Gila Cliff Dwellings

After leaving Albuquerque, we headed up into the Mongollon mountains to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings. We overnighted at an RV park just outside of the monument but within the national forest. The drive to the Gila area was over a very scenic pass, although we were running behind and drove it after dark, so we did not get to enjoy the scenery. The RV park had hookups so that was really cool for our first night in the RV.

I have to say that so far on this trip, Gila Cliff Dwellings has been one of my favorite stops so far. It was a nice sunny day when we started out on the trail that went up into the woods. The climb was not especially steep despite the warnings of the park rangers who urged us to take more water than we seasoned hikers really needed. There were a few rest areas on the walk up that a person less seasoned with uphill hiking might use.

Even before reaching the top, the trail offered soaring views of the cliff dwellings and the valley over which they looked. I got really excited as I could see the dwelling walls. So that I wouldn’t be disappointed, I had lowered my expectation of what I’d see of the cliff dwelling remains, but as I viewed them from a distance, I got really excited because they appeared to be what I would have expected.

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We came to the end of the trail to an open cave that no longer had a wall. A ranger immediately walked up to us to explain that we were looking at what was probably a single-family abode with a fire pit and sleeping area. She then explained that much of what we were about to see and what she could tell us about the place were mostly guesses based on what local people from tribes descended from these dwellers could piece together, and what historians can only surmise from the little evidence remaining. (We had missed the one guided tour they give per day, but this ranger really ended up practically giving us the information we would have gotten from a guided tour by answering our questions.)

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Moving on from the first two caves (the second one was still walled and secure but they had it closed off because it’s dangerous to enter), the dwellings just got more interesting… Crow and I walked through every room we could get to and looked into every crevice. We must have been up there an hour or more. There were not a lot of people so it was very cool to feel as though we had the place to ourselves (and we could get shots of the dwellings without other people in them).

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I found myself imagining what it would have been like to live in such a place as a native. Of course, these kind of thoughts generally lead me to want to do research and then… you know, it could end up as a story idea. I kept repeating aloud, “This is so awesome!” and “This is so cool!” as I walked around that place. This is definitely one of those moments in life where even a writer can’t find the appropriate words to describe just how magnificent a place like this is. Much of the structures were no longer intact in their original form, but there was enough there that it is very easy for me to imagine life in this “high rise” overlooking a beautiful valley (that unfortunately recently experienced a forest fire).

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There was a little bit of restoration by the park to make the area safe to navigate around (I’m sure the steps below are not original). But the ranger was very good at explaining how the village may have looked. When the structures had roofs, it is believed the people walked on roofs to get from place to place. Additionally, they created ladders to climb from various places on the cliff into specific dwellings.

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I can’t imagine the thrill of finding a place like this tucked away in the wilderness. What an awesome discovery that must have been to see this place in a more pristine state. I’m sure people came through before it was a part and contributed to the ruins or stole some artifacts that were still around. But, wow. What a place. My pictures don’t even do it just as the camera lens cannot capture all that your eyes can see. But I tried. And these are only the pictures off my roll; I imagine Crow’s are even better.

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I admit that I felt a little sad to leave the cliff dwellings behind when we began our hike down. It was like I’d entered some alternate universe where for just an hour or two, I could connect with some phase of humanity’s past. The last time I felt this moved about a place was the Colosseum and Palatine Hill in Rome. I’m not directly descended from native Americans or Romans, that I know of, but I still feel a connection to the great chain of human existence when I go to places such as these. Maybe it’s the writer in me who always tries to put herself in those time periods and societies because I want to know what they were like. The part of me that wants to know what the daily lives of these people were like wants to research for answers… and then the writer in me wants to put herself in that time period through the characters of a story. But I’ll wager I’m not the only person who ponders human existence at places like these…

We will visit Mesa Verde on this trip so I’ll have a second opportunity to view cliff dwellings. We have a guided tour for that one. I look forward to learning more about native cliff dwelling people.

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Petroglyphs

Before picking up our RV, and therefore leaving Albuquerque, we decided to check out the Petroglyphs National Monument. This area contained a series of rocks on which ancient native people drew–or wrote–leaving behind cryptic pictures that we really, apparently, have no idea what they mean. Many signs indicated that some of the tribes today with ties to the ancient people have some theories as to the meanings of these drawings, but no one appears to be certain about all of them.

I personally like to speculate that most of them were about aliens from outer space interacting with the alien people. Come on, how can you deny it with pictures such as this:

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Or this:

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Ok, so that one shows a bird, but still… the spirally thing? What’s that? It’s the warp drive the aliens used to get here, of course!!

And certainly the creature in the next petroglyph is not of earthly origin….

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Okay, I’ll believe that the petroglyph shown below is a yucca plant, as the sign claimed, and not a space craft or aircraft of alien origin….

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…But I simply will not accept that the following does not depict a space ship crash landing into a group of teenagers celebrating Mardi Gras.

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And I believe this to be a portrait of one an elder from the bird species of Beta Fomalhaut 4.

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Perhaps these represent teenage angst.

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But you can’t tell me that this isn’t close encounters of the third kind…

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Disclaimer: I mean no disrespect to the native people of New Mexico. I actually found these petroglyphs quite moving. It just tickles my funny bone to look upon them as a 21st century girl who wants to believe that ancient man was visited by men from outerspace. I wish we really knew fully what these symbols mean… It really makes you think about how symbols only mean something in context to the civilization making them. Will writing some day be obsolete and seen as anything more than incomprehensible scribbles to future man? In all likelihood, yes. And in that case, I give the future tourists looking upon my writings to deem them an account of an encounter with men from outerspace!

Lavender and an Organic Farm

We began our adventure on July 14th with only three hours sleep between arriving at our hotel after the reception (and subsequent clean up and last minute packing at the house) and getting up at 5am because we had a 8:00am flight for Albuquerque, New Mexico… Can you say “jet lag”? Or, really, “post-wedding lag.” Who’s bright idea was it to book a 8am flight the day after our wedding anyway?

Oh, yeah. That was me. I forgot.

I wanted to get the most days out west as possible. I guess I forgot about how incredibly tired one is after the planning and execution of one’s wedding is complete. Hard to believe that as a seasoned person, I’d forget that. I guess I just figured that walking onto the plane as a zombie is socially acceptable. I just forgot how painful it is.

I usually appreciate air travel as time for me to do some reading. With that in mind, I packed the book I started reading in February and a new book from my own shelves that I have not yet read in anticipation that I would finally complete the first and get to start the next. Ha, ha.

I slept the moment the plane started moving until it started to descend on the first flight, and then, on the second flight, I slept most of the way, though I woke up long enough for a few snacks and a pop.

When we arrived in Albuquerque (which is not, I learned, an airport but a “sunport”), it was sunny and warm. I felt jet-lagged but excited out seeing someplace new. We had planned to spend one night at a hotel because we could not get our RV until the following day. Since we had arrived in Albuquerque before noon, we could not check into our hotel. So we drove to the Old Downtown Albuquerque and walked around browsing in shops and such.

I was immediately taken by the square, adobe architecture of New Mexico. It was like every stereotype of the southwest I’d ever known. I guess that’s why it’s a stereotype. Of course, every shop was filled with turquoise jewelry and authentic-appearing (but not always so) Native American art. Crow loves southwestern style art and furnishings (it was the inspiration for the color we painted our bedroom, which is terra cotta) and it seems some of that is rubbing off onto me.

The hot sunny day broke into a sudden sunny thunderstorm that Crow says was typical of this area of the country. The rain stopped but the evening settled into clouds. It was still early, but I was getting kind of tired, so we decided to finally check into our hotel.

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The courtyard at our hotel.

Crow picked the hotel and had booked it a few weeks ago. It was actually the coolest place I’d ever been as far as an overnight stay–even cooler than any bed and breakfast I’d ever stayed at. It was called the Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. Crow had chosen the beer-themed package where we got a refrigerator stocked with select local brews, a dinner sandwich, and some delicious tortilla chips. The sandwich was gourmet–beef with some kind of delicious dressings.

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Peacocks (including an “almost albino” white one) roamed the property freely and the smell of lavender from the fields where they were growing scented the wind. The gardens were beautiful as well and the room was really cozy. We were in the lap of luxury in this quiet, peaceful place. I pretty much crashed around 8:30pm, jet-lagged to the core, and had a very restful sleep.

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The next morning we had the most awesome breakfast–included in our room. I don’t remember the name of my meal (I’m so bad at non-English words sometimes), but it was basically a tomato-based soup with some kind of soft-boiled egg and lots of other veggies. Crow had the omelet–which was wrapped around a cream cheese and a raspberry sauce. We each share a bite of each other’s meal and I completely stuffed myself to finish mine, it was so good.

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Our delicious breakfasts.

We walked around the grounds after breakfast, enjoying the local animals–some chickens and goats. We both fed the goats. At the little gift shop, I bought some lavender soap for our RV and a book about growing and harvesting lavender since I recently planted lavender for the flower, but I’ve been thinking of trying to use the flower if they grow.

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Crow delicately (piece by piece) feeds the goats.

All and all, it was a completely beautiful first day and a half. I totally fell in love with Crow again for his marvelous selection in a hotel.

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The kitty who ran the register at the gift shop.

Once in a Lifetime

A lot of people in my life right now don’t know that I was widowed. I’m not hiding it, but I’m not advertising it either. I’ve had chances to correct people, but I’ve let them slip. It’s just easier that way. At a time when I’m involved in a major, wonderful change in my life–a change I don’t want sobered by some depressing back story that is only slightly relevant to the current situation–I just feel it’s better to leave the topic of my widowhood untouched.

I’ve just switched jobs. Out of sympathy for those around me, because it always causes people to behave awkwardly, I’ve not corrected anyone when they have made comments that suggest that I’m planning my first wedding ever. As far as anyone knows in my current job, and some other aspects of my life (like newer members of the bike club and Crow’s friends and family), I’ve been single all these years to 38.

I’m mostly fine with this. I’ve even been careful not to bring up prior knowledge of what it’s like to plan a ceremony and go through with the entire thing. Sometimes I say something like, “Well, you know, people RSVP, but there’s always someone who shows up who didn’t RSVP and someone who did RSVP but doesn’t show up.” I guess they figure I know this from past experience planning parties in general. I’ve left a few hints like, “The day will go by so fast, I won’t remember any of this.” I guess they assume I’m making these statements based on the experiences of friends who have gotten married before me. God knows I’ve had plenty of experience as a bridesmaid for proof.

So when people refer to my coming wedding to Crow as a “once in a lifetime” event, I just inwardly cringe.

Once in a life time.

Yeah.

But this is my second time. And it’s not because I got divorced. I didn’t fail in my first marriage. My first husband didn’t fail me. Life, I guess, failed the both of us. Or rather, Mike’s poor heart failed him.

I want to respond, “Well, it’s not my first time. But it’s equally as important!”

I feel almost as though admitting to having been married before takes something away from what people think about my marriage to Crow. As though he were some sort of consolation prize. Or an emotional and spiritual fix for a girl who lost her first love to tragedy. I’m silent about my first marriage because I want people to value Crow’s marriage to me with just as much value as they would have placed in my marriage to Mike (if they were there to witness it).

For those in my life who were around to witness my wedding and marriage to Mike, I only hope that they can see the two events as completely separate. I don’t want people to compare one wedding or one relationship to the other because I don’t. I love Mike and Crow in completely different ways because they are completely different people who knew a completely different version of me at utterly different stages in my life. One does not replace the other in my heart; they each occupy their own spaces. It’s easier for me as a widow to understand this concept, I think, than it is for someone who has not lost a spouse to comprehend. It still seems as though bringing up my first husband in a conversation makes people feel as though I have not completely healed. And I have.

There is an amazing double-standard, I’ve learned, with how one is supposed to grieve and remember a spouse as opposed to a relative or friend. If I bring up missing a grandparent, as I do often, no one bats an eye. People don’t even behave as though they are uncomfortable. When I bring up Mike, the air becomes still. No one breathes. The subject is touchy. Is it because people treat romantic love as something less important, easily replaceable? Or is it such a sensitive loss that people don’t know how to react? If the latter is the case, why are people so quick to advise others to find a replacement love? No one tries to suggest that someone should fill the gaping hole left in my heart from the loss of a grandparent with another grandparent (or grandparently type person). A widow needs the very same consideration… there is no “fix” but we learn that while we miss our loved ones, we can still build new relationships, not as replacements to the old, but as magnificent additions to the many relationships we’ve experienced in the past and present.

I struggle with words of finality. There are lots of events in life that could be considered “once in a lifetime.” The day that I got to stand front row and center at a U2 concert, right at Bono’s feet, might be considered a once in a life time event. Except, well, it could happen next tour too. Or something better could happen (I could get pulled on stage by Bono!). Each and every experience I’ve had at the seven U2 concerts I’ve attended in my life provides a very special memory. When we mark events in our life as more special than other moments, I think it takes something away from all the other wonderful moments of our lives. I don’t really feel that it’s fair to label any event as being so special it can only ever happen once.

After all, I found love twice.

I’m not only one either. From all the blogs I’ve read on the internet, it’s clear there are a lot of widows and widowers out there who have lost and found love again. Love is not something that can happen only once. Connecting with someone enough to want to share your life with them can happen multiple times. You just have to be open to the possibilities. And you need to realize that the human heart is big enough to share with many people. Each love is unique and special.

Perhaps we can call every special moment for exactly what it is, leaving out a count and finality. I’m getting married to Crow. Period. It’s a very special day for both of us where we publicly vow to commit a life together, a life we promise to share as long as either one of us is alive. Now that is a very special moment in both our lives.