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.

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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

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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 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.