We pulled over on the side of the mountain road. The aspen leaves were a sun-kissed yellow, fluttering atop trunks of white and grey. They whispered in the breeze like the voices of angels, words indistinct but comforting.
I got out, walked up to the aspen grove, and cried. Confessed tree hugger here.
Later I would learn that the other predominate trees in Santa Fe, New Mexico made me cry, too. I’m allergic to Mountain Cedar, and Santa Fe is nestled in a valley surrounded by these evergreen Christmas trees. When I was pregnant with my son and wouldn’t take antihistamines, I spent many evenings there with tears running down my face.
I was apparently dropped by Aliens into the small, hot, dry Texas town where I grew up. It was an all-white town, and I’m white, but there the similarity ends. Saying I didn’t fit there is like saying I wouldn’t fit in a cult full of right-wingers. In fact, it was a lot like that.
I was 23 when I arrived in Santa Fe on a visit and cried in the aspens. That was the first of many, many visits. I’m drawn there by more than the trees and mountains.
Santa Fe feels and looks mystical.
The population is diverse, and the town projects all their influences. Native Americans built pueblos of adobe, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Later conquerors and migrants absorbed the style, originally made out of mud bricks comprised of desert sand and straw.
Santa Fe proper looks like a mystical place rising from the valley floor. Even the suburbs are required to use the adobe style, and buildings can’t be more than three stories high.
Streets in the square are now often filled with older tourist couples, in their matching cargo shorts, T-shirts, and tennis shoes. Some older couples merge into one gender after years of marriage — non-binary before it was cool.
Hispanic and Native American locals throughout Santa Fe, live alongside Anglos and people Chief Dan George called the “Black, white man,” in the movie Little Big Man.
On those same streets are Native American jewelry makers and pottery artists, lining the governor’s palace breezeway, some in traditional clothing, some women in dresses, and most men in standard 21st-century attire, with cowboy hats and bandannas. Most of these artisans live on the reservations.
Nearly 20 years after my first visit, I met my son’s father in the Plaza. He was one of the “Black, white men,” who would joke that he knew all 8 other Black people in town. In fact, the Black population has grown since then and is 1.45%. Another 7.34% is multi-racial.
Growing up I longed for something other than what I knew.
Without having been anywhere, I longed for Manhattan, Los Angeles, Paris. I craved art, music, and the company of those who created it. I wanted to know people who had different cultures, languages, and thoughts from the people I knew.
Since I left “home” I’ve visited all those places and more. I have enlightening, exciting, and even some frightening memories of hiking big city streets alone. I’ve been to the Louvre, and MOMA, and the Kimble, all world-famous art museums. I’ve attended broadway shows and drag shows, been to burlesque in Paris, and nude beaches on French islands.
None of these places felt completely like home.
Even the city I lived in for most of my adult life — Fort Worth, Texas — a bastion of museums, art galleries, dance, and theater, was mainly home in that I attended college there, loved and lost there, and raised my son there.
Santa Fe is the home that calls to me.
I’ve never wanted to be just one more Anglo immigrant to the ‘City Different.’ The original inhabitants have been conquered and displaced too much. Still, I simply can’t ignore the mystical, spiritual hold it has on me. Maybe I lived another lifetime there as another culture or ethnicity. Maybe I’ve lived several lifetimes there.
Whatever the reason, the aspens make me cry, Native American drums link my heartbeat to their rhythm, I’m drawn to the cool, restful colors of adobe dwellings, and the desert and big sky are my muses.
Home isn’t always where you’ve spent the most time, or where you have blood relations. Home may not even be where you speak the language. Except for the language of the heart.
Home is where they speak that language And the trees make you cry.
This post was previously published on Middle-Pause.
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