After one week here at The Commons on the Alameda cohousing community in Santa Fe, we are adjusting and acclimating to a life quite different from the one we've been living for the last seven months and 10,000 miles. Community life is so different from the relative isolation of the road, and living in a more urban environment is also quite a change for us.
For me personally, the adjustment has come as somewhat of a shock. Despite the fact that I've been deeply desirous of a feeling of rootedness---if only for a few months of respite from the road---actually landing and making the transition to a "sticks-and-bricks" (or fake adobe) home has certainly taken a little time.
Santa Fe is a lovely place, and it's the only capital city that I've ever visited in the United States that still has a number of dirt roads---and small farms---within the city limits. We've already discovered the plethora of health food stores (six at last count), an excellent bookstore where I plan to spend no money, some great thrift stores, and a favorite cafe where, unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the patio. Santa Fe is said to be very dog-friendly in many ways, with a multitude of stores that welcome well-behaved dogs on leash, but city ordinances preclude dogs being anywhere near where food is served, so taking Tina cafe-hopping is not necessarily easy. Still, we know at least two places near the Plaza where dogs are accommodated, so we may frequent those establishments when we have Tina in tow.
In terms of adjusting, the relatively constant low hum of traffic and the occasional siren in the wee hours of the morning are something to get used to. Bicycling in Santa Fe is somewhat of a challenge---the city is not terribly bike-friendly, and some busy streets have no shoulders or bike lanes to speak of. There is one bike path in the city that's slated to be expanded in the next few years, but any commuting within the city definitely involves interacting with a lot of cars and trucks that don't necessarily slow down or make allowances for vulnerable two-wheeled vehicles.
Living in cohousing definitely makes up for our aforementioned social isolation. Cohousing communities are deliberately designed to be pedestrian villages where all of the homes face inward towards commonly held outdoor spaces, so interaction with neighbors is almost automatic. When we step outside our door, there are frequently children, adults, dogs and cats meandering the sidewalk that wanders between the homes, and smiles, chats and some more lengthy conversations frequently take place. Community meals on Mondays and Thursdays provide a sense of continuity and connection, and several community members are offering a creative workshop on Saturday morning that we both plan to attend.
Tina is slowly adjusting herself, but still gets very anxious when we leave her alone in our casita. We are slowly helping her get used to the idea, and have also secured several dog-sitters in the neighborhood. She seems quite content in the bigger picture, and it's hard to imagine taking the poor old girl back on the road. We hope she can enjoy this respite, however long it lasts, and then join us again when the time comes to move on.
Yesterday, a package was awaiting us on our front porch: a lovely plant sent by my thoughtful family who conspired together in order to grace our new home with a touch of beauty. We are so grateful to them for their thoughtfulness, and the flowers are happily ensconced on our kitchen table, brightening up the room and bringing the faces of beloved and far away family to mind every time we look at them.
Even though being in the city and leaving the open road has been difficult in some ways, there is also much comfort in stretching out in our casita, doing yoga and exercising right on our own carpet, and making meals without bumping into one another. We also have readily available chemical-free laundry facilities at our disposal, a commercial kitchen from which we can borrow any implements we might need, a shady courtyard next to a bubbling fountain where we can read and relax, and the community exercise room and living room. We're very grateful for this chance to live in community, and doubly grateful that folks here at The Commons have made this little neighborhood relatively safe for us in terms of our chemical sensitivity.
When it comes to activities, there is so much happening here in Santa Fe, and we actually need to pick and choose from an enormous variety of things to do. This weekend, we'll attend The Madrid Gypsy Festival in the nearby town of Madrid, and also meet with several new acquaintances for some food and conversation. The calendar is indeed filling up, and we're pleased that we're connecting with people and things to do so readily.
Meanwhile, I am looking for nursing work, applying for jobs, and working with my mind when it struggles with this recent radical lifestyle change. I'm trying to keep my "traveler's mind" intact, approaching our time here in the city as just another extension of our journey, even though there's a part of me that wonders if the journey is really over. Still, I know in my heart that the journey is indeed still in process, and whether we're in Santa Fe for two months or nine months, the adventure doesn't have to meet its demise just because our rig is parked and we're sleeping in a house that doesn't roll.
These last seven months have been amazing, and I feel that I've grown a great deal in the process. Leaving our home, friends, family, familiar haunts, New England and the East Coast was not easy---in fact, it was the hardest thing I've ever done. But 10,000 miles can change a person's outlook and sense of their own place in the world, and I feel that being in the West is an opportunity to redefine myself on many levels and jettison those things about myself that no longer serve. This adjustment period has been admittedly difficult, and I am still feeling some pangs and pains during the process. Still, I can't deny that a break from the road was in order, and we've landed in a safe place where we can stretch our legs, make new friends, have some fun, earn some money, and enjoy a sense of community for whatever amount of time feels right.