Day 14: I-25 NM Decisions & Conclusions

September Retreat

September 29, 2016

By this time, I knew I’d obtained an overwhelming amount of positive new experiences, befriended a vast variety of new people, and achieved a greater sense of intuition than I could have ever fathomed before my experiences. All those minerals floating around in the dry air and all those warm smiles and bright, wise eyes I encountered had such an impact on my spirit along with my life perspective. As I drove north, I could feel those threads of destiny that pulled me to Silver City had not particularly been attached to the land itself, but rather to the people. Particularly those people who happened to have gravitated to Lora’s house during my journey.

There were just too many options at this point, and for some reason I still couldn’t withstand Silver City’s wind and dark skies frazzling my thoughts. I realize, now, that I must express gratitude towards these plentiful options and opportunities handed down to me in not only one, but every place I went. God and the Universe/ Universal God had been abundant with grace towards me throughout this 14-day trip so far. I could not express any complaints, even when I was faced with the minor underlying health issue that has a tendency to bog down my energy levels at the perfect timing.

I believe this minor health issue causing fatigue is more of an intuitive awareness test, letting me know when something needs to come to an end. For example, it’s been very assertive in indicating whenever I should end a job and start something new. And if it’s not fatigue, it’s a cold (like when I resisted the urge to move out of my apartment). This time, I was being encouraged to take with me my new skills and assets I’d gained from this venture and head back north.

I left with impactful embraces from Lora, Laura, and Rob, and equally impactful words of wisdom from all of them:

“Just remember, you don’t have to have your whole life figured out right now. You’ll probably end up doing lots of jobs and projects and travel ventures in your life, and that’s okay.”- Rob

“I hope you feel pulled by something divine.” -Laura

“Don’t take yourself too seriously.” – Lora

It was especially hard to leave these three people, but they were all leaving on their own separate journeys in the following days anyway. At first I thought maybe I’d show up in Albuquerque to rest and maybe stay for a portion of the hot-air balloon festival. As I was driving, I didn’t feel that was a necessity anymore although I’d fallen in love with Albuquerque’s people and culture and could have stayed the full year. I was craving water. Some kind of water landscape that is more lush than the desert, perhaps where the rivers flow?

Finally, I surrendered to faith and made a deal with God and myself: Whenever my knees get too stiff and the sun begins to set, I’ll settle. 

Lora’s repetition of my own words came to me, “Remember, don’t take yourself too seriously.” Not permanently. Well, I mean, if the place seemed like a good, magical match for me then I would have. So I drove as far north as I possibly could, first diving as far south as I could to avoid the mountains this time to Las Cruces instead. The wispy clouds and the hard-rugged mountains were unbelievable to me. I’d never seen such projected shapes in nature before. For some reason, I felt like stopping at a Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage just because I was craving something familiar in the southmost part of my journey.

The scape of Las Cruces was uncannily familiar to me as it resembled Casper, Wyoming… and by driving with the intention of finding Natural Grocers as though I were driving in Casper, I found it intuitively in less than five minutes. I was so happy to set foot in this place that felt like home to me, and experienced the urge to shop for everything; however, I didn’t exactly need anything or have the capacity to carry produce back in a warm car. (If you are reading this and care to read my next post, this has a significant point.)

There were places I passed along the way that were originally on my list of destinations (i.e. Taos, Santa Fe). Even writing these two places brings joy to my fingertips. They are still in the sphere of possibilities. But like I said, why present myself with even more opportunities where of course, they could work out, and I would be forced to choose?

Maybe you’re thinking, “What’s wrong with her? Why can’t she just fall in love to end her story and make it easy on herself? Why does she try so hard choosing this solo wandering lifestyle?” similar to what my grandfather inquires frequently. Well, you can “fall in love” in any town you wish. I’ve found this especially true since I’ve met many parallel lives to people I knew before. You know- same eyes, same soul. I think the ones that are harder to see doubles of are the ones who are of yourself, since you are one of them and this decreases the odds.

However, if the resistance to fall in love still persists, this indicates you must still travel further and continue learning more about yourself. Maybe the truth is that you already know everything about yourself before you begin your travels, but there are more ample opportunities to see yourself in the eyes of others whom you don’t see on a daily basis where you normally reside. And perhaps you are a stubborn old soul, old as a hummingbird petroglyph, who won’t simply settle and in fact has no idea how to, which eventually becomes a burden to both yourself and those around you. So there you go: the truth in a nutshell in the middle of this essay.

I stalled in some towns and pondered the mysteries of this side of the desert state, ending up in Las Vegas, NM as the sun began to set. I pulled into town and marveled at the bushiness of the trees and the sharp rays of sunlight pouring through their branches; at the children playing in the yards; at the townsfolk laughing with one another. This particular neighborhood residential area was beautiful and reminded me Cheyenne’s historic downtown.

The sun was still too bright for me to settle, though I knew this was an ideal town to stay in for the night and my over-thinking mind led me straight to all the budget hotels.

So for another unexplainable reason, I kept on driving. I glanced over my shoulder to the left as I was encompassed by the majesty of the San Luis Valley of my ancestors to the most breathtaking soft-blue hue over the mountains and the Plains -esque valley. The cool colors in the clouds cast an array of lovely light into the land. I wanted to stay in Wagon Mound, where my grandfather was from, but quickly realized there were no hotels and possibly no inhabitants at all in this town. While I was there, I drove up to the “mound” overlooking the graveyard where I’m sure many ancestors lie. The lighting at this time of day was enamoring.

Taking the advice of my aunt whom I called since she had just been in this area the day before, I drove forty miles north to Springer, New Mexico. I was perceiving this to be near the border of Colorado but it was not quite that way in reality.

The colors of the sky were deepening, casting a fearful vibe into my already-tense body. I drove past two motels on the short, very rundown main street and then finally spotted one that appeared somewhat intriguing: a painted adobe called Broken Arrow. By this point, my knees were definitely aching stiffness to a near-extreme degree.

Tense as I was from the drive, I came off as skeptical and irritable to the owner who was still gracious to me. I asked him where the closest place would be to pick up something to eat, and he replied, “Probably about four miles out of town… unless you want to eat roasted green chilis and tortillas with us out back!”

I gave in to this offer that seemed too good to be true, as I could smell the aroma of green chilis roasting in the crisp evening air. While I attempted to unlock the door to my room  Jay’s wife, Frances, came over to point out I was trying to use the spare key to my cousin’s house I accidentally stole from her in Idledale, CO (near Evergreen). I was actually impressed and proud of myself this had been the single thing I’d forgotten throughout the course of my journey! With my scattered mind, the average rate would have estimated at least one item left behind in every stopping point. I had multiple methods of returning this to my cousin, but this was obviously signifying the key to something I would later figure out.

I tasted chilis of varying spice levels with the owners, their son, and their family friend. In exchange for the chilis and tortillas, I brought down my guitalele to play for them. We built a fire to sit around and had warm discussions. I agreed to come back for the infamous Bean Day festival in Wagon Mound, where people who originated from this area. Montana happened to also have family from Wagon Mound. We assume this is where life on Earth apparently originated, now left mysteriously desolate in the middle of the San Luis Valley. We spoke about the linguistics of New Mexico. Everyone here had such a familiar, comforting dialect to me and this was because it was that of my dad’s family.

“Thank you for being here. Thank you for… just you,” they said.

Singing, talking, eating chilis, and laughing around the fire proved to fulfill my journey’s end. I felt full near the end of it. I was feeling in sync with the Universe… and during this visit to Springer, New Mexico, it became clear that hummingbirds and butterflies were not the only wild creatures I was in direct communion with. Immediately when I mentioned cats flocking to me in every location I went, a wild cat came running to the back porch, meowing passionately and relentlessly as though she’d heard me talking about her behind her back.

The  fullness I felt was more because of the pure sincerity of these people I’d just met, I was sure. This was yet another instance in which I felt I’d formed family connections in a foreign town with a population of 1000 this time, so practically half of it.

But it was true about the cats: throughout my journey I’d become acquainted and somewhat attached to around 30 cats. After time around the fire, I was able to console this wild, lost cat wandering around frantically in search of something. Her meow was loud and relentless as she paced back and forth. When she ran to me and allowed me to hold her, it was a precious moment. I  was so tempted to take her with me; I knew we were so much alike in many ways and would make great companions for one another. In the morning, I could still hear her meowing.

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Day 13: Hummingbird Trailhead

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September 28, 2016

While I was sifting through piles of meaningless paper and lost notes that had been previously stored in drawers that were now sold and absent after my garage sale on September 10th, I repeatedly came across Papyrus cards with a hummingbird symbol and saying on the back:

Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.

So I knew the hummingbird’s presence was following me throughout my travels, but I’d forgotten of its presence until our hike to Hummingbird Trailhead.

Lora was waiting for me impatiently at 7am, knowing I did not come to life naturally as early as she. We hopped in the car and sped out of town so as not to miss the entire sunrise. We drove into the desert’s open land just in time. I stepped out of the car and into the purest air of the morning’s first rays. There was something grounding and special about this landscape I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Before we began the hike, Lora led a brief yoga session. Here, I felt myself coming to life again.

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“I’ll let you walk in front of me. If I were ahead, you’d be left behind in the dust.”

I walked ahead, inhaling the aroma of multiple desert plants and tall grasses. I swore I could smell the cool beauty of the mountains ahead. I pointed out desert plants that might be used as medicinal, comparing them to those I was familiar with in Colorado’s mountainous region. This slowed our hiking rate even more. It was gratifying to carefully observe the colors and shapes, slowing down to appreciate the desert essence.

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Near the peak of the trail where the Hummingbird petroglyph lie on top of rocks, I found myself overjoyed to spy at small pool of water, derived by a running waterfall. I couldn’t resist the urge to sit at the edge of the rocks and dip my feet into its liquid stillness. Even before I departed on my journey, I found that the stillness of water was always going to be an immediate soul-reviver for me.

After time spent with the water, I hiked to the top of the rocks where Lora was already meditating on the rock on which the hummingbird petroglyph was drawn. I joined her for a few minutes in this solitary spot overlooking a long line of rocks with petroglyph formations.

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On our way back, we encountered a familiar figure walking her dog along the trail. Lora called out to the woman and her dog, mistaking her for somebody else.

“Good morning! I’m not Madeline- my name’s Jamie,” the woman called out. As we stepped closer, I recognized her as the woman I’d spoke with at the herb shop the day before! So Lora, the Silver City socialite, didn’t know her… but I did! Jamie was a doula and an herbalist, and we’d carried a conversation about these things just the day before.

After passing time speaking with Jamie, who was a doppelgänger of two people we knew (one in Laramie and one in Silver City), we encountered a vividly majestic monarch outstretching her wings for us to gaze at in awe. Immediately after that, we ran into a group of women whom Lora actually did know. While I discussed the state with them, the most memorable quote I was given is, “New Mexico has a soul.”

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It was as though this monarch was encouraging me to outstretch my heart’s wings to all new possibilities. I’d never experienced a moment of such deep communication with a winged insect before, but through its silence and gentle motion, it conveyed to us a clear message.

I have always analyzed the color orange as representing the message: “don’t take yourself so seriously”. As I was talking through my life crisis and my future plans, this was something that slipped from my mouth unconsciously. I said, “And then, on the other hand, I wonder why I have to constantly be taking myself so seriously. Because there’s not only one right option for my life path.”

At this we both laughed. On the car ride back to Lora’s house with a brief detour of some scenes around town, she turned up the radio that happened to be playing Pocketful of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfield– a song of my youth- which I recalled had been playing in my head upon waking up that morning.

There’s a place where I go, where the rivers flow, and I call it home. And there’s no more lies; in the darkness there’s light and nobody cries- there’s only butterflies.

The sun is on my side, and takes me for a ride. I smile up to the sky; I know I’ll be alright.

“Wow, that’s a powerful message for you,” Lora stated later with a wink.

Was it the rivers calling me to them? What was their message? Go with the flow…  reminding me that I could no longer resist the fact that I was eternally part of the ebb and flow of life.

We ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Silver City where she referred to me as her “weekend daughter” to the waitress. She was smiling at every person in the restaurant so lovingly. “I love the faces of Silver City. Good, hard-working people. That’s how I describe the people of this city,” she responded to my question about the people culture. “But Silver City’s still fresh to me since I’m only here during the summer.” Lora prefers traveling solo to foreign countries throughout the remaining of the year.

It was this kind of fearlessness and open-mindedness that silently attached itself to my own thought process while I was around Lora and others in New Mexico.

I spent the rest of the day at a coffee shop applying to jobs in Taos, of all places. I couldn’t say why, not having visited Taos on this particular journey, I was drawn to apply for jobs there- other than because that was the closest location to the actual setting of my novel. I hadn’t given myself the time to work on my novel during this journey because I was too busy exploring and socializing. I was coming to know that this was what I needed more than writing- the reassurance that I would never be alone on my journeys. I realized I possessed the capability to form families anywhere I went, and the knowledge to recognize the realness of these relationships.

That night, I met Lora’s friend Kelley, who graced us with one of his original Silver City style songs. I played a few on the guitalele for them. Laura and Rob prepared dinner, unexpectedly, which we all joined. We discussed the definition of “synchronicity” at some point during the laughter-filled conversation and the contrast between that and “serendipity”.

We concluded that synchronicity implies truly being in the flow of life and the Universe consistently, whereas serendipity is a fleeting moment of blessed coincidence. If a magical coincidence, a sign, occurs within your daily life, you can choose your definition. You can choose to follow signs if you believe you are being divinely guided, or you can dismiss them. Gratitude of either occasion will amplify your experience then and in the future.

After we were finished eating, we toasted wine again. “To SYNCHRONICITY!”

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Day 12: Silver City

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The first thing you’ll notice about Silver City when you wake up in the morning is that the trees, the cacti, the birds, and residents are all reading your mind. Not in a threatening or demeaning way, but in the most kind and caring way. I felt scattered and just a little out of place in this city. I was getting lost more so than I had been in other towns. It’s not that I felt afraid; I was just feeling confused.

The air was drier and cooler than I’d imagined. I spent time in a coffee shop drinking hibiscus tea. The coffee shop, at least, was comfortable and familiar to me with its yellow walls and Tibetan decór. I pretended to write, while I was really eavesdropping on two other writers interviewing the café owner and sole barista about his shop, along with other customers.

“I’m going to say this is the best mocha I’ve ever had- and I drink a lot of mochas,” the woman told the owner. She and her partner explained to the customers they spoke with that their reviewing business was mainly a Facebook page. The elders were curious to read about their responses, but sadly they didn’t have a Facebook. While the man sat down with one elder to help him create an account, I took the opportunity to speak with Lori about her business. She was an upcycled artist, music photographer, and writer. I mentioned that I am a musician, and she listed the famous musicians she’d photographed.

The music life- and writing life- is hard, she said, but “the Universe opens up to those who come prepared.”

She questioned why, if I were a musician, I didn’t have my guitar on me while I was just sitting here in a coffee shop.

I talked with the owner, Ray, who was also a musician. He confirmed that Silver City contains a great amount of talent, and invited me to his band’s event that “might” have been happening the next day.

As soon as I stepped foot in a thrift shop a few doors down, the cashier made eye contact with me and asked, “How are you?”

I was feeling drained and uncomfortable with the mineral energies sifting and swirling around in the air, but I replied, “Good, how are you?”

She looked at me knowingly. She could tell I was lying, and she didn’t like it. “Are you having a good day?”

So I told her I was depressed because of the weather. She was curious about my visit, so we talked for awhile and I felt as though I’d made a new friend in the city. While I was browsing, I ran into Lori again. She was looking for glass for her upcycled art projects. Before I exited the store, she told me, “Don’t forget: the Universe offers great things to those who come prepared.”

That night, I ate soup with Lora and Tim while basking in the sun’s last rays overlooking the Gilas. I decided I would stay one extra night, just in case I’d missed something of Silver City’s magic. I wouldn’t have wanted to come this far without experiencing something spectacular, if that was still in store. Lora invited me to go hiking with her the next morning.

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The view from Lora’s back yard

Day 11: Truth or Consequences, Hillsboro, Kingston, Silver City

September Retreat

September 26, 2016

I did make it a point to stop in all of these places. Secretly, or maybe not so secretly, I had been scheming to relocate to Truth or Consequences or Silver City because of a vivid dream I had about the area. I thought that perhaps I’d succeed in escaping the wind, dreariness, and cold weather of Cheyenne, Wyoming for the winter.

The drive from Albuquerque to Truth or Consequences (T or C) was, in fact, very vivid although much drier and drearier than I’d anticipated. I couldn’t say I wasn’t warned about the intense energies of T or C or the beautiful view over Emory Pass just beyond. Stopping in Truth or Consequences, I immediately caught onto its ghostliness. I knew from the history that many ghosts do reside here– but the people I spoke with were all genuinely happy and friendly, so I assume they are not hard to get along with. The sky was densely overcast and wind was abundant- not so divergent from any small, ghosty Wyoming town.

My first impression of this town differed drastically from that of a store owner’s first impression. Her reason for staying in this small town for over thirty-five years began with the sight of a happy dog laying carelessly on the side of the road as she first entered town, wagging its tail to greet her. Soon afterwards, she drove past a cowboy and an Indian slapping each other on the back, both with guns in their pockets, laughing gaily. This conversation also comprised of this woman’s entire life story, and I believe this was the highlight of my brief encounter with T or C. I’d been wanting to soak in one of the many hot springs there, but the suppressive weather and energy of this particular day was too strange for me to stay.

However, the blue hue of the rugged mountains was just as vivid as I’d imagined. The alternative interpretation for this dream, as I suspected, was simply that if I had not dared to venture this far, there would be consequences. What I could not have foreseen was the significance of “truth” in the name. It would only be later in my journey when I would come to an epiphany about this…

The woman I spoke with advised me, with an instinctive gleam in her eyes, to head over the mountain instead of taking the freeway so that I could stop in Hillsboro and Kingston. “Just buy a bottle of water or something so you can step out and get a sense of the culture in these towns. They’re very eccentric and worth knowing.” This reminded me of a similar, long conversation I had with a market owner in Palisade– the same instinctive gleam in her eyes. She’d even written down for me the same landmarks in these towns I was now being directed to again .

As I came over the mountain and into Hillsboro, I pulled over by the sole Post Office although I had a feeling none of these four businesses were open on Tuesdays. As soon as I opened my car door, I shrieked in astonishment at the recognition of a CHEYENNE CAR passing by me! I’m positive I would have personally known whomever may have been inside the car, as I saw them throw their hands up in similar astonishment. This town was literally in the middle of nowhere settled into a desert mountain’s foothills, total population 124, and not another car in sight. What are the odds?

The clouds had not made any reassuring moves by the time I made it to Kingston, NM- just below Emory Pass- giving the atmosphere an unsettling and wearisome vibe. The roads were windy, and though apparently there were only about 60 miles to go, it seemed at this rate like it might be never-ending. I pulled into the infamous Blackrange Lodge, a landmark both new acquaintances had suggested. I stepped inside to an eery air and creaky floors, dusty furniture and dim-light edges. A telephone rang loudly, cracking the silence and stillness.

“Oh, hi, Mom- how are you?” It was a woman’s voice, and somewhat a relief to know perhaps ghosts and dust mites were not the only inhabitants of this lodge.

I’d wanted to stay and talk, maybe acquiring some concealed answer to the mystery of why I had been directed here. I didn’t feel like interrupting the conversation, so I quietly stepped out into the cool early-afternoon air.

I opened my arms to the expansiveness of the Gila National Forest when I mounted the viewing point of Emory Pass, exiting my car for a moment to do so. The remaining drive was downward and windy, passing the Gila Cliff Dwellings and the City of Rocks. Mysteriously, hauntingly beautiful.

This was not what I’d been expecting. What I’d been expecting, perhaps, was more of a tourists’ appeal. More color, more amenities, more people. What I received instead was a sense of realness of this southern New Mexico land: a brutal honesty was nestled in the ancient pines and cliff dwellings. I’d heard word of various wild hot springs littering the entire forest, which was enticing to me and I would have attended them alone had it not been for pressed time and poor sense of direction into the unknown wilderness.

My sense of direction was actually improving with uncanny accuracy throughout the course of the venture so far, but I’d been too far away from my homeland to notice any such changes.

Eternity rolled around before I finally set tires on the city limit I’d been so intent upon visiting for the entire year. I still had hills to climb yet after reaching the limit, and couldn’t see the city. When it became visible, it was not anything I’d imagined. The clouds were even darker, the air was even more intense and unwelcoming. I came to realize this was in part because of the minerals of St. Rita’s Mining Site blowing around in the wind. In all honesty but with no disrespect to the city, it was not beautiful like I’d heard from many references. Already I did not meld with the flow of this city; it had more of a frazzling effect on my spirit and body.

Or so I thought. I felt exhausted when I arrived at my host’s house. I drove back and forth past it at least four times before finally recognizing the entrance down a gravel path. I walked up the steps, trembling with angst from the drive. The door flung open as I mounted the porch, and a woman with long silver hair greeted me with a  warm smile and a bow, “Welcome, Camille. Namaste. My other guests are also writers and musicians who are looking forward to meeting you.”

I walked in to meet Rob, a writer, who was on the same path as mine (originally, anyway): on a mission to complete his novel which takes place in New Mexico. We talked for awhile about the parallelism of this, and the process of writing. He was working and traveling with his wife, Laura, who was a professional jazz singer I would meet later. One of my unspoken, lost dreams is to be a jazz singer.

Lora, our host, talked to me about my journey and also brought up the Black Range Lodge. “Did you meet Catherine?” She mentioned Catherine is always looking for help and that Lora herself worked at this lodge for a few months. This lonely lodge could have been a job opportunity for me had I not been so unimpressed by the area’s solitude and overcast skies. I did contact Catherine about work options and live music, and she agreed that sometimes crowds of guests would like to hear live music if I was interested in performing that weekend. I wasn’t able to, but I was beginning to see the formation of a future music tour through New Mexico.

I rested in my room until nearly 6pm, then headed up to Pinos Altos for open mic night at the Buckhorn. This is something I’d researched the day before in Albuquerque and was excited to see I would be able to attend on a Monday night. While everyone else in the world was absorbed in the first 2016 Presidential Debate, I was in the highlands of a desert mountain town at a historic bar with eccentric paintings covering every square inch of its walls. It was raining, nearly freezing.

Classic country music was reverberating from the man in the corner as I walked inside- Johnny Cash and other old classics. I sat at the bar and ordered a bowl of green chili. Green chili is something to savor at any location in New Mexico, especially when one is shivering from the cold of late September. The two characters a couple seats down on either side of me at the bar were questionable conversationalists, making me feel a little on edge of my barstool. I was grateful when, after half an hour, the host and previous performer of open mic sat down next to me. He reminded me of two people I know from my mother’s hometown, making me feel more at home.

We watched the next performer, Gene Booth, apparently coined as “New Mexico’s Country Music Legend”, take his place on stage. His music was reminiscent of what I imagine the old Spanish polka-folk songs my New Mexico family used to dance to must have sounded like. Maybe that was just my imagination at first impression… he did also sound very similar to Johnny Cash and George Jones. It was a rare treat and comedy to watch him perform.

When I began singing my set, I watched all the customers of this restaurant and bar set down their forks and glasses to listen. I was in awe of their intent observation of my fingerpicking style and my voice. I watched positive gossip circle each table, some describing the range of my voice in hand motions. Some made eye contact with me and smiled, nodding their heads. It was a special moment, as they had not done this for the previous musicians (likely because these two were regulars). I felt accomplished after this short set, though the crowd was diminished more than usual this particular night.

I talked with the remaining performers and friends of performers. One described Silver City as “the melting pot of misfits”. The people I met here were all truly unique, from all walks of life. Not many people, I learned, were originally from the town. They’d come in from a variety of different locations for different reasons. They are the ones who make this location an authentic, artistic, and open-minded place to live.

It was interesting, but not what I’d expected out of a place that had been calling for a few months. Maybe I wasn’t giving myself enough time, but it was initially clear to me that my life path did not require the immediate relocation to southern New Mexico.

Day 10: Madrid, New Mexico

September Retreat
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Musician at the Rail Yards Market, Albuquerque, NM

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Mine Shaft Tavern, Madrid, NM

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Mike Brown at Mine Shaft Tavern

Madrid is a place where it is common for someone to wave you over from thirty yards away because they recognize your outline as if they’ve known you for years– perhaps lifetimes– and say something like, “I like your glow”. It is a place where people are truly intuitive, artistic, and unafraid to utilize their creative capabilities to their fullest capacities. There was not one person I met here who wasn’t truly friendly and welcoming. Well, the same goes for the whole state of New Mexico, but it is especially noticeable in such a small artist commune town. If there were any way to live here permanently, I would do that.

Hidden between Albuquerque and Santa Fe in the Ortiz Mountains, it is a cultural revival of lost arts and unexpected music events. It is here where I stopped taking so many pictures; partially because my phone was running out of storage space and I didn’t have time to resolve that issue, but mainly because I needed to experience Madrid’s authentic culture. I felt changed forever after meeting the vibrant artists of this town and simply breathing the dry air filled with minerals and plenty of creative energy.

Day 9: Leaving Durango to Albuquerque

September Retreat

September 25th, 2016img_3212img_3260

I told my host I would wake up at 6am, so Gregg was up at 6am starting a fire to spark my departure to Albuquerque. I hadn’t given myself the chance to explore Durango much at all besides the short evening after spending 6 hours on the train and 3 hours in Silverton, which had come as a surprise to me. This trip hadn’t gone as expected in terms of exploring and learning about towns, but what I had gained instead was a vast variety of unique friendships that would never diminish.

Though there was snow on the ground and atop the tipi, I was provided with enough thick blankets to keep warm. It wasn’t as though I had been the only one not checking the weather forecast; nobody had expected snow to stick to the ground this early. While I slept, the cries of elk sounded somewhere in the near distance.

I met both Gregg and Kathy officially the next morning due to my late arrival the night before. I enjoyed their company and hospitality; it was hard for me to leave so early as I had planned. After playing one song on my guitelele for them, they insisted on showing me around town briefly since Durango is such a great music scene. They invited me to join them for breakfast at Lone Spur Cafe. Our waitress’s name was Michele, which was only memorable to me since I had now become acquainted with three Michele’s in less than two days.

Though I had spent, in total, less than a full day in Durango, I experienced the crossing path connection more here than any place I’d spent over three days so far. After breakfast, we stopped in the Strater Hotel where an intense board game competition was occurring. We then walked to the farmer’s market– the most lively, artistic market I had ever been to. If I needed any more reasons to move to Durango, I would use the excuse of the farmer’s market itself. I was feeling antsy about getting to Albuquerque, but I was able to meet a few new acquaintances within thirty minutes by the crossing path connection.

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Strater Hotel, Durango, CO

When I finally did force myself to depart Durango, a place I could have probably stayed forever despite the cold (which says a lot about its welcoming nature, considering escaping the cold was my original intention) I still felt I was being pulled in the right direction. I was finally making it to my original destination: New Mexico! It was only by chance so many magical things had happened in western Colorado, where I least expected to find it. Without having exited the car, New Mexico was already drawing me in.

All my favorite songs played on the radio during this three-hour drive, pointing to good signs ahead. What a relief to be in a state that would always feel like home to me no matter how infrequently I visited- it is the state in which half my ancestry dwelled within for hundreds of years.

Upon arriving at my dad’s cousin’s house, whom I had never personally met before, I was greeted warmly. Fortunately, I arrived in the early afternoon in time to explore the portion of Albuquerque I had written down on a piece of paper. My cousin was gracious enough to show me around to these places:

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The Herb Shop, Albuquerque, NM

During this three hour excursion, I experienced enough New Mexico magic to send me into culture shock– but fortunately, I didn’t feel that way. I was shocked to witness the open honesty and lovingness of every soul I encountered, but it was more refreshing to me. One of my unspoken, old dreams of traveling to New Mexico was to meet a curandero/a. Since I’d shorted my trip by fifteen days, I had forgotten about this dream and had assumed it would be impossible. This was one of our first stops in town.

All I can really account right now of these experiences- talking with both my cousin and someone considered a true curandero-  is that somehow it was enough to reconnect me to my innate senses of intuition and truth in those three hours. It was throughout my time in Albuquerque that I realized everyone possesses these qualities. Everyone, whether they live in this state or not. It’s just a matter of being surrounded by a culture that accepts, cherishes, and relies on such qualities in daily life. I was fortunate enough to experience more than I could have asked of New Mexico in three hours, but that wasn’t even the beginning of it.

 

 

I also quickly caught on to the inclusive, familial aspects of New Mexico culture as I was surrounded by new friends and family for dinner. I played songs on the guitelele, which was proving to be the right travel instrument choice for this trip. My style of music had been changing since before the trip begun, and my experiences were only enhancing how far I’d come.

Day 8: Durango- Silverton Train

September Retreat

September 24, 2016

I was a little disappointed when I realized, at midnight, that the Durango- Silverton train left at 8:00am that morning. This meant I’d carried in my suitcase and had become so comfortable with my temporary room 8 miles out of town, yet I  would have to leave this settlement in seven hours. img_3093

I was glad I did. Drowsy as I was, waking up purposely at 5am, I arrived unprepared without a ticket. So naturally, I couldn’t catch the train that departed at 8am. I had to catch the 8:45 instead.

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Trains leaving downtown Silverton, Colorado

One thing I learned throughout my travels, applying to every location I went, was that I was never alone. I remember a dear one’s fear before I departed, saying I would be lonely in places where I didn’t know anybody. But if I was already lonely in a place where I knew everybody, what did I have to loose?

Instead, I found that strangers I became acquainted with during this trip were so open to conversation and dining– things I’d been forever wanting to happen for a year, but never did. After the train ride, I was invited to dinner with other passengers whom I dared to meet when I finally ventured out onto the open-air coach. We were all exhausted after being exposed to the freezing weather and snow in Silverton. We were also all travelers on interesting journeys~ one of which happened to be a parallel journey to my own (leaving one’s apartment and going solo despite the “crazy” remarks of others because it is simply part of one’s life path), only headed the opposite direction (north).

His quest was to find a hidden treasure. Literally. Apparently, Forrest Fenn hid a chest full of elaborate treasures somewhere within the Rocky Mountains, five years ago, and created a cryptic poem containing clues on how to find it. Thousands of people have attempted to search for the treasure but have not yet succeeded. I wish him the best of luck finding this treasure. However, he did mention that the treasure could simply be analyzed to mean what is found in the journey itself.

Though the weather was not comfortable, the company was so comforting and the meal at the end of the day was so satisfying.

Just in time to go hunt for the tipi after dark in the middle of nowhere- Hesperus, CO which was almost half an hour away -that I had booked on Air BNB because I couldn’t think of any faster or more interesting option. It had been used by John Denver at some point, and I was hoping that I would be inspired by any creative energy he left behind while sleeping in this tipi. There was just one problem: snow on the ground.

to be continued…

Day 7: Scenic Route to Durango

September Retreat

I would have had a hard time leaving Palisade if my journey hadn’t already been prolonged enough. I found myself leaving Poppy’s palace a little late, anyhow. I was sad to leave the new friends I made as well as the old ones I’d reconnected with. Originally the intention here was to experience the beauty of Colorado’s wine country, which I did… I just didn’t expect that in this place, I would obtain so many friends by magic.

I still found it mandatory to begin my day with yoga on the deck overlooking the vineyard; something I would never, ever grow tired of. How could I, when I’d never experienced so much energy in any other place before? I think that simply being surrounded by vineyards, orchards, and rivers were the things which caused Life to surge through me. I was completely restored and renewed.

Due to the wind, I decided to reroute my direction towards Utah instead of heading directly over the mountain. The day was a little shady and intense, but I found beauty along the side of the road. My destination was Durango, Colorado– a place I’d only recently felt pulled towards and booked an Air BNB last minute. I still had no place to stay the second night in Durango, but figured I’d decide soon enough.

I’d never been called, specifically, to the landscapes of Utah. But it was hard for me to deny my newfound taste for red rocks. I didn’t expect to find anything significant in Moab, but as I arrived I was astonished to encounter a plethora of kindred spirits and unique shops in downtown! I hadn’t even been expecting to visit this town, but I ended up purchasing my new favorite outfit at one of the shops. As I was driving away and sunlight fell in the windy valleys of golden grass and red mountains, I knew this was a place I would like to come back to eventually. More likely, on a real music tour than a solo road trip without sound equipment.

The drive towards Durango felt as though I was constantly in spiritual communication with the landscapes surrounding me. In what some would call “no man’s land”, I could sense the beautiful ancestral history of all that had occurred (all the while listening to historic country western radio). I wanted to be taking pictures while driving, but simply allowed the landscapes to become part of my spirit. The was a point in which traffic came to a halt, and I was grateful for this to admire the open land.

It was foreign, and I got lost only nearing the end of the drive, but I was still being pulled in the right direction.

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My temporary residence in Durango, CO

I hadn’t realized my Air BNB residency for my first night in Durango was 8 miles out of town. As I arrived, I was greeted by most host, chickens, dogs, and cats. Barbara and I immediately had ten thousand subjects to talk about. Her home was the warmest of all my travels so far; I had never felt so welcome in a stranger’s house before.

She happened to live less than a mile from Trimble Hot Springs– and I was craving a soak in a hot springs after my far drive into the beauty and mystery of southwest Colorado. When I arrived at the hot springs spa, it was dark. I was a little hesitant about being alone in a hot springs far out of town in the dark, but it felt more adventurous to me than frightening.

I met a new friend there, who was an amazing resource to my next destination: Albuquerque, New Mexico, as she had lived there for sixteen years prior to Durango. I left with a list of Albuquerque herb shops and Durango music festivals. I was also invited to a bluegrass festival out of town that Saturday, and I felt compelled to stay… However, I had already made plans for Albuquerque and didn’t want to cancel them…

Day 6: Solo biking, solo wine tasting, and multi-collaborative open mic

September Retreat
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Beginning of my bike ride along the Colorado River in Palisade and Clifton, CO.

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I cannot get over the energy I obtained while in the presence of those beautiful mesas.

I instantly found that downtown Palisade is easily the friendliest place on Earth. I took my time speaking with all the store owners who were full of inspiration and compliments.

My wine tastings in Wine Country were so enjoyable. I was referred to St. Kathryn’s Cellars, where I tasted various different fruity wines in the back room. These were, by far, my favorite. In the front room, I talked with the servers and tasted more prominent wines. All were delicious. I also savored fudge tastings, while I was at it. The last three photos were taken at Red Fox Cellars, where I stopped in but did not partake in wine tastings here.

img_3006I believe the highlight, and most magical part of this day and the ending of my Palisade/ Grand Junction journey was playing at an open mic with a kindred spirit I’d met only two days earlier. I persuaded another friend who happened to live in Grand Junction to participate in open mic as well– someone I had known as the result of frequently attending open mics in Cheyenne. This night definitely made me feel at home. I met so many friendly, welcoming musicians and friends of musicians at Rockslide in Grand Junction. Although it was a cold night, I didn’t notice, because there was so much warmth in the collective music scene.