Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas in Santa Fe

Our first Christmas in Santa Fe has been a wonderful, magical and community-centered experience unlike no other. Just like the celebrations of the summer months, "The City Different" knows how to have fun and put on a party, and our own microcosm of the city here at The Commons on the Alameda Cohousing Community also knows how to make the most of the season.

On Christmas Eve, we made our way to Canyon Road for the very famous Canyon Road Christmas Eve walk, an event that is now attended by 20,000 to 30,000 people. But first, we stopped at a local gourmet chocolate shop for spicy Mayan hot chocolate to pique our palates and warm our bones.

On this special night, the entire road is closed to vehicular traffic and is transformed into a spectacle of bonfires (luminarias) and farolitos (paper bags filled with sand and lit with candles). Some galleries, residents and shops go all out, lighting their property and adobe walls with dozens, if not hundreds, of farolitos, and the effect is stunning.

Many galleries and shops offer free hot cider, cocoa and snacks, and there are planned and spontaneous outbursts of holiday singing and caroling at every turn. Although there are thousands of people, it is a very tranquil event, and there was a very palpable peaceful aura all through the city.

Thanks to a local friend, we were invited to several nearby house parties, where we were treated to hot food, egg nog, and other holiday cheer. It was a nice respite from the chilly night, and we were greeted along the way by people gathered in front of fires along the darkened streets.

Christmas Day dawned bright and sunny, with abundant blue skies. Here at The Commons, a group of carolers wandered the community beginning at 10am, singing for various neighbors as they asked for their cups to be filled. We rewarded these intrepid singers with French cognac, and then joined them on their merry rounds. We ended our singing at a neighbor's home, where a generous spread of food and drink was on offer, with kids and dogs running and playing in the large living room as adults laughed and talked.

Luckily for us, our son and daughter-in-law arrived from Taos by noon, and we enjoyed a long, lazy day of opening presents, cooking a sumptuous meal, walking along the river, and playing charades after sundown. It was a lovely and memorable time, and the day ended as sweetly as it began.

On Sunday---Boxing Day---we had a delicious brunch with our "kids" and bid them adieu. Leaving Tina at home, we went for a very special hike in the hills along the Rio Tesuque outside of town, and marveled at the beauty of the forest, the icy running water, and the sun that tried its best to make its way down into the shady darkness of the forest.

This evening, a Boxing Day gathering at The Commons featured desserts, even more holiday cheer, and time to elongate the holiday feelings that have enveloped our little community all week.

It's been a special holiday weekend, and we look forward to the celebrations that will no doubt be in the offing as 2010 wanes and 2011 dawns.

Happy holidays to all, and our blessings to you and yours at this special time of year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Teletubby Friends

Mary has a penchant for finding curious toys and objects wherever we go, and many of these become like talismen or mascots for us, hanging out on tables, altars, dashboards, and other places where they collect dust and sometimes become a part of our family landscape (like this rubber duck that Mary found in Chama, New Mexico on the banks of the river---he still lives in our shower).

Once upon a time, Mary found a 2-inch replica of "Dipsy", one of the four "Teletubbies". For those of you unfamiliar with the Teletubbies, they are a group of creatures made famous by a somewhat psychedelic British television program that aired for many years on American PBS stations. The Teletubbies were made especially infamous by Jerry Falwell, who claimed that one of the characters---the purple "Tinky Winky" who was festooned with a triangular purple antenna on his head and carried a purple handbag---was gay.

At any rate, our little green Dipsy has been living on our front porch among various rocks and stones for many months, and two neighborhood girls somehow took a shine to him. Like many children here in The Commons, these girls see precious little television and have no notion of who or what the Teletubbies are, but they periodically knock on our door, politely ask to borrow Dipsy, and then just as graciously return him when they're done playing. It's a sweet ritual, and it's amazing how a little 2-inch broken plastic statuette can bring such joy and imaginative play to two creative, innocent and beautiful children.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Misery Loves Company, or Great Expectorations

Well, since our arrival home last Saturday from our whirlwind (and somewhat stressful) trip to the East Coast, Mary and I have been holed up in our casita, nursing monster viral illnesses that have pretty much laid us flat. Although I became ill just three days into our trip, Mary did not show signs of illness until our last day in New England, the day after she had her memorable post-Thanksgiving emergency root canal.
Calling in sick to work for the entire week and canceling all appointments except for mutual sessions with our chiropractor, we basically entered a state of collective suspended animation, spending entire days in our casita, leaving only for several minutes at a time to give Tina brief walks. (Actually, we were generally so sick that we were sometimes unable to walk Tina, so we chose to just let her out on her own, except for nighttime when the coyotes are prowling the nearby river bed, hungry for a sweet canine or feline morsel.)
On Monday evening, too sick to make it to community dinner (and unwilling to infect others with our illness), a neighbor delivered our dinner to us when we requested that someone do so, and we gratefully slurped on homemade soup. Meanwhile, someone has brought us chicken soup, a neighbor is loaning us a vaporizer/humidifier, someone else called from the co-op to see if we need anything, and others have also checked in to see how we are and what we need.
To this day, our coughs continue (although Mary’s is improving), and as I posted on Twitter a few days ago, the used tissues have piled up like so much snotty snow. And to add insult to injury, I believe I have suffered a hairline rib fracture from the force of my persistent cough. Oy.
Illness notwithstanding, yesterday a momentous day dawned, and the 18-wheeler on which we had packed all of our worldly possessions not one week ago in Amherst, Massachusetts arrived to our new storage unit here in Santa Fe. Rallying our strength and meeting up with our excellent hired help (a sweet father-and-son team), we unloaded the truck, carefully packed the storage unit, and brought selected furniture and beloved objects to our casita. Having lived with our clothes in cardboard boxes for the last seven months (and crammed into small spaces in the RV for nine months before that), each of us having a dresser seems like an unheard of luxury, and we will continue to discover small treasures and beloved belongings as we slowly comb through the contents of our storage unit.
So, you may ask, dear Reader, why have the intrepid travelers and self-proclaimed “nomadic communitarians” decided to bring all of their worldly goods to the West? Are they thinking about remaining in Santa Fe? What about the continued search for community and the optimal climate for living?
What we have decided is that, except for friends and family who we love dearly, our ties to the East Coast have indeed weakened, and we have decided to stay in the West for the foreseeable future. Although Santa Fe still holds our attention and we are happy at The Commons on the Alameda, this area is not feeling like our “forever home”, and other horizons will eventually beckon once the time to move on has presented itself. Until then, there is still much to explore and experience here in Northern New Mexico, and we are presently traveling while rooted in one place (something that Tina is especially thrilled about!).
So, as the used tissues continue to pile up and gallons of tea with honey are imbibed (with the odd shot of sherry or port wine for reasons of pure constitutional fortification, of course), we feel our mutual suffering coming to an end, and our (admittedly somewhat cozy) self-imposed isolation will also cease.
It’s been a long two weeks, replete with a whirlwind trip to the other coast, acute illness, reuniting with our life’s possessions, and the reminder that our bodies need important rest and recuperation when under duress. Yes, Misery loves Company (guess which one of us is Misery and which one is Company!), and we know this time of companionable misery and great expectorations will remain a poignant memory long after the trash is taken out and the surfaces summarily disinfected.
We are wishing everyone out there in blogland a most happy, healthy and joyous holiday season, and we send you all our love, respect and gratitude. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

From the West to the East, and Back Again

Almost thirteen months after our departure on our excellent adventure, we flew east from New Mexico on Thanksgiving Day, landing in Boston in time for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at Keith's brother's cozy home in Somerville. With our niece visiting from Port-au-Prince where she works with the Haitians on rebuilding their country, and our nephew on break from college in Washington, DC, it was like "old home week", made even more delightful by the presence of our son and daughter-in-law who had flown from Albuquerque to Boston just two days prior to us.

Our lovely daughter-in-law Bevin and handsome son Rene
Our good friends Deborah and Nancy

Keith and his brother Ken
Having ten days to see everyone we wanted to see and do everything we needed and wanted to do, it was a tall order to accomplish it all and manage to be fully present for each encounter with family and friends without allowing our minds to wander too much to the next destination.

The first few days in New England were relatively easy, and our time in Boston and Manchester-by-the-Sea flew by. Walking on Singing Beach in Manchester with our dear friends and visiting with our god-daughters was joyful, but we were still quietly daunted by the next leg of the journey.

With our friends Maria and Vint
Keith's goddaughters, Andi and Vikki
A five-hour drive to New Jersey on the Monday after Thanksgiving delivered us to the hospital where Keith's father was dealing with some serious health issues, and we were closely involved in his transfer to a nearby rehab facility. Unfortunately, our itinerary prevented us from lingering too long, and it was most difficult to leave him in the rehab, miserable and lonely, as we made our way to Brooklyn in order to visit a very dear friend who is waging a battle against metastatic ovarian cancer.

Having only twenty-four hours with our friend was bittersweet, but we were quickly able to adjust to her skeletal body and see that her spirit is intact, and no matter her outer appearance, she's still "in there", with the same sweet smile and loving manner. Being entertained by her delightful grandchildren, the two cherubic children were an antidote to our weariness and opened our hearts for a visit that lifted all of our spirits, even as Keith became ill with apparent bronchitis and our subsequent destinations beckoned us away.

Exhausted, we drove north to Western Massachusetts and our beloved Pioneer Valley, spending the night at the Pioneer Valley Cohousing community, a stay made all the more enjoyable by the hospitality of good friends.

Once in the Valley, Keith's illness became worse, and it became apparent that Mary would need an emergency root canal. As if orchestrated by powers beyond our control (as it most likely indeed was), Mary was able to undergo urgent dental surgery by the best root canal specialist in Massachusetts, surgery that immediately resolved the pain that had been incrementally increasing over the last few months, coming to an excruciating head during our visit. (Thanks to this masterful oral surgeon, Mary was able to avoid the astronomical pain that the high altitude of the flight home to Albuquerque would have certainly caused.)

During our few brief days in Western Mass, we were able to revisit the home of our friend David who took his own life last November several weeks following our departure, as well as spend some time with an elderly disabled friend who brought a joyful lift to our spirits.

David, one month prior to his death
Amidst Keith's illness and Mary's pain, our very dear friends hosted a heartwarming and wonderful party in our honor, and we were able to spend an unforgettable evening with more than 20 friends who arrived with delicious food, drinks, smiling faces and open arms. The conversations and sharing were deep that night, and a circle towards the end of the gathering allowed many to share life updates, memories and stories with the entire group.

Finally, as our ten day sojourn came to a close, it was time to face the ultimate test: our 10 x 10 storage unit. Sorting and repacking the flotsam and jetsam of our lives in the damp, cold New England air was no picnic, but we were able to successfully fit everything into a 6 x 8 x 10 space on an 18-wheeler moving truck which will deliver our worldly goods to our New Mexican storage unit in just under a week. It was a Herculean effort, but it will bring us great peace of mind to have all of our things where we can access them, rather than sitting in a damp storage bin 2,000 miles away.

Even though it was a stretch, to say the least, dealing with our stuff now clears the way for more uninterrupted quality time with friends and family during future visits to the East Coast. We look forward to certain special things being once again in our possession, including our super-duper juicer, German vacuum cleaner, and some beloved art that will soon grace the walls of our casita.

We are so grateful to our friends and family who hosted us, treated us with such love, and who made this trip wonderful despite the physical and emotional challenges that confronted us along the way. We honestly had some trepidation that our visit to New England would engender some wistful nostalgia, perhaps triggering the feeling that completely relocating to the West was not necessarily what we ultimately desire. However, what resulted from this trip back East was the cementing of the notion that we can continue to nurture and grow the many wonderful friendships that will no doubt mature into lifelong connections regardless of geographic distance.

Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, and this also applies to our return to New Mexico. Flying over the breathtaking mesas and mountains, we did actually feel like we were coming home, and Tina greeted us happily with a wagging tail and her ubiquitous and unending desire for treats.

It wasn't easy, but the trip was extremely successful, and we feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the wonderful people in our lives. Now we will settle in for our first New Mexican winter, and continue to allow our lives to unfold as they will. It's good to be back.