The full moon is rising over the mountains to the east, bright and fat and every pine tree along the ridge is silhouetted by the moon in sharp detail like black paper cutouts. I’m sitting out side under an archway made of empty aluminum cans and cement. The ends of the cans shine, silvery coins, with moonlight.
I am at 9,000 feet above sea level looking down into the Taos Valley, the town just a puddle of lights, thick in the center and tapering off into all directions to nothing. Inside, through more arched doorways people are laughing and talking. There are plants spilling into the hallway, a two-story high banana tree is growing next to a twisting wood and mud staircase. There is a large indoor water storage tank that looks like a bubbling pond with a waterfall running down moss covered rocks and vine-y plants rimming its edge. The lights from the house shine out through the huge glass panels along the south side of the long building. I am laughing because I don’t know what to think about this place. As I walked up the hill I kept saying “People LIVE up here?!” A question and a flabbergasted exclamation at once.
I am at the REACH Earthship community, the houses are made out of tires, mud and glass and they are notched into a ridiculously steep slope, steep enough to make new visitors scream, close their eyes and curse or pray on their first ride up in a 4×4 and when they get out at the top they drop to their knees and kiss the ground or hang on to Earth for dear life for fear off falling out it its gravity and floating off into space. I’ve been in Taos for a week having driven out with a friend from college in San Francisco. We’ve come searching. Curious about these people who live in houses made from garbage, living off the grid with solar panels and roof collection for their water source. What makes them tick? Are they different from us? Is this the beginning of a revolution in the way we live? An evolution in the way we treat the planet? I am soon to become an Earthship dweller, builder, photographer, teacher, promoter and advocate, I have already turned at the fork in the road but I don’t yet know it. For the moment I am happy in the warm night air, drinking a beer, chatting with people and trying to absorb the alien beauty around me with my hungry eyes and goose bumped skin.