July 4, 2008

We lived in Albuquerque for all of about 3 months when I was 3 years old and I've never been quite able to shake the New Mexico dust off of me since. Don't get me wrong, I will always, always be drawn to the Austin area ... it always gives me a feeling of home and safety. But New Mexico - more specifically the Dinetah - touches me on a level too deep for words to explain, even to myself.

This last month has been something of a blur with the "sprained" leg that turned out to be badly broken, surgery and then just a couple of days later, I spent three days in a mini-van being driven first to Terre Haute, Indiana ... Oklahoma City ... and finally Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle in northwestern New Mexico.

As we left South Bend, we wound up traveling through four of seven towns I lived in growing up. First, we drove through Carmel, Indiana; then Oklahoma City; Amarillo, Texas; and finally through Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Out of all of those places I lived, only two have really grabbed me and said Home. And even with as glad as I was to finally reach our house and sleep in my own futon (since I can't really elevate my leg in the bed), the places that I have most felt a connection have been in Austin, Texas ... and the Dinetah.

Austin is easy for me to understand. Rolling, green hills ... creeks, rivers, swimming holes. Despite some rotten events that happened to me there, it always felt safe to me.

mesaThe Dinetah, on the other hand, is harder for me to understand. When we first began traveling through the mesas last week, I instantly wondered what it would have been like ... to be the first Europeans coming through this area on horseback. No maps, no roads, paved or otherwise. How to find water? Did they notice the elevation (even before climbing to one of the mesas) or was it gradual enough that they simply wondered why they needed to drink more water and felt less endurance than normal? Or was it gradual enough that they adjusted as they went?

And can you imagine riding a horse through the mesas and having the Navajo ... or the Pueblo ... or the Apaches ... after you?

At first blush, the area seems desolate. But as I sat out on the "porch" off the dorm kitchenette one evening, I realized that the area was all green. Pale sage greens, but green and teeming with life, nonetheless. Very different from the brilliant greens of Austin - or the cornstalk greens of Indiana.

Was it just an overwhelming sense of history (with a large dash of childish romanticism) that made me connect to the mesas so long ago? Was it the fact that it was so different from everything else I knew? Or was it, perhaps, simply the fact that the mesas themselves looked like such fun and such a challenge for me to climb? Or was it something else altogether?

I have no idea.

The strangest thing for me on the trip was realizing just how many "homes" I have. Austin will always feel like home to me. And there were certainly times whilst on the trip - particularly when I was too hot to sleep with my blasted leg elevated properly - when I wished to be "home" in Indiana, despite the fact that I shudder to ever think of this state as "home."

Strangest of all was the feeling of being "almost home" whilst at the school on the rez. I was there ... but "home" was just out of reach, complicated by my current situation which made it more difficult for me to socialize - between the altitude and the broken leg, I was mostly stuck in the dorm for the week. I couldn't explore the landscape and could barely make my way to the cafeteria in the next building (and I couldn't do that without someone to help me up the stairs). And then, there was my shyness as well. It's hard to connect with the community which makes a place a home if you're so afraid you'll "bother" them or annoy or offend, that you can't hardly speak. And, of course, I have such a garbled historical knowledge of the people and the area - but history is not today and cultures are fluid and mercurial.

I suppose, really, this trip to the Dinetah was much like a trip my mom and sister and I made to Austin the summer after I graduated from high school. I was ecstatic to be "going home" if only for a few days. I demanded that we drive by the old house ... and we saw it from the street. So very close to being "home," only unable to walk inside to the place that had been home for us in the 70s. Like that time in Austin, this past week in New Mexico, I was there and not there

Of course, I still don't know what calls me to the Dinetah ... just that I had a brush with another one of my chosen homes ... that I'll need to return again one day when my body is healed and I'm better able to set aside my doubts and fears and fully step into that feeling of home, less afraid of making mistakes, less afraid of being thought of as overly earnest and one of "those" biligaana.

I'm afraid this post is still a bit of a garbled mess despite the fact that I've been working on it for days. But I've decided that it simply represents the garbled mess in my mind when I think about last week - or when I think about the concept of "home." And, really, what better post is there for the U.S.'s Independence Day except ruminating about home, ethnicity, culture and landscape?

Posted by Red Monkey at July 4, 2008 4:53 AM | Blog | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Tara R. said:

I was born in Ohio and now live in Florida, but Knoxville, TN at the foot of the Smoky Mountains will always be home. Whenever we get to make the trip north, as soon as I begin to see the kudzu covering the trees, I know I'm almost Home.

July 4, 2008 9:30 PM


Nola said:

I feel a connection with Taos, NM. Never lived there. One five day vacation. I think about it often and fantasize abt retiring there (fantasize because I know I will likely never leave NOLA and because Taos is so damned expensive). So I know what you mean about that pull. There IS something there. Don't question it, just allow it to flow in.

July 7, 2008 6:32 PM


PandoraWilde said:

The area I live in now is just south of one of the two places I eagerly call home--two of the many places I was parked in some house or apartment until the time came to go somewhere else that wasn't home either.

It's weird--I'm so close to the home up north, less than half an hour's drive, but I don't know this place. I get lost more easily than I did in Detroit even tho I spent more time just north of here than anywhere else but the town I spent most of my adult life in. It's not quite home yet and I'm waiting while holding my breath to hear when there will be another round of new places again, or to find "home" again.

July 8, 2008 3:45 AM
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