The photo to the left is in the hallway of San Felipe de Neri church in Old Town Albuquerque. Leaves are budding. I remember when I visited Old Town as a tourist and the feeling I got when I came here. It felt like my second home. I could be myself, be "real," be authentic. Now, two years later, I am being true to myself. On March 20, 2011 I drove out of snowy Minneapolis, with snowbanks shoulder high on a foggy morning and my car packed tight, picking up my friend Sandy Benoit. We had to travel to the middle of Iowa to see the end of the snow line, and by the time we made it to Kansas City, 7 hours later, it was 80 degrees. Our first overnight was north of Wichita, Kansas in the small town of Emporia, home of the legendary newspaperman William Allen White (I had discovered this on my previous exploratory trip - there always seem writers to guide me in my travels).
The smell of pinon, unique to New Mexico, greeted us when we crossed the border. That night we stayed in Albuquerque, arriving at sunset after a long and tiring drive and on the morning of March 22nd I met my apartment manager at San Miguel de Bosque to pick up my keys. I had packed air mattresses and everything I'd need in my car for a few days until the moving truck arrived several days later. Sandy and I were amazed to see green grass, the apartment pool, and planted spring flowers in the entryway. I was ready to kiss the ground! I hadn't seen the apartment, but I did preview the complex and it was more space than what I expected. Sandy flew home a few days later. Albuquerque was paradise for us, and I'm happy to say, it still is for me. I knew about three people here - Margaret Randall, Demetria Martinez and Alicia Ultan. I had interviewed Margaret previously and made a visit, I was doing writing coaching over the phone with Demetria and had met her at a writing workshop with Anya Achtenberg on a previous visit, and I knew Alicia's mom from Minnesota. I also quickly met Randy Myklebust, the cousin of a Minnesota friend who was at one of my parties, and he and his wife Diana warmly welcomed me into the world of hot air ballooning! I've had much fun crewing with them and their balloon Sky Candy.
I bought a house in July and now live two blocks from the Plaza so I can stroll there every day if I like and I am still amazed how following my instinct brought me here. I got a few names/emails from Demetria on where the poetry groups were and started hanging out - in any new place, stay with the poets! My first "regular" place was East of Edith at the Projects and I am so very grateful for the support and openness of the poets and writers there and in the other poetry communities that followed. Albuquerque gave me my best gift of all, my love John Roche, and our blue impossible dreams are becoming reality as we manage our long-distance relationship, slowly inching closer and closer.
Tonight I just got home from teaching a sestina class to wonderful women who are accomplished poets. Poetry sustains me, like the flaming fire that keeps circling around itself (thanks to Ezra Pound for a similar line) and the poets are always there for me, in person or on the page, wherever I am.
Over New Year's/Winter Solstice I sent a poem with my holiday letter. It is worth repeating here:
casa del paraiso
There, on the corner, rising
is the house of her dreams.
Once out of reach,
a place of sanctuary rises
a wood burning kiva
clawfoot bathtub and decks for tea.
Ah, and in the garden patio
among the trees and mint leaves
the golden fish swim
where Antonio in Bless Me, Ultima
finds his elusive carpa dorada.
From her wandering,
she makes a home for herself
with her gato and her lover.
Trumpet vines declare it is fine to be here,
a place for poets to gather
a place for her to settle where she has no ancestors
but where she feels at home.
In her house of paradise.
In the distance, the mountains.
-- Jules Nyquist