“Equestrian Crossing,” warned the large yellow signs on the Rio Grande Road. But though we did spot some horses as we drove by Albuquerque’s old ranches, passing between adobe fences and iron-wrought gates, we mostly saw dozens upon dozens of geese.
“They pass here on their way from Canada,” said my husband’s grandmother, who had spent decades under New Mexico’s sun. “And then fly on to Mexico, and South America.”
Outside, hundreds of geese were swirling, converging upon an empty softball field. Their calls filled the air. Their wings darkened the sky.
“So THIS is where the geese from Boston disappeared to,” I whispered, thinking of frozen ponds and icy rivers.
“No,” said grandmother. “The geese from Boston probably migrate along the coastline, through Florida.”
The geese from Boston, I thought as I watched the billowing cloud of birds outside, are missing out.
Albuquerque is the perfect refuge from the frozen roads in Boston. Both the Jerusalemite I’ll always be, and the Bostonian I am right now, keep marveling at the open spaces and the empty streets. The air is warm, and people take their time. The sky spreads wide and vibrant in many shades of blue.
At first glance, the city itself looks pale by comparison. The Sandia Crest stretches, dark, in the distance, like a rugged shade against the clouds and sky. But bellow it, the plain and the city blend into a sea of beige and off- white. Clay walls fade under muted roofs next to dry bushes, and sandy dirt lines grayish roads.
Nothing stands out. Nothing is distinct.
But then you start noticing the accents.
Dark red chili peppers are drying in the sun.
A bronze bell shines in a square.
An ultramarine door shimmers, like a reflection of the sky, against an earthen wall.
And a vibrant blue line glides across the adobe-like walls of the ramps that weave and swirl around Albuquerque’s ‘Big I’ intersection, where the highways meet and play their symphony of motion.
The most colorful of all are the rugs. They lie on the sidewalk, and jewelry lies on them like an offering, in a cornucopia of turquoise and lapis and coral and jet and copper strands that twist and curve and shine. “I specialized in copper since 1965,” tells me one of the vendors. Like the other artists sitting by the other rugs, he comes to Albuquerque to sell the wares he fashions in his Native American pueblo.
Craftsmanship, I later learn in the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, is more than a way to make beauty: It’s a way to weave the practices of the past into the present, and with them – the symbols and ideas they contained.
“The story of the Pueblo peoples is one of perseverance,” declares one of the signs in the museum, ominously framed by spanish swords and daggers. “It is a story of overcoming challenges posed by three succesive colonizing nations… Despite these forces of cange which threaten to destroy our way of life, we have maintained our languages, ceremonies, cultural traditions, and religion.”
“We have persevered.”
The perseverance of the Pueblo Indians gleams and sparkles under New Mexico’s sun, woven as it is into copper jewelery and peaceful faces. And the migrant geese are swirling through the sky, a reminder that some rhythms here predate us all.