the smell of piñon smoke

In one of geographic shifts that we’ve become accustomed to, that we adapt to so easily it seems, I am watching snow fall outside Brendan and Cristen’s house in Edmonton and realizing it’s only about ten hours since I woke to the most beautiful moon over Albuquerque and watched the sun rise from the plane as we left New Mexico. Only twenty four hours since we ate lunch on the patio at Mas while the soft leaves of an olive tree planted within the patio area shook in the breeze and small sparrows waited for us to drop crumbs from the sesame lavash we’d ordered with our mezes.

Yesterday morning we left Las Vegas and stopped at Pecos National Landmark to walk and explore. It’s the site of a pueblo dating from 1100 A.D., a high place, with views down to the desert and to the mountains in every direction. Its population was 2000 or more and there are two mission churches, one built over another destroyed in the Pueblo revolt in 1680. People lived there until 1838 when the last occupants went to Jemez Pueblo to join relatives there. It’s a place you can easily understand the “why” of — why people chose its location, why it was settled for so long, and how it would live long in the memories of anyone who’d ever been there (us included, I suspect).

Here’s what you see, looking up to the pueblo site:

P1090984And here’s the light in one of the reconstructed kivas where we climbed down and understood why the Pueblo creation stories tell of people coming up from under the earth to live on its surface. (The kivas are still used for ceremonial purposes.)

P1090988Already I miss New Mexico’s red soil, the grey chamisa, the mule deer with their curious faces watching from the roadsides. I miss the juniper and piñon forests, particularly the ones on the road up through Madrid and Cerillos, the bluebirds at Bandelier, and the field of elk we saw on our drive to Cimarron the other morning. I loved our room at the Taos Inn where the smell of piñon smoke from the fireplace scented the room in the most seductive way so that I imagine now I can smell it in my clothing. (Wishful thinking…) I loved the friendly servers at La Boca in Santa Fe and the wonderful food they brought to the table and how the Spanish wine we ordered was perfect with the food. When I opened my suitcase in the pretty room Cristen and Brendan had ready for us, I smelled the chili powder from Chimayo and maybe, just maybe, that piñon smoke.

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