May 6th 2008
I Finish This Trip
I have been home for two weeks at my Albuquerque home with my parents as we wait for my younger brother Douglas to graduate. I have not spent much time at home over the past few years and despite missing my home in Seattle, it is energizing to spend time with my family. There is nothing quite like having those you love pick you up at the airport. It does not matter if you have been gone a weekend, three and a half months, or a year. My brother and Mom were waiting, and as is our custom when I come home, we headed to the Frontier restaurant. This diner-like egalitarian institution across from the University of New Mexico serves New Mexican green chili on just about everything - a taste I can find no where else, and crave mightily when I travel.
This past weekend I drove down to visit my family in the southen half of the state in Las Cruces. It was here where I realized that this particular trip now ended for me. It was where it began. If you have been following this blog the whole time, you will know my grandfather died on December 30th 2007. He had been sick over Christmas and that was my last physical memory of him. I had planned on heading out to Australia earlier in that week, but there was no way I would not come to Las Cruces with the rest of my family to pay our last respects. We did so on Picacho Peak, the well-shaped mountain behind his and my grandmother’s house. We all climbed the 1000ft peak, even my grandmother. On the summit we scattered his ashes, and drank red wine in his honor. A hawk appeared, rode the thermals for nearly a minute, and flew off into the distance. Before I left I took his passport with me. It never left my side.
That was three and a half months ago. I knew that this trip and any subsequent trip to Las Cruces would involve climbing the Peak. My grandmother’s house sits on a ridge below the mountain. The house and those around it are xeroscaped into the desert surroundings and are in the adobe style typical of the area. I woke early to avoid the heat and snakes that would follow a later start. Besides, my grandmother was an early riser and I did not want to miss her classic pancakes she had promised me. Despite being among many deserts over the past few months, I was happy to be in the desert of my childhood. I love the smell of the gum trees, but the smell that rises to my nose when I crush the creosote between my fingers reminds me of a home I can never recapture. Like Australia's, this is a harsh landscape. The bright green leaves of the mesquite hide the inch long spikes. On the other hand, the slim fingers of the Ocatillo make no bones about the gauntlet of spikes that run from the base to the top ceasing only at the delicate clusters of bell-shaped flame-red flowers that crown it. I hiked through the sand, bathing in the rich smells of the Chihuahua Desert and thinking to myself what a good idea it was to have waited a little after dawn broke as the mountain was spectacular in the first rays of light. My route was directly up the mountain in a straight line. The rocks were slick against each other and I took my time so as not to fall on the abundant spiky things that grew around me. The mountain has two summits connected by a short ridge. My path took me to the shorter one. As I topped it, I looked out over the rolling fabric of shallow hills, the early shadows enunciated their shapes. The wind was light but it was enough at least for the hawk that greeted me. It looked like the same hawk that greeted us after our toast to Grumpa Stan on January 5. Grumpa's passport was in my backpack. The hawk rode the thermals for several seconds and then leaned away from Picacho Peak until his molted brown wings disappeared into the landscape. I smiled and walked to the powder coated cross on top of the small cairn on the higher summit. I noticed with renewed interest the lime green lichen on the several of the rocks. Combined with the cross, it reminded me of the Wilson’s Prom cross and the equally spectacular orange lichen. I pulled out Grumpa's passport and looked at it. His eyes were bright and his head slightly cocked to the side with a smile. As with any long trip, what it ends up really meaning takes time. The morning sun was bright. This was a good place to finish.
I don’t really know how many people actually read this blog. If you got this far I truly hoped you enjoyed my observations and like to think that I could perhaps take you some place a little different for a few minutes every time you dropped in. This is by no means my last trip. If you want to keep informed of my next travels check http://www.oarnothrwest.com/. My movements will be there. I also understand a few of my readers were not privy to the pictures I took. Those are avalable at http://bikeperthtosydney.googlepages.com/.
A quick thank you to my parents who checked the majority of my blogs and kept my website updated when I could not get to it. I could not have posted a blog a day (which was my goal) without them. Thank you for your time. Goodbye for now, and as a lovely woman I met in Darwin on one warm wet tropical downpour of a night said to me: "Enjoy Safe Travels."