Betatakin it was. We got to Cortez after midnight. For dinner, we picked up some Seven-Eleven hotdogs, a bag of potato chips, and a couple of bottles of V-8. Teresa sat cross-legged on the floor to eat, watching a movie on cable TV. I was sitting on the bed, my back propped against the wall.
"We don't have to go to Mesa Verde if you want to get to New Mexico," she said after finishing her hot dog.
"I don't mind."
"I should get a camera. It was beautiful." She licked mustard off the pad of her thumb, then looked at me. I was reminded of watching a cat groom itself. I smiled.
"Nothing. You are a beautiful creature."
She grinned and mugged, posing from the waist up. She framed her head with an arm, lifting her rich black hair up and away from her neck. She was still wearing her jeans and her Sting Tour T-shirt. Her bare toes peeked from under one knee. We had walked, probably, ten miles of trails at Betatakin. My thighs hurt.
I asked her if she wanted to go to Ignacio instead of Durango tomorrow after Mesa Verde.
"Could we? Estelline lives there."
"Sure. But is there a motel?"
"We could stay with Estelline, I think."
"I'd rather not do that."
"I don't know. I just don't like to drop in on people and have them put me up."
"Yeah, but she's my sister. She and Frank wouldn't mind."
"It feels funny."
She stood up and stripped off her T-shirt. I am reticent about disrobing in front of people, even men. She seems unconscious of an audience when she undresses. She popped the button of her jeans and stepped out of them, laying them across a chair. The T-shirt she stuffed in our dirty clothes bag. In bra and panties she walked toward the bathroom, pulling the yarn tie from her hair with a quick yank on the slipknot and rummaging through her suitcase as she passed it, looking for the huge T-shirt she was using as a nightgown. I lay back watching, taking more aesthetic than sensual pleasure from observing her. When she found the big green shirt, she disappeared into the bathroom. When she emerged, she had her underwear in one hand. She lay on the bed with her head on my leg.
"I really had a good time today," she said.
"It was nice."
"You're nice," she said. Then she rolled away, moving her head to her pillow.
"You'll get cold outside the covers."
"I know," she said sleepily. I got up to undress; when I came to bed, she was under the sheets, breathing evenly. I turned off the movie and read for an hour. She murmured something I couldn't make out once, then again a few minutes later.
"Teresa?" I said, uncertain whether she was really asleep. She didn't reply. I put out the last light; we slept tangled like puppies.
We spent most of the next day at Mesa Verde, exhausting the museum and walking the main trails at the headquarters. Crossing the parking lot, I told her about the time Martha and I followed a tarantula from a few feet away as it angled warily across the asphalt and then disappeared into a storm drain. Andy and his mother had been in the tourist shop, and they didn't believe us when we told them. Now it was the wrong season for tarantulas, Christmastime, but Teresa wanted to buy me a Lucite tarantula paperweight as a belated memento.
Coming down the mountainside, we cleared a small bluff that gave us an endless view to the north. She pointed into the haze.
"There's a town out there called Dolores."
"Nothing," she said. "Look!" A Swainson's hawk lifted off from a fence post, its wings broad and solid as banners.
She called Estelline from Durango. It was nearly six o'clock; we were invited to dinner. I made us a reservation at the Pagosa Springs Inn. Pagosa Springs was less than an hour from Ignacio. After the ruins, I needed a good soak in the mineral baths. We picked up a bottle of wine in Durango. Estelline was making lasagna, so we got a loaf of French bread and a half gallon of cherry ice cream.
"It's her favorite," Teresa said.
Estelline and her husband, Frank Pacheco, lived in a trailer. Outside was a makeshift corral with two tough-looking chestnut geldings in it, scruffy with winter coats and sullen-eyed. Frank was about Teresa's age. He worked at a gas station in Durango. While Estelline and Teresa organized the last details of dinner, we went out to look at his horses. He explained how he used them for hunting. They had a locker in town with most of an elk in it.
"If we'd known you were coming, we'd've had elk roast. You ever had elk roast?"
"You marinate it in Coors overnight. Makes it tender. Maybe next time you come?" We stood watching the horses. Frank offered me a cigarette, and we smoked together. I made a note to give him a cigar before we left. I would have to cut it first.
"Estelline is always talking about Teresa. They were real close. I never did meet her."
"How long have you been married?"
"Eight and a half months."
We had to eat scattered through the trailer. It was too cold to eat outside; Estelline was apologetic about the size of their kitchen.
"You're lucky," Frank said as we filed by to load our plates. "Estelline made lasagna. Lots to go around." We sat on three chairs and the couch, balancing our plates on our knees and eyeing tumblers of wine beside our feet. Frank's dog, a border collie named Rex, sat politely a few yards away in case he was needed for emergency cleanups. Teresa told Estelline about Sam, referring to her as "our dog." Frank threw a piece of sauce-stained bread to the dog; he caught it in the air and sat up, ready for more.
After the ice cream, Frank and I drank beer and listened while Estelline and Teresa talked. At eight, the outside black as pitch and the temperature inestimably below freezing, Teresa glanced at me and said, "Well, we better go."
"I sure wish you'd stay here," Estelline said.
"Tom really wants to stay at this motel. The Pagosa Springs Inn?"
"It's a nice place," Frank remarked.
"They have hot springs baths. I need to get the kinks out," I explained.
"Well, you can stay here when you come back, huh?" Estelline said to Teresa. They were sitting side-by-side on the couch. It was barely long enough to make a bed. Looking at them together, I could see the family resemblance. Estelline was tiny, less than five feet tall, but she had Teresa's mouth and coloring. She wore her hair shorter than her big sister's, but it had the same reddish glints when it caught the light. Teresa stood up.
"David is in Telluride," Estelline said. "Working at the ski slope. He's going to school at Fort Lewis next year."
"I talked to Mom," Teresa said.
Estelline stood up. "Aunt El called for Christmas," she said. Teresa looked a bit startled. "And Flo too."
"What did Flo have to say?" Teresa said, getting to her feet and looking around for her purse. It was against the wall.
Frank and I had been sitting at the kitchen table; we stood as well. Theresa grabbed up her purse and heaved it onto one shoulder. They came toward us; Teresa slipped her free arm around her sister's waist. I moved toward the door.
"You should come in May," Frank said to me. "See the Bear Dance."
"Maybe we will," I said. Estelline and Teresa were standing in front of me. Teresa stepped up to Frank, put an arm around him, and pecked his cheek. Estelline looked shyly at me for a moment, and then did the same to me, stretching a little to reach. I put an arm around her waist; it was small as a child's.
They stood silhouetted in the light of the trailer door as we pulled out. Teresa was brusque and businesslike, giving me bad directions, as it turned out, to get back on the road to Pagosa Springs. When we got to the motel, she stayed in the room while I soaked in the hot tubs, reading a book.
"They seem happy," I said in the dark as we fell asleep.
"Estelline's pregnant," Teresa said. Then she draped a bare thigh across mine. We didn't go to sleep for some time.
In the morning, I woke just at sunrise. Teresa was huddled under the covers, only the top of her head visible, and I slipped into my damp bathing suit, shrinking against the cold, grabbed my terrycloth robe, put my shoes on, and staggered out across the snowy parking lot to the mineral baths again. Our room was scarcely twenty yards from the baths, but it was a gauntlet of frozen ground and air that took your breath away. The steam around the tubs made the air bearable, but I sank into the hot water grateful to have survived the walk. After ten minutes or so, our door opened and Teresa emerged, fully dressed, including her jacket. She came over to me and hunkered down beside the tub, looking around for a dry place to sit and finding none.
"You ready for breakfast?" I said.
"It smells like rotten eggs," she said. "How 'bout if I drive and you run alongside the car?"
"I'll take a shower, OK?"
"I'm going to get coffee. Want some?"
She met me at the room with two cups of coffee. When I got out of the shower, she had the car loaded. We were travelling light, with no big luggage. She had put out the clothes I would need.
"For such service, I expect a world-class breakfast," she said.
We drove down to Chama for the world's greatest huevos rancheros, then on through Tierra Amarilla and Abiquiu to Española. We had a cabin reserved at Bandelier, but we stopped for late lunch and groceries in Española. It was dusk, nearly dark, when we reached the spectacular sweep of road that takes you down into the monument.
For me, Bandelier is a ritual, its character dictated by the time available. If we only had a partial day, I'd walk the lower half of the ruins tour quickly, then spend a couple of hours following Frijoles Creek down to the Rio Grande. It was a great walk but discouraging because you went downhill out and then finished your day by climbing back up to the visitor center, a climb that no one would believe was only six hundred vertical feet. With a full day available, I would go to the Stone Lions, seven miles into the canyons. We had three nights at the cabin.
"So let's do both," Teresa said that night.
I slept in the next morning. Usually I wake up if someone is moving around in the room, but when I woke, it was to the sound of the door unlocking. Teresa came in. The sky was bright over her shoulder.
"I walked along the creek. It's beautiful. There's nobody here."
I glanced at my watch on the nightstand, then rolled out of the bed. "People will start coming in around ten or so, probably."
"Well, then, let's get going!" She threw off her jacket and headed for the kitchenette to make coffee. By the time I was dressed, she had coffee, scrambled eggs, and English muffins ready.
We spent the morning walking the western tour, making our way to the ceremonial cave. The cave is a couple of hundred feet above the canyon floor; the last fifty feet you accomplish on warped cedar-log ladders that spring gently as you shift your weight. If you aren't acrophobic, you'll begin to understand what it's like to be. I wasn't looking forward to arriving there.
Once in an English class I said something about recognizing nearly a dozen different kinds of sparrows, and one of my students said that categorizing took all the spontaneous pleasure out of looking at birds. I tried to argue with her that a detailed understanding of something enriches our experience. Moving from one line of rocks to the next, listening to Teresa expound on estufas, layers of talus, and potsherds, I thought ruefully of that student. For me, Bandelier was a spirited place, a demesne for my soul. I did not so much look at it as absorb it. For Teresa, it was an archaeology textbook sprung into three dimensions.
"Are you still excavating the main ruin?" she asked the ranger. She had insisted on the guided tour. A German couple had arrived with two blonde children; the ranger was taking the six of us patiently from one numbered post to the next.
"No," he said. "There are excavations up on the mesas; but they're closed off."
"What was the population of the whole canyon, do you think?"
"Around five hundred, probably, at Tyuonyi here. Maybe another five hundred at Tsankawi," He pointed back to the main ruin and then vaguely up and north. We were climbing the trail into the cliffside homes, Long House. Looking back, I thought that the ruin of Tyuonyi looked rather like the scar left when a wart is removed. I wanted a cigar; I'd left them at the cabin. A couple of Steller's jays broke from a piñon and floated away down the hill.
"Was there more water during the peak population?"
"We think so. Analysis of the older trees suggests it could have been twice as much. But they practiced very intensive, efficient farming." The ranger was a boy about Teresa's age. Possibly an archaeology major fresh from the University of New Mexico.
"Are you involved in the dig up on the ridge?" Teresa asked as we moved gingerly down a series of stone steps. I was walking a bit behind them.
"I've been up there a few times this fall, but I don't work on the excavation."
By the time we were out on the flat again, Teresa and the ranger, Dan something, were leading the tour together. I fell back too far to hear their conversation; the German father occasionally translated one of the children's questions, then translated the reply into German. I considered peeling off entirely. In a few minutes, we'd be turning back toward the cliff and climbing up to the ceremonial cave.
When the path turned north, I decided against the climb. I sat against a rock along the creek to wait. They had to come back the way they'd gone. Twenty minutes later they did.
"There you are, sir!" Ranger Dan said solicitously. "The altitude get to you?"
"No, the scenery," I said, keeping my place on the rock. Teresa was holding the German boy's hand. He was six or seven. His sister had picked up a walking stick. I got up as they passed and followed them back down to the ranger station. Teresa abandoned the boy to his mother and fell back beside me.
"You remember to bring your heart medicine?" she said.
"The cave is beautiful," she said. "Why didn't you come up?"
"I've seen it so often I've got it memorized. Andy always insisted on going up, and my wife"
"my taller ex-wife refused to go after the first time. She wasn't one for doing anything twice."
"I sat down in the kiva."
"I have just enough acrophobia to make those ladders a real treat."
"What's that?" She followed a little bird with her finger.
"Canyon wren." The wren vented a string of invective as soon as it disappeared into the bushes. "There are hummingbirds in the fall. One summer I saw a baby flying. The size of a bee."
The tour was leaving us behind.
"I'm sorry you're bored," she said. She was walking with her head down, her arms crossed on her chest. "I thought you liked this place."
"We're enjoying it differently. Don't be sorry."
"Dan says there was a mountain lion up on the bluffs a few nights ago. As long as there are no bears."
"Are you afraid of bears?"
She smiled. "Didn't your momma teach you nothin' about girls, Doctor Phelan?"
"I've never heard of bears up here. Besides, shouldn't they be hibernating? There's nothing to be afraid of." I wondered about the mountain lion even as I spoke, though. We'd be back from Stone Lions before dark, barring major problems.
"I'm not afraid. There are times when women are, well, really attractive to bears."
I got it, finally, and was silent, feeling stupidly embarrassed.
After lunch, we walked down to the river. A curling checkerboard of mud stretched half a mile out from the last trees, impassable to the river's edge. I'd never seen it in winter. Coming back is all uphill; within a mile of the river, we passed the German family coming down. They were the only people we saw all day.
By the time we reached the upper falls, I was breathing in time with my stride. It was about seventy degrees, I think. We stopped at the falls and Teresa unbuttoned her blouse and tied the ends together across her ribs. She jumped when a kingfisher clattered from an aspen near the falls. I drank a cup of water from our supplies, she got an orange, and we went on.
Back at the cabin, we started potatoes baking and then went out again, a little after five, primarily to see the early evening birds. When we stepped outside, Teresa looked east up the road. A hawk was drifting above the canyon, high enough to catch the last rays of the sun. She insisted it was an eagle. There were swallows above the parking lot, and little flycatchers along the creek. We heard an owl and spent twenty minutes trying to find it. Coming back, we saw gangs of jaysSteller's with their charcoal crests, scrub jays looking like big bluebirds, and dark pinyon jays.
"Give me your bird book!" she said when we got back to the cabin. She flipped through the pages of hawks briskly while I gathered up salad vegetables. "It didn't have any white anywhere," she announced triumphantly.
"You can't tell in that kind of light." I was shredding carrots.
"Well, it could have been an eagle!"
"People always think what they saw is the unlikely bird rather than the typical one. There are hawks all over the place. You don't see eagles that often. It's more likely to have been a vulture."
She flipped back a few pages. "It says here that the vulture makes a characteristic 'V' shape with its wings. Its wings were straight."
We argued until I conceded that it could have been an eagle. She went to the refrigerator for the steak. We usually split a large one. "But it wasn't," I muttered at her back.
"Was too," she said, opening the refrigerator.
"Was not," I said, not looking up from the radishes.
She turned on the broiler. I had everything ready for salad before she put the steak in. I checked the potatoes. She started the steak and headed for the bathroom. After she closed the door I heard, barely audible, "Was."
I sat outside with a cigar after dinner while she took a bath. Then she joined me, her hair in a turban. She was wearing my terrycloth bathrobe and a pair of wool socks for slippers. I heard the crunch of footsteps before I saw who was coming: Ranger Dan.
"Evening, Teresa, Professor Phelan. Did you enjoy your hike down to the Rio Grande?"
"It was beautiful!" Teresa said. "We saw a badger down along the shoreline." She had her feet up on the rail, and the bathrobe fell away from the backs of her legs. I wondered what Ranger Dan could see, standing there in front of us; then I realized that all the light was coming from the window at our backs.
"There are skunks, too, and sometimes coyotes. Sometimes you can see a turkey or two down there, this time of year," he said. He had his hands in his jacket. "Aren't you gonna get cold out here?" he added solicitously.
"I'm still steaming from the bath," she said. She fanned herself dramatically with one hand. It was cold, not cool. I was less than half through with my cigar.
"You folks are all we have in the cabins tonight. The Hochners talked about stayingthe German family?but the missus wanted to go down to Santa Fe. Too rustic, I guess."
Teresa smiled. I looked off into the trees behind his head. The owl was back. It sounded just a few yards away.
"I came down to tell you, tomorrow is my day off. If you like, I can take you up to the dig. Both of you," he added, including me with a quick glance. "Do you ride?"
"Sure," Teresa said. "But we're going to Stone Lions."
"That's the other direction," the ranger said.
"Maybe next time," I said. He glanced at me again. I drew on the cigar.
"I just thought you'd like to see a real excavation, the way you talked this morning."
"I'd love to!" Teresa said. His teeth gleamed in the light from our window. He looked at me again, a quick glance, barely turning his head. It was dark enough that Teresa's face was barely more than a shadow, backlit as it was. He was still grinning.
"Do you want to come?" he said to me.
Before I could answer, Teresa said, "But we're going to Stone Lions. Maybe next time."
The ranger stood silently for what felt like a minute. Then Teresa said, "What kind of owl is that?"
"Whiskered," Dan and I said simultaneously. We all laughed.
"At least that's unanimous," Teresa said. She dropped her feet to the plank floor and stood up. "I'm freezing," she said. "Good night." When she opened the door, she said over her shoulder, "I saw an eagle this afternoon."
I finished my cigar. Ranger Dan went home, wherever that was. I went to take my bathlong, hot, and relaxing. When I came to bed, Teresa was asleep.
The hike to Stone Lions is about seven miles, but it seems like longer because you cross two deep canyons, Lummis and Alamo. The hike starts with a bang; you climb nearly three hundred feet to get out of Frijoles Canyon, cross a half mile of relatively level ground, and then you're at the up-and-down of Lummis.
We left at seven a.m., carrying water in four two-liter Coke bottles. I was wearing my cowboy hat. It has a handmade band with feathers I've accumulated over the years, an arrowhead a student gave me once, and an ermineskin dangling from the back. Not practical, but shade. Teresa had bought a garish 'gimme' cap at Mesa Verde with a fluorescent Cliff Palace on the front, and she wore that with jeans and a flannel shirt. Instead of a bra, she put on a halter top. "In case I get hot," she explained.
Before we reached the edge of Alamo Canyon, Teresa had taken three side trips to see the "pueblo ruins" indicated with little boxes on our map. At the second one, the bare outline of the mud walls was just discernible. We sat under a piñon and shared an orange. Teresa had packed three of them in a plastic bag with some ice.
"I've got my horse picked out," she said, prying a section off the orange and peeling the transparent skin away from the bright meat. It took her half a minute to prepare a piece of orange to eat it. Every bit of skin had to go. "He's a buckskin. About ten years old. I can get him pretty cheap, it looks like. I gave the owner a deposit.
"What's his name?"
"Strider. Funny, huh?"
"His owner graduated from college about 1968."
She looked suspicious, eyeing me while she curled back her lip to bite the naked orange with just her teeth. "Maybe. How do you know that?"
"And it's a woman."
"Come on, Sherlock. What's your secret?"
"Lord of the Rings."
"What about it?"
"Aragorn is called Strider. It's the kind of thing a woman who grew up on Tolkien would do."
She grinned, wadding up the skin of the orange section and lobbing it at me. "You are a professional smartass, you know that?"
"It's my job," I replied, unsuccessfully dodging her missile.
She stood up, picking at the next orange section, and walked over into the ruin. I was watching a stripe of jet exhaust grow across the sky to the east when she said, "Hey," and suddenly squatted down, looking at the ground. She picked something up and came back to me.
"Look at this," she said, holding out a grey-brown polygon. Faintly, two dark bluish lines wavered across it. Then it resolved into a potsherd.
"You shouldn't disturb that."
"I want it."
"They'll arrest you. You'll spend the rest of your life in jail. If you are ever paroled, you'll be banished from polite society."
"It's just a piece of pottery, f'Heaven's sake."
"But you are supposed to leave it alone," I said, more seriously.
She wet her thumb and wiped the dust from the pattern. "I saw a coffee table once, made of a hundred of these. One more won't matter. It's been lying here six hundred years, waiting for me. It wants me to have it, Thomas!"
My sense of scholarly responsibility battled for a full ten seconds with my willingness to give her her way. It lost. She pocketed the scrap of pottery.
"Just that one," I said, feeling a bit guilty.
Alamo Canyon is a vertical drop of nearly five hundred feet. And as soon as you reach the bottom, you climb back out. In the summer, the trickle of cold water at the bottom seems heaven-sent. In December the climb was strenuous but not dehydrating.
"The first time I did this, Andy was with me. I threw out my knee up there," I said, gesturing to the cliffs ahead of us, "and we tried to go on. It was supposed to be less than half a mile to the Lions. I figured the walk back would be so awful that another mile wouldn't make much difference. We were a little short on water, and we finally turned back because I couldn't walk without a stick. The next year, we discovered that we had been about fifty yards from the lions when we gave up."
We cleared the summit and began the level walk northwest that takes you first to the Stone Lions Pueblo and then, about eight hundred yards beyond, to the lions themselves. It was close to noon, the best time I'd ever made. My right knee was beginning to pinch when I moved my foot in a certain way. Well, don't move it that way, I thought to myself. I had a substantial knee brace with me in case something went wrong. I'd never made this walk without paying some awful price with my body. The worst was the time I got food poisoning by eating three ounces of bad beef down in Alamo Canyon and didn't realize how bad it was until we were just starting back from the lions. It was one of the four times in my life when I seriously, unromantically, thought I was going to die.
I couldn't get Teresa away from the pueblo ruin. She circled it twice, tracing every legal path for a better view. I sat under a tree and began shimmying the knee brace up my leg. She saw what I was doing and came over, finally, to sit with me in the shade.
"I have a question." She had her blouse tied around her midriff again. She held her ankles as she spoke.
"Why do you do this? I mean, what is the appeal? I don't mean I'm not enjoying it," she said hurriedly and sincerely when I scowled. "What's weird is I don't think you are. And the way you talk, you never have. You get hurt every time you come up here, or you get sick, or that time you told me about last night, nearly die of heat stroke. What do you get out of it?"
"It's this place. I can't explain it better than that. I wouldn't kill myself like this to get to the Grand Canyon or the top of the Tetons. Well, maybe for the Tetons. But this is special."
Teresa looked around, as if she expected something to reveal a dramatic, special quality.
"It's a great ruin. But you don't care about ruins. You were bored stiff yesterday. I was almost embarrassed to be having such a good time."
"It's not the ruins. I told you yesterday: you and I are enjoying it differently. What is it for you?"
"I don't know. What do you mean?" She thought for a minute, looking speculatively at the tumble of walls she'd been exploring. "Signs of an ancient culture. A puzzle. A big Christmas present of information wrapped in a thousand years of wrapping paper."
"OK. For me, there's no wrapper. This is the present. What's here now."
"You mean, just the landscape?"
"No. There's a word for it. Mana. It means power, in a sense something like the power of electricity. When I'm here, I understand the myth of Antaeus."
"That's a Greek myth?"
"Yeah. He wrestled with Hercules. He couldn't be defeated while he touched the earth, because he drew power from the contact. Like an electric trolley or a bumper car at a carnival. Hercules lifted him off the ground, and suddenly he was just another strong man."
I looked around. There was a scrub jay in the piñons on the other side of the ruin. "There's nothing intellectual about this place. For you, it's 'interesting.' And I don't mean that as a putdown. It's an interesting place. But for me, it's not intellectual at all; it's like discovering where your home is after never knowing before. You could blindfold me and tie me to a tree here. I'd know where I was, and I'd be glad I was here."
"Want to try it?" she said, grinning.
"No, I want you to take off all your clothes and dance naked through the trees."
She stood up, threw off her day pack, and began to work her way out of her jeans. In a minute, they were on the ground. I sat there astonished. She rummaged into her pack and came up with a pair of jogging shorts.
"Don't get your hopes up," she said as she wiggled into the shorts. "You just reminded me." She stuffed her jeans into the pack and pulled out a bottle of water. We each drank, and then we set out for the lions.
"I don't feel it the way you do, I guess," she said after we'd walked a few yards. "But I think I know what you mean. It's like that piece of pottery. I know I shouldn't take it. I know all that stuff about how if everybody took just one piece, it would all be gone in ten years. But I meant it when I said it wanted to be taken. Not like it spoke to me. 'Take me,'" she added in a Cinderella-mouse voice. "I mean," she went on as if someone else had interrupted her, "it felt like absolutely the right thing to do, like this was an exception and not just me making an exception to get what I wanted."
We were making our way up a slanted plate of rock. I reached back to take her hand, and I kept it after we were through the climb.
"I'll visit you in prison," I said.
She squeezed my hand.
You come from behind a piñon, and there are the lions, facing you, like two small New York Public Library lions made of sand and then doused with a bucket of water. You can make out the front legs stretched forward, and the head lying between them. The two sculptures are twins, life-sized and more indefinite than the body of the Sphinx. The heads were destroyed years ago by vandals, little Napoleans asserting their hollow otherness.
And around them is a circle of deer and elk antlers, scores of them, and bits of bone, some with feathers or scraps of red cloth tied to them. That day, there were pieces of turquoise. There were other stones that stood out against the multitudes of browns native to the placecoral, rose quartz, some green feldspar. I had not told Teresa about this. No one had told me, the first time I had come here. That time, twenty years ago, it was one deer antler laid between the feet of the lion on the right, a child's blue ribbon tied to it, and a skull of some sort, skunk or badger, probably, resting too symmetrically for happenstance between the torsos. The vacancies that had been the lion's heads now were dabbed with two dots each of some rusty color, like the simplest cartoon of eyes.
Once more Teresa astonished me. She had stopped when we came around the tree and let go of my hand. I was taking in the scene rather than its effect on her; then I realized that she was sinking to her knees. I looked down at her. She had managed to make it look merely like resting. She was settled on her heels like a geisha or a judo student. Standing so close, I couldn't really see her face. Her arms came up, and she hugged herself. A bird, a verdin, I think, called from behind us. She reached a hand up to pull me down beside her.
"This is what the pot wanted," she whispered. "It's in my pants."
I didn't understand for a second. Then I pulled her jeans out of her pack and she dug in a pocket for the potsherd.
"They're hunting fetishes," I said. "Hunters from Cochiti bring things to insure good hunting."
She ignored me. She had the potsherd between her hands. It was barely the size of a silver dollar.
"Give me something, Thomas," she said.
I didn't react. I didn't move, in fact. She turned suddenly to look at me, and in her face I found her meaning. I still hesitated. There was nothing I had with me. Then I remembered the feathers in my hat. Each one I had found and woven into the band individually. One was a tiny yellow feather, from a yellow warbler, I think, and barely an inch long. It was irreplaceable. I took off my hat and got out my knife to cut the feather free.
"Something to tie it with," Teresa said when she saw what I was doing. I was at a loss. I held the little feather between two fingers like a match. Teresa took the knife and cut some of her hair close to the scalp, about the thickness of a hank of yarn. "Come on," she said, lifting her rump off her ankles to lean toward me. I squatted in front of her. "You too." She cut hair from my head too, and wound the two strands together quickly. Her hair was nearly a foot long; mine disappeared into it. She took the feather and placed it on the potsherd, then wrapped the hair around the bundle, like tying a message to a rock. She knotted the hair twice, then again, then handed the strange little package to me.
I had never approached the lions close enough to touch them. Not from New-Age playacting about their great spiritual power, but out of respect for the Indian people who did not merely act, but lived that belief. Now, holding Teresa's silly offering, I was humbled and ashamed before a god. I approached with the greatest respect. I placed the bit of pottery next to one paw. I could not bring myself to say it out loud, but I thought, Accept this gift of all we have worth giving, and remember us with kindness and goodwill.
We came away quickly, and without talking about it. I would like to think the bit of pottery is still there, and the last molecules of hair and feather still cling to its surface.