Virga Rain

Noelle Fiore remembers Taos

I come from many places but where I consider home is a place where rain gets suspended in the sky and evaporates before it hits the ground. Where green chile is its own kind of religion. Where a mountain is alleged to omit a hum that can either attract people or drive them crazy or out. Where the native Tiwa tribe are still residing in the tradition of their ancestors who came before them over 1000 years ago on the Taos Pueblo. Where people come from all over the world to conquer the foreboding mountain either on skis or by paintbrush. New Mexico is known as The Land of Enchantment, but some call it The Land of Entrapment. I felt the latter at age 17 when I left for California. But I’m back to being enchanted.

I came to Taos in 1993 in a painted-up school bus on our way west from a Woodstock reunion in Bethel, NY. My free spirited single mother dragged my brother and me across the country in search of a new place to settle. She was drawn to the romance of Taos and the possibility of a new beginning but also to the wildness and lawlessness. Though a chef most of her life, my mother was a dabbler in jewelry making, blues singing, and weed & peyote dealing. Suffice it to say she made friends quickly and we settled into the alive and well hippy scene in Taos.

Our homes in Taos (too many moves to count) were revolving doors of travelers, artists, convicts, musicians, runaways, and dogs. I was made to go to school sometimes, to church or the Hindu temple most Sundays for the free food, and to share my home and meals with a slew of characters my mom would collect.

We were always broke, but because my mom was so generous, we were often gifted with offerings from folks who would stay with us. When I was 14, I was given an Alvarez acoustic guitar from a man who stayed with us. He taught me some chords and songs and it became my refuge. I’d play every day and learn as many songs as I could. For as long as I could remember we were always singing. My Italian American grandmother loved to sing Ella Fitzgerald and Barbara Streisand. My mother loved singing Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. Over the thousands of miles moving from one town to another until we settled in Taos, we always sang along to classic rock radio.

I left Taos when I was 17 in search of a big life in a big city and moved to San Francisco. Just me, my dog and my guitar. The instability of my childhood made me hungry for structure and permanence. I found that in California, or rather, I built it. Now, 24 years later, that fabled hum is always calling out to me. When I dig deep to tell a story in a song, I always find myself back in Taos. The mountain is calling me back to the high desert along the Rio Grande river, to the adobe homes, the acequias the arroyos, and the spectacular sky with the virga rain waiting to fall.

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