November 14, 2005

I got me a cowgirl hat. Now I fit in. Except for the freckles.

Driving over the Rockies on our way to Durango, we were stopped just shy of the pass due to a road- widening project. I've never been in a blast zone that was actually blasting before. We stood outside and cheered when the explosion rumbled the ground and echoed off the surrounding peaks. We whooped and hollered when the truckers drove past us, carrying their load of fallen rocks, shouting hooray! and bravo! and encore! The truckers smiled at us and raised their fists in salute. One guy swung his hat around like a bronco rider. Another scowled at us, confused.

The next morning we drove into Mesa Verde, a national park in the southwestern corner of Colorado. Mesa Verde is home to hundreds of ruins dating back to about 600 A.D; the Ancestral Pueblans built elaborate stone villages in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls, and many of them are still standing, camouflaged, cities of limestone brick, the walls of the buildings perfectly tailored to fit their surroundings. We hiked down into a canyon to get a closer look at the Spruce Tree Dwelling, and I wanted so much to go back in time and live amongst the people for a little bit, working hard and living simply.

We tramped further into the park on a path carved into the cliff face, stunned by the views, stopping every few moments to watch the hawks floating on the wind, to make up stories about the petroglyphs carved into the walls, and to chat about the scenery and spirituality and the tour and other things.

The next day we drove through Monument Valley National Park in southern Utah and northern Arizona, typifying my idea of the American Southwest, all mesas and buttes, sandstone towers rising hundred of feet into the air, rocks balanced precariously atop one another, blue sky, big clouds, and fine, red earth. It was so easy to see why many Native American peoples revere and worship the land. How could you not feel an overwhelming sense of spirituality and wonder while gazing at that vibrant and desolate landscape, feeling so small, feeling like a part of something that is beyond imagining?

We stayed in the town of Cuba, New Mexico that night at the Del Prado Motel, which had an old dusty comforter, wood-paneled walls, and well-worn carpet. Walking down Main Street (and the only street) of Cuba, two things jumped out at me: one, we were quite possibly the only gringos in this tiny town of Native American and Hispanic inhabitants and, two, every single building was decorated for Christmas.

It was a bit surreal to walk down the vacant, dark street, pick-ups whizzing by every few minutes, with the steady flash of Christmas lights and the glow of hanging icicles and Santas moving back and forth and back and forth on people's roofs, tall glowing candy canes in every other yard, wreaths and garland and holly and ivy on every lamppost.

So much decoration on November 10 seemed slightly preemptive.

In the morning we learned that Cuba, New Mexico had the honor of hosting a parade to see off an 80- foot Engelmann Spruce, cut down from the Santa Fe National Forest and on its way to Washington DC to serve as this year's Capitol tree. We also learned that we were going to miss the parade by only a day. Thus, the decorations.

After a well-received show in Albuquerque, we left this morning for the long drive to Virginia. We hoped to make it to Oklahoma City tonight, but were stopped short when our bus started making funny noises again. We're in Elk City, Texas right now, waiting for the mechanic to take a look at the bus in the morning. Poor bus. It's ready for retirement. Give it as many new U-joints and brake pads and drive shafts as you want, but in the end, it just needs a break. Too bad it chose Oklahoma this time.