Fall has officially arrived in Northern New Mexico.
The mountains have been dusted with white stuff and the mornings and nights are cold.
But the days are gloriously warm and we are truly being blessed this year with an Indian Summer.
Today, the People of the Red Willow celebrate San Geronimo Day and this morning, the festivities kicked off with foot races in the Pueblo Plaza at dawn.
Vendors have booths set up surrounding the Plaza where an Aspen Pole, with a bundle of Harvest goods tied to crossbars near the top, has been planted for this afternoon’s highly anticipated Pole Climb by the Pueblo Clowns. A huge array of Native-made items are for sale, including pottery, jewelry, art, flutes, pipes, drums and much more.
This is a feast day and family and friends of village residents are invited to private homes for a Pueblo Indian feast of red or green chile, horno-baked bread, and other delicious traditional foods.
In the afternoon the sacred clowns begin to prowl the area, taking people from the crowd for a walk into the river; Pueblo lore has it that they can tell if you’ve done something bad during the year, thus the baptism by freezing water is the preferred discipline.
My kids spend a great deal of their childhood (with friends from the village) attempting to hide from the clowns. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.
At about 4 p.m., the clowns will gather at the foot of the tall pole in the center of the plaza. They will then try climbing the pole with a lot of joking back and forth, slipping and sliding during several failed attempts until finally one makes it to the top!
The one who gets to the top will then begin to lower the items to his compadres on the ground while doing dare-devil feats for the crowd.
It is whispered that an easy climb means a good winter; plenty of snow, enough food stored and good hunting.
Aspen boughs decorate the Pueblo today, shimmering golden in the changing light. Once the pole’s been climbed and the harvest bounty loosened from its pinnacle, many locals take a few branches home with them. For good luck.
It’s our gold standard.
All images from my files
Painting of San Geronimo Day of unknown origin