Free, Free, Eee, Ack

“I’m free, I’m free” yelps the little balloon, joyfully.

Up, up and away he flies.

A crisp October morning. Blue skies.

“Let’s go north, let’s go north”.

But, the wind has other plans.

South he blows. Away from the irrigated, green fields of the North Valley and the Rio Grande River. Away from the lavender fields of Los Poblanos and the calm beauty of Corrales.

“Wait, wait,” he says. They told me to go north. I’m never supposed to go south. Or worst of all, east. Mountains.

Towards the Shell station he blows. Up and over the Frontage Road, the Target parking lot, and then, the thing he’s been warned about all along… the freeway. Cars swerve below as distracted motorists attempt photos while driving.

“More heat, more gas,” he gasps. Oh, no, he worries, they’ll never let me fly alone again.

A traffic jam has formed below. Cars stop on the freeway, waiting to see where he might land. A child in the backseat of a minivan waves.

Other balloons are heading his way. He’s not alone.

One last push and he makes it to the median. A grassy space just big enough for a basket and a deflating balloon.

His chase crew’s truck is near. The walkie-talkie crackles. A family pulls over and asks to take a photo with him.

“Sure,” he smiles. As the family piles out of their station wagon, his crew’s truck arrives. “That was close,” they say.

And just as he hopes that mom and dad will never know, he looks up to see them floating by.

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Forward>Backward

IMG_1071I was recently granted one of those rare opportunities to step back into the past for just long enough to see how much everything has changed. As Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her book Their Eyes Were Watching God, “there are years that ask questions and years that answer,” and, after so many spent in the question phase, it is a relief to feel and see  answers popping up all over my life.

I spent February in Los Angeles, working on the same TV series I spent half of 2018 on. Same characters, same costumes, same locations and crew; and yet my life has totally changed in the six months since we initially wrapped. No more Silver Lake apartment or weekends spent wandering aimlessly. No more dating or existential beach walks during which I wondered what to do next; Should I look for a new place to live in LA? Move? Give that boring guy a second date? So many days, weeks, months spent going in circles, trying to figure it all out in my head, trying anything to alleviate constant anxiety. Until one May morning, last Mother’s Day weekend, I woke up and knew it had to change. I was unhappy and the beach walks weren’t working. It was time to throw it all up in the air and stop trying to force anything.

I started meditating every day. I stuck with heart opening mantras in the hope that my heart always knows which direction is best and would guide me in ways my head only ever pretends to.

And the answers began to come…back to my little house in the desert…back to part time work and hiking and making and cooking and creating and love and to family and connection. I fell back in love with the life I had taken for granted just a couple of years before.

And then February, 2019. Back in LA. Back for a quick taste of what I left behind and all I could think of was how I couldn’t wait to return to the desert, to the man, house, yard, couch, family, and to the life that happened as soon as I stopped trying to force the answers.

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Water Birds

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There is a preciousness to water in the desert that the birds seem to understand. Instead of heading to the beach every weekend, which I still miss, I now make almost daily trips to walk along the banks of  the Rio Grande. I’m slowly making friends with its ducks, geese, and cranes.

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Next week I’ll make a quick trip back to LA for the first time since moving home. Besides earning a paycheck, I am most excited to walk in the waves and say hello to my old friends, the gulls, pipers, and pelicans.

It will be good to say a quick hello, before heading home to the cranes.

 

 

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Frozen Desert

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Iced over ponds and rivers, the smell of piñon smoke in the air, snow packed hiking trails; New Mexico is having a real winter, reminiscent of those I remember as a child. Back then, my dad would flood the yard on the north side of our house and create an ice skating rink. At night, I would tie on a pair of dull, too big skates and help him sweep snow off the ice. For the first time in 25 years, he flooded his yard last week.

img_0039There is piercing clarity to the cold light. Ducks honk overhead before landing in the Rio Grande.

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I opened a cookbook last night, “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and made lamb meatballs with roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower. It was gooooood. And by 8 o’clock wondered aloud, is it too early for bed? I missed these dark days when I lived in LA, with its unending sunshine and great weather. Time to reset the internal clock, rest, rejuvenate, and contemplate. By the time daffodils appear sometime in late February, I will be ready for bike rides, sandals, and outdoor patios, but for now I am happy to hibernate and soak up the cold.

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LA

Ten years ago I packed my car and made the first of what would be dozens of drives from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, and back.

The 4th of July, 2008, and 119 degrees in the Mojave desert. I stopped outside of Needles, California, to get gas and a chocolate dipped cone at Dairy Queen and had to eat it in one bite to prevent vanilla from melting down my arm. That night I made it to my then boyfriend’s apartment, overlooking the lake in Echo Park, in time to watch East LA explode in an illegal frenzy of fireworks. Though I’d visited periodically in the year we’d been dating, I remember feeling like a country mouse in the city. That night I lay in bed as police helicopters circled the park outside the window, shining their searchlight inside, looking for someone. It was hot out. I didn’t sleep.

In the years that followed, I became comfortable in LA, joined their costumer’s union, and created a routine between the two cities, mixing slow and fast paced, laid back with competitive.

And then, two years ago, I became tired of that routine and wanted to shake it up, develop a new one, have an adventure, try something new. LA seemed the safest way to do that. The truth is that even in my need to break free I was practical and conservative.

Recently a friend asked me if I thought of myself as a romantic. Yes, I replied. Though a practical one. She laughed. I’m the same, she said.

I make lists but they go something like this-

Watch sunsets.

Learn to make bread and yogurt.

Get a dog. Name her Pearl. If a girl.

Dig in the dirt.

Open a little shop.

Etc.

You get the idea.

And then one day, a few months ago, one of my many lists became one of pros and cons. LA/NM. Uh oh. As soon as I started writing, I knew another move was in my future.

LA Pros-

Fun, exciting, interesting, creative, accessible, museums, concerts, stores, classes, friends, The Moth, live theater, earn more money, inspiring…

NM Pros-

My cute/inexpensive house, family, friends, quality of life, low overhead, dog yard is ready, garden, air quality, commute times, mountains, spend less money…

LA Cons-

Expensive, hate paying rent, need a roommate or boyfriend just to afford renting a house with a yard, much less ever buying one, traffic, air, have to work too much…

NM Cons…

Slow paced.

I groaned. Do I really have to move my stuff down 60 stairs again, less than two years after my dad helped me move it up in a blinding rainstorm with no electricity?

Yup.

A friend asked me today if I will miss LA? I love LA! I will miss it. But, the truth is that my ego will miss it more than my soul.

I also know that it is here, hopefully not falling into the ocean anytime soon, and I will return to work and play, just not to live.

And so the adventure continues. And, yet again, the only constant is change.

Stay tuned…

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