We’ve passed a watermark in our lives: we’ve been in the Santa Fe house for one year now.

I know. Time seriously flies, right?

So today I’m officially retiring the “Big Move” and “Big Switch” labels. It seems right. That part of our lives is over now. We switched; we moved. We’re here now. One year ago on August 14, we pulled our U-Haul truck into this driveway, moved stuff out of the Jeep and into the front seat of the truck. David climbed in and he, Zip and I drove into town to close on the house, just a hair before the 4:30 courthouse cut-off. With house keys in hand, which we pretty much had to wrest out of our dim-witted realtor’s hand – it’s a long story – we returned to the house, having made only a quick stop for a frozen pizza and beer. We unpacked the bed and ate the pizza watching the sunset.

In commemoration, I took this photo. I spent the evening reading on the patio anyway. I’m so blessed to have this kind of view.

(Um, no – this is still the old point and shoot camera. I’m working on it, okay? I did have this idea that I’d take an anniversary family photo with the new camera on the tripod, but I had significant learning curve still to overcome and David was scruffy and studying and it was hot out and the the animals wouldn’t have liked it and, and, and…)

David and I spent a lot of the weekend talking about how our lives have changed in this last year. It’s good to have watermarks like this, to measure the high and low tides of our lives. By the end of this week, he will have completed the first of three years of schooling. Completed with flying colors, I should add.

It’s another watermark that I have the new camera. Moving here really got me going on photography. I’ve been throwing all my Santa Fe photos into a “Santa Fe” subfolder under “House” – which is an artifact of moving in. Most of them are named by date. Like a careless banking programmer, however, they’re labeled with month and day. Now that I’ve wrapped the year, I need to sort them into year groupings, to avoid duplication. Fortunately it appears I didn’t get it together (read: I spent all my time unpacking) to start taking pictures by date until 9_17.

Gives me a bit of breathing room.

Now we commence the second year, of school, of the new place. I know what to expect from the plants and the weather. We have a pattern to follow now, a high tide line.

That was just the first year of the rest of our lives.

Prince of a Man

Today is David’s Birthday.

And with today, we complete the cycle that first brought us to Santa Fe. A year ago today, David turned 50 and we drove down to Santa Fe to commence our house hunt. A year from tomorrow will be the first time we saw this house. David turning 50 also marked the beginning of his early retirement, which freed him to return to school to start this second career.

Finally I can connect the cycle of how the garden looked this time last year (better than it does now, I think. alas).

In my family, birthdays are special, but I feel like David often gets a bit skunked on his. Sometimes we’ve done fun things, like the year we went to Las Vegas for a few days and saw three nights of Cirque du Soleil, and drank margaritas by the pool during the day. Or the year we drove around Wyoming during his birthday week and played tourist.

But last year I was scrambling for gifts because I’d been on non-stop travel. It should have been a special party for his 50th, like we did for his 40th. I’d hoped we’d go out to dinner on some great patio in Santa Fe, but it was pouring rain when we arrived and we just didn’t feel like going back out in it. We ended up ordering dining delivery from Maria’s Kitchen. We stayed in, drank the expensive tequila I’d gotten him and listened to the rain.

We both remember that evening with nostalgia, though there wasn’t much to it. Tonight we have reservations for the patio at Luminaria, which people say makes you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. He has class all day and an exam this afternoon. Hopefully we can do cocktails and presents on the patio before we go to dinner.

Another low-key birthday for David. But maybe that’s okay.

Next year, though, I’m thinking we should go back to Las Vegas for the weekend.

My Old Wyoming Home

I don’t think about the old house much.

Which is kind of odd, because it once meant so much to me. Last week, when David and I went to Ten Thousand Waves to celebrate our anniversary by soaking in a private tub, he asked me if I thought the new people were using the hot tub much.

I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.

“Our hot tub?” he says. “The people who bought our house — do you think they use the hot tub?”

Ohhhh. The hot tub we used to sit in pretty much every night for five years. In the house we bought for love. For jts beauty and the sunlight. I just hadn’t thought about it. “They’re from California and it’s been a cold winter — I hope they’re using it!”

And then I started thinking more about how they were doing. If they figured out how to set up the pond heater so the koi in the pond will overwinter. The upstairs gets cold when it’s really chilly — I should have left a note telling them of my trick of closing the downstairs heating vents and turning on the upstairs ceiling fan and heating from the top down on those super-frosty days.

Last night I dreamed that we snuck into the old house. The person we were with — maybe a real estate agent? — knew they were out of town. So we went in to look around and all the windows were shaded so no light came in! Enraged, I went around opening shades and doors. I heard voices behind one door and there was a woman inside, reading to a little girl who was sick.


So I fled. Fortunately she didn’t see me. (How she couldn’t when I opened the door to the bedroom is silly, but that’s the great thing about dreams.)

Anyway, I think I’m connecting with the timing. It was one year ago now that we put our house on the market. I started to say good-bye then. I wasn’t sure of the date until I checked this blog post. Amazing to me how our subconscious notes and commemorates anniversaries, even if we consciously don’t.

Coincidentally, I wrote about that house (okay, that part isn’t a coinicidence – I write about every damn thing, like cats and New Mexico weather) and the essay appeared in Going Green.
Recently the Wyoming Library Roundup published an article on the anthology and they used a picture of our old house. (Look at page 9 – I can’t seem to get it to bookmark.)

So now it’s immortalized the way I liked it, for all to see. Which is a lovely by-product of writing. It doesn’t really matter if they use the hot tub, if the fish survive the winter or if they close the shades.

It’s their house now. Mine is in the book.

True Love

“Well, Sundance, at least we have enough ammo to hold off the Bolivian Army.”

This is what I was planning to say to David when I came back into the house after organizing the garage. I had the words all picked out, amused myself terribly as I worked, but then I couldn’t quite tease him about it.

Contrary to some opinion, I do hold my tongue now and then.

However, I did tell David that I thought he was the worst packer on the face of the Earth. This is after I suggested throwing his old suitcase into the BB/BS donation pile for tomorrow morning, and he said there was stuff in it and I said, no, I checked and PUT AWAY the collection of BULLETS, CARTRIDGES, NAILS and SCREWS.

I kid you not. The suitcase was full of this stuff.

He says, “I had no choice about that.”

Which makes me laugh, because he totally means it. He means that, faced with drawers of random hardware condiments and ammunition, on a short timeline — and, oh my god, our timeline was short — that throwing a chunk of it into his broken old suitcase would seem inevitable.

In a month, we’ll have been together for 19 years. So, this is all stuff I know about him. One of my first published essays was called “Bullets,” and was about dating a man who had shotgun cartridges rolling around in his truck.

Of course, even though he doesn’t hunt anymore, we have plenty of ammo.

Which I packed away, in my organized fashion, into the plastic bin labelled “hunting supplies.” If/when he asks me where it all is, I can tell him. Because, you know, he will ask. Though I must grant that he remembered which broken suitcase he’d stowed it in. And I’m pretty sure that was late on the last Thursday, just before we closed the truck and left the house forever. Right after I asked him if he’d packed the stuff in his drawers in the basement. An ingenuous question on my part, because I knew perfectly well he hadn’t.

Which is why he had no choice and why I shouldn’t be surprised to find it.

All I can say is, if we move to Bolivia?

We’re taking nothing and starting fresh.

Oral Surgery

This is actually a setting October crescent moon. Held by an unstable hand. Turned out kind of cool, actually. I took this after our first party in the new house, at which I drank a fair amount of wine. Hence the unsteady hand.

The serendipity of over-indulgence.

Yesterday was all about getting ready for the party. Which made a good break for me. No working on the book. No working on work. No blog post, even. No, yesterday was packed with buying food and booze and getting the house clean.

Which, apparently I hadn’t really cleaned since we moved in.

That doesn’t seem like such a big deal, except we’ve been here two months now. And that’s a little long to go. We needed some rebound time from having our house on the market for six months, show-ready all that time. But, that was plenty long enough.

So the mundane tasks demanded my attention and that was okay.

Except for the kitty medical emergency.

I was vaccuming away, only ten minutes behind my intended in-the-shower deadline, when David came in carrying Isabel. I thought he’d captured her before the party, so I nodded and smiled when he said something to me.

“She’s got a cholla burr in her mouth!” He said louder.

Oh. OH!

I turned off the vaccum cleanerand went over to him. Sure enough, there was a big cholla burr hanging off her lip. She was frothing and salivating and I quickly yanked it off.

These things are nasty – big and spiky. Every one of us has stepped on one now. They hurt like hell, but they come out fairly easily. Even Zip, who’s not that bright, has learned to yank them out of his paws with his front teeth and spit them out again.

But, though, the cholla burr came off Isabel’s lip quickly enough, she jumped out of David’s arms, still licking and frothing, and raced for the sanctuary of the bedroom.

“She’s got one inside her mouth, still.” David said.

So, we dug her out from under the bed. I held Isabel on her back on my lap, as I sat on the floor, back against the bed. From my angle, I could see the burr embedded in the roof of her mouth. David held her paws and I tried to grab the thing, but couldn’t get a grip. White fur was flying everywhere.

Meanwhile the guests are arriving in 45 minutes, I haven’t finished the vaccuming and I’m filthy from house-cleaning.

While David fetches the tweezers, I’m thinking about how we could put a note on the door while we take her to the vet, which may or may not be still open this late on a Friday afternoon. Isabel is alternately hissing and pitifully meowing.

I got closer to a grip with the tweezers, but everytime I touched it, Isabel would yank away in pain. So David got a beach towel — the big one we bought in Culebra with the multi-colored giant polka-dots on it. We wrapped her up in it, so only her little white furry face poked out.

This time when I pried open her mouth, we could hold the mummy-cat steady. I yanked that burr right out.

Isabel went to the closet to recover her composure, then slept the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I finished the vaccuming — including a redo of the bedroom — managed to clean-up and cute-up before the first guest arrived.

Fortuntately, no one was right on time.

But What IS Normal?

I left our new house today, almost exactly one month after we first arrived.

And yes, there was an unreality to it.

My schedule doesn’t often allow for an unbroken four weeks at home, so that was a blessing. But last night, as I packed for this business trip, a part of me pictured the old house in Laramie. As if I’d be returning there after this trip, as I did for so many years.

In fact, it felt a bit like the vacation was over.

We’ve been feeling that way, less so now than at first. We’ve been feeling like we’re simply renting this vacation house and we’ll return to real life sooner or later. I’m not sure where that comes from. We’ve certainly done that before, rented a house in a beautiful place for a week or two. With always the return to normal life after.

And the new house is beautiful enough to be that. I remember when we moved into our last house, it took me a while to become accustomed to the new circumstances. I wouldn’t habitually drive to the old house, the one we lived in for 11 years, but I’d feel the impulse to go that direction. Sometimes I’d drive by the old house, just to see it, even though the new house was a step up in every way.

That move though, was only from the fifth block north to the fourth block south, and from 6th Street to 11th Street. Our new house was only around the corner from the apartment I first rented when I moved to Laramie as a grad student in 1988.

So the relocation has something to do with it. Though I don’t remember feeling this way when I moved from Denver to St. Louis at 18, or from St. Louis to Laramie at 22.

I’m really wondering if this isn’t habit so much as age.

Yesterday, David bought a field guide to the local plants, insects and animals. He needs a real grounding in the nature around him, so different from Wyoming’s.

Leaving the house this morning, I felt funny about it. Packing had been weird, since I was out of step on my habits. Still learning where I’ve put everything.

“Will it be strange for you,” I asked David, “being in this house without me?”

“Probably,” he answered, and looked a little sad. Then he shrugged. “Just another new thing to get used to.”

It’s good for us, to make this change. To stimulate our mental flexibility and learn a new place and culture.

I wonder when it will begin to feel like normal life.

Photographic Evidence

We knew we had a packrat here from the first day.

Well, second day, really. Since our actual first day involved the drive from hell, parking the U-Haul in the driveway, going to the closing from hell, cooking a frozen pizza and unloading enough of the U-Haul to find our bed and then crashing in it.

So, it was really the second day that David rounded the corner to see a pack rat cheerfully trotting up the U-Haul ramp to see what goodies we might have for him. The sight of David threw him into a frenzy, of course, and he bolted for the nearby desert shrubbery.

But we didn’t give it much thought.

Until David notifed the garbage pen was filling up with dead chunks of cholla.

“I thought the woman was trying to booby trap me with cactus!” he says to me.

“What?” (And, yes, this is really how he talks to me.)

“In the garbage. I wondered what you were doing, sticking all that dead cholla in there for me to trip over.”

“I haven’t been putting any cholla in there!”

“I know that now — it’s the pack rat.”

Now, we won’t say anything about David assuming that I would just randomly pile cactus pieces around the garbage cans. Or that he, probably grumpily cursing my name, which he now has to make up to me with all kinds of sweetness to balance the relationship karma again, bagged up all the cholla so I didn’t get a good picture of the incipient nest. David figured it out the next day, when there were a couple of new, carefully placed pieces of dead cholla, as seen here. Apparently David decided that even I, in my random garbage pen activities, wouldn’t do this kind of thing.

So he put the new wildlife camera in the garbage pen. It’s one of those infrared cameras, that’s motion sensitive. David’s been hopeful of snapping the coyotes, bobcats or screen-surveying mountain lions, but so far all he’s caught are birds and our own domestic wildlife, like the top pic of Isabel.

I did helpfully put up my purple lizard beanie-doll in front of the camera when he went to the store, since David was so disappointed not to have any good animal pics yet. The photo was hysterical, but he deleted it. He assures me that his deleting it is not an editorial comment and that he does still think I’m funny after all these years. He even offered to redo the photo, so I could post it here, but I thought the spontaneity would be lacking and you’d all notice it was staged.


Anyway, as you can see, he got a photo of the rat. Several in fact. Here’s a close-up.

Not a real pack rat, after all. In one of the pics, which is quite blurry, so I won’t bother putting it here, you can see an incriminating chunk of dead cholla in his mouth.

I am vindicated.

But contemplating filling the garbage pen with purple lizard beanie dolls…

Lions and Arbors and Boxes.

Saturday morning, writing under the grape arbor.

David is sitting with me reading Osho. Teddy is laying on the cool flagstone, Zipper beside her. Isabel, the ever independent, is out front hoping the baby quail show up again. They appeared yesterday for the first time, bobbling along behind the older quail, like fluffy bit of popcorn on toothpicks. Isabel was electrified by the sight.

No baby quail snacks in her future, however.

The quail are smart enough to know when she’s out there, and she can only go out in bright light. I keep dreaming at night that she’s caught outside. David, too, has been waking to the coyote howls and getting up to make sure she’s still inside. In the same way the animals have been unsettled, he’s been nervous in this new environment. Uncertain how to best protect us all. Isabel is always sitting in a window, watching the night.

“Would a coyote try to get Isabel through the screen?” I wondered.

“That’s why I have the rifle, two sticks and my pistol under the bed,” David said.

I had previously commented on the unprecedented number of weapons under our bed here.

“To beat the coyotes off Isabel?”

“More if a mountain lion comes through the screen.”

“I think if someone in Eldorado had a mountain lion come through their screen, we would have heard the story,” I told him.

“Fine, make fun,” he answered. “But if a mountain lion DOES come through the screen, I’ll be ready. “

I know he’ll settle down as he gets into the groove. I must constantly remind myself that David has never moved to a totally new place. The biggest move he’s made before this was from Buffalo, Wyoming to Laramie, Wyoming.

We have recycling pick-up here, which we ain’t never done had afore back in ol’ Wyo. We signed up for it, for an additional $4.87/month, which seems like a great deal to me. They gave us a green can for recyclables, that’s slightly smaller than the one for garbage. They pick up on a different day for that one, and only every two weeks. David fretted about remembering the dates until I put them in my Outlook calendar with a day-before reminder.

Last Wednesday was our first pick-up. Since he’s got time until classes start, he spent several hours Tuesday breaking down moving boxes, since they recycle cardboard. But there was too much to fit in the can.

“Just stack up the extra next to the can,” I offered. “Worst they can do is not take it.”

But he didn’t like that idea. He took Zip out and drove around the neighborhood to see how the other neighbors did it.

“I wonder if tomorrow is the right day,” he said when he returned.

“It is,” I answered without looking up from my laptop.

“Only three other neighbors have green cans out.”

“Maybe not everyone has the same pick-up day. Maybe not everyone pays the extra to recycle.”

“Well, none of them had extra stuff next to their cans.”

At least he was satisfied that enough people put theirs out the night before that he was okay there. The next morning when we went running, I pointed out another green can, about three blocks away.

“I counted that one,” he told me.

“Jeez — how far did you go?”

“A ways. I wanted to get a good survey of how everyone was doing it.”

“Why do you even care how the neighbors do it?” I asked.

“I just want to make sure to be doing things the right way.”

“I’m going to have to write about this in my blog, you know,” I told him.

“I know — I don’t care.”

And he doesn’t. One of the things I love best about David is he doesn’t mind me writing about him. This is an incredibly valuable trait in someone who shares their life with a writer, especially an essayist.

That, and that he’ll protect me from the mountain lion coming through the screen.

Now, Where Did I Pack My Writing Career?

I hoped to get a shot of our covey of quail for you today, but I missed them.

Instead you get Teddy watching the sunset. Or maybe looking for quail in the chamisa.

It could have been that it was sunnier and brighter today. The last two days they all trooped by and pecked around in the gravel around 9:15. You can hear them coming, snooting around in the juniper to the west of the house. They chuckle amongst themselves as they approach. Then they scurry into sight from around the yucca plants.

They don’t stay long. Maybe ten minutes, before they head off in a line again, heading farther east. Sometimes I see them come back through in the evening.

Today dawned bright and clear, however, so they might have started their perambulations earlier. Not like the cool misty mornings of the last two days. I, too, am resuming my schedule. As mine solidifies, I should better learn theirs.

We’ve gone running the last two mornings, though we’re not back to getting up at 5:30. I’ve been productive at the day job. And now I’m going to work on my book revision. A file that has not been open since July 19, over a month ago. And I’m reasonably certain, by the timing of that date, that it was only to send it to an agent I met at RWA National. The outtakes file is dated June 2.

A sinking feeling tells me I haven’t worked on it since June.

Time flies when you’re losing your mind.

I had a little crisis this morning. My friend, Leanna Renee Hieber, celebrated the release of her first book yesterday, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. In fact, several friends had releases in the last few days. I tried not to be too envious. But then I also received my “royalty statement” from UNM Press for Wyo Trucks, which shows that the book is really dead to the world at this point. Never mind that I haven’t been putting in ANY effort to sell it lately.

Nor into my revision of Obsidian.

Nor into writing anything new.

Thus: my crisis.

But my friend Allison was on the other other end of the IM with the perfect pep talk. She made me realize that all this means is that I have my head above water again, that I’m even thinking about my writing career again, instead of what box my frying pan might be in. It makes me think of Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs, a model that has served me well all my life. Basically the idea is that, if a lower tier on the pyramid isn’t handled, you can’t possibly reach a higher tier. What sucks for us artist types? Creativity is the very top piece. Which basically means you have to have everything else in your life handled first.

So unfair.

But I have my manuscript open. I’ve got some great ideas from Allison on working my way back in.

Wonder-Twin Power? Self-Actualize!

Dances with Quail

My new offfice is now set up!

Qwest came today to hook me up, so I am once again live on the ‘net. I feel so…connected. Not a brilliant observation, but there it is. The cables are reattached, the Cadmus laptop docked and all peripherals performing their little jobs.

To celebrate, a covey of quail just trotted by, along the edge of the garden out front. Hummingbirds have been keeping me company all day. There are several large gillia plants, blooming profusely. One of the first things I learned in graduate school was about how the gillia flowers fit hummingbird beaks perfectly. They serve up nectar better than any other flower and hummingbirds give them great preference, guaranteeing consistent pollination for the plants. The harmony of nature. Perfect co-evolution.

Yes, we’re loving the new house.

And, boy, was it a marathon getting here.

The recap:

Our last episode found me in the Burlington, Vermont airport hoping for the best. Thanks to all who watch over me, the best happened.

I made it through Dulles and back into Denver only an hour late. Got to my mom’s about 2am Wednesday night. (Yes, one week ago!) We headed up to Laramie around 7am the next morning. My mom and Dave took the Jag, the Buick, the kitties and the musical instruments back down to Denver.

David and I loaded the U-Haul.

And packed.

And loaded the U-Haul some more.

Never mind that last Thursday was the eighth day of loading, it still took us until 11 fucking-o-clock that night to finish. In the end, the patio chairs wouldn’t fit. Nor would my hibiscus tree, jade tree, jasmine tree and assorted other plants. Abandoned, all.

We drove to Denver in such a stunned exhaustion that I don’t remember much of the drive. I had the easy job: follow the U-Haul truck. We got to my mom’s and to bed again around 2am. Got up at 5:15am to drive to Santa Fe in time for the closing.

At one point, around Raton, I nearly called David to tell him I couldn’t keep going. But I had to. No choice.

We made it to Glorieta by 1pm, though. Dropped off the U-Haul at the new house and drove the Jeep into town for the 2pm closing.

Which took 2.5 hours. I kid you not.

No, I don’t know why. Something about New Mexico legalities with much trading of papers between Provident Lending and Southwest Title and Escrow. I’m pretty sure I have NO idea what I signed.

We stopped at the grocery store for beer and a frozen pizza. While it cooked, we unloaded the traumatized plants that did get to come, watered them. After some food (no, we hadn’t eaten all day, except for coffee drinks and protein bars), we unloaded the U-Haul enough to get the futon out.

We made up the bed with the linens I’d remembered to keep out. Drank a beer to our personal sunset and crashed.

The next day, we unloaded the U-Haul.

That’s right: eight days to load, one day to unload. There’s a lesson there. Just don’t ask me what it is.

Of course we’re still putting things away. Hence my creation of “office” just today. I couldn’t get a pic of both the office AND the view. But the desk at the window is above and here’s what it looks like, with the focus out the window:

I know. Best Birthday Present EVER!