Check the Weather

Most of you reading this know that I’ve spent the past eleven weeks mostly alone. I socialize, on average, twice a week for a couple of hours, though I’ve had a couple of runs of five days where it’s been just me, Lucky and writing. {Note for the future: that’s too many days alone for this girl. I find myself easier to be around when i’m bouncing off people.}

I live ten miles from a cell phone signal, so on the days when I haven’t left the cabin I’ve often not had a conversation with anyone (besides the dog) unless I’ve gone to the post office. The post office is the only constant in San Cristobal, and is just a mile up the road. The first night I was here I was told there’s a bit of cell service (though not for me) at the post office, but couldn’t find it because it doesn’t look federal, and is more or less a lean-to attached to the postmaster’s house. And I confess: I’ve occasionally jotted off a postcard just to have a reason to go there and exchange a few words with Miss Winda Medina.

Last week there was a welcome shift, and I got to do a bunch of talking when my dear friend Emily visited from Missoula for five dreamy days. During that time we drove a lot because the spaces between pin dots on the map are large in these parts, but in all that windshield time not once did we listen to music. Not the radio, not a CD, not even the song I couldn’t stop listening to before she got here.

Let me be clear: We talked almost constantly, but didn’t make noise just to fill space. We welcomed silence, contemplation and awe, but a few breaths later we’d be breaking it down and expressing our thoughts out loud before they’d fully formed in our heads.

We got deep into breaking it all down. I love the way so many conversations started with, “I’m asking you this because I know you’ll tell me the truth…” I can’t think of a worthwhile topic we didn’t touch down on, but in the end our conversation hopping left with us dozens of unfinished thoughts.

When we weren’t talking we were eating. In the beginning we forgot to take before pictures of the beautiful food, so ended up with only clean plate club photos like this one:

Image

Before we cleaned the Weiner schnitzel right off the plate we had the coldest ski day I’ve had here. It’s easy to believe March would be warmer than January and February, but it’s not. The winds kick in and make March feel like the coldest month of the winter. No joke. I’ll pass on sharing the photo of our frozen faces. Oh, what the hell. Here it is:

Image

The next day we explored town, but it was too cold to walk much so we drove back roads and swooned over the light that hits the earth a little differently in these parts. Even when the sun is diffused through clouds there’s an illumination that makes a person feel there’s a gaggle of assistants with flash diffusers, reflective umbrellas, monolights, and strobe lights. We rushed out of and back into the car for this one:

Image

Cold weather can be a blessing, because if we’d be able to be outside we would have, but instead we scored at a consignment shop. Emily got a blazer she’d been searching for forever and I got a vintage Italian merino dress and coat set. Ok, truth: I also got a couple of muumuus and a lime green pair of Dr. Scholl’s. Hello, Florida! {Emily says I really rock a muumuu, and I say she should wear short shorts year-round. This is friend love. Clearly.}

Then we had one of the best meals of our lives at El Meze. Mussels, collards and bacon, melt in your mouth pork belly……each bite better than the last. This is where we embarked on a serious run of fabulous meals. Ok, I should back up to mention that our waiter at El Meze was both Michael-Franti-hot and sweet. Worth noting.

We asked at El Meze for a brunch recommendation, and were told to go to Aceq, but found out they’re no longer serving brunch. We did our due diligence and even though we didn’t like the name—Dragonfly Café—we agreed that hippies make good coffee and baked goods, and a wait is usually a good sign.

We sat outside in the sun and wind (yes it was cold) and drank coffee while we waited, then we were seated in the coveted window-seat nook. Reward for our patience? Possibly. We lounged in that heavily pillowed, sun drenched slice of heaven while we drank mad cups of coffee and ate a ridiculously good breakfast based around homegrown eggs. Lucky, lucky girls.

Image

After brunch we hiked down to where the Red River meets the Rio Grande and relaxed in the sun on a rock in the middle of the river. We talked about a lot of things with the water rushing around us, but one of them was that some people will never get to experience being on a rock in the middle of the river and wouldn’t even think to put it on the option list. {sigh} People: it’s an option. EVERYTHING is an option.

Image

We’d left a message on the answering machine regarding a dinner reservation at Aceq, but it’s complicated when you don’t have cell service and as soon as you leave town there’s no way to get a call back confirming or denying anything. I know: It’s all so backwards, and it’s been interesting living “old fashioned” this winter.

We’d already made reservations in town, but Emily said, “Let’s drive over to Aceq and see how it looks and if we like what we see we’ll find out if we can get in.” We hit cell service on the outskirts of Arroyo Seco, right before we reached Aceq, and at 5:55 the message was, “Hi Jaime, We’ll have your table for two ready at 6:00.” Obvi it was meant to be.

{Note on “obvi.” At some point in the midst of all this eating, talking and adventuring we managed to watched the entire first season of Girls. The girls say obvi.}

We don’t know how it happened, but Aceq managed to beat El Meze. We had brussels sprouts, spicy lamb ribs, and the best friend chicken either of us have ever had. Our socks were blown right off. Yes, we talked through the meal, but mostly to say, “Oh . My. God. This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.” No photo will do the décor or farm-to-table food justice, but I’m not kidding foodies: put ACEQ RESTAURANT on your bucket list. (I’ve already been back!)

All that eating, walking, and getting deep into the marrow of life inspired us, though it’s hard not to be inspired by all of the artists who’ve called New Mexico home. Our highlight was the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe, but we popped in quickly to the Mabel Dodge Luhan house which offers “supportive solitude for creative reflection.

The lineup of artists who were guests of Mabel is unbelievable (Georgia O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Martha Graham and Carl Jung, etc.) and the spark and motivation set into those walls oozes right out. Of course, it could have been the light. Seriously, the house is on a hill and the sun was setting and light streamed through impossibly large windows that are positioned in such a way that just screams: someone really knew what they were doing when they built this place….

Mabel Dodge Luhan House Sitting Room

A workshop was going on, and the group was finishing their dinner but didn’t mind us poking around. Emily and I had flashes of thoughts and dreams for the future and it can be best summed up by this story of a friend of mine.

Years ago a guy I knew kept having run-ins with the law. I don’t know exactly what kind of trouble he was getting into, but he kept finding himself wearing the orange suit, sitting in front of the guy in the black suit. One day he said to himself, “I want to be the guy in the black suit.” And just like that he decided to go to law school.

{Translation: We can read the books and attend the conferences, but we can also write the books and teach the conferences. A plan was hatched….Because it was so unpredictably cold here, but intermittently sunny, we checked the weather a lot. So much it became a slogan for the visit. I think CHECK THE WEATHER will be a great name for a collaborative book and/or a workshop. There’s so many things you can check the weather for in addition to actual weather….}

Writing is serious business and it’s hard. It requires solitude, but it’s not the one person job I once thought it was. I’m lucky to have people in my life who empathize with this, but Emily’s a writer too, and she knows the struggle in a more intimate way. Thank goodness for friends like Em…. I’m grateful she was here to experience the remote cabin where I’ve been living with it’s terrible water pressure, it’s washboard access road, and it’s incredible silence.

She really gets it. She’s aware of how hard it was for me sequester myself away for a winter of writing. The choice to go was hard, the decision to stay almost harder. She knows what it’s like to face the blank page, the shitty first drafts, and the compulsion to do this this thing that can lift you up as deftly as it squashes you.

We spent her last day and night in Santa Fe and the Georgia O’Keefe museum was the first thing we did and our favorite. We were lucky enough to be there during Annie Leibovitz’s “Pilgrimage” exhibit in addition to getting to view O’Keefe’s paintings. We walked through the museum with our arms linked around each others, but before we did that we sat and watched two short films. One was an overview of O’Keefe’s life, and the other about her homes in New Mexico.

I loved everything about the museum, but the highlight was—no joke—the videos, which I realize sounds silly, but I loved seeing her face and body in action, hearing her voice, and doing the math.

Yeah, the math. Emily and I did a lot of math in that theatre, and mouthed numbers to each other with eyebrows raised and hearts light. O’Keefe and Stieglitz didn’t get married until she was thirty-seven, she spend her first summer in Taos when she was forty-two, and she didn’t move to Ghost Ranch until she was forty-seven. We also discovered that the art she did when she was younger was Not. Very. Good. But as she got older and traveled more it got (obviously) a lot better. Still-lifes and lighthouses did not bring out the best in Miss Georgia. Sun bleached bones and impossibly blue sky and flowers on a huge scale did.

So we did that math and it confirmed what we already knew: there’s plenty of time. So we can sink our teeth into that. While we check the weather.

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do. – Georgia O’Keefe

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Check the Weather

  1. Beautiful, Jamie. I love this message. It is one that I need to hear frequently. I often feel like just surviving in the world makes it hard to do anything memorable, let alone great. There is still time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s