Santa Fe Days

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Since Saturday, I’ve been visiting my sister in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The plane’s final approach was choppy and the landing rough. Midway through the flight, my lips became chapped. I licked them repeatedly like a brain damaged dog with peanut butter on his lips. It offered fleeting relief and only made the problem worse. After greeting my sister and finding out she only had lipstick, I purchased a stick of medicated balm and slathered away. The combination of my red, irritated skin and the glossy petroleum made my lips luscious. But I’m worth it.™

For those who haven’t been to Santa Fe, check it: Da Fe be awesome! They don’t call it “Da Fe” here, but I does.

Santa Fe is a small city, and it feels that way. But more importantly, it’s almost like being in another country. Due to tradition and building codes, most of the buildings are in the adobe pueblo style. Even gas stations and fast food restaurants have inherited the “faux-dobe” look. When done cheaply, it comes off like a southwestern theme park. But in most cases, new buildings rest comfortably next to those over 400 years old. Some streets look like they have been there since the beginning of time. The large hispanic and native-descended population add to the uniqueness of the high, dry town in the desert hills.

The combination of direct sun, warm weather and high elevation have made me very relaxed and sleepy. I’ve taken some good naps inside and out.

On my first full day in town, my sister and I went for a drive up the foothills on the northern edge of town.

Here’s a view looking down at Santa Fe and the surrounding desert. The mountains are surprising green at this time of year, full of grass, flowers, pine, and aspens. A lot of the streams have water from the snowcaps melting.

Branches growing from the aspen like antlers.

Vibrant green tree tops on the hillside.

My sister looking at the view.

The road leading up the hill passes through the Santa Fe version of a housing development. Unlike almost any other suburbs, these houses don’t make me vomit. In part, because they try their best to blend into the environment rather than conquer it. They are built in the same colors as the earth, and almost look made of it. Most lie low to the ground and have dry landscaping.

When driving by, you barely even notice them.

Before heading home, we walked along the creek that runs along the edge of the city center. Lots of kids were fishing, but didn’t seem to be catching anything.

There are a lot of repeating elements you see in fake pueblo architecture, but I think the coolest is all manner of crazy wooden gates and fences.

A new building in my sister’s neighborhood.

My sister in front of a wooden fence.

It looks like Pee Wee Herman lives at this house.

An abandoned(?) stone shop at sunset.

The truck parked outside my sister’s house. Maybe not all terrain, these tires.

My sister’s crazy backyard: half desert garden, half junkyard.

The inside of her apartment is cool, other than in temperature. Numerous skylights, a huge kitchen and a lot of weird decor. The highlight for me is her extensive collection of tit mugs lining the bathroom windowsill.

Here are a few wig holders along the kitchen window. The one on the right reminds me of the new Indiana Jones movie.

The second day I was in town, we went driving to find prairie dogs. Near an arts and crafts market along a main road, we found a small colony. This guy is eating some seeds.

This guy was either shy or taking a break from the sun.

Another seed eater, this one half in his burrow.

Nearby, there were some pigeons hanging out by a pot with water in it. The grey one pictured is the largest pigeon I’ve ever seen. Los Alamos?

Across the road from the prairie dogs was a lot with two mules in it. This one didn’t look very happy.

The other enjoyed licking something off the hot metal fence.

An sculpture of a fruit stand and virginal flower bearers for sale.

Yesterday, I went for a hike in a nature preserve at the base of the hills. I found the trail by memory after having been there once two years ago. The trail started at a dirt parking lot and passed by an old reservoir, now lake, before zigzagging up the hills. The weather was perfect. Sunny and breezy, clean air. Immediately, the walk put me into a peaceful, contemplative mood.

I sat for a while at the lake’s edge and watched the red breasted blackbirds.

The trail that ran along the creek was pretty lush by Santa Fe standards. The breeze rustled the grasses along the path. The grass was also being rustled by birds, lizards, and snakes.

Here’s a close up I took of a snake that slithered away from me on the trail. He was sunning himself with two friends. This section of trail was infested with snakes. Every few feet, another would slink away. Despite keeping my eye out for them, their coloring was so similar to the ground that I could only see them when I moved.

One of his friends was trying to hide a little farther away. I wanted to get a photo of him with his tongue out, but he didn’t oblige. I felt like a nature photographer, kneeling in close and steading my breath as to not scare the animal away. It is a zen experience. A sign indicated that there were bobcats around, but I never saw any.

The branches of a dead tree.

The sunny hillside of the trail on the way back. The landscape was dryer and more barren only feet away from the edge of the creek.

Large red ants repairing their mound that someone stepped on. For some reason, I wanted to eat one of them.

I was able to hold my appetite steady until dinner which involved pastor tacos of the quantity four.

A man and his car, waiting for an oil change near the taco stand.

When outside in Santa Fe, a weird feeling comes over me. Without sounding like a crystal-stroking hippy, there is a certain spirituality to this place. When alone in hills, it feels like I have intruded into a place far older and more pure than I could ever hope to be. Despite the amount of dust everywhere, it feels clean. Despite the heat, it feels cool. Part of me wants to keep walking to see what’s at the next crest, the other keeps pulling me to the ground. I could die right there and it would be okay. The land would take care of me.

Early tomorrow morning, we begin the long drive to Montana.

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