The Kansas desolation hits hardest in retrospect; the train climbs into Colorado and I breathe sweet relief at the chaparral clumped across the crumbly strata, so much texture to bite into with hungry eyes and heart.
I disembark in Lamy and high school friend Ade and her Twins are there in no time (hubby Michael was away on set, sadly). Regional eating begins immediately – it’s all about the chile, green as saguaro when it’s not red as a dusty sun. She’s firing up the Santa Fe Time Bank(which is an awesome thing) so we’re off to a meetin that’s she’s a’leadin while her mom and I play with the boys. (Have you ever had a baby fart in your lap? Quite a unique sensation.)
The next day I’m loose on Santa Fe after a morning run dodging into shadows and jumping scat that looks like an awful lot like bear (we hear a strange growling gone baleful howling that night in the thunderstorm darkness and get to wonderin just what’s a’ wanderin out there in the scrub and suburb).
It’s illegal to build anything but (faux) adobe, so the eye rolls real easy over earthen colored curved walls. It’s an art town, in case you didn’t know, with whole boulevards of galleries that welcome my grimy self politely and don’t make too much of a fuss at my leaving.
The grand finale to my semi-awkward art walk is The Teahouse – beloved for myriad teas, housemade desserts, and tables outside in the perfect mix of shade and sun. I decide to act like a food critic, attempting to uncover all the little details and when they see me taking photos, they ask if I am one. I fumble my answer when I should have thrown a simple Yep and seen what other joys might have been heaped on my table gratis. So here I go:
The Strawberry Shortcake is based on a house made cranberry almond scone that’s soft enough to absorb the crème y juiciness but firm enough to stand up for itself and not get carried away in the sweet flow. Thinly sliced berries don’t clobber the poor thing, adding perfect crisp texture and a benevolent tickle kick of tart. Raspberry coulis shows off its zigzags of beautiful presentation and helps float and flow the barge of cake. A hint of coming winter in the light snowfall of powdered sugar. Mint garnish is a perfect sneak leaf by leaf during the conquest, saving one for the finale.
Accompanying the ship is a clear mug of French black tea blend, obviously not shy but surprisingly unobtrusive. I’d like to lick the plate clean but it was a little heavy on the cream so I leave a little snowy mound to melt like poor Frosty. Aaand scene.
That night we dine on hilltop and Ade ‘n the boys endure a mini photo shoot as the wind picks up bringing rain and sweet glory of a sunset. Back at the ranch I photograph lightning for the first time and then we watch this show called Dexter.
Looking to get out for a minute the next day, I start an amble up a mountain and when I learn I’m a mere two miles from the top, decide I have to summit it. St. John’s, second oldest college in the US and home to classes taught only in original texts, quickly fades away and it’s just me and the easy way or the steep way. And a lady talking loudly on a cellphone while walking her dog.
9121 feet affords an awesome view of New Mexico. Raven adds a couple more feet to that as he hovers over my head. A run down the mountain to meet my ride and it’s time to pack up for Albuquerque the next day and completing my run on the Southwest Chief in Los Angle-eez.
But before that I step out under the night perched on open desert and light my (tobacco) pipe. I gaze up at the swath of stars and notice a particularly bright one I take for a planet, no make that a plane, no that’s the brightest and lowest shooting star I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s streaking the sky with a great tail and it’s so frickin low I can actually see it breaking up into pieces. My pipe would have clattered onto the warm brick had I not been clutching it. The object, flying, and quasi-unidentified, zooms over the house and moments later a concussive Boom of impact sweeps across the valley, setting all the dogs a’barking and me a’running around to the front hoping to see a pulsating orange glow.
The FBI says it was a weather balloon.
In the morning I don’t have any new super powers but I do have a super old friend – first year of college when I was Duck (See, I’m not a total bandwagon jumper) – who picks me up and takes me to Albuquerque to meet her kids, pack me a lunch, and get me to the station on time.
California here I come.
All photos by Noel Tendick.