I have always loved New Mexico, great wondrous place that it is. Due to it’s close proximity to Denver and family connections, it was a frequent vacation destination for my family. It was also the destination of my first vacation with Gregory, before we were married, so it is quite the special place. My Grandpa and Mom were both born there, and my Nana lived there until her death in 1988. Nana lived in a great old adobe house near Old Town Albuquerque with hollyhocks growing in the yard. She was a woman with a large presence, though I cannot recall if she was actually large.
She sat in a chair in the front room, receiving guests like a queen, her oxygen tube protruding from her nose and snaking about the living room. One time, my dad stepped on the tube while we were there, and she told him, rather non-chalantly, considering he’d just cut off her air, “Jim, you’re stepping on my snake.” I looked around in terror, ready to run from this horrible creature that somehow sneaked into her home, before she laughed, and I realized it wasn’t really a snake. It was just Nana, being herself. It was this kind of behavior that both frightened me and delighted me.
On another occasion, when I was visiting with my grandparents and my cousin, Stephanie, I was cheerfully playing in the living room while she was holding court with my grandparents. She suddenly asked me why I wasn’t playing outside. I looked out the window and noticed it had started to rain, one of those great afternoon storms, and said as much. She proceeded to call me a pansy (one of her favorite flowers) and tell me that a little water wouldn’t hurt me. Perhaps cut from the came cloth as she, I stuck to my guns and stayed inside. Now, on occasions where the rain is warm like that day, I go outside, arms wide, and spin, raindrops falling on my cheeks and tongue, and say, “Hello Nana!”
The whole of New Mexico is like my Nana for me, really, frightening and utterly delightful. Frightening for the stormy weather, enormous clouds building and exploding with thunder, lightening, and giant raindrops that make me and the dusty earth quiver and dance. Frightening for the hot sun that puckers my skin and dries the landscape. Frightening for the wild animals, howling at night, or slithering along paths, looking for carrion, looking for me.
Yet all that frightens me, delights me, too. I love the giant thunderheads just before they break, the scent of ozone after an electrical storm, the moisture lying delicately on top of that dusty ground, soon to be only a memory. I love the way that same hot sun browns my skin, lightens my hair, and my mood. I love the adobe houses that dot the sun-baked hills, redolent with the scent of pinon and juniper, next to the brilliant blue of the sky. I love watching the birds and rabbits dance with wild pleasure, searching for their next meal. I love it all.
Goodness me! All this and I haven’t even talked about the people or the food, both are wonderful. I have found New Mexicans to be very open, deeply spiritual, and an extremely kind. These pleasant attributes translate very well in the kitchen. When we are in New Mexico, Gregory and I gorge on the local food, sometimes eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We simply cannot get enough of the flavors: posole, beans, green chile, chile rellenos, tamales, enchiladas, burritos, sopapillias, oh my! There are no two ways about it, this food is heaven on a plate.
The pictures, by the way are the Church of San Francisco, near the Plaza, in Santa Fe. San Francisco is the patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment. Legend has it that St. Francis, on his deathbed, thanked his donkey for carrying and helping him throughout his life, and his donkey wept.
The church is a beautiful place to take respite from shopping and wandering Santa Fe. In particular, I enjoy walking the labyrinth in the courtyard. There’s that sky I talked about, too. No pictures of the food, though. We gobbled it up!