You'll have to excuse my absence, but I was gone for a week--a whole week of not writing, thinking about writing, or feeling bad for not writing--followed by a week of serious catch-up when I got home. Now that I'm starting to feel like I've caught my breath (but these days, I'm not convinced it's ever really true that anyone's ever on top of everything...it's maybe more of a state of mind than anything else) I want to tell you about New Mexico. 

I'd been wanting to go for almost a year, ever since I worked on an ad campaign for my old job that featured New Mexico and I saw photos of White Sands for the first time. I was instantly captivated by the imagery--pale, pure glittering sands dashing up against the feet of toothy mountains--and made a promise to myself that I'd go see them someday. Then, bits of New Mexico kept popping up: a woman I admire online went quail hunting, a friend in my MFA program is from Santa Fe, New Mexico True kept popping up on instagram. The universe was calling me south! I had to heed it. 

At first, I talked my little sister into going with me, but we're lucky enough to be a part of an adventurous, travel-loving family, so it soon became a whole wolf pack expedition: a family vacation (except for my older sister, who was in Ireland, which, coincidentally, appears to be my next calling place). So it was that my mom and I planned a little trip for the five of us, flying into Albuquerque (I knew I should've taken a left at Albuquerque!), driving north to Taos and Santa Fe, and then driving south to White Sands, stopping in Ruidoso and Truth or Consequence on our way back to Albuquerque. 

I was reflecting on the first day we were there that I felt so lucky to be (almost) 27 and still love traveling with my family. I thought the same thing on the last day we were there, and that should tell you everything you need to know. But truly, there's magic in spending that much time with people you know and love--and know and love so well--exploring a new place. It's a way of being in the world we don't get to experience when we're mired in the familiar, of the places we see and exist in everyday. I think what I'm trying to say is they're still the people I'd choose over most any others, and that's a gift I'm grateful for. 

If I wrote down every single thing that surprised us, made us laugh, tear up in awe, or was just plain beautiful, I'd have a book--or at least a novella. If I included the other half of the equation: the things that annoyed us, all the things we said when we were cranky or tired or needed food, and when we were ready to get out of the car, I'd have a duology.

So here's a short list: a rooster riding in the back of a truck on the first morning we were in Albuquerque. Getting a little lost (and scared by my family) on a hike through Ghost Ranch, the place that lit up Georgia O'Keeffe's heart. Hearing a boy and his dad play the drums and flute in Echo Amphitheater. Driving through mountains--real mountains!--on the way to Taos. Stopping for dinner at the Chili Line Depot in Tres Pierdas, talking to the women running the show and watching the sunset over the mountains we'd just come through. Eating a cinnamon roll at Michael's Kitchen. Sitting in the quiet of the chapel at St. Francis de Asis' church. Feeling the wind push us around on the bridge over the Rio Grande outside of Taos. Walking through Santa Fe on our first night, feeling giddy with happiness at somewhere with so much place. Eating at the Coyote Club and taking pictures with their mural. Finding a new bookstore that felt like home, even so far from it. Hiking through Bandelier in quiet melancholy while it snowed, scaring everyone else away, making it actually possible to acknowledge the legacy and the people that came before us. Exploring the inside of artists' minds at Meow Wolf, seeing it all play out in the most bizarre world. Playing D n' D with my brother in the car on the way to Ruidoso. Driving through the state, watching the landscape change as we headed south: from trees and elevation to sagebrush and horizon, to flat dry desert with huge pinnacles and peaks rising up as if conjured Eating Mexican food and watching Tin Cup in the Best Western hotel room. Visiting two bakeries in CloudCroft and not being able to resist buying something at both. The view of White Sands from above, like an ocean or a cloud sitting on the ground. Seeing it up close, how it was like walking through crystals, how surreal it was to hike through and jump on and bask in the sun. Going to Truth or Consequence and taking the healing waters, three times. Walking through and meeting the boy who said, "what are y'all doing in T or C?" Hiking on Good Friday to three crosses on the Camino de Real. Flying home the next day and seeing the northwest with fresh new eyes--all that green, all those trees--after being gone. 

Here's to families that vacation, family vacations, and trying something new. Now go find your own New Mexico true.