Winter Slumber – 28 is Way Too Young to Die…

The quiet season is here. When the pueblo falls into its winter sleep and thousand mile stare from MAh Wha Loo (Taos mountain), watching her children stare at the moments in time, the cold takes the old and brings down the weak and lost souls.

My worlds winter very few live there anymore.
Winter in Taos Pueblo

Silence: Is he a friend or is he an enemy?

I guess it depends on who is talking or wondering or walking into the pristine field of fresh snow, contemplating making snow angels, kissing flakes in the wind.

Winter; so peaceful and quiet, a sleep so deep, the way of the mammal to eat, sleep and wonder about loss and gain.

Winter afternoon long walks into the hills to find the wildness of deep winter, facing the fear of the hunt in the short days and chill long nights.

Pueblo winter – when the old stories seem like new fables in front of the fire place. Hearing the voice of women telling their stories as boisterous men laugh the deep, deep filled laughter.

Tdoo Ween (winter) bears down on you no matter who you are or how strong you are. It can and will make you wonder about culture, how to memorize, learn the old new song along with the new old songs. The season awakens the moment of thoughts that you no longer need to make the choice of letting go or waking up the dead; leaving the living on trails to forget the old dreams that no longer are needed; fearlessly letting go of the holy ghost flying away, fading away up and over the old village.

Very few live in that place where suffering begins and where letting go is the only decision left.

Winter is the time for all these thoughts; as well as to wonder in a walk in whiteness instead of the run, shaking the bones you will need to walk first so the mind can settle into the thoughts of lost.

Don’t die this unfriendly, unforgiving early winter and interrupt it. Coldness, like unfriendly relatives, should speak and go.

Tdoo Ween (winter season) is our cousin. As spirits hanging on the icicles, soon they will visit us one by one, one at a time, kissing us on shoulders and wind burnt cold cheeks.

In the old village, as we gratefully, peacefully sleep, the world trembles as she cloaks her brown body in the middle of the night with the white manta of deathly coldness. It’s hard to tell where greeting smoke trails end and snow fall begins. It all oozes out into the mountain.

Inside the Sangre De Cristo, it’s an unusually cold, dry season. And when windy, it’s a hard one to accept. The hunter becomes the hunted, hunted like a hawk on a tree leaning into the wary side of prey.

Frozen jackets, frozen bread, frozen breath, frozen, frozen spirit, keys that won’t unlock anything until spring comes.

On any given Sunday morning, our winter tears will freeze, freeze ideas, stop cold love’s intentions. The sun seems to set faster to feel the western warmth of the pacific.

My cousin Paul died in the winter of 88 so I know. He was just 21.

Saturday night a beautiful young singer from the northside also passed away in the cold, He was 28.

I say don’t die in winter.

It’s hard on everyone and everything. Even if you go to hell, pray you don’t. You will stay frozen until spring because Mr. Devil hates being cold too. He hates visitors buried in the chill of the icy winter air.

Ice cold picks and shovels banging into ice cold earth, buried in the cold and frozen snoring earth, the freezing congregation singing faster and dryer. Only the northern wind will be your choir. Your
last breath breathed in wasn’t a warm summer moment, but a -10 at night frozen inhale. Bathing the dead with luke warm thoughts and crispy rags during the Tdoo Ween, only cold questions brew.
If you die today, answers and attention goes only to the fire. The only warm ones are the gate keepers, and winter death is a cold answer.

I wanted to write about the celebration of the holidays. I will still write about them, however, the death of a young tribal member will take presidence over the readying of the manger.

“… The winter silent pueblo world is at times the heart broken cries on the wailing walls of the northside walls and at other times the welcoming child like sounds of laughter near the kivas of the south…”

Stay warm and have good thoughts as this winter embraces us with another shawl to question our faith..

love and honor,


31 thoughts on “Winter Slumber – 28 is Way Too Young to Die…”

  1. Hey Robert!

    Winter certainly is a barren spot on my timeline – I can see why some folks like to settle in warmer lands and older people retire in places like Mexico and Brazil. If I ever do that someday, I will truly miss winter’s embrace – its cold clutch goes right through me and reminds me that I am alive and that I will die and leave all of this and all of you someday. So maybe I will stay here in New York, which gets a fair share of cold and snow, but also days of refreshing spring, scorchingly grand summers, and beautiful autumn colors.

    Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Mirabal!

    Peaceful Blessings!

  2. I feel your pain, we all do. I spoke to you in melbourne about how my parents passed. some deaths are a tsunami of the soul, and its really hard when they come in numbers. I am finding that shattering pain really awakens you. we dont really get answers but strength and knowledge to pass on to others. bless your heart, thank you for sharing.

  3. …the death of a young tribal member will take presidence over the readying of the manger… Of course, you are right. The manger will wait. I’m sorry for your loss of one so young. Blessings…

  4. Winter in North Texas is when we go from hot, brown and dry to cold, brown and dry. There’s that plus wind and more wind. Sometimes, we get snow and it can be a lot once in awhile. I live in the country and have been snowed in for a few days more than once. Those days, I enjoy the silence.

  5. This writing was very heartfelt for me. We had a grandchild that passed away on December 22 and buried on Christmas Eve many years ago.. She was 3 weeks old. She would have been 18 this year and her mother wonders sometimes what she would have been like, where would she have wanted to go to school, what her dreams would have been, would she love horses too? Her birthday fell on Thanksgiving day this year so after our family gathering and after dark, we lit a paper lantern for her and I’ve never seen one of them fly so high and stay so bright for so long. It was a quiet time to reflect, hug the sisters that remain and then smile at how she made such an impact on our lives in such a short period of time. Her existence in our world may have passed but she lives on in our memories and in our hearts. Death can never take that away. Thank you, Robert, for writing this, it comes to me at that time of year where we do slow down and remember. Remembering has it’s place and time.

  6. Robert,

    Thank you for reminding me so Eloquently about the “quiet season” in Northern NM. I miss it terribly. It is definitely the time when the river trickles gently and the mice whisper………..

    Wishing you all good things. C.

  7. I want to reply and don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry man. When it rains it pours. And now we hear of another big storm coming…

    I Love what you do and…take solace in knowing that in your time you make a difference in the Lives of others.

    It’s ours to endure while we keep watch…

    Love comes at you from here and many, many directions

  8. In the mountains of Virginia,my father was buried on Christmas Eve. A blizzard started as we stood at his side.The year before,my Grandfather died in December. And his wife, 31 years later,my mother died at Thanksgiving. Makes this time of year very sad. As the cold wraps around me in these days,it takes me back. Back to happy times,back to times of intense grief. In the present they twirl around each other in my head. Blessings and love to all those lost. And warmth to those who feel the cold.

  9. Mirabal,

    It can get in the 20s in the Carolinas but it is currently 70 and supposed to be up to 80 by Friday. Half of my son’s class including my son has been out with illness. If we do get snow here it is only on like the tops of trees though sometimes it will stick. Usually most things just ice over briefly for us and schools are shut down because people can’t drive here when it snows. Remind me that on the day I do make it to NM to see your show to come in the summer, I am not a winter person though I would love to see a performance during the holidays. Also, thanks for the image of a frozen devil haha.

  10. So sorry you are all feeling the weight of this terrible loss. It is so wrong. My thoughts and prayers are with you all at this time.

  11. july31 1989! was a devistating moment in time! as for my loss! my pops! henry pino mirabal! 49 years old was too young!! that always seems too rip my soul apart. sorry for the lost robert! 28! we all never know when its our time.

  12. When the wind whips as it does today and our souls are stirred by the loss of such a young talented soul, we can’t help but feel sadness and grief for such a bitter loss.

    Grief, as is love are the great equalizers. They knows no race or religion. We all are shaken to the same core of our bones by both.

    May the greater forces come to wrap their loving arms around those who are most bitten by the cold and warm them in their time of need.

    Many blessings and shared sorrows.


  13. You know what I was thinking as I read this? That you should record your reading of your thoughts and upload it. I would have preferred to ‘hear’ this story…because I want to ‘hear’ the silence behind your words.

  14. You truly have a gift of words. I was just watching your Valley of Dreams video and I was very inspired. I love Winter and the innocence of the first flakes of snow. The bareness of the trees and how beautiful they are without their leaves.

    I spent a week with my Sister and it was hard to see that we are aging, gracefully though. When I left she held me so tightly and for a long time and I got the message she was sending that one never knows if you will ever see each other again… I know for myself death does not scare me anymore because I know we go on to another reality and to a loving source.

  15. Thank you for the eloquent and poignant post. It takes me back to my last winter in NNM, after my dear dog and companion of many years died.I am sorry for the loss of such a young man to your tribal family. I echo Lynn Manyfires, that it would be a gift to hear you read these words.Blessings to you, and the family of this young man.

  16. Very few live in that place where suffering begins and where letting go is the only decision left.

    I am not sure how to say what is on my heart….. a loss of a son age 37, Mother, Niece in her 30.s and my husband was almost more than a heart can bear…I imagine I can and do know and feel your pain and the struggle through these times….
    Never hurry your pain, there is no time limit for your suffering . One thing I do know also….You are being refined in the fiery furnace and when you come to the other side, you will be sooo much stronger, more peaceful, and an overcomer one more time….It there was ever a thing to hate, it is the saying good bye to loved ones….
    You are a chosen one, and I am sure there is much you must go through so you can aid others that need you.

    I needed you and still need you…With your music you have helped me to cope with the days of different feelings and desires.. You have introduced me to other singers just at a time I am floundering again…You have taught me to dance, no matter the pain, happiness, being young or being old….to just dance….

    Remember, your path is precise and you footing must be these happenings must come…they help to refine your calling.

    Stay strong dear one….

  17. Dearest Robert

    You made me cry again, like times before.

    You are such a gifted writer, and a poet as well.

    I can only agree with Lynn Manyfires…

    Thank you for the beauty you share with us.

    You help me.



  18. Misery loves company. I lost both parents in the fall of two different years. Both well short of 50…I was 15 when I moved from the southwest to live here in NY.

    It is difficult to lose people in the fall. It was especially difficult that fall 50 years ago leaving the warm Valley of the Sun for the impending winter near Saratoga Springs. If I think on it, I can feel my anger and confusion as clearly as I did then. I don’t think on it often but when I do, it is most often in fall.

    We all lose things in the fall. Sometimes big things and sometimes, if we’re lucky, just the summer and the leaves from the trees.

    This is why we cherish the solstice celebrations and their promises of rebirth and renewal. Autumn is the time of dying and grief. The first days of winter are the days of a slowly awakening anticipation for the fresh season ahead. This is how it plays for me.

    I suppose I’d as soon leave this body during the short days of winter…at least I’d not feel like I’m missing much. Of course that isn’t a choice I’ll get to make is it?

  19. Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing, full of truth and heart.

    Thank you for reminding us to watch for beauty and to pay attention!

    The sadness of yet another violent passing of yet another young Taos person is almost too much for the valley to bear, but bear it we will, if we stay together and lean on one another.

    The sun will start to come back in just a couple of weeks!

  20. Dear Robert,
    I’m so very sorry about the loss of someone so young. My brother died at 28 and 2 years ago I lost my soulmate 2 days after Christmas. I know your heart must ache and you expressed our feelings when we suffer loss so eloquently. I too would love to hear a recording of your words so we could listen many times to your wise words.
    I send you blessings and comfort and also to all of you at the Pueblo.
    Thank you too for coming to perform at Las Cruces. Your spirit is a true blessing to the world.

  21. Wow Robert! Very well put on all accounts and again you brought me to tears. There is so much sadness around death, especially of someone who is young, but while we grieve – consider what the Creator has gained again. The little ones tend to bounce back in a shorter time than we do because every day is brand new to them. We, the older ones,tend to hurt much deeper and for longer because we have a perspective of what we have truly lost. As I have mentioned before, I have lost a lot of loved ones – many my age at the time of loss, even spouses and it has left me feeling alone often but I learn and relearn each time that it is not my place to question the Creator’s Plan – only to do my part and love All My Relatives like this moment is the last we will ever have, because sometimes it is. Your words hit home on many levels and as always they are so very beautiful. I only moved here to Taos a little over a year ago but already I too look forward to the “quiet season” with all its beauty and cold. I look forward to the time of “going within” to reevaluate decisions and challenges and to look for ways to heal the pains of losses. It is sad but only for those left behind – for that young man and the others we have lost – their Spirit is free of this realm, free to soar anywhere and everywhere without the physical body weighing them down. I pray for and send my condolences to you and all the family. I also know that if it is my turn tomorrow – I will have no regrets for I have lived my life and heard and read your beautiful words and music as that has been your gift to this world. We are all born somewhere on the medicine wheel and it is our place to work hard to achieve the other points in our lives – obviously some just achieve it all faster than others and get to go home earlier. You will all be in my prayers. I will see you on 12/21/13 at TCA. I am so looking forward to it as it will be one of the highlights of this season for me. Love and Blessings always.

  22. Very eloquent and poetic musings, Robert! It is a bitter cold night up high in the Sangre de Cristos at 8200 feet. Winter does bring thoughts of those who have passed, and I agree it is to be preferred not to pass in winter. The early darkness and bitter chill can become a bit oppressive to the mind. It is the time of hibernation and withdrawl from the world, with the need to tend the lovely, mysterious fire that somehow sees us through it all on good days. I feel fortunate that, even though I have lost a number of people too young, none of them have passed in the icy grip of wintertime. Spring, summer and fall, yes; winter, no, thus far. Hard times seem harder in winter, with its cold, crystalline, icy fingers hanging overhead (well, really, they are only icicles, until a big one lands on your head unexpectedly). The blue snow under a bright moon is a beauriful sight. Sometimes it is good to go have a chat with the bison on a cold and sleepless night of pondering.

  23. May you and all of Taos Pueblo find peace during this time of sorrow!

    May he and Nelson Mandela join hands and fly off to freedoms land.
    May the rest of us find inspiration in life’s delicate snowflake.
    May we all try to love and honor life.
    May our dreams of equality and peace become true.
    As tears stream from my eyes, I feel this with all my heart!
    Celebrate all that is good, join hands in pure love.
    We have a purpose and that is to serve others in a way the improves our relationship with our Mother Earth and all living creatures.

    Winter has wrapped him in her cloak of precious snowflakes to make his journey filled with joy. You will never look at a snowflake the same, it will always carry his sweet song.
    With love and respect.

  24. Robert, when I first started to reply on your website “Red Willow” in the winter of 2011, 2012 I had lost my husband to a freak truck wreck on Hwy. 192 West of where I live (it is known as the road to Disney World in Orlando and originates from Brevard County, Florida ). A road well traveled yet isolated from Melbourne till you get into St Cloud. He was much younger than I, built roads for a living, along with his passion for wild horses and rodeo. My mother died shortly after him with dementia that I cared for at home so she would not have to go to a nursing home.
    The first time I met you was again at Wickham Park, Melbourne, FL. I will never forget how you approached me Robert and once again I refer to “kindred souls & spirit”. It is my belief that you sensed I had just experienced these losses. You leaned over and gave me a big hug. That winter, my state of mind and my body went into the trenches of such extreme sorrow and loss I thought I might go crazy. Here it is 2 years later. I survived. Life as I knew it for many, many years will never be the same, yet like WINTER it is this time of year that all that came before it…spring’s sweetness; summer’s brutal heat which then fall begins with its molten state preparing for the arrival of WINTER.
    I now view Winter as the end of a year in my life as I contemplate… Was it successful? Did I make the most of my year? What new friends and animals became close to my heart and soul this year? I wonder if I will I get through the holidays alone not allowing this pain that I think may never go away finally be put to rest. One thing that is for sure I now look at winter as a time for hibernation so that I might renew my mind and body. A time to look back and celebrate all that I had and still do at the sacrifice of others along with all that is still left for me to experience.

  25. Hi Robert,
    I saw you at Merritt Island. Thank you for being gracious enough to let me have a pic with you. I stranded myself on the shore when I was offered a ride across the big water with Gandalf and the Elves, etc. Age 17 wasn’t too young to die but it seems now is too old.
    Lynn Greene

  26. Sad solitude achingly chilled in its lovers embraces…
    My heart shares your loss so its burden might become a tiny bit less…
    Fir me Winter is my time.. my place .. my strength,,, everything becomes so crisp and clear,, color suddenly becomes dazzling in its clarity.. and yet lost in the moons silver blanket glow.. soft golden warmth fills us inside with tinkling sounds of gathered friends,,, sharing both the good times and bad times…
    IN this time of unbirth is also a time of reflections.. and thoughts… without the dust and haze everything becomes stark in its reliefs…
    This is my time…and my love…
    A’ho my friend.. may you find a measure of comfort in her wys and embrace… Walk well…

Comments are closed.