Monday, June 9, 2014

Doing With Less

The Zuni Pueblo in northern New Mexico sits at the base of a red mesa. We are driving in from the west and see the mesa lit by the sun setting behind us. The town looks bucolic from here, but as we get closer it becomes more and more exotic, different.

Dome shaped adobe ovens sit outside red stone houses. Streets are dusty, winding, confusing to outsiders.

Kids ride bikes or skateboards. Men in cowboy hats drive ancient pick-up trucks as they go about their work. Dogs loiter at the gas station, wagging lugubrious tails and begging for handouts.

I feel out of place, a foreigner, aware of my whiteness.

I don't see anyone on a cell phone, but notice that people buy newspapers. There is a pay phone, the first I have seen in a long while, outside the convenience store.

Women cluck at each other in a strange tongue before addressing me in English that carries a clipped accent. They are friendly, quiet, amused, polite.

I buy gas and ask how to find the elementary school named Dowa Y- Alani, pronounced like "Don't yell at me."

We drive to the school and drop off Megan's teaching materials. I call her Miss Many Boxes for all her stuff. She doesn't think it funny, and goes off to find the principal while I wait like a delinquent outside the office.

I hear drums and men singing and chanting. It goes on for the half hour or so that I wait. Children, teachers, custodian all pass me as they steal glances at the weird white guy waiting outside the principal's office.

After dropping off Megan's stuff, we continue on to El Morro, our new home.

I will be working on the house all summer while Megan begins her new teaching job. We will live in a tiny portable building without plumbing. We do have an extension cord from the electrical service stub to power a hot plate and some lights.

We don't have phone service or wifi.

We do have stars, wind, sun, and animals that growl in the dark. It is a long drive to Home Depot, a big deal to check email.

Space is tight. I have to watch how I move so I don't bump into the edges of things.

Outside, the sun is intense. Nights are cool, sometimes forty degrees or so, while the afternoons get hot, almost ninety today. Fifty degree temperature swings are not uncommon. 

We eat simply. Tonight, I heat some corn tortillas and melt cheese on them. I add some salsa, tomatoes, and beans on the side. We sit on the porch as the sun sets and discuss building plans.

A mocking bird sings outside the window, all night, under the moon.

It is so quiet I can hear my heart beat.

I am sore from the work that I am not used to, out of breath from the altitude, shocked by the simplicity, the silence.

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