…and there was morning

you’re right – I’ve been spending too much time looking at the sky since moving to New Mexico. Normally it’s the evening sky that draws attention. The back patio looks out on a far-off horizon to the west – ideal for sunsets. Looking east from the townhouse other homes are in the way and a clear look at the sunrise horizon is a little bit of a walk. But Sunday morning just at sunrise the clouds in the western sky turned orange as the sun was ready to rise in the east. This is what I saw:

It’s amazing, isn’t it. The view is to the southwest – away from the rising sun to the southeast. I quickly walked out to the front of the house and took a picture of the sky towards the sunrise above the townhomes across the street, and then walked a ways to an open space and took one of the sunrise horizon.

The sun rose just a few minutes later and all of the color faded in the brighter light. Dawn is a special time – I’m always up in the dark before dawn checking friends facebook posts and reading and sometimes writing. A lot happens in the mornings that is too good to miss – focus comes easily – the mind is fresh and anxious to consider a new or peculiar thought. Dawn is a word used often as a metaphor to describe an awakening of a new era or an exciting event. It’s appropriate to use it in that way and this Sunday morning dawn is the perfect example of why.

Ruidoso – day trip

It dawned a beautiful mid-November Saturday in the New Mexico high desert. Darlene’s shingles continue to wear her down quite a bit, but she was up for a day trip somewhere. We’ve seen much of New Mexico starting with a few trips in the 1990s from Grand Junction and then during the Pagosa Springs years we were constant visitors – mostly to the northern part of the state – Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos – but there were also excursions to Silver City and Las Cruces and other places. One place we’d never been was Ruidoso. It is about 150 miles from home in Belen. So we headed south on the interstate this Saturday, stopping for a breakfast burrito at Sophia’s in Socorro, and then headed southeast on a two-lane the 90 or so remaining miles up into the mountains of this southern range to Ruidoso.

Many think of New Mexico as being only flat and desert-like. There is a lot of that in the state, but mountains are also a significant part of the topography. The drive east from the interstate just south of Socorro starts by crossing the Rio Grande river and then crossing the desert with its mixture of dried out grasses and sage brush and yuccas and small cactus. It then rises through foothills of cedars and junipers. The road heads east across to Roswell eventually, but we take a turn on to Highway 37 in the foothills and immediately start a winding road climb up into the mountains and the landscape soon changes to pine trees, steep canyons, and mountain peaks. Ruidoso sits at an elevation of about 7,000 ft. Its main industry is tourism. There is a ski resort just a few miles from town on 12,000-foot Sierra Blanca Peak. A horse racing venue, Ruidoso Downs is well known and draws visitors and includes a race which is part of the quarter horse triple crown. The Spring, Summer and Fall seasons bring tourists from Texas and Oklahoma looking for an escape from the heat to the mountains.

The Mescalero Apache Indians roamed the area in the 1800s and Sierra Blanca Peak had spiritual significance to them. Settlers first arrived in the mid-1800s, but the town remained small and unknown until the automobile developed and roads were constructed to the area in the 1930s. The 2010 census places the permanent population at just over 8,000, although the town supports commerce for about 20,000 when the population of nearby towns are included.

We shopped a little – scored a great buy on 4 pots for the patio at a neat store called Casa Décor. Lunch was a pretty good burger at Anaheim Jacks, a local bar and grill. We headed home mid-afternoon and arrived about dusk.

The landscape of the West is wonderfully diverse. The meager rainfall on the high desert challenges all the wildlife that call it home and yet it supports more kinds of life than we can imagine. The foothills are home to mule deer, antelope, coyote, rabbits, chukars and even pass through elk. Those of us who have hunted the Western foothills know how a mule deer can sneak around you in the cedars, pinyons and junipers without you even suspecting its presence. The alpine peaks of the Rocky Mountains just seem to spring up out of the high desert and foothills as an oasis from the parched landscape. The contrasting beauty of the pines, cascading creeks and rocky cliffs always gives a sense of awe. The western skies with their far-off horizons and three dimensional clouds and the depths of the blues extending into the heavens leave me with a certain faith that in the vastness, all of creation is held in its proper place – that all the pieces fit together – that all the elements have a purpose in relation to each other – and that even you and I exist for a reason.

I love road trips – sometimes they lead to the familiar, returning out of desire to experience something that pleases – other times like this last Saturday we traveled a new road – a ribbon with each new mile revealing something not seen before – with a destination to begin an experience with – a destination that from time to time will call out for a return. Each small adventure blesses.

leaving Las Vegas

We traveled to Las Vegas, NV in mid-October for a road trip and 4 leisure nights away. We have time-share points that work there in a tower about 3 blocks off the strip in the area of the MGM Grand. The units are spacious and beautiful with full kitchens, a living area, big bedroom and huge master bath with a big jacuzzi tub and walk-in tiled shower – way nicer than home, and the resort amenities are first class. So, it’s like living high class instead of the other 98% for a few days.

The road trip is 600 miles – we leave before dawn and stop for a late sit-down breakfast in Grants or Gallup and arrive in Vegas about 3:00. We only eat 2 meals a day at this stage in our lives so we get a late lunch/early dinner with a choice of a myriad of great restaurants after we arrive and check in. This time our first meal was at a little family Italian place off strip with all house-made pastas and sauces.

Speaking of food, it is one of the reasons to visit Las Vegas. There are no more .99 cent ham and egg breakfasts or $5.99 prime rib dinners like we had in the 60s and 70s – good riddance. The casinos are full of serious restaurants, many sponsored by brand name food personalities – Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril to name a few. We had a burger for lunch/dinner one day at a place sponsored by Mario Batali in the Athens – great burger and amazing onion rings. Off the strip there are many really good restaurants from small home cooking type places to fancy, fancy places. We ate lunch/dinner at Naked City Pizza one day – a place visited by Guy Fieri on a DDD segment a couple years ago – what a dive, but good pizza. Years ago we used to get prime rib every trip at a fancy place in the Excalibur, but it changed to a steak house. Jerry’s Nugget Casino has been famous for prime rib forever. But this time we got my once in a long-time fix for prime rib at the Prime Rib Loft in the Orleans Casino – it was really good – not inexpensive – but really good – tender, medium rare, serious creamed horseradish, perfect.

What do you do in Las Vegas if you’re not a gambler? We mostly walk around and see things. The architecture – the glitz – the tourists – there’s Hoover Dam a few miles to the south worth seeing – there is the roller coaster in New York, New York – it’s amazing – the Premium Outlets are worth a couple hours especially if you need a new pair of Skechers – the overhead light show on Fremont Street is worth seeing and there’s a free concert there quite often – Shark Reef In Mandalay Bay has some great fish tanks. So there is lots to do. We wear our legs out walking – a free tram from Bellagio to Mandalay Bay helps and there is a pay for tram on the other side of the Strip that runs from MGM Grand the whole length of the Strip. Three days and four nights with a road trip day on each end is about right for Darlene and I. A fun time – worn out – and ready to be leaving Las Vegas.

…and there was evening

The creation story, in describing the separation for each day’s work uses the phrase, “and there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” I might have written it the other way around, as – and there was morning, and then evening—believing the day begins with dawn. God often sees things differently than we do. Nevertheless, evening is, maybe, the most special part of a day. Evening is a marker for each day – the time to let the mind loose – the time to reflect, to take a measure of the day – was there accomplishment? – was there good? – was the good intentional? – did good come with a cost? – was there willingness to pay? – was evil set aside? – did refusing evil require sacrifice? – was the sacrifice gladly embraced? – did wisdom guide decisions? – did patience provide time to be wise? – was there a conviction of purpose in the things done? Those days when there is strength to live life on purpose the evening gives opportunity and quiet to recalibrate – time to ask for and imagine good, not just for me, but for all – time to plan for good – time to prepare for morning – prepare hoping to make a difference.