Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Slice of Santa Fe

The $12 drawing from Santa Fe
The $12 Santa Fe drawing

With the cooler weather and shorter days that edge us towards winter, it is now dark as I leave the house above the trading post to begin my morning cycling tours. If I am able to wake on time and if I ride hard to the top of White Mesa Hill, I crest the steep incline just as the sun breaks over the horizon between Sleeping Ute Mountain and Lone Cone. The expanding glow and receding shadows creeping across this broken, wild landscape make my heart pound faster than it otherwise might. In spite of my realization that I am completely inconsequential in comparison to the sunrise, the glistening light of a new day always makes me feel like a king.

As I spin north towards my turnaround point at the Mobil convenience store, the gears of the bicycle click up and down in a tightly synchronized choreography. Like the brain asking an arm or leg to respond, there is virtually no lag between request and response. Once in awhile, however, the bike stumbles into what can only be described as a time warp.

This wrinkle in time manifests itself in a momentary lapse between the instant my finger clicks the shifter and the derailleur moves the chain up or down the cluster to the appropriate gear, which causes my legs to spin without resistance. It is as though gravity has been suspended and there is no friction between the bicycle tire and the pavement. Temporarily, I float down the blacktop unhindered. The world stops and the bike is propelled forward as though sliding on a lubricated surface. Then the gears reengage, and I am left to wonder what it all means.

In vain I have searched the natural world for a similar experience. Then, a few weekends ago, I attended Indian Market in Santa Fe and found my comparable. As I wandered the streets of Old Town at 7:30 a.m., it struck me that I was feeling the same emotion I have when the bicycle gears disengage; a sense of floating, of being unencumbered.

For me, Santa Fe is unknowable. My internal compass cannot find any distinct magnetism to guide it. Although I have visited the city several times, it always confounds me. If I park my car in one location and conscientiously backtrack to that exact spot, I find the street where I left the vehicle has moved; generally south and west. My friends Carl and Leah discovered this unusual phenomenon when they trusted me to lead them from the Plaza back to my Subaru.

Thinking I could outsmart whomever was moving the streets, I had arrived early and selected a large parking lot that would not be difficult to relocate. I was, however, fooled once again. Carl and Leah patiently followed me round and round; their sense of hopelessness growing by the minute. Fortunately we ran across a seasoned Santa Fe traveler who had recently spotted the lot and was able to give us accurate directions.

Once my charges departed, thinking it may be wise to mark my path, I unsuccessfully searched the car for twine or bread. After a while, however, I convinced myself string and crumbs would make no difference. Due to the shifting nature of that land, and the inability of my biological compass to locate traditional markers, any signs I might leave would certainly lead me to yet another dead end.

My head began to spin as I wandered the streets of Santa Fe looking at all the newly created art. Trying to ground myself, I stopped by a few booths to speak with the artists about their work; it only made things worse. I began to feel slightly more settled when I located an emerging master who sold me her enchanting drawing for $12.00.

As I approached the table of Hopi potter Rondina Huma, however, an attractive couple dragging a handsome young lad stepped in front of me, throwing me off balance. “How much is that,” they quickly asked, indicating one of two small disk-shaped pots. “Eighteen Thousand Dollars,” came the direct, unemotional response. At that point, I am sure all of us felt the earth move, and I knew my car would once again prove impossible to find.

Back on the bicycle a few days later, I once again ran headlong into the Highway 191 time warp. This time, however, I had an explanation; a slice of Santa Fe had found its way to Bluff.

With warm regards,

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