I was with two friends on a long weekend trip to celebrate our birthdays.
I swear every time I cross the border from Colorado to New Mexico, magical things happen.
It is, after all, dubbed “The Land of Enchantment.” It even says so on the license plates.
I’m not talking big magic, like making things disappear in a poof of smoke, or turning a dog into a human being or vice-versa, though I suspect all are entirely possible.
I’m talking about subtle, life transforming magic that you’re not really aware of until later when you reflect on what happened.
That’s how New Mexico works for me. The magic is as soft and beautiful as the landscape.
So on Saturday we were doing the totally tourist thing of shopping. Taos is full to the brim of beautiful things to look at and buy: art, jewelry, clothing, and delicious food to name a few.
We were in the Moby Dickens Bookshop buying cards and books. I noticed a poster in the window announcing a reading that day by the author John Nichols.
That can’t be the John Nichols, I thought, and went on with my book browsing. We were about to leave when one of the women in our group wanted to go upstairs to look at more cards. I was still recovering from a concussion, and was tired and ready to go back to my room for a nap.
But I figured I could handle a few more minutes. I mean, how often does one get the chance to have nothing else to do but wander in a bookstore?
My kind of heaven for sure.
So up the stairs we went. At the top we were greeted by the store owner, who enthusiastically asked us, “Are you here for the reading?”
I hemmed and hawed. “Well no, we’re looking at cards.”
He was undaunted. “It’s John Nichols,” he said.
“The Milagro Beanfield War John Nichols?” I asked.
He nodded, a huge grin covering his face.
Oh my God. My heart started to race.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
New Mexico magic was afoot.
You see, The Milagro Beanfield War is one of my favorite stories.
I’ve loved it since the early seventies, when it first was published. Then somewhere in the eighties, Robert Redford directed a movie from the book, and I fell madly in love all over again. It’s become my healing movie – something I watch at least once a year, sometimes more. The setting, the story, the music, and the characters – I adore all of it. In fact just prior to the trip to New Mexico, I’d commented to my husband that I thought it was time for Milagro again.
Of course we stayed.
And Nichols didn’t disappoint. He read a good chunk of his new book, On Top of Spoon Mountain.
Then he answered questions. It was like attending a master class on writing. He was honest, warm, engaging and funny. He talked about the bazillion re-writes he does, how he labors over each word. How he has plenty of novels that never got published. How he writes all night and sleeps in the day. And how he loves New Mexico.
We stood in line to get him to sign books for us. He took a few minutes to talk with each person, and then wrote something personal. There was no quick dashing off his name and writing: “Hope you enjoy the book.” He took time. He listened. He connected with each reader.
I’ll remember that when I’m signing my first novel.
I am so grateful for this little taste of Taos magic.
P.S. If you haven’t read this book, do it! And watch the movie too. Then let me know what you think.