creative ramblings & reverie

Friday, May 6, 2011


Oregano is dusty green.  It is low-ceilinged rooms with vigas and Two Gray Hills rugs on cool stone floors like standing water.  You could buy onyx burros or squat chess sets in its shops, when I was growing up there, or huge paper flowers that smelled of incense or piñon smoke, to keep in an old double-handled Peruvian jar, fat and self-complacent as a Buddha.  There were silver mines in the interior, and pockets of red clay that lay under a crust of old snow, tracked only by ravens.  And a complex system of aqueducts, not for irrigation so much as for the graceful look of them in the landscape, like a long basting stitch in unbleached muslin.  You learned things there:  mathematical equations, the capitals of countries that no longer exist, the books of the Old Testament, how to cook posole in a scarred cast-iron pot, with wooden spoons as long as an average woman's arm between fingertips and elbow.

Oregano:  where an old Russian emigré painter sits cleaning rose madder from stubby #6 boar’s bristle brushes in a glass of cheap vodka, because his studio has no water.  The nearest house, across an unshaven acre of chamisa and piñon and brittle Russian olive, has an adobe dovecote at its heart, where the woman who owns it, a 70-year-old retired librarian from St. Louis, Missouri, keeps the carrier pigeons she dispatches every two weeks to a beau in Chama, a district court judge with a passion for late Dickens and early model trains, who she never got around to marrying.  And in its kitchen window a jar full of marbles, damson blue and milk white.


excerpt from "Oregano"
Tin House, Winter 2003

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