—For Melissa, an emotional winter gives way to the surprise of new growth—
If one pays the closest attention it is possible to see the turns of the seasons in particular the arrival of Spring. Here in Northern New Mexico the seasons are showy, dramatic and distinct rituals accompany them.
I’ve been here for the last two and a half months having arrived early in February to be with my father during his time in a rehabilitation hospital as efforts were made to get him back on his feet after a particularly “killer” series of chemotherapy treatments. I’ve seen him released from the rehab hospital only to be admitted to another hospital a couple of weeks later and to hear the Doctor say “he is dying.” I’ve participated in the first meeting with the hospice doctor. I was present to hear the doctor say, “It’s true I am a hospice doctor, but I also have hospice graduates and I think its possible that a year from now you will be one of my graduates.” With this possibility held out to us we all, the whole family, became singularly focused on my father’s weight gain and his tours up and down the hall with his walker. We have gone from the place where my father’s friends came ostensibly to say goodbye, to the pleasant surprise of ongoing visits. Read more
In the waning days of summer, Melissa Howden ponders the markers of time.
I heard on the radio today that here in Northern New Mexico we always know school will be starting when the sunflowers bloom. Sure enough the sunflowers are at their peak, and the school buses just started rolling.
As a child my seasons were pretty much “school” and “summer”. I happened to be a child who liked school, but I also loved summer. Now as an adult who does not have children, thus the markers of the beginning and the end of the school year—my seasons tend to mush together which in some ways I think creates the sensation of time speeding up.
I do find myself longing for more specific touchstones in the year. Recently I visited my niece and nephew. The days of my visit coincided the last days Emily’s summer. As a result I was gifted with some summer nostalgia as we lolled about in the swimming pool eating popsicles, and picked out new tennis shoes for school (in this case we designed high tops online). Emily went back and forth to the neighbors Slip n’ Slide and sleepovers, squeezing one in for each remaining day of the summer. But even as we slept in, and went for mani-pedis, the lazy days of summer were being squeezed out with the start of soccer practice and the posting of her class lists and teacher assignments coming hand-in-hand with the promise of early mornings, car pooling and homework. Read more
It used to be that every summer afternoon in Santa Fe, New Mexico was cleansed by a monsoon. As a child, I spent many summers in Santa Fe with my grandmother, my Nana. Those summer monsoons came like clockwork—hard rain with thunder and lightening for about an hour—cooling and cleansing everything in the high desert.
Until the storms rolled in, my brother and I would play outside creating forts, running races, building little villages out of sticks and leaves peopled by rocks with painted faces: imagination unfettered. When the rain thundered in we’d head inside for tea and cinnamon toast.
My grandmother’s mother was English, so tea with milk and sugar was a staple in her life. Admittedly the tea my Nana made us was a little milkier and sweeter then, but still it instilled in me the sense of tea and toast as refuge—from the storm. Read more
If you’ve been following my recent exploits, you might recall that I was planning to relocate for love. The move complete, I find myself in new country, learning a new language, even though I reside in the 47th U.S. State of New Mexico.
I’m no stranger to New Mexico, my parents and grandparents were born and raised here. I spent most of my childhood summers here, and graduated from high school here. But even so, after 39 years, I’ve moved from the cosmopolitan, urban San Francisco Bay Area (7,000 square miles and approximately 7 million people) to a rural county (2,200 square miles and about 50,000 people) where the main town of Taos (meaning Place of Red Willows) has a population officials estimate as between 5,000 and 7,000 people within 5.4 square miles. Having also moved from sea level to 7,000 feet, the adjustment is not only cultural but also physical—I am simultaneously gasping for breath and learning the local language. One might be best served with a set of regional flash cards to help the transition.
Roadside Table: To some such a sign might signify something poetic, but in my new neck of the woods it means just what it says: table by the road, nothing more, nothing less. Read more