Monday, February 6, 2012


by Kat White

I like the word adobe. It rolls easily in my mouth, sounding full and round. I like that the word itself is over 4,000 years old, it has sustaining power—it lasts. Adobe structures are sensible: they hoard heat in cold New Mexico nights and buffer from 120-degree July days. The cool clay slabs of earthy mud inherently know what to do, and when. The houses appear soft, almost spongy, but they aren’t at all. The façade is just that, a façade; adobe is deceptively strong. The dusty apricot of the sun-baked clay seems velvety to me, easy on the eyes, like the houses sprung up organically from the arid desert sands. Like they just belong there, naturally. Adobe.
I’m a wanderer, but I’m drawn toward that which isn’t and drawn towards those who aren’t. Kasey. The woman who makes me want to stay, anywhere, with her. We talk about moving to New Mexico, Taos mostly, putting down roots in those arid desert sands. Individually, we’ve drifted all over the country, but we’re ready to stay put now—together. We think we’re ready for adobe.

Late at night, we search house listings online, mentally bookmarking squat historic adobes in Taos Plaza, an artist community, with two or three bedrooms and pot bellied fireplaces for those cool desert nights; wide, saffron-hued Saltillo stone floor tiles; views of the jutting Taos Mountain and the snaking Rio Grande bisecting the flat earth; and a fenced yard out back big enough for both of our large dogs, Bruce and Gracie. We’re willing to trade inside space for a marvelous yard, one that is fenced in without too many cacti. Our story really starts with Bruce and Gracie, anyway, and it’s fitting Kasey and I honor that. Without them, I wouldn’t have met her.
Kasey works at a Memphis animal shelter where both dogs came from and she knew Gracie before I did. She first adopted Bruce as a long-limbed tawny puppy whose ears had been knifed off and feet tied together and then thrown out of a car; she took naps with Gracie as she healed from having her front leg amputated and gained weight from an emaciated 20-something pounds to her now-healthy 55 pounds. Gracie and Bruce knew each other at the shelter, when they both needed someone to fight for them, to save them. Kasey. Is it too much to say she saved me too? Because she did—she saved me from myself, my drinking, my nights that bumped too frequently into the next afternoons, my malignant restlessness.
We first met when I brought Gracie back into the shelter for a heartworm check; Kasey did the blood test. I don’t recall exactly what we spoke about; I just didn’t want her clear cobalt eyes to leave mine. She was nervous with an open smile, couldn’t count Gracie’s heartworm pills right because her hands were fluttery; I wanted to hold her slender hands—still them.
I was hung over and had vomit in my hair, still on summer break from attending grad school and teaching at a local Memphis university. When Gracie and I left, I casually slid my number across the front desk towards her and said, “If you want to…” I remember that moment in black and white flashes and it may have been the only time in my bumpy life that I’ve been smooth. That’s when our story started. But Bruce and Gracie knew each other before we did, and Kasey loved them both before she loved me. As much as I like the full sound of adobe, I love that even more.
Our dream is for time and Taos, wide and flat, dusty and earthy. Taos seems to harbor time, somehow. Maybe it’s found in the ornately curlicued cardinal Spanish tiles or in the pinky-salmon terra cotta roofs, maybe time is in the weathered rope hammock I imagine waiting in the backyard or in the dry timber I picture Kasey using in the fireplace, but it’s there in Taos. Time to be still without our too-busy jobs and too-busy school schedules; time to visit D.H. Lawrence’s former ranch (he called it his hideaway); time to peek around plump red chilies and home-brewed sarsaparillas at the local farmers market for Dennis Hopper’s ghost (he said Taos had more soul than sand and was made the honorary mayor, so he should know). They found their time in Taos, too.
We will wake up slowly on a Saturday morning, early, in that little casita we found right in Taos Plaza, the historic area with other 200-year-old dusty adobe houses harboring other sleeping artists and writers inside. Taos has less than 5,000 people, but the majority are artists of some sort, a collective of leftover hippies, loners, and malcontents living on the fringe in the middle of a desert. There are more art galleries per square block than anywhere else in the US and solar houses are the norm.
Our casita is crafted of sun-baked earth, adobe, nestled into the desert soils so snugly that I’m unable to tell where house and ground begins or ends. The morning goldenrod rays stream in our east facing windows and I tilt my head to see the rugged peaks of Taos Mountain behind us, indigo and fog-tinged. The sky is that crisp azure blue that can only really happen in open spaces, without the overcrowding of looming steel skyscrapers and blaring gridlock. My feet slap on the wide ochre tiles as I go to make our cinnamon coffee. After Kasey lets Bruce and Gracie outside in the back yard, the marvelous one with the hammock that we sacrificed a third bedroom for, she returns to start a fire for us in the rustic bedroom fireplace. We always have our coffee in bed; it’s our tradition. Kasey lets the dogs back inside and they join us in a mess of legs and tails on the bed, as they get settled in their morning naps. With all the time that there is in the desert, there is no reason to rush.
“What do you want to do today?” Kasey asks me between sips of cinnamon coffee with hazelnut cream, our favorite since Memphis.
I stretch and half sit up in bed, try not to disturb Gracie snoring with her big head in my lap and Bruce awake, but lying still, at our feet. Gracie’s training Bruce not to be a morning dog and doing a fine job of it. She takes after me. Bruce takes after Kasey.
“I don’t care. How about a winery? We’ve been talking about that one in Black Mesa. Can’t argue with a 3pm buzz,” I reply, settling back into the three feather pillows propping me up. Kasey likes two; I like four. It’s a pillow compromise.
She runs her fingers over her dark cap of hair and looks at me with those cerulean eyes. The way she looks at me in the morning, eyes still tinged with dreams, makes me feel beautiful—always. In reality, my short red hair ruffles when I sleep and I look like a cartoon Heat Miser before I shower. Kasey never seems to notice, or she just really likes Heat Misers.
“Sure. If you want to. Do you want to?” she asks.
“Uh, not really,” I falter for the right words. “It just sounds like something grown-up people should do on a Saturday,” I say and we laugh, knowing we’re not those people.
“I know,” I offer. “I’ll head into Cid’s and get some groceries. Maybe they have some sea scallops today or mahi mahi, maybe some corn on the cob and yams. We could grill outside, have some drinks, and just be.”
“Perfect,” Kasey says with a smile, as I knew she would.
Before I leave for the market, Gracie and I partake of our morning dance routine in the hallway while Kasey smiles from the light-drenched bedroom, watching us and laughing, shaking her head, as she also does every morning. If you haven’t seen a short, fully tattooed girl and her three-legged black pit bull/lab mix dog tap dancing on a slippery tile floor, you might be missing out on some necessary weird in your life. Kasey calls it endearing, but she’s biased—she loves us blindly. I endorse it, though. Sometimes, when you have the time to do so, you just have to dance it out.
The sun dips into the land just after we finish dinner outside, on the covered patio in the backyard. Vermillion and violet languish in the sky, undulating into umber. Kasey and Bruce are playing, running and bounding, lit by patio lights and hanging lanterns. The lanky-limbed puppy is now taller than my waist and his lack of substantial ears make him appear forever curious, as if he is hearing secrets the rest of us can’t. The air is crisp, chilly, and the faint smells of charcoal from the grill tinges the periphery. I’m in the softly worn rope hammock with Gracie and a chenille blanket, watching Kasey and Bruce, a sleepy grin tugging at the corners of my mouth. Loving them, loving this time, is effortless. The yard’s tall prickly cacti contrast against the soft weather-beaten edges of our casita and the dusky dark drapes us all in sepia. Adobe.
We’re home.

 Kat White is an MFA in Creative Writing candidate and Instructor at the University of Memphis. Her creative nonfiction has been published in Phoebe Journal and Photosynthesis Magazine. Her poetry has been published in Blue Collar Review, Axe Factory, Lullwater Review, and Stone Highway Review; she had an upcoming poem in Fade Poetry Journal. Kat is currently at work in Memphis on her nonfiction novel, A Personal Cartography. Contact her at

1 comment:

  1. wow. what a wonderful and wonderfully written story! absolutely beautiful. it reads like music. congratulations to the author. Really, really good! bravo.
    sincerely, r. welch