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Place, Pause, Post

“I haven’t noticed any changes,” I shared as I sipped my coffee.

“You’ve only been gone a month,” John laughed.

I sat in a semi-circle with some of my Cortez neighborhood friends. Danny and Joanie were hosting the Saturday morning coffee while having a yard sale. It was nice seeing my friends and surprising how much you can miss people after only a short while.

My current home is in La Cueva, New Mexico high in the mountains above Jemez Springs. My ’91 Aerostar overheats about every other day I chug up to the cabin by the lake (which is really a pond).

I decided to make the five-hour drive back to Cortez to get the title to my van in case if I decide to sell and replace it with a four-wheel drive.

I left early on Friday morning and made a mental list of where I needed to go. First, a stop at the real estate office where my property manager has her office. Second, a stop at my bank to deposit my pay check. Last, I would go to my house and search storage to see if I can locate the van’s title.

My hands were numb from gripping the steering wheel as I turned into the real estate office in Cortez. Five hours and only a burrito stop in Cuba—no wonder my hands were temporarily reformed into grapple hooks. I made my way into the front door.

A night in the ping pong room

My property manager leaned across her desk sharing, “Renter are moving in on the first!”

“Super!” I responded. “I need to go into storage and find the title for my van. I think I’m gonna have to sell it.”

“Are you staying at your house overnight?” she asked.

“Yeah. I just figured I’d sleep in the back of my van.”

“Oh,” she said concerned and then suggested,” why don’t you sleep on one of the futon couches in the basement.”

Feeling silly with a touch of exhaustion I chirped, “Thanks, Mom!”

***

I woke from my night on the futon at the break of day. I laid there under my old sleeping bag wondering if Panger Ban, my cat, had survived the night and the coyotes of La Cueva. If he was eaten it was the kind of death he wished for, I told myself. I got dressed and decided to take a trip down memory lane…kind of. My typical morning walk involved making a large rectangle of down Beech Street, up Empire Street, through Park de Vida, by the duck pond, down Montezuma Avenue until I arrived back on Beech Street.

At the corner of Beech and Empire, Danny pulled over his weathered pick-up and cock-eyed parked along the curb. “You’re coming for coffee, right?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’ll be there. I’ll stop after my morning walk.” I kept moving.

“Enjoy!” he said as he stapled the Yard Sale sign to the telephone pole.

I nodded and trekked around the corner and along Empire. It was the too-often giant pick-up trucks blazing along this stretch which prompted me to begin shout-singing Cor-tucky whenever they passed. You might call it my mini-revolution.

Textures of Cor-tucky

But it was a quiet morning. I wondered if the ducks and geese would be swimming across the pond or racing across the park. The geese seemed to enjoy slowing or stopping traffic on the road passing between the largest of the town parks. I avoided some serious sprinkler action along the west side of the park and maneuvered through the green.

As I finished my diagonal across the park, I crossed onto Montezuma Avenue. As my current home does not have a walkable neighborhood, I noticed how good I felt just getting my legs moving. I also considered the history of me and Cortez. It has been a long one. I first moved to this town below Mesa Verde when I was 27 years old. I worked as an archaeologist for a local non-profit. I recalled how very happy I was when I first arrived. The politics at my professional setting were unkind and this unfolded to my dismay during my first season of work. Maybe it was for the best?

A near-empty duck pond

Some of the education staff at this non-profit convinced me to go for my teaching license. One of them, Beth, died from cancer this past year. It seems I have lost many friends and family over the last two years. In any case, I considered how jobs can get you to jump out of your comfort zone and move to a new setting…and oftentimes this was for the best.

My thoughts also brought to mind my relationships. My last girlfriend often shared with me the words “Don’t overthink.” (Of course, understanding my HSP trait I now see there is no such thing as overthinking. Now, under thinking, on the other hand, seems downright pandemic in today’s world!).

The thing about places where you lived is- you and the place have a history together…whether you want to admit it or not. Cortez was the ideal location when I first arrived. I was a young up and coming archaeologist. I had dreams of owning a nice house and building a family. None of this came to be though. I did buy land. The dating scene in the Four Corners is notoriously awful…especially if you’re not into four-wheeling and bad country music (there is good country music- Willy, Lyle, Emy Lou, Hank to name a few. There is also country music which might compete with Vogan poetry for torture potential). I appeared to be “black balled” from the archaeological community, likely due to my speaking my mind once or twice too often. I went into teaching. One year turned into ten. Ten into twenty. Then at almost thirty I admitted the Cortez setting just didn’t seem to be working for me. Maybe some degree of humility and acceptance needed to be instilled in me? Maybe I just didn’t fit in?

I turned down Beech Street. There was a calm in the familiar but also just a touch of melancholy. Or, maybe I was just still waking up?

I arrived at the yard sale and mumbled the word, “coffee.”

“It’s right in the kitchen,” shared Joanie. “There’s some half muffins I grilled too.”

Who wants to buy a donkey?

Yard sales, Saturday morning coffees, laugher with friends—these were the times to remember. My personal history with this place has been extensive. There have been tough times. There have been years of numb loneliness. There have also been times when I asked myself—isn’t this enough? I don’t understand why we end up where we do in life. But I do know from a distance a place appears very different. Maybe with time I will find Cortez A.K.A. Cor-tucky was exactly where I needed to be for an extended time. Maybe I will return someday. The world is full of settings of every kind and shape. Maybe my newest setting is exactly where I need to be right now.

Sitting at the dining table in my La Cueva home, I peek out the many windows at the massive ponderosa pines and the blue sky beyond. I have some hope for this place.

2 Comments

  • Eric Wilson
    Posted September 3, 2022 at 8:14 am

    Wishing you all the best. You certainly haven’t lost this friend yet. Thanks for sharing your journey. And for letting us know that Panger Ban is okay!

    • Post Author
      JWKeleher
      Posted September 3, 2022 at 11:57 am

      Thanks. Eric! Right back at ya! As for PB, he has accepted night prowling isn’t cool where coyotes rule.

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