Driving back north yesterday from Abiquiu, we took Cumbres Pass. I’d never been on it, Lois had never been on it. Across the mountains, there are passes and there are passes and there was a moment it looked like we were about to go over one of the passes. Turning around wasn’t a real option, so I just kept driving and stoking my courage, saying, “Hell, I drove over Loveland Pass every weekend and never thought anything about it.” But we were lucky and that road up and over the little mountain there was not our destined route.
In the forty miles between Abiquiu and Chama the landscape changes dramatically. It’s almost a Colorado Border thing. Higher altitude makes the change between colorful sandstone cliffs and snowy mountains, pine and aspen.
As we neared home, we took the turn down the county road that leads to Monte Vista via the Wildlife Refuge which, right now, is heavily populated with Sandhill cranes. Along that stretch there are also many farms belonging to Amish families. Against the late afternoon sunlight I caught sight of two women in long dresses, walking slowly back to the driveway to their house from their mailbox, the fabric of their skirts wind-wrapped around their legs. They waved as we went by.
We passed two Amish buggies and a wagon as we went our way. We passed the Amish church and two old, pioneer churches, one still in use, the other falling slowly to wind, sun, and time. Cranes grazed in the newly-mowed barley fields, mowed FOR the cranes to find it easy to graze. I thought of the millions of years those cranes have flown to this valley. I thought of the 500 years since the Protestant Reformation in Bern, Switzerland that ultimately landed those Amish ladies on remote farms in Colorado. I thought of the circumstances that brought me here. I looked at the golden light. I thought of the wonderful man we chatted with at Abiquiu who said, in the musical English of Hispanic New Mexico, “I been here 13 years now, every day, and it’s never the same. Where you from?”
“That’s beautiful country, too.”