Rio Rancho (Albuquerque), New Mexico

Americans smile a lot. It feels good! ­čÖé Occasionally someone gives a fake smile, one of those that is offered up because it is socially expected, but most of the smiles are accompanied with eye contact that acknowledges, somehow, what a pleasure it is to recognize mutual presence. No more carefully-controlled neutral (or somewhat suspicious) “European” expressions. warning mountainous road.jpgI mentioned to mom that I’ve hardly heard any Spanish – the monotony of English only accents how accustomed I became to the patter of diverse tongues. Now conversations around me unfold with too much information – I understand all the words, even if I lack context or background. She says people aren’t shopping (we’ve been taking multiple daily walks in the mall or Walmart), and I wondered if there are measurable effects of the bad economy according to language group.
After dropping mom for her PET scan I drove off to find a glass of iced tea. The Tomato Cafe was still under construction, so I wound up in Stoneface. I wondered how to reconcile their gang warning sign with the Lavender Festival.
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Dad called to explain that the first thirty pages of Deaf Sentence (by David Lodge) describes perfectly his life with hearing loss.
Between medical appointments, spectacular sightseeing. We began with local architecture, specifically contemporary modern, in a new neighborhood with a bit of everything, even the hint of gargoyle.
owl.jpgThe Lavender Festival was in Los Ranchos, with its long river-to-road lineas or tripas lots. We hooked up with my old pal, Laurel, and met some of her friends. I enjoyed the predatory bird exhibit.
From there, Laurel, mom and I took off to drive the Jemez, which turned into a long wander. We stopped at the Zia Pueblo. (I snapped the picture before the sign forbidding photography.) The New Mexico state flag features

“an interpretation of an ancient symbol of the sun as found on a late 19th century water jar from Zia Pueblo. This red symbol is called a “Zia” and is centered on a field of yellow.

Four is the sacred number of the Zia and can be found repeated in the four points radiating from the circle. The number four is embodied in the four points of the of the compass, North, East, South and West; in the four seasons of the year Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter; in the 24 hours of each day by sunrise, noon, evening and night; by four seasons of life, childhood, youth, adulthood and old age. The Zia also believed that with life came four sacred obligations: development of a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit and devotion to the welfare of people/family. All of these things are bound together within the circle of life.

The red and yellow colors are the colors of Isabel of Castilla brought to the continent by the Spanish Conquistadors.”

We then took the historic Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway winding up through gorgeous red stone and lush early summer greens – mom kept exclaiming at the abundance of foliage due to the higher than average rains this year. We stopped at the Walatowa Cultural Center, learning about the “4 climate zones, 5,000 years of human history and millions of years of geological ferment” (quoted from the museum timeline). This land is home to the Hemish, who built some 62 major villages, with 9-12 major pueblos, since 1275 (the approximate time they began to build permanent dwelling places in these areas where they already lived). I didn’t imagine my camera would do justice to the majestic views (although now I wish I had tried, sigh) of huge vistas, majestic stone, and the magical open vista of the Valles Caldera (see wikipedia for a few decent shots). We drifted on through Bandelier National Park, marveling at its mix of beauty and destruction; the Cerro Grande fire of 2000 still much in evidence.
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There was to be no science tourism, unfortunately. Security did let us in with no fuss (three white women in a old minivan apparently not enough to warrant more than the most casual wave-through – perhaps we fit the profile of “one of those liberals from Los Alamos” which we saw on an adopt-a-highway sign on the way down from Bandelier). Eventually (after what felt like a few passages through Area 51) we found the Science Museum (which closed two minutes prior to our arrival) but managed to enjoy the museum shop. I’m failing to capture the quality of the day’s light banter covering subjects ranging from family histories, genetic forecasts, singing fish, incidents and moments that didn’t happen, what we don’t know about geology, and other assorted random topics but I will say it was an entirely happy day!
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About Los Ranchos
The New Mexico State Flag
Nee Hemish, a History of Jemez Pueblo, by Joe S. Sando
Cerro Grande Fire, National Park Service
Area 51, wikipedia

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