Thursday, May 19, 2011

Second Corner

It's an observation I've made before, but my friend Dante says it pretty well. He says that once you cross the state line from New Mexico, it's as if someone says, "We'll take over from here." The change in scenery is that dramatic. We cruise along a high plateau, the valley falling away just beyond the farms to our right. Further on, the high peaks take away our breath. Where the plateau ends the road drops down into Durango.

We meet Dante and his three boys at 'East meets Southwest,' a slightly funky, slightly posh pan-Asian place that does some interesting things with raw fish. Dante was one of my best friends in high school, and it is good to catch up, this our first meeting in 16 years(!). Like all good friendships, we easily slip back into familiar rhythms. The conversation continues back at the house, joined by Jessica and the dog. It is a wonderful night.

In the morning Miki and I agree we love Durango, and question our motives for living in Santa Fe. But Colorado has dozens of small, bike-able, affordable towns like this. Grad school in one of the larger ones, Boulder, is still a possibility. We drive west out of town, running along the base of the mountains that had so impressed us the day before. There's a lightness to the people too. In front of one farm, a farm spool had been painted with the recognizable 'Taiji' swirl.

The beauty continues into Delores Valley. We take some time at the Anasazi Heritage center, with the films and the displays. There's a small ruin atop the hill behind the museum, but it is the view that truly inspires. The valley below had been flooded, creating a large picturesque reservoir. Prior to the dam's construction, archaeologists had gone over the valley, speedily gathering ruins as if in a shopping spree. Their finds make up the exhibits inside the museum. The ever-present peaks are further out now, their white-caps rising directly from the fields stretching toward them. To the south is Mesa Verde. A narrow pillar of grey smoke reveals a fire out that way. Beyond is Sleeping Ute mountain, and further still, I can barely make out Shiprock, a dull blue against the brown earth of New Mexico.

We move further west. We pass a town called "Mancos," a name shared in Japanese to mean the crude word for a woman's private bits. I giggle and make bad puns until we've reached the town limits. We stop further out, at a cafe called 'Roundup.' Above the door, a swallow is frightened from its nest by the chirp of our car alarm. Inside the decor is frontier to be sure, with plenty of wood and the disembodied heads of hunting trophies. The latter always bring to mind that line from the film 'Arthur,' "You must've hated that moose." The waitress comes over and gives Miki a long look, as if trying to guess her tribe. This always happens when we go rural.

West again. A hawk flies over. its belly dark against wings backlit by the sun. A long straight road runs through green rolling farmland. I once rode a motorbike through similar territory, up in South Dakota where my step-dad grew up. At road's end is Lowry Ruin, another smaller site, covered over by a large iron roof. It gives shade for us as we duck through doorways in order to look at the kiva walls, painted with blocky zig-zag shapes signifying rain clouds. But the weather for us today is good, the sky blue, the white peaks still with us. We have the ruins to ourselves. It is quiet and pleasant out here, as we stroll between sage bushes, pinching their leaves and smelling our fingers. Good for headaches, they say.

We contine back the way we came, then turn south on a dirt road. Somewhere along the way, we pass into Utah...

On the turntable: Peter Gabriel, "Plays Live"

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