Freeway Free in New Mexico – Willa Cather Country
On our first day in New Mexico we arrived in Albuquerque and drove north to wherewe would rendezvous with friends. I was grateful that I had prepared for our trip by re-reading Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop. She gave me the words to describe what I was seeing: “In other places the sky is the roof of the world. Here the earth is somply the floor of the sky.” As we drove through the austere landscape that sky stretched over and around us in an immense blue expanse, shrinking the distant mountains and mesas to the size of doll furniture.
The countryside was austere, but not barren. There were pinon pines twisting along the ridges, cottonwood tries lining the dry washes where water had flowed and would flow again. The six-lane highway was punctuated by over-crossings decorated with southwestern motifs: thunderbirds, stampeding mustangs, desert tortoises, road runners. The roads themselves led off to a couple of barns, or a boarded up gas station, or a billboard advertising Native American Jewelry – 5 miles west.
We arrived at our hotel just the other side of nowhere (that is, fourteen miles north of Santa Fe), a comfortable and bland Homewood Suites just next to the Buffalo Thunder Resort Hotel and Casino, where we had dinner on the outside patio as the sun went down, the moon rose, and the artificial luminarias lit up the pseudo-adobe battlements.