Sunday, November 27, 2005
Homesick for high desert
I occasionally stumble across this photo online and it always brings back memories. I once lived for several years in the Northern New Mexico village of Nambe, and would often ride my bike over the hilly, two-lane highway to Chimayo. I'd drop down the steep descent into the village, round a couple of turns and roll down the street visible on the right, then turn onto the little road where the lowrider car is parked. In fact, I used to see that car often. Never saw that particular bike, though there were many similar ones ridden by the local kids who pedaled only until they could a license and a bouncing sedan.
I'd sit under cottonwood trees outside El Santuario de Chimayo to drink water and eat a Power Bar. The tourists, with cameras around their necks and sandals on their feet, would file in and out of the old church as I listened to water flowing through the ancient acequia at the edge of the compound. I'd look up at the mountains nearby and try to savor the sights, smells and sounds of the place. I love Northern New Mexico and still miss it. But Chimayo has a dark, violent history and that little spot in the church courtyard was mine only for a few moments at a time—and only during the day.
I have a friend who has lived her entire life in the area. She can go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, because she has the right name and the right shade of skin. I trust her and always knew it was genuine concern that prompted her warnings: Be gone before the tourists leave and the sun goes down. I always heeded the advice.
But someday I'd still love to get back there to pedal over that great old highway beneath the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and blast down that hill into Chimayo like a rocket. Damn, that was fun.