Although it seems unlikely — if not impossible — that I would ever be busy or need to work out a social calendar it does happen sometimes… The concatenation of events drove me to City Market in Alamosa yesterday to get my groceries several days earlier than my “usual.”
On my way I passed one of the big companies (big in space used; I have no idea about their investments, etc.) with several large silos. They are painted with political signs giving an indication of the long-held political beliefs of the owner of the company. There is “Bush/Cheney,” “McCain/Palin,” “Romney/Ryan,” silence, then yesterday “Let’s Go Brandon!” which is (cowardly) code now used by the supernally cool for “Fuck Joe Biden.” It’s a long not very interesting story about how THAT happened, but now we have it. I see the juvenile uncool snickering behind their hands hoping, hoping, hoping, hoping that FINALLY the cool kids will let them into their group.
For a moment, seeing the sign, I was a little irked. “That really doesn’t make you cool,” I say mentally to the guy who owns the business. “You just think it does. Cool would be understanding that there’s something more to life than that media-driven bullshit.” Grrrrr….
Then, smart driver that I am, I looked out the windshield (advisable to anyone driving 65 mph (100 kmh). And there was the immense wonder of the San Luis Valley spread in front of me, Sangre de Cristos dark gray/blue below a blue sky, winter-fields and horses, bales of hay, in the distance, the sand dunes. “Good God,” I thought. “Who cares??? Fuck Let’s Go Brandon.” Those star-spangled people don’t fully appreciate the transience of flags.
At the store, Destinee — one of my favorite grocery delivery people — came out with my stuff. I haven’t seen her in a while. I jump out of my Jeep, Bella. Over this past year or so, Destinee and I have talked about — and joked around about — pretty much everything and touched on a few NOT funny subjects, like her dog and her mom who has not been doing well. We share how we’re glad to see each other and how have you been and then I say, “How’s your mom?”
“I’m so proud of her,” says Destinee, “She got covid and then after that, she decided to go to a sober living center.”
I got a lump in my throat. “I’m so happy for you. Maybe you’ll get your mom back.”
“I gotta’ be patient, that’s all I can do.”
“I lost my brother to booze, so anyone who tries to get sober is my hero. I’d hug you if it weren’t for viruses…”
Destinee looks me square in the eye and we share THAT knowledge.
“Air hugs!” She exclaims and we wrap our arms around the blessed air of the San Luis Valley. “Thanks for being so good to me,” she says.”
“You’re good to me, Destinee.” Then I think of what I said in a larger sense and it’s totally true. Destiny has been good to me. But I also wondered, who would NOT be good to Destinee? Should I tell you she’s African/American? The Valley doesn’t care about details like that. It doesn’t even SEE details like that. I don’t either. Maybe there are people around here who DON’T get it?
On the return? “Let’s Go (pray for) Brandon” on a sign outside a church. A CHURCH? Oh yeah, what was that about separating church and state? How arcane is that? As I drive I think, “These people exist to maintain their clique and piss people off.”
The sainted San Luis Valley whispers, “None of this matters AT ALL. Humans come, humans go, so do mammoths, giant sloths, an inland sea, even whole mountain ranges — a whole bunch of things.”
I think once more how much I love this place and WHY. I’m living smack-dab in the middle of the BIG PICTURE.
I stop at the the post office to mail the fardles to my cousin’s daughter. I don’t have a mask. “Don’t worry about it,” says the young masked man behind the plexiglas shield behind the counter. “I had covid. It was nothing.”
“OK,” I say, “Anyway, I’m vaccinated up the whazoo.” We laugh. A very weathered Hispanic farmer, missing many teeth, wearing his thin white hair in a ponytail, jeans, boots, faded work shirt, comes in wearing a Trump 2020 hat, beaten and faded. My brain starts clicking off all the reasons a guy like him should wear a different hat but then the Valley whispers, “Martha, I’m going to feed everyone who works for it. I don’t care about hats. Remember that.”
“Hi,” I say to him. He’s waiting behind me, not six feet away by the marked spot on the floor, but two feet, the normal social distance for his culture, something I actually like. His semi-toothless smile is glorious. “Hi,” he says his eyes sparkling.
“Do you understand?” says my valley.
“I get it,” I answer.
Once I got everything done at home, Bear and I went for a beautiful windy walk under the air-brushed sky. This huge place is a neighborhood and, I think, sooner or later we at least SEE most of the people in it. Last Easter Sunday I was out there with Teddy and met some nice people who were sitting at the picnic table (there’s only one). I put Teddy in the car and went to meet them. “Happy Easter!” I said, (I always hear Faust when I say that but whatever) “My dog’s not dog friendly,” I explained, and shrugged.
“Ours either,” they answered. They had a sweet-looking mutt, German shepherd/Pittie/cattledog looking little guy with golden eyes. We had a long conversation about cranes, the festival, and how the guy built the table — the man actually BUILT that table when he saw the one that was there was broken down, splintery, a general mess. We talked about how much we love the Refuge and chatted about all the people who’ve lived in this valley over the eons. I learned where they live, they learned where I live.
Yesterday, as Bear and I drove in, I saw them at the picnic table again. The dog was there. He’s a farm dog and he rides in the back of the pickup — tied down, but still in the back of the truck. I knew that it was likely that sometime during our walk, I was going to have to find a way to get Bear out of sight of the dog, but who knows? Maybe not. Bear and I had a wonderful, meandering walk of smells (for Bear) and clouds (for me). On our way back, when I was about 20 yards from Bella, I saw their truck headed my way, and I started walking fast judging the time I had to get Bear into my car before they passed. I was afraid their dog would dive off the truck when Bear saw him and went apeshit (which she would). But… they saw me, and stopped a good distance away and waited for me to get Bear into the car and the door shut. Then they drove past and waved.
“See where you live?” asked the Valley. “Do you get it YET???“
“Yes,” I said, tears in my eyes. “I get it.”
But the Valley wasn’t so sure. I went out to get my mail and found a note from the old man who wrote me months ago wanting to order notecards. He’s the cousin of the man whose acrylics I inherited a couple of months ago. He’s from the San Luis Valley — his great-grandparents were pioneers here — but now he lives in the Pacific Northwest where his kids are. He’s homesick for the Valley, but he’s 91, and it’s not that easy for him to pack up and go somewhere. Last week, Louise, who runs the museum where I’ll be hanging some paintings and reading from my China book, sent out the museum newsletter which advertises my reading. Here’s my mail: