Between a rock and a hard place

There is a certain detachment one experiences when travelling because everything is viewed with the eyes of an outsider. Yet here in New Mexico I feel a much greater attachment, as if the landscape of rocks and dust beneath the cobalt sky has entered my pores. It is said that New Mexico is descended from the sky and it is easy to understand why the first allegiance of most people here is to the land and the sky above, and that boundaries seem best determined where these two meet. Tom Snyder, in his book Route 66 Traveler’s Guide and Roadside Companion says

New Mexico has no door on its history, no roof on its being”

and I feel this vastness that as I travel through the land, not just in the mesas and plateaux, mountains and plains that unfold before me or in the history of people embedded in its rocks, but in the meat of my soul that is forever searching. Here I feel the spirits of all that have gone before – people, animals, birds, civilizations, homes, snows of time– and I am bewitched by the beauty of the light, of the rosy glow of the setting sun striking the red cliffs and rocks and the shrill cries of rooks circling overhead.

After leaving the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino complex on the Isleta Reservation we drove to the Old Town of Albuquerque where time seemed to stand still in the middle of a busy day. Just one street back from Highway 66 there is sanctuary from the noise and bustle of city life. Here there are art galleries, cafes, trading posts, musicians and street vendors willing to chat and spend time with passers-by without hustling for a sale. Breakfast at Bebe’s Cafe was a sheer delight of eggs and goat’s cheese on a bed of baby spinach topped with sliced beef tomatoes and an avocado. This was washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice and black coffee. Later we had an ice cream in the Plaza listening to the haunting pipe music of Pahuakume followed by a stroll through the shady streets of the old buildings and a few moments of quiet contemplation in the church of San Felipe.

Too soon we had to be on our way to our next destination in Gallup, where we stayed on the Navajo Reservation and I had my first experience of hominy in a traditional lamb stew. Delicious. Today it is off to the Petrified Forest in Arizona, saying goodbye to New Mexico, and whilst I’m ever eager to see new things and have new experiences, New Mexico has held something very special for me that I am reluctant to leave behind. Maybe the future holds another trip here, but that, as with most things in my life, will be in the lap of whatever gods guide and protect me.

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