It’s mid-January here in Columbia, Missouri and we are still reeling from the biggest winter storm I’ve experienced in the eight years since I moved here from New Mexico. There was a time when the sight of snow piling up would just make me sad. It meant being stuck in the house or risking my life driving to work. It meant having to bundle up just to take out the trash or let the pets out. However, these days I marvel at the snow, appreciate its beauty and the way it seems to add a touch of magic to the look of the landscape. Now, as I look out at the snow in the backyard while sipping my cup of hot Earl Grey tea, a favorite memory comes to mind. It happened years ago now but remembering it always makes me smile.
Hot Tea in Taos
Have you ever noticed that there are episodes in your life that seem to be indelibly etched into your memory, like a favorite photograph in your mind? I would like to share one such instance with you. Many times in life it is the “little things” that become those special moments – those mental photographs. In this case, that “little thing” is as simple as a wonderful cup of hot tea.
I was working for a bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the time – in the I.T. Department. The bank and branches throughout the state of New Mexico, and I was expected to make road trips to the various branches when required. My adventure began with an assignment to upgrade the PCs at our original branch in Taos.
Working on a Good Friday
As it happened, my trip took place on a Good Friday. Not to blaspheme, but for me, it turned out to be a “great” Friday. It was April and the weather in northern New Mexico was sketchy at best as I wheeled the bank’s enormous Ford Excursion onto I-25 headed north. If you aren’t familiar with New Mexico, it has a great many very devout Catholics and each year there is a Good Friday pilgrimage up north to El Santuario de Chimayo. The trip to this historic church is made on foot and people walk great distances to celebrate the holy day. Some years the weather is hot and many pilgrims have problems with dehydration and heat stroke, but on this Friday, it was cold and threatening to snow. I remember having to be extremely careful to avoid the large numbers of people along the highway.
I made it into Taos around mid-morning and began unloading equipment and replacing computers. I was well into the process when the branch manager came to me to let me know that it was about noon. To me that just meant lunchtime, but she explained that since Taos is a very devout Catholic community, the bank would be closing for several hours to allow employees to attend church. I wasn’t expecting this, but I respected her wishes and left when the bank closed down.
The main bank branch in Taos is located in the historic Plaza, where the buildings date back many hundreds of years. There are a wide variety of shops and art galleries in the Plaza, so I thought I would amuse myself by checking them out. Unfortunately, like the bank, they were closed for church services, too. I walked the Plaza, looking in store windows, but it was getting colder and I could feel that snow was on the way, so I ducked into the first place I found open.
Hot Earl Grey Tea
To my good fortune, the business I wandered into was a lovely coffee shop/cafe combination cleverly named “World Cup”. It was relatively small and the few tables there were all occupied. I went to the counter and ordered: “the largest cup of hot Earl Grey tea you have available”. To my joy, it was huge, because it looked like I would be sitting outside on the porch to drink it and it was now snowing quite heavily.
A Magical Snowfall
As I sat on the bench watching the snow falling and the traffic slowing I was feeling quite content. I had the good sense to bring my heaviest coat and, for a change, I even wore a hat and boots. So, sitting there in the muffled silence that comes with heavy snow, I was fortified against the storm and could actually enjoy the beauty before me. Ancient adobe buildings were slowly turning white with snow, beautiful bare trees leading into the plaza were also being decorated by nature, and as I was letting all of this wash over me I heard it. Music. Not the kind of music I would expect to hear in that environment where tastes were predominantly country-western or Hispanic, but something entirely different. Even more intriguing, the music sounded as if it were being performed live and it sounded very close.
Followed by Magical Music
It took a lot to pry me from my comfortable place on the bench, but I had to find out what I was hearing and where it was coming from, so I investigated. I followed the sound of this strange music down a few doors and through a passage that leads into the Plaza. At that point I turned left and was exposed for the first time in my life, to a genuine Peruvian pan flute band, playing some of the most hauntingly beautiful music I had ever heard.
Peruvian Flute Music From the Andes
I stood there in the snow, transfixed by not only what I was hearing, but by what I was seeing, as the flute player deftly switched between three different pan flutes he was holding without missing a beat. It was mesmerizing and I gave myself over completely to the experience. It was a four-piece group with two flute players, a guitarist, and a bass player and they didn’t seem in the least phased by the snow and the cold. I felt bad for them since church services had claimed whatever audience they had hoped for, and they ended up performing solely for me. To their credit, they didn’t pack up or play any less amazingly for their one-man audience.
(If you would like a “taste” of the music I heard that day – this is Andes Cosmos. Only three of the guys were present for this small recording – not recorded by me.)
Magical Music to Take Home
As I stood there, sipping my tea and being transported by their music, I noticed that they were not only playing for donations but that they also had a number of copies of a CD they had recorded recently at a studio back in their hometown of Cusco, Peru. I gladly paid more than the asking price and shook each of their hands before I left the Plaza. When my work at the bank was completed and I was heading home in the giant lumbering Excursion, I loaded that CD into the player and had an incredible soundtrack for my trip back to Albuquerque.
(If you’d like to have some of this beautiful music of your very own, this Andes Cosmos CD is my wife’s favorite: “Treasures of the Incas“.)
Forever in My Heart
Every time I hear pan flute music now, I am transported back to that dark, cold, snowy day in Taos when I was completely possessed by an experience which will forever be engraved in my heart and mind. I hope you have some of those experiences in your life, too, because they add depth and substance while helping you to appreciate how genuinely magical some moments can be.