named August and he had just been in town a few weeks. He was volunteering in exchange for picking up some food and supplies.

You see a slice of life here that you don't normally see. (Someone asked at home: "Taos has homeless people?) As we drove up we saw a heavily tattooed, multiply pierced young man. His tattoos were quite visible because he was wearing a low-cut, short dress and combat boots. Corporal Klinger would have been green with envy.

Everything is nice and orderly. People sign in and let the staff know how many adults and children they are representing. Last year's statistics: 5000 adults and 2000 children served.

The staff controls the flow to a leisurely progression between tables. Here are Beth and Lorraine, two volunteers who taught Susie and me the ropes on the toiletries table. We visited quite a bit with Lorraine. She and her husband retired to Taos from education careers in New York about 11 years ago, almost simultaneously with their son and daughter moving to Truth or Consequences, NM. They spend a lot of time volunteering.

After the food bank closed up here, Lorraine took the excess down to the Presbyterian Church in Ranchos de Taos, south of Taos (El Pueblito is north of town, so the two churches bracket Taos), for the afternoon distribution there. We had lunch on the way through town then joined them and helped finish up Shared Table south.

Faithful readers of our chronicle know that Susie finds people she knows, or who know people she knows, wherever we go. One of the Presby volunteers was Eddie, formerly a teacher and ultimately superintendent of Taos schools. He mentioned he went to Highlands U, in Las Vegas, NM -- Susie's alma mater. Well, he remembered her dad, Rush Hughes, a Highlands VP, and various other Highlands notables.
I slipped away and got a shot of the sanctuary. Very nice -- they recently celebrated their 100th anniversary. There used to be a Presbyterian school at the site, where Eddie started his educational journey. "If you teach them, they will come," is the philosophy that launched many Protestant schools and churches in New Mexico a century and more ago.

We did an ice cream stop on the way back to the RV park, then vegged out for a good while before making the obligatory Wal Mart run.

We'll provide more info on Rev. Steve and Shared Table in a later installment. Need to ponder a bit. Plus Blogger tends to do funny formatting to long postings.


Susie and Rob

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

TuziTwo Takes Toiletries to Taos

A couple of years ago David Edwards, our preacher, asked us to think about ministry ideas for folks like us who tend to travel quite a bit. That led to us deciding last winter to try to have a joint outing by St. John's RVers. The idea was to go to a scenic, interesting area -- and one that had a local Methodist church. We would do RVer/tourist sorts of things and we would also interact with the local congregation. I got suggestions from Jim Hawk, our former preacher and current District Superintendent, and settled on Taos. It's of course a well-known destination and the local church, El Pueblito, is active in the community. In particular they sponsor a Shared Table food-bank ministry in which they distribute food and hygiene products to needy folks in Taos -- starving artists and others -- twice a month. Distribution days are the second and fourth Wednesdays. In talking with the Taos preacher, Rev. Steven Wiard, I also learned that they have pot luck lunches the fourth Sunday of each month. So, we picked August -- the week encompassing the fourth Wednesday and fourth Sunday.

We had about six RV-owners interested at the start, but the date didn't work for some. Three couples made RV park reservations early in the summer, but circumstances beyond their control forced them to cancel just the last week. So, Susie, Tuzi, and I are in Taos this week, flying the St. John's banner, figuratively.

The two preceding Sundays we put a notice in the church bulletin asking for food bank donations -- food and hygiene products. Members came through in a big way this past Sunday and we filled TuziTwo's basement.

Trip up (on Tuesday) was a little eventful. The automatic leveling system hasn't been working right and it signaled a problem as we were driving! That's not good, but I think I must have accidentally bumped the On button. Then, just as we topped out on Taos mesa, approaching the first turn-out for viewing the Taos Gorge, the temperature sensor started beeping. We pulled off promptly and things cooled off while we had lunch. It's a pretty steep climb and we were fully loaded, including the PT, but didn't seem like much stress for TuziTwo, so I was surprised. We made some much more severe climbs last September going to Yellowstone.

Then had the most difficult time I've ever had getting set up. Our slot was rather narrow, more so than I realized and as I was watching the left side I brushed the right side up against some sagebrush. Got some scratches that I think I can remove.

The slot has two narrow cement slabs for parking, but you have to get perfectly centered and lined up in order for the leveling jacks to be solidly on the slabs. That took some back and forth, plus nursing a balky system to lower the jacks. Finally got all set up, then realized we couldn't open the awning, so it was disconnect, raise the jacks, pull forward ten feet and set up again. Hot day, too, and feeling kind of dumb -- not pleasant.

The good news is that the satellite TV was promptly activated by DirectTV. We had a couple of hours to cool off, wind down, then took a drive around Taos, had dinner at the Chow Cart and made the ritual stop at Wal-Mart (scratch repair, etc.).

Tomorrow we'll transfer the food bank stuff to the PT and take it to the church.


Rob and Susie

Friday, August 17, 2007

Miscellanea - August 07

1. A friend and I are traveling to Australia in September. I've started a blog: AussieOdyssey with some background info. If you're interested in following our trip, check once in a while in September.
2. Got a phone call out of the blue a couple of days ago. Friendly lady from Michigan asks me if I'm Rob E of Tuzigoot fame. I admitted it. She was coming to New Mexico and wondered if it would be possible to see Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and the Grand Canyon in six days. Sure, one day for each, three days for travel.
I guess this proves that either our Tuzigoot website or this blog has been discovered by at least one surfer. Susie says, "That's scary."