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Across the Rio Grande and down the road a piece lies Ojo Caliente, a home away from home going on twenty-five years now. It is as beautiful and restful as ever, and delight of delights, positively resplendent in the light of farolitos. It rained, something new for us, lying in the half light of evening, giant drops falling slow and steady on our faces as we soaked. A perfect ending to our stay, really, a nod to Portland, too.

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This land, this sun, the green gold of sage, tubleweed, and brittle grass is me. As much as flesh, as much as bone. It is love turned to dust to be blown and spread upon the fields. My heart soars at the Zia of the New Mexico highway sign, sign that I am home, faded light of the chambray sky filling every chamber.

This is what the West is to me. Nearly completely unknown until I moved across the country and withered in the wet of the East. The stench of pollution and the sadness of winter bare trees, hills leading to more hills, no snow capped mountains, no turquoise, no pinon. And so I was lost, save for the love of the hubster and my dear, dear friends. Profoundly, oddly. I thought I could live anywhere, my love for the world, my eager limbs ready to root. This is what it is to learn, to listen, to return to where we are called. Here! This place!

Our first stop on this Thanksgiving trip is Taos: choke cherry, chocolate (at chokola – deelicious!!), and colorful cemeteries. Twenty-four years since we were last there, and I, of impeccable memory, don’t recognize a thing. All is new and dazzling, yet again. We stay in the little geodesic dome on the outskirts of town, starlight dense and wild, the universe peering down on our sleeping, our sleeplessness, our laughter, through the triangle of light. The cat will cry at the door until we let it in and it cuddles like it is ours. Dogs do the same, bounding down the path. Coyotes sing us to sleep, a most thorough welcome home.

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The Last Frontier. Land of the Midnight Sun and Dr. Seuss-like flowers. Alaska! Did you see the glacier in my last post? Giant and gorgeous, let me tell you. The mantra for the entire state, I think.

I went to cuddle and bounce a sweet baby boy; jump and run and play with a delightful three-year-old; and while the hours with fantastically neat adult persons. It’s Solveig and Family, with the fine bonus of traveling to Alaska to get the job done. What a wonderfully jam-packed and magical time, truly. I saw mountains, so many mountains, verdant and snow capped; glaciers, ice, changing tides, mystical boreal forests, and practically needed to wire my jaw to keep it from dropping at the stunning beauty of it all. We visited the state fair. I ate wild salmon and reindeer, syrup and tea made from birch trees, jams and jellies from salmon berries, fir tips, and Sitka roses.

And the baby boy is perfect – cuddly and healthy, and, probably goes without saying, adorable. Luna – do you remember Luna? – is a scrapper, a full belly laugher, and light up the room smiler. She calls me “Your Friend.” “Will Your Friend jump on the trampoline?” “Will Your Friend play with me?” “When can your friend push me on the swings?” “Can Your Friend read me a story?” “Where is Your Friend?” “WHY does Your Friend live so far away?!!”

Beautiful Mama. Proud, too.


John Grade – “Floats”

At the Anchorage Museum now, one of the most unique I have ever visited, as the collection and the various exhibits are very specific to the far North (Anchorage lies at 61 degrees). There is art (and sound) that explores the existence of polar bears, the isolated life of the Arctic, as well as indigenous works. They are beautiful, often stark, and sometimes haunting. They also have places for kids (and, ahem, their adult companions) to learn about science by blowing bubbles, jumping, climbing, even making earthquakes!

The highway to Seward and a stroll along the coastal trail, which hugs the Cook Inlet. If I had one regret on this trip, it would be that I left my long lens and tripod at home. My eyes devoured what my camera could not. Next year!! The hubster and I will return together and make up for it.


Missouri to Nebraska, that is, and day two of our glorious drive west. That’s the Mississippi River, running swift and high, high, high. And the view of it? One and the same Samuel Clemens A.K.A. Mark Twain had when he was a boy in Hannibal. How cool is that? Hannibal is a charmer of a town, with many of the buildings from Mark Twain’s day in fine repair and available for touring, though not on New Year’s Day at ten in the morning, for your information. We did enjoy fine hospitality and good coffee at the Java Jive, however.

Whoa Nelly! The shadow of the Mini looks rocket powered with our roof rack, zooming through the golden plains to Lincoln. The capitol building is the second tallest among America’s fine fifty. Isn’t she a beauty?


Me and my best love, our drive west and the Mini packed tight. We had seven suitcases, three tote bags, one duffel bag, one milk crate, one Vitamix (nestled between us in the arm rest!), one computer monitor, one fire extinguisher, and one gallon of laundry detergent! The heavy burden made our car 10 miles per gallon less efficient and injured my right arm so terribly that I could not move it AT ALL for three days. Oof. But boy howdy, was it worth it! We are home. And what a marvelous drive we had, missing every bit of bad weather. We saw not one snowflake nor rain drop fall, and were treated to some of the most gorgeous landscapes America has on offer. My love for this great country has been galvanized further still, yes ma’am.

And the little white house, off of Sangamon Avenue in Springfield, Illinois, is where my Grandma Tess was born and my Great Aunt Mary lived until she was well into her seventies. Two adults, eight children, and who knows how many pets made their home in this wee two bedroom one bath. By some great stroke of luck, the current owner was sweeping the porch when we pulled up, and I asked him if we could go inside. He kindly obliged, and we spent the better part of the next hour sharing stories. Sadly for me, but great for the house, it is under renovation, with plastic and tarps obscuring the majority of the space. Thankfully, there was enough exposed to get a feel for it and my Grandma’s spirit in it, to see relatives I’ve only known in pictures puttering about, gazing out the window while washing a dish. Part of me is there now, too.

And Lincoln! It’s turned out to be quite a year for Colleen, Greg, and good ole Abraham. Gettysburg and Springfield – the train station from which he made many journeys and his final return, his law office, the old state capitol building where he worked, just one of many bronze monuments. And his crypt, which, wow, and hmmm, what to say? Evocative. If you have never been, go. Just go.

It was a sleepy New Year’s Eve, with us full up on sentimentality and hypnotized by a murmuration swirling about the capitol dome (that bit that looks like a smudge). The beat of wings the only sound we heard.


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