Frigid mornings in Taos clear the town out. A cold stillness permeates the streets; icicles dangle above. A crystalline landscape surrounds the town illuminated by the sun, which rises above the eastern mountains.
Rather than a desolation or emptiness, though, these mornings free of busyness reveal Taos’ character precisely and sharply, particularly the quality of an old, Spanish colonial Western settlement. Of course what remains from the past are just buildings, color and some wood. But, no, actually, not; there’s something more in the air, and the quietness allows you to taste it and breath it into your lungs along with the cold.
It’s as if you smelled spices; it’s as if you wore a Rio Grande blanket to keep warm; it’s as if you were acutely aware of the distance between the eastern mountains and the wide and deep gorge to the West, with the wetness of the Rio Grande at its bottom depth; it’s as if the short days might run on much longer than expected. With no urgency to open earlier, the shuttered shops and empty streets allow Taos to unfold around you, to blossom inside of you in fact.
That’s not to say there isn’t the warmth of some open shops close by and the company of Taos’ hardy denizens. In one coffee shop or another they gather dusted in the towns atmosphere to huddle and drink hot drinks, read, or talk. They appear to share a cheer and relaxation and nonconformity and a kind of rustic simple enjoyment.
You might say there’s a certain freedom from constraint here: the freedom of the out of the way and inherited frontier nonconformity, of partial shelter from nature, of moderated expectations, and of beckoning solitude close by. But you have to brave the cold to feel it.