It was nice to wake up in a real hotel room and not one that was one gust of wind from extinction. The air outside was brisk but it was also bright and inviting. I inhaled a full plate of hotel breakfast buffet food and several cups of coffee to prep for the day.
Buzzing and carb-laden, we decided to venture a drive along the High Road to Taos. It was too long a journey to complete in its entirety (and sometimes you need an “off day” from road trips), but we planned to hit a few points along the scenic road towards the town of Taos.
The road rose up above the ground below it and was decorated with itty-bitty towns, old wooden homes, and mountains. The pavement was saturated with days-old snow that has assumed the color of sand-tinted earth. Cars drove so slowly through those towns that it was like they were tip-toeing. People walked their dogs and watched as we passed, pausing to decide if we were strangers.
When we got back, there was enough time left in the day to wander around the town square in Santa Fe and catch a few turquoise jewelry sellers before they closed. Even on a bitter winter day, there are always sellers with handmade earrings laid out on large blankets. I stopped in an antique shop and sifted through anonymous black and white photographs and found a cloth-bound “baby book” from Indiana in 1925, like the ones you buy when you want to write about “baby’s first words”. The thought of what it took for a book, where a new mother documented the milestones of her infant in perfect cursive, to exist for 100 years and land on a dusty bookshelf in New Mexico was a little more than I could grasp. The journey of things is just too incredible sometimes. Random pieces of human life survive for unknown reasons.
It was too chilly to stay outside for long, but we lingered as the sun got lower in the sky and gave way to a twilight glow. Dinner consisted of small plates, French onion soup that overflowed like a cheesy volcano, and too much wine. The sadness that comes from the last night on the road requires drowning myself in a vat of wine.
That night we went to bed early, compared to the one before where we poured ourselves in like sloppy fools after drinking the bar out of margaritas. I stood on the balcony listening to the distant squeak of some metal fixture on a rooftop, with sparse twinkling lights in the distance and the smell of lit fireplaces. Everything was soft and cool, and nothing moved. The stone balcony felt cold beneath my socks. It grounded me as I struggled to consider that moment my last glance into the blissful night sky, being hugged by mountains like a sleepy protector. I looked away and had that familiar twang of sorrow in my chest. My last touch of Santa Fe night was a finger full of puffed snow that I let melt into the skin on my palm, taking it with me like a souvenir. I’d fall asleep to the quiet night, like the swirling whisper of spirits.