Chimayó, New Mexico

30 minutes north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, lies the tiny community of Chimayó. This morning, on yet another cloudy day in Oxford, I woke up thinking about chile!

When Jamie and I were in the early stages of love, I did not, could not, understand his obsession with “chile”. It mattered not how spicy the briyani or kebabs (both foods he loves very much), it was never the same, even while as hot as New Mexican Chile. I would often say, “Spicy is spicy, I don’t understand.” I didn’t get it despite really enjoying New Mexican cuisine whenever we would go out to eat (which I quickly learned was different than Mexican food which is, as everyone knows, different than Tex-Mex).  However, slowly, I started being able to tell the difference between the chiles. Sometimes it was not as red as other times; sometimes it was a “flat” green taste and other times it was a “fresh” green taste. Not all restaurants did theirs the same. Each time even at the same venue it couldn’t be the same because it depended on the batch.

Well, now I understand completely. Here is more if you want to read and see beautiful photos about it.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a South African friend of mine who is a healer told me, “You will marry a man from the desert. He will take you to a place that reminds you of your childhood.” I laughed at her and told her that was impossible–I was never ever moving to the desert. And no force of love could ever make me leave New York City, my home of so many years. Two years later, I met Jamie. Of course, leaving New York City was easy because it was no longer the city I had loved for so long, but I left knowing it was not possible to feel “at home” anywhere else. I have never been more wrong.

New Mexico is high desert, meaning it has all the seasons, including snow. It has mountains, sky, green, rain, pinon, monsoons, real diversity, and wonderful people.

Love, real love, shatters preconceived ideas about so many things: where you can or can never live, what the word “desert” means, and where you call home.

 

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Merry and Bright 

Sister (in-law No. 2) loves the Santa Fe Aspen Ballet Nutcracker: “It’s not Christmas without it.” So we were gifted tickets too. Lucky us.

Santa Fe looks like a Christmas postcard, the annoying Invaders are not easily visible this time. Perhaps that’s why. Who knows?

Sister (in-law No. 1) keeps making Fresh pomegranate juice, the rosy froth satisfies nostalgia of Lahore, a city that no longer exists, another time. The last glass was with my aunt in 2002, when she was still alive. She loved to love, just like me. She couldn’t be free unlike me who continues to fly. Sometimes it’s Living that kills, not Death.

Piñon nuts from brother (in-law No. 2), handpicked from all over Pecos, New Mexico keep crackling in California. The delicious middle pops imperfectly.

Yoga with my brother Z is an energy exchange; align and don’t define. His intuition is outstanding.

My other brother makes fun of me for being out of breath on a small and short hike in Santa Clarita but gives me olives to warm up.

Small gifts exchanged offer big feelings.

My brother (in-law No. 1) makes such wonderful coffee. Keep it coming!

There is no gift like sharing a blanket on a couch with my sister as I reach to hug my mother, to take in that scent that can only belong to a mother.

My father’s knowledge is a sky that makes sense without a meteorologist’s interpretations.

My mother-in-law’s faith needs no translation.

The world has been falling apart for some time now. Hard to get real news anymore. That’s news that doesn’t get old. I hope it never does.

Yet we love as if we are stars that will never burn out.
Or at least we should.
Having Jamie near makes everything just right.
We can always celebrate love.

Happy Winter Solstice.

 

 

Snow flakes. (45)” by Emily Dickinson

I counted till they danced so

Their slippers leaped the town –

And then I took a pencil

To note the rebels down –

And then they grew so jolly

I did resign the prig –

And ten of my once stately toes

Are marshalled for a jig!

The love that is New York City…A love like New York City…

I know NYC is not “it” for many, even those who have lived here for much longer than myself, and many move for various reasons that together trump staying here.  I just wish everyone has some city, like some love, that makes them feel this. is. SO.RIGHT and you fall in love deeper as time goes on despite the shortcomings. And even when you decide to leave for this kind of love embodied in the form of an actual person instead of a city, you know that New York City was some love you will never forget.

I share the following from an excerpt I wrote about New York City in 2009 when I took a year long hiatus from here. It is my only favorite personal work. It is not about whether I like my other writings or not, whether this is published somewhere or not, whether these words can march next to the words of E.B. White or not, whether it is the best or not. It is not about any of that. It is simply about the sense of peace I get every time there is an opportunity to re-read some excerpt from it: yes, that is the story and that is how I wanted to say it, all of it. I hope to achieve the same sense of peace with my novel no matter how long it takes.  I suppose there are a few advantages after all when you are not being paid to write what someone else wants and without a deadline! Like the love in your life, it is your own masterpiece. Although you have this desire to exclaim to the world: Look what I have! Really, take a look! I am so very lucky to have this love! But you are equally content if no one other than yourself knows this joy and peace which comes from this kind of love—or in this case, a piece of writing. Primordial bliss.

 

I been away from New York for travels before and although I had a wonderful experience traveling this time too I know I have never been this happy to be back.

~a.q.s.

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This is not to say New York City is for everyone, just like many may claim the romance in my parents’ relationship borders repulsion. My parents’ love is not perfect and I have long wondered if this is what I want in a partnership given the transparent flaws that cannot be concealed; it is a treasure of inconsistencies. Moreover, it is not what it once was. It morphs into a new entity each passing year, and yet it somehow retains that flicker of its original essence.

When it is the “real deal” you are certainly faced with the abstraction of impermanence. It is natural to wonder what will happen after years of being together when you will learn all there is to know about another…is the grass really not greener on the other side? Is this it? But then, if you are really lucky, you realize, like New York City, you can never know the other in his or her entirety, and even when you think you do, something has changed. New York City impels us to recognize that what’s most complex about life—changes—is indeed what gives life value. It is these transitory opportunities embedded in the windows of refinement that allow one to create, interact, and evolve. This is what attracts new bodies from world over each day to New York City. This is probably also one of the reasons my parents’ relationship is enviable to many who meet them: it is and is not what it once was.

I will never forget my first night alone in NYC: midst the anxiety, hope, chaos, stillness, joy, aloneness, and a plethora of other emotions—there were two sentiments which I never entertained: doubt and regret. I was just where I wanted to be and beneath the canopy of clammy uncertainty that humid June night, there was also an inner peace and security.

In the end perhaps it matters not where one ends up counting life’s paradoxes—a farm in a small town in California where my parents live or the The Big Apple—but what matters is with whom you participate in an ever lasting opportunity to grow presented through the chasm of oppositional forces that govern existence and love.

Personally, I have finally accepted the rarity that is my parents’ relationship and New York City for what they are: a never ending story that I will always want to be part of.

 

Full essay here.

“Love is divine only and difficult always…” ~ Toni Morrison

Woke up thinking about Toni Morrison’s novel Paradise. This excerpt. Only the brilliant Toni Morrison can put it this way…brilliant because she says it however she wants to say it…

Here:

 

Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don’t. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest. Couples that enter the sacrament of marriage and are not prepared to go the distance or are not willing to get right with the real love of God cannot thrive. They may cleave together like robins or gulls or anything else that mates for life. But if they eschew this mighty course, at the moment when all are judged for the disposition of their eternal lives, their cleaving won’t mean a thing.

“the work for which all other work is but preparation.” ~ Rilke

from Rainer Maria Rilke’s
Letters To A Young Poet
(1903-1908)

People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold to what is difficult; everything alive holds to it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself in its own way and is characteristically and spontaneously itself, seeks at all costs to be so and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is a certainty that will not forsake us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.

To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all out tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. For this reason young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn it. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered close about their lonely, timid, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning time is always a long, secluded time, and so loving, for a long while ahead and far into life, is solitude, intensified and deepened loneness for him who loves.

Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate?); it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become world, to become world for himself for another’s sake. It is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things. Only in this sense, as the task of working at themselves (“to hearken and to hammer day and night”), might young people use the love that is given them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must save and gather for along, long time still), is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives as yet scarcely suffice.

Whoever looks seriously at it finds that neither for death, which is difficult, nor for difficult love has any explanation, any solution, any hint of way yet been discerned; and for these two problems that we carry wrapped up and hand on without opening, it will not be possible to discover any general rule resting in agreement. But in the same measure in which we begin as individuals to put life to the test, we shall, being individuals, meet these great things at closer range.

The demands which the difficult work of love makes upon our development are more than life-size, and as beginners we are not up to them. But if we nevertheless hold out and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in all the light and frivolous play, behind which people have hidden from the most earnest earnestness of their existence – then a little progress and alleviation will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us; that would be much.