I’ve been staring at the screen off and on for days, trying to figure out what to blog about this week.
This happens sometimes when I’ve been away from Albuquerque for too long. And I have been away longer than usual, thanks to some extra travel this month. But in some ways, I'm never that far away from Albuquerque.
So I’m wondering:
Should I start with the most popular question of the week from my colleagues here in DC - several of whom seem to be BBC aficionados – about the (now former) Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman C de Baca’s recent statements
Or shall I begin with the conversation I had with a man on the train to Philadelphia, who asked about the bumper sticker on my laptop touting a certain candidate
for the U.S. Senate? Or maybe the guy I met in a meeting in Washington just this morning, who grew up in Los Lunas and whose mom in Albuquerque is also working on this campaign?
Or perhaps the conversation I had yesterday on Capitol Hill with a woman from Albuquerque about where to get
any breakfast burritos in DC?
Or the e-mail conversation I had with a colleague who works on the floor above me, whose parents happen to live in NM? (And what’s more, I even know them!)
I know that DCF has more than a few readers who stay in touch with Albuquerque from afar. Depending on the day or week, I’m one of them.
During the academic year, I live a ten day/five day schedule – working out of town in DC or Philadelphia for ten days and coming home to Albuquerque for five days. I know the flight patterns in and out of Albuquerque so well that the smallest deviation from routine gets me to wondering. My views above Albuquerque have led me to explore parts of the city that I would not have discovered otherwise. (For the record, I prefer coming in over Four Hills. Even though that route is often more turbulent, I like it because I get glimpses of some of my favorite trails
in the Sandias).
If, as is now the case, I’ve been away from home for more than my usual ten days (it has been almost a month) I find myself fantasizing about how I will spend my time once I get off the plane, step outside the Sunport
, and take in my first breath of dry desert air laced with equal parts sage and jet exhaust.
There are two things that I do without fail upon every return home – one is to have a meal with my family at one of our favorite restaurants
, a place where the waitress hugs each of us hello and goodbye and where the cook (the waitress’s brother) gives us gifts of trees and other plantings from his garden.
The second is to put on my hiking boots and head to the bosque
the morning after I arrive. I’ve been walking this particular stretch of bosque for more than ten years, and I am just as attuned to changes here as I am to changes in the airplane descent to Albuquerque.
When I was in college, I read a book that changed my life - A Sand County Almanac
, written by former Albuquerque resident Aldo Leopold
. The book chronicles his musings about watching his farmstead in Wisconsin return back to nature.
I was at that stage in life where I moved fairly often, as college students typically do. The idea spending time watching the same parcel of land over and over, through the years, watching seasons come and go, was alien and off-putting. I wanted to travel the world, to get out, to see different cultures and different scenes – cityscapes and naturescapes. Staying on one piece of land and watching it change over the years seemed about as exciting as watching paint dry.
But there was something about Leopold’s writings that drew me in and made me think. It stayed with me for a long time. And then one day, a few months after I moved to Barelas and started walking on what I now think of as “my trail”, I started to understand how watching the small changes on a patch of forest could be just as fulfilling and thought-provoking as travelling to a distant land.
I began to notice the cyclical patterns of birds living and visiting the forest, the effects of fire and snowstorms on the forest, the annual rise and fall of the river, and the appearance of mulberries and other fruit in spring and summer.
I notice the first yellowing leaf in July/August and the reddish tone of tree branches in early spring just before they begin to leaf out. I watch for coyote tracks and scat, and delight in seeing signs of owl pellets, all indications that the forest is healthy enough to sustain the cycle of life.
As we grow into our lives, most of us build habits, some of which morph into ritual. For me, the ritual of returning to Albuquerque always includes two things – reacquainting myself with the people I love and places I cherish.
So I'm curious, what are your 'returning to Albuquerque' rituals?