Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Burning Trees

Yesterday, when Tina and I went for a mini-hike in the Santa Fe Forest,  I was alarmed to see large plumes of billowing smoke close by.

En route home, the smoke had circled around the city, forming a sunset illuminated by smoggy clouds in the west. I later learned from Keith that the fires were intentional. I had no idea there were controlled burns in the nearby mountains! At first the smell was light and lovely, titillating my senses with tree essences, but soon unpleasant physical symptoms set in as the clouds persisted and loomed over us.

With headache and eyes burning by evening, Keith and I closed up all the windows to our casita, turned on the air purifiers and exhaust fans, hoping for the best. It was a peaceful, albeit fragrant, night. When this morning greeted me with New Mexico's usual blue skies, I was naively surprised to be met with the thick smell of smoldering wood when I opened the door.  Immediately, my body started producing excess mucus and my lungs reminded me of how I have asthma attacks under such conditions. Dammit! Just when my chemical sensitivity had really improved here over the summer, this smokey air surprise hits me from behind. Unable to find my "I Can Breathe" carbon filter mask (because i have not needed it in so long), I calmly put my air ionizer around my neck and gave Tina her brief morning perambulation. With all my throat clearing sounds happening outside, I became more disheartened to see a fog haze covering the mountains with very little wind to move it along.

Back in the casita, I am doing all I can to alkalize my system more--plop, plop, fizz, fizz, Alka Seltzer Gold, that is, with plenty of fresh lemon water. Aware that I need to stay inside on this gorgeous autumn day, yet also venture out to buy a new and better mask, disconcerting questions plague me about the long term implications of nearby controlled burns such as, "How often do these burns happen? Will we be able to live here long-term with b.o.t. (burning of trees)? How is the wildlife impacted by the burns? Other people? How will the winter be for my health with wood smoke burning around us? Will it set our health back?" and so forth.

We're becoming rather attached to our community here, and the old thoughts of, "Where can we go where it is safe to breathe and be?" sadly return and begin to deflate the highs of late summer at The Commons. The recent stirrings of excitement and hopes for a longer stay here hang in suspended animation, much like the haze of smoke that covers Santa Fe Skies that is blurring my vision as I type---or might that be from the tears?


Monday, September 27, 2010

A Weekend of Community

This past weekend was the 19th annual fall celebration here at The Commons on the Alameda cohousing community, and we are so blessed to be here and to have taken part in such a wonderful event!

First, on Friday night, the members of the community gathered for a fire circle, potluck, ritual tree-planting, and the sharing of stories about life in The Commons. Since its inception in 1992 from a scrubby field of cactus along the Santa Fe River, The Commons has been home to more than 300 people, and the current census is now at 81 adults and children.

This is a truly special place graced with much heart, community spirit, and the willingness of dozens of people to create a functional and thriving intentional neighborhood that enriches the lives of all who come into contact with it. And this annual day of feasting and revelry is our way of giving back to the wider community with food, drink, music, dancing, and gratitude.

These are some photos from the weekend's events. Enjoy a taste of The Commons at its best!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hope-HOWSE Hugs

This past Sunday, we participated in Hope-HOWSE Day here in Santa Fe by giving free hugs on the Santa Fe Plaza. Hope-HOWSE is a local non-profit organization in New Mexico that brings music, laughter, outreach and rehabilitation to inmates in New Mexican jails and prisons. The founder and director of Hope-HOWSE, Jane Davis, was also the mastermind behind our recent visit to bring Laughter Yoga to the Bernalillo Detention Center near Albuquerque. Jane is a true hero, and she has walked more than ten inmates from death row to their executions, bearing witness for them as they paid the ultimate price. Jane does amazing work in the world, and she is one of our newest Santa Fean friends. 

Sunday was actually Hope-HOWSE Day as declared nine years ago by the Governor, and a great deal of love was spread around downtown Santa Fe......

Here's Jane, on the right.....


Friday, September 17, 2010

Fun Friday: Close to Home

Today's Fun Friday activities again kept us close to home after a very busy work week with lots of driving for Keith. Mary, on the other hand, commented on how she spent the last four days without even leaving The Commons, making us realize just how satisfying life in community can be. With kids, dogs, friendly neighbors, community meals and the spontaneous socializing that community engenders, one can stick around the neighborhood for days and not feel isolated or out of touch with the world.

So, the day began with a relaxing morning at home, a bike ride to town, and a leisurely swim with time in the late summer sun by the poolside.

Biking through town, we noted that Santa Fe is still crawling with tourists who continue to throng the streets, sidewalks and hotels, and there is no outward signs of economic turmoil here in "The City Different". At a local hotel, we came upon a group of housekeeping employees having a field day in the parking lot as they pelted their managers with water balloons, laughing uproariously. Some seemed less shy when the managers had their backs turned and didn't know who was throwing! In her infinite wisdom, Mary went up to the supervisor who had masterminded this "team building" exercise and gave her our card, inviting her to consider Laughter Yoga for their next team meeting or retreat.

It was a glorious day here in Northern New Mexico, and despite a weather forecast calling for "the possibility of late afternoon thunderstorms", the sun shone brilliantly from dawn to dusk, as usual. There has been precious little rain this summer, and the "monsoon season" amounted to little rain, but we were indeed rewarded with numerous breathtaking sunsets and rainbows.

After our outing to town, we were taken out to dinner by our neighbors and friends Bob and Ann, who graciously treated us to dinner in return for us dog-sitting for their beloved Barney while they were in Europe. Even the dogs came to dinner!

It was yet another glorious day here in Santa Fe, and we are grateful---as always---for the abundance of blessings in our lives!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Love You

Here's a little glimpse of something I left for Mary on the kitchen counter as I left for work at 6 in the morning while she and Tina slept.....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A (Rio) Grande Birthday!

Yesterday, September 11th, we celebrated Mary's 51st birthday in the grande style she had requested: by floating down the Rio Grande with inner tubes! Although Mary had her own inner tubing adventure on the Rio Grande several months ago, her greatest wish had been to tube down the river with myself and our son, Rene, so we honored her request and made it happen!

It was a lovely September day here in northern New Mexico, with the temperatures hovering around 82 degrees. After a riverside picnic and other preparations, we hit the river around 2pm, not knowing if we would make it all the way to the second vehicle which was parked almost four miles downstream. With three tubes and an extra raft carrying "supplies" (local beer, peanuts and water!), the intrepid trio set out on our sojourn with high hopes and spirits.

Being late in the season, the river was somewhat low, with some areas less than a foot deep. Experienced in such things, Mary intelligently taught us how to position our bodies in order to avoid major injuries to our coccyx bones. No matter the water level, the scenery was breathtaking as always, with the high Pilar cliffs towering above us as herons, ducks and other birds marked our passage.

Happily, there were five rapids that were great fun and quite exciting, although nothing felt truly dangerous since this is a part of the river quite popular for leisurely inner tubing. We each shot through the rapids without mishap, although Mary did have one complete dunking early on!

As the sun began to sink below the cliffs to our right, the ambient temperature did begin to drop around 5pm, and we dragged ourselves out of the river, with Keith and Rene experiencing marked chattering of the teeth (a strange sensation which I recall as usually being reserved for winter sports).

Up on the road, we quickly warmed in the sun as a personable fisherman befriended us and another friendly passerby stopped spontaneously to offer to take a group photo. Moments later, an equally friendly pair of women in a pickup truck stopped and gave Rene a ride upriver to our van, cementing the fact that people here in New Mexico are quick to be friendly and quick to lend a helping hand.

Changing out of our wet clothes, we drove to the nearby town of Dixon for a lovely birthday dinner, the owner of the restaurant gifting Mary with a birthday surprise: a homemade pinon (pine nut) cookie topped with local vanilla ice cream! The entire staff came out to sing "Happy Birthday", and the birthday girl beamed in delight.

It was a great day, a memorable day, and I have no doubt that Mary will live up to her new self-description: "fifty-one and full of fun!"

Happy Birthday, Mary! We love you so!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Zozobra, The Original "Burning Man"

Last night, we attended the annual burning of "Zozobra", also known as "Old Man Gloom", here in Santa Fe. Since 1924, the Santa Fe Fiesta has begun with a public ritual of burning up the past in a civic exorcism and conflagration, with a 50-foot bogeyman as the central figure. Citizens are encouraged to bring divorce papers, photo albums, mortgages, anything they want to release to the fires of transformation, and Zozobra's body is filled with the detritus of the past year as a way to make way for the new. Hosted by the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club since 1963, this is grand public theater in which the citizens of "The City Different" come together for a party like no other.

Zozobra looms over Fort Marcy Park, with a mini Old Man Gloom in the foreground....

Meanwhile, security are out in force on the ground and the rooftops as 30,000 revelers make their way to the park for the festivities....

Children relish cotton candy and other treats......

And everyone has fun in anticipation.....

And as the sun begins to go down, the cast of characters emerge in order to enact Zozobra's demise.....

Fireworks underscore that this is the 400th anniversary of Santa Fe, the oldest state capital in the United States, a capital whose beginnings were marked by bloodshed, the Pueblo Revolt, and the conquering and subduing of the Indians by the Spanish....(and it is this very history that makes the Fiesta somewhat controversial since it commemorates the suppression of the Indians who revolted against Spanish rule, and those tensions exist to this day)....

The fire dancers emerge, taunting Zozobra with their torches.....

Zozobra flails his limbs and makes his voice heard in a plaintive roar that goes on for ten or fifteen minutes......

And suddenly his head bursts into flames......

And he begins to burn and the crowd cheers and applauds his demise.......

It is quite a spectacle as Santa Feans of all walks of life scream "burn him!" as Old Man Gloom goes up in flames and collapses into a heap on the ground, with scores of papers, photographs and all manner of ephemera from the past year burning along with him. It is a ritual, a collective letting go of the past, a ritual that coincides with the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the celebration of Rosh Hoshanah prior to the dignified solemnity and reconciliation of Yom Kippur. We burn up the old, ring in the new, and give up our fears, angers and regrets to the flames.

And so Old Man Gloom meets his demise yet again..........