Georgia O’Keeffe.Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills. 1935. [Source: Wikipedia]
A blind flaneur follows his nose, and his heart, whenever he can. So when I heard a friend’s story about a trip to Taos, one detail took me back to a New Mexico night long ago when I drank camp coffee for the first time and heard the heart-stopping yowl of a mountain lion beneath the indifferent stars. My friend reported crisp autumnal mornings in Taos with a whiff of pinyon smoke in the air. My nose remembered a backpacking trip in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains when I was fourteen years old. One night we were invited to a log cabin with a rough plank table before a stone fireplace. Our hosts poured cup after cup of the blackest Hills Brothers coffee. It wasn’t anything like the sugar-sweetened dregs in my mother’s coffee cup which I sampled as a curious child. Camp coffee was a revelation. It gave me a buzz. Throw another pine log on the fire, pour another cup from the dented coffee pot… it was the discovery of a primordial ritual re-enacted over and over again throughout my life. I was wide awake at 2 a.m. Instead of returning to my tent and crawling in the sleeping bag, I ambled down the dirt road that snaked through the canyon. It was clear and still and the Milky Way lit the night with no moon in sight. I could smell the tang of pinyon smoke more than a mile from the cabin. Something rustled in the brush across a little creek. I saw a blur streak across the top of a boulder on the other side. Then I heard the cat.
After Tom sent me images of the Eve Koch paintings he found in Santa Fe, I shared my memory of pinyon smoke with him. Yesterday a packet of pinyon pine incense arrived in the mail. He’d acquired that in Santa Fe, too, and lit some in his studio for nostalgia’s sake. This morning I chucked a couple pieces of it in the wood stove, my offering to the gods of hearth and fire. Then I went out in the foggy rain to stack cord- wood dumped unceremoniously in the driveway. Good oak and walnut mixed with soft maple — no pinyon pine in these parts, but there was an exotic tang in the air that must have made the neighbors wonder what I was smoking. And of course, there was a blue granite coffee pot waiting snugly on the wood stove.
A Note on the Image (updated 010608): There are no images of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art in the Wikimedia Commons, although you will find several photographs such as the 1918 Stieglitz portrait. Georgia O’Keeffe’s Wikipedia page presents only one image of her artwork, Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills (shown above). This image, like almost every other O’Keeffe image on the Internet, is copyrighted. You should read Wikipedia’s detailed copyright notice if you want to use it. See also Georgia On My Mind, and Yours.