October 7, 1997

We arrived in the morning and watched the pilots at their briefing. They told the story of one of the gas balloons that had done the race Saturday night and had made it all the way to Minnesota before a thunderstorm landed on them. They had to do an emergency landing and both the pilot and the passenger had to jump from the basket, which lightened the load so much that the balloon took off on its own again and they were trying to track the balloon down again. It is a hydrogen balloon, so wasn't going to come down until the gas leaked out.

The bad news was that the weather was such that there were very likely to be very high winds a little later in the morning. So Richard decided, mostly, to not take off at all. Quite a few balloons took of anyway and they all went in a direction completely different than before, some of them nearly doing a U-turn only a few hundred feet up in the air, sometimes looking like they were traveling right above balloons that had just taken off. Thing is that it wasn't the take-off that Richard was worried about, it was the landing. Landing in high winds is no fun at all.

So we ended up going back to Walt and Cathie's early, which turned out to be a pretty good thing, all in all, as the brothers wanted to go up to Santa Fe and see the sights, the sites and do some shopping. David, Paul, Jan, John and I piled into our rental car and took off.

John drove, and most everyone that went along slept for a while. We went through Santa Fe and went further north to Chimayo. The first thing we visited was the Chimayo Sactuario, which was famous for it's holy dirt, which was supposed to convey healing properties to those that took it or touched it. The sanctuary, itself, was also a hospital. The tiny church was still sanctified, and there was a tiny chapel alongside it, headed by the small area set aside for the dirt itself. The chapel area was filled with pictures of the Christ, crutches, burning candles, and all kinds of things. I was, for some reason, tremendously uncomfortable walking through there, most likely because I haven't learned enough about Catholic practices to know if I were behaving with respect to all that was there.

After the Sanctuario, we wandered through the shops that were right there. The boys bought a Virgin Mary night light with which to replace the night light that Walt and Cathie had put in the guest rooms' hallway. We wandered through the 'Holy Chimayo Chili Store' and then out to see what else there was of town. There weren't all that many places within walking distance, so we piled back into the car and off to Ortega's weaving store, which John and I had bought three rugs from the last time we visited.

I love Ortega's because they have the looms right there in the store and you can watch the men weaving right there. The native men in jeans, cowboy boots, black leather, wearing a Walkman, mirrored shades and a crew cut. The meeting of modern and past was just a bit mind blowing. They also had all kinds of gorgeous, bright colors. One was really too bright for my own good, a brilliant turquoise that matched my hair perfectly, and the whole vest was that color. Luckily they didn't have it in my size and when I actually looked there was a more subtle dark gray vest with a diamond pattern in blue, red, burgundy, white and green, which would go much better with a lot more of my clothing. Whew. So I bought that.

We looked around for food at that point, and the highly recommended Rancho Chimayo was packed as it was lunch time. We weren't really that hungry so we started thinking of faster food and we ended up going to the place with the Holy Chilies. It turned out that they had excellent tamales and chimichangas. Also, in the back room they had an ancient loom or two and an old spinning wheel that was of the spindle type that used a bicycle tire rim as the driving wheel. That was very keen to see, but it looked like the equipment hadn't been used for decades if not more, which was kinda sad as it was all in perfect working order. Refreshed with the solid, spicy food and Neapolitan ice cream cones, we wandered on.

Puye Pueblo is a beautiful ruin of a cliff dwelling tribe. There was a trail up the cliff side to get up to the top and the trail wandered by various caves and still intact buildings. At the beginning the trail was made from soft volcanic rock called 'tuff' for some reason that was set into cement mortar. The tuff wore away tremendously faster than the mortar did so that each stone in the walkway was more of an indentation than a support. The marked trail meandered among small caves, some with black painted ceilings that had old petroglyphs scratched deeply within them, sadly along with some stupid graffiti from a more modern scratcher.

The path meandered up gradually, and in the high altitude it was breathless work to climb. Also in the open, the wind was stronger as well as the sun and it was an odd combination of coldness from the whipping of the wind and the brightness of the sun. The caves were cool and quieter, out of the wind and felt like real shelter. The path wandered right and left to the doorways of caves and small structures like a silent guide. Then it ended by a ladder set against a sheer wall. It was a good two story climb and the ladder was huge, solid and braced with steel, but it was still a *ladder*. I have to admit that I am not that good with heights and worse yet when there seems to be nothing but air beneath my feet. So I kinda dread ladders, but if I wanted to see what was up top, I had to go up. So I did, one rung at a time. The wind, which had been gusting all day chose to gust while I was going up, tugging at my flannel shirt and scaring the heck out of me at first. Oddly, though, from the almost playful buffetting I gathered, of all things, laughter. Laughter enough to just relax a bit and forget my fear and climb.

At the top of the ladder it was actually a bit more windy. The winding trails were also closer to the edge, but there were entire buildings and deeper caves at the upper levels, that we wandered into and looked around at. The cliffside itself also had foot and handholds worn into the stone, and as we wandered I found a narrow near stairway worn into the stone that took a nearly direct path up to the top of the mesa. It was on slick rock, smooth and worn.

Once up over the edge the wind as ferocious, a constant roar with occasional blasts from a gust. On the top I could see why, because there was a mass of black clouds on the far horizon moving towards us. The sound was nearly constant. I stood near the edge, reassured by the solid ground beneath my feet and just closed my eyes, spread my arms and let the wind blow right through me, become me for a moment. It was marvelous.

At the top were all the bases of the walls of the old city. Tiny rooms, just big enough for sleeping or grain and water storage, they were mazed together closely. Built from dry laid stone, with no mortar, they had all tumbled into loose piles of rock with time. There was a central tower that had been rebuilt, and we could see the multi-storied structure that was made for people much shorter than I, each story supported by wood beams. We wandered through them and then back and that's when John told me that they'd also recreated a kiva near the front of the city that anyone could go into, so I went back to that.

Kivas for the pueblo people were holy places. They are round to symbolize the hole in Mother Earth that all living beings come from. In the pueblo language there is no work for 'bury', rather there is the word 'to replant' that is used for when they return a body to the Earth that had given it life. For another tribe, those of Acoma, only men are allowed into the kiva, perhaps because all else in the tribes is matriarchal.

In any case, the kiva was a holy place, so I quieted myself for a moment and then stepped onto the ladder and went down.

It was like going down into peace. It was entering a cool, dark, quiet place, free from the dust and the wind, from the heat of the sun and the noisy, busy tourists which had taken the driving path up the mountain to just see the village at the top. There was a bench all around the inside, a vent for a fire along one side. It was roofed with pine and slatted across with juniper, and topped with a thick layer of earth that was watered to grow tough grasses that would old the dirt to the roof. Insulation and protection in one. John followed me and we didn't say a word, just stood and felt and listened within the roundness of the kiva.

Jan, Paul and David came down soon after, and we spoke some then. Jan was the one to notice that with the wind roaring outside that it was a lot like being in a seashell.

Kinda cool. They all piled out, and I heard Jan apologizing above me as she came out, but I didn't realize why until I popped my head up just as a little old lady clicked the shutter of her camera. She was trying to take a picture of the kiva entrance and both Jan and I had interrupted her. Oops. So she gets a blue haired girl coming out of it. That'll be fun to explain to the folks back home.

Oddly or not, in that holy place I had no sense of being the alien, of being not wanted, different, wrong the way I had in the Sanctuario.

I was, however, still terrified of going back down the ladder. I even thought about just walking the road instead, and getting as far as I could until they drove up to get me. John noted rather reasonably that it was a very, very much further way. So I balefully followed him as the other three went down another, smaller ladder to look at another area of the cliff dwelling and before they came up again, I decided I'd just tackle the ladder when they couldn't see me.

Four people came up the ladder, one by one, as John and I waited at the top for them to clear through. John checked the bottom for me, and then went down first. For a moment, we were thinking about him being fairly close to me so that he could provide some support, but he was worried about me stepping on him. Enough so that I told him to just go ahead and go down and I'd take care of myself. I consciously tried not to look down at my feet, letting them just go down and feeling out the next rung while I had three other points of solid contact. Then it was just a matter of concentrating on the rungs and not allowing the wind to bother me, and I was down.

David cheered for me when he saw that I'd made it as he knew about my little mental problem about heights. It was odd to be terrified of the ladder, but also know that physically, realistically, I had nothing to really worry about.

As we drove away from the park we stopped at the entrance, and reversed back to ask the native ranger how the name was pronounced. He smiled, asked John, "How do you think it's pronounced?" John thought a bit and said "'Poo-yay" and the ranger nodded, satisfied, "That's it." and waved us away.

The clouds gradually got closer as we drove to Santa Fe, and the winds even down on the ground level were getting stronger. We all wanted to do some shopping and looking around in the downtown area, so we got there, and in true Rostykus fashion John started winding around and around and around looking for a metered parking spot instead of parking in the parking lot. Finally, after waiting five minutes for a man that just settled into his car to read, Jan and I told the three brothers that *we'd* pay for parking if John parked in the parking lot. There was much laughter at that, but we did.

We all wanted to look at the Chapel of the Miraculous Staircase, so we went there together, first. The Chapel has been de-sanctified and there's a sound system that tells the story of the staircase over and over again. The chapel had been built with the choir loft, but the problem of a way to get up there hadn't been solved. So the sisters there prayed to St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Carpenters, for a solution to their problem, and on the seventh day of prayers a strange carpenter came and with only a carpenter's edge, saw, hammer, nails, and a few things for finishing the wood he built them a spiral staircase that had no central support, no outside supports and no handrails. It's eerie to see as the spiral just looks like it hangs in mid-air, curving from top to bottom without any visible support other than where it's connected to the choir loft, and that looks pretty flimsy.

He left when it was done, asked for no payment and there is no record of his name. The advertising there says that science says that the staircase shouldn't be able to stand up, that there's no explanation for it's existence. I dunno, the way I know science, the simple fact of it's existence means that it could exist. What would be fun would be figuring out how it works.

They added handrails when the sisters got too terrified to go up and down a lot without one. There's a picture of what it looked like without the handrails, and I like that the most.

After the chapel we split our separate ways to buy what we wanted where we wanted. John and I wandered through a number of art galleries and jewelry places before we both just realized that we weren't going to be buying anything in such places. There was this hilarious full-sized bronze of a black bear with an arrow stuck in it's rump fur looking at a little Indian boy hiding his bow and arrows behind his back and a look of unconcerned innocence. The bear's snout was nearly as big a the child's head. The gallery was filled with gorgeous bronzes filled with motion and life. Santa Fe is known as the richer, more artsy city in New Mexico. Albuquerque is the working city, Santa Fe is the gallery city. I think we're just too practical when the first place in Santa Fe that we actually pulled out pocketbooks was in a cook store. Heh.

And that was over a Holstein patterned kettle, which we knew would be perfect for Walt and Cathie as it'd match their cow salt and pepper shakers. They didn't have a kettle which made making tea a bit of an adventure for me because I am never quite sure how I'll pour from a pot. Cathie was perfectly accomplished with that technique, but it felt kinda funny to have her always pouring for me. So we got that and a few spices and dried chilies that we don't see all that much of in Seattle.

Finally, my legs got tired, and we were both fairly thirsty, so we went into a Haagen Daz store that was also a bakery and deli and espresso bar. John got a mocha while I got a blackberry Italian soda that turned out to be mostly soda water, which, according to my thirsty body, was just fine. At about the right time we wandered into the central square. The thunderstorm was starting to fill the sky, clouds rolling in and darkening everything, and I got cold. David showed up and provided me with some wind breaking on one side while John did the other. Piled together on the bench we talked as we waited for Paul and Jan. That was cool.

When they arrived, we went back to the car, and John drove us back towards Albuquerque while Paul and David figured out how to get to Wolf Canyon Brewery, which was just outside of Santa Fe and Walt had recommended it highly to his brothers.

For those that know one or another of the brothers knows that all of them are quite respectful of all, but are also prone towards playing with people's minds if given even the slightest opening. Now, imagine three of them all playing off each other, quick enough to catch all the puns, subtle jokes and ability to convince the least credulous of the tallest tail told with utter conviction and you'll have the cheerful assault the Brother Rostykus mounted on the poor person of our waitress. Okay, it was also on Jan and I, but we were used to it and quite capable of getting a few shots in our selves.

When the waitress took away David's salad plate and on his lament that she was taking his fork too, she reassured him by saying, "I'll get you a new fork."

When David replied, "Oh, but I want a used fork. I'm sure it'll be much easier to find." The waitress only gave him a baffled look. That's when I started feeling sorry for her.

She served a six beer sampler, first, of all the beers that they served there and everyone tried them to see what they wanted to order. I got the house root beer and it was okay but not as good as Thomas Kemper's. It took everyone a while to figure out what they wanted but it worked out so that they all ordered their beers with their food.

Oh what food! I got a chicken fried steak, John got the chicken fajitas. David tried to order the gumbo, but the waitress convinced him to do just a cup instead of a bowl because she thought he couldn't eat a whole bowl of the gumbo. It turned out that the cup was just tiny. Luckily. John's fajitas were huge and my steak was so big that I nearly gave David half of it. The homemade mashed potatoes and sauted squash and corn were delicious. Jan had also had the cup of gumbo, but shared in on Paul's chimichanga and posole. So we all had plenty to eat.

During our dinner, the thunderstorm caught up with us. It was spitting lightening all across the horizon as we looked out the window, and when we finally came out it was just pouring rain. I was the normal designated driver, and I ran out to the car, yelling at the others that I was going to bring the car over. I slid in chilled to the bone, started it up and started the heater and went over to get the four of them. I then drove us home with John awake beside me doing the navigating. We stopped for gas, once, and all three brothers popped out of the car to do their own thing, and then back in as soon as John wandered back from paying. I admire the training that their parents did to coordinate things that perfectly.

It was kinda tough driving through the rain, as it was a desert downpour rather than the light, steady mists I'm used to from Seattle. We made it okay, though, and Walt and Cathie were there to meet us and tell us that we weren't even going to the field the next morning and that Walt was going to mount an expedition on Acoma, the Sky City. Cathie was going to stay home, so I asked her if I could stay as well, and she said that she would be glad to have me and would even drive me to the zoo at noon to meet up with everyone else even though she wasn't sure if she would be going to that, either. I thanked her a lot and then went to my warm bed and fell deeply and thankfully asleep.

© 1997 by Liralen Li

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