santa fe/new mexico
Boo has always let me go. Not as in giving me permission, but in understanding I needed to take solo journeys throughout our twenty years of marriage. Since I was a young adult, my instinct has been to leave, travel, journey, sojourn as both proactive actions in the need for change and reactive reactions to crisis: Mali, Togo, Benin, Bali, Romania, Hungary, France. After my father died in early 2016, I left for India as an English Language Specialist for two-months work with underprivileged high school girls. Returning from the intensity of Kolkata to Boulder and our three-floor townhome, I simply couldn’t move back in. I’d traveled too far and spent too long away. I wanted to move on.
Boo and I took a long road trip through Southwestern Colorado that summer, looking for land. Nowhere I wanted to settle down. Back in Boulder, crying jags until two am, Boo figured I needed to pack.
For me, packing is an antidote to grief and loss, to uncertainty, to the unknown direction of destiny. Emptying our townhome of twenty years gave me a sense of purpose, even though I didn’t know then where we were going to go. Giving away and letting go. I pared down my wardrobe, gave away designer fashion to my niece. I culled shelves of books saved from my Masters in Literature forty years ago, rereading Voltaire and Flaubert before donating all to the public library. I saved what held memory: my collections of textiles and jewelry from thirty years of travel.
When the upstairs packing was finished–art wrapped, clothes in wardrobe boxes, Persian rugs rolled with mothballs into sheets — I made giant X’s across the cleared closets and drawers with blue masking tape, not be opened again. We rented an 8xl0 storage unit and filled it from floor to ceiling with labeled bins: Ski Gear; Champagne Flutes; Jode’s Shoes.
Boo sold the furniture on ebay: the chaise couch, the solid oak dining room table and Italian leather chairs, the designer suede butterfly chairs.
Finally, he disassembled the contemporary bed I’ve always loved—and decided to keep– and moved it from the upstairs bedroom to the empty living room. It was as if we had just arrived at a s B&B, like a beautiful studio apartment, basic necessities in the kitchen and the French doors open to the shady patio where I’d planted pots with flowers. We ate on the wooden floor on a kilim, used up all the canned goods, thawed frozen food, and drank the leftover liquor in the cabinet. I loved the spaciousness, the feeling of transience, the sense of anonymity living in my own empty home.
In December, a cottage came up for rent in Chapel Hill, one of the destinations we’d considered moving to, and another contract in India synchronistically came up for me. We rented the townhome, packed the Mitsubishi and drove east. I settled Boo into the 400 square foot tiny house and on New Year’s Day, 2017, flew back to Boulder as my home of record, picked up my luggage, and boarded a flight for Bangalore for a four-month curriculum development project. Ahhh. International airport lounges on the ground and familiarity in the air.
At the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, after the academic day, I made digital stories again, collaborating with journalism photography students: pongal, hobli, madrasa. I traveled for a month in France, another in Colorado, returning to Chapel Hill in July for a layover. I wanted to keep going, and we did, traveling in Portugal from Ereceira to Porto and Avora, from Lula back to Lisbon. By November, I was again on a long distance flight: Mongolia via Beijing for an intensive two months of training across that grand land. I had hotel reservations in Beijing for after the contract, two weeks yoga training reserved in Bali, and a train ticket to Tibet.
Arriving and leaving, laying over, checking in and checking out: this is what I’m very good at.
It must have been an Archangel who knocked me down at dusk on that sub-zero Ulaanbaatar icy sidewalk, a dear friend said. Otherwise, how would I have slowed my momentum?
After hip surgery in Seoul, in hospital for two weeks, I reflected on doing a hundred mph. Back in the US, we took our time to drive the 3,000 miles across the US, most household stuff left behind in that rental, the Mitsubishi packed with Boo’s tools and a couple suitcases, nights in Marriotts across Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas. At the border of New Mexico, I said honey, I think I need to stop. My husband looked at me that way he has, as if he hadn’t told me so over Skype in Bangalore, in Delhi, in Ulaanbaatar, as if I hadn’t already promised him a hundred times.
I sought a place to recover, not only my mobility and strength, but a Self I’d maybe left somewhere, on the torn leather seat of a pedicab in India or maybe under the bench in a Mongolian ger.
Reaching Santa Fe, I said let’s move here. We rented an apartment that day, drove on to Boulder to pack up a U-Haul and drove back to move in, another way station, another layover. Boo set up our bed, the only piece of furniture we owned. I unpacked cooking supplies, sheets and towels. We were squatting again, short term, transients.
And then, in February, Boo found us a house, the story in the blog demo posted on 3/13/2018.
In four months, he gutted and remodeled 945 square feet. Inspired by an article my niece Livia posted in the Rob Report on the concept of EcoMod, we recycled, upcycled and repurposed everything we could. Restore—for Habitat for Humanity—took what we couldn’t use. We bought repurposed materials: MDF board and eco-brand primer. Boo painted the walls, trimmed all the doors, put in new windows. Neither a kitchen planner nor new designer cupboards: a local contractor going out of business sold us a load of cabinets from a job site. Boo retrofitted not only the kitchen but the bathrooms, the guest room and made built-ins for the living room.
In May, RELO emailed. An opportunity out of state.
Stay with me, Boo said.
He reassembled our bed and I unpacked all the bins: my textiles, framed posters, the crystal and dishes. I filled the cupboards, stocked the pantry. I made custom cushions and pillows from Indonesian ikat for the living room benches. The bed –with pillows from Tailand, Tajikistan and Togo–fills the small bedroom. An applique bull from Mali hangs over it in a Southwestern frame. My winter and summer wardrobes fit into one closet. The second bedroom is to be a guest room with Thai temple rubbings and a Persian garden silk rug on the floor. Boo’s tools occupy the garage. Our home is eclectic: everything we brought seems to have found its place.
And though it feels as if this lovely casita is not really my own, as if Boo and I are spending the year in another space that is not yet home, it seems I too have found a place to belong for awhile.
In gut, still and video images combined with ragtime document the six-month remodel Boo completed at 512 Camino de Guadalupita in Santa Fe.