Rediscover the magic of Taos, New Mexico

Golden leaves, killer margaritas, and an artistic core … this Southwestern town is the real deal

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HOME AGAIN

By this point, I'm due for my own Taos homecoming, so we stop for dinner at the Adobe Bar.

Walking in, I'm reminded of reconnecting with an old friend after several years, one of those moments when the conversation almost seems to pick up midsentence.

A jazz group is playing, and as the keyboardist solos, the trumpet player passes time browsing through the brochure rack off the lobby. It's a typical Adobe Bar crowd, which is to say that there's no discernable pattern, certainly not in the headwear, which includes cowboy hats, trout-fishing caps, and the broad-brimmed floppies favored by river guides.

Among them, though, is one woman wearing a white mink collar and two from Texas who have broken out their finest O'Keeffe/Frida Kahlo drag for their Taos sojourn.

"I think every day is a church day," one says.

"Well, if not a church day, then certainly a spiritual day." Which proves to be a surprisingly prescient comment.

Later that night, as the breeze dies down, a sound comes up ― at first distant, then intensifying. The rhythmic thumping of drums and the hypnotic chants of a ceremony at Taos Pueblo carry miles through the silence and into our open windows.

Morning arrives with a dying drizzle that sends dark streaks down the adobe walls and scatters newly fallen yellow leaves around the courtyard. I head out for the gorge, but, of course, never get that far.

Outside town, the morning brightens as a curtain of sunlight flows into the valley from a gap in the Sangres. Fog rings the mountains about halfway up, revealing high peaks white with the first snow of the season. A pinkish gold radiance spreads across the valley, illuminating every leaf and reddening the russets of pasturelands. Sheep graze as church bells clang somewhere in town.

It's reminiscent of the landscapes by Tom Noble and other Taos artists, works that seem to have a fantastic quality more the product of imagination than anything else. Those colors can't be true, right? The sky doesn't actually swirl in diaphanous shades of violet over the mountains.

But the boundaries between the mystical and the material are often blurred in Taos. When you read accounts of early artists, they speak of a place to touch the divine, of Taos's magnetic power.

I'm not sure what to call it. But looking up at the sky, all I can say is that whatever nearly pulled me here 10 years ago isn't about to let go anytime soon.

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