And Then There Was the Time…

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I miss my best friend today. Autumnal Equinox makes me think of harvesting hay and Dickerson’s dances.


That was a text message I sent to my best friend yesterday afternoon. I was at work and found myself with a few moments of pause. What I felt in that silence was an aching sense of melancholy.

The angle of light has been changing for a while and yesterday the world looked a little different bathed in early Autumn sun.

A beautiful sunny yet hazy day as I found myself at a high elevation gazing across the amazing view, Oakland to my left, Golden Gate center, Albany to my right.

It’s hardly original to feel melancholy in the Fall. I will follow the old poetic trope and go there anyway.

Since I know I have a “thing” about Autumn, I started looking back in the archives of my blog and found something that perfectly captures how I feel today. I’m nothing if not consistent.

Autumn is, after all, my favorite season in Oh Fair New Mexico.

So here’s a repost to get me through the day. The words still ring true, even as time goes by.

___________________


Get outta the wayback machine!

Originally posted April 15, 2009


It was Fall, had to be. Slight crispness to the evening air. Anticipation thick as the fog of Aqua Net in the sorority house where I lived.

It was 1989, probably. Or somewhere close to that. The campus of New Mexico State University. I was a sophomore, maybe a junior, I can’t remember. Doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that I was getting ready to go to a dance at Corbett Center on the NMSU campus.

The woman who would become my best friend for what is now over twenty years was the driving force that night, and many just like it. Her parents had met at a Corbett Center dance, so she was especially incentivized to go scoot a boot and see what’s doing. Family history.

I nervously pulled on my too shiny, too new, gray goatskin round toe ropers and jeans that didn’t really go with the boots, but were at least long enough to be acceptable. “You should buy some Rockies,” I was told, and they were right. I would, later, in quantity. But then I had neither the money nor the courage. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get into, I just knew I was going to be there come hell or high water.

It wasn’t my first Corbett dance. It wouldn’t be my last. This story isn’t about one actual night, more an amalgam of a lot of great nights.

The gaggle of high-haired women walked out the back door of our home, a sorority house containing twenty-eight women of different backgrounds, and one understanding house mom. What bound us together was our choice of educational institution. A land grant institution. To the uninformed, that means an agricultural college.

It was a short shuffle over to Corbett, up the stairs to the third floor where they had the ballrooms. Pay the entrance fee. Five dollars I think? Maybe less back then. Get a stamp on your hand. Look around, see who is there already. Talk about who you hope shows up.

Hear the opening strains of music. Usually The Delk Band. A group of musicians, brothers, and their dad on fiddle. I went to school with most of the boys. I remember I thought one of the Delks was cute. I remember one of the Delks was the drummer and back then had a tendency to speed up the tempo as a song wore on. Hard to dance to a wildly varying tempo. But we did it. (note of update: Saw the band not that long ago and that is no longer a problem.)

They were our people, and we embraced them. And we danced. Oh did we dance.

The two-step. Not the Texas double up kind, no. The slow kind, keeping time to the music.

And a waltz. My favorite, how I love to waltz. The rhythm of a song set to the beat of a waltz still paces my heart a little differently.

The polka. If done right with the right boy (he had to be tall because I’m tall and otherwise we’d just bump knees) you felt like you were flying, feet hardly touching the ground.

Then of course the Cotton-Eyed Joe (stepped in what?) and the Schottische, played back to back, often enough. Linking six or eight of us, arm in arm, facing forward, laughing our fool heads off.

The ladies, my friends and I, would stand on the sidelines and take a look at the scene. My best friend would always get asked to dance first. She’s beautiful and a great dancer. Who could blame the boys for flocking to her blue-eyed, dark haired gorgeousness? Not me, certainly.

As I got better at dancing, I got asked often enough, too. The boys liked the girls who could dance, who liked to dance, who didn’t turn up their nose at dirty fingernails and cow sh*t on their boots.

There is something special about dancing with a boy who knows how to dance, a strong lead, who looks you in the eyes. The boys who had the right fold in their hat and smelled faintly of Copenhagen and beer and Polo cologne.

I got to know those folks. All of them, the boys, the girls, the dancers, the musicians, the laughers, the people who liked to swing each other around the dance floor.

They became my family. We traveled in packs, dancing until we were sweaty, then heading outside into the cool air to take a breath, drink a beer, laugh a lot and occasionally find someone to spend a little time with.

Well not me, not then. I was still too awkward and mixed up to attract much in the way of boys at that point. I was more “one of the guys” than one of the girls the guys would chase. Don’t feel bad for me though, I eventually figured it out. (cover your eyes, mom)

Over time, we all aged a little, got to be over 21 and started to migrate from dancing at Corbett center to dancing at the local country bar. It was fun but seemed a little more complicated. Add more than a couple beers to the night and weird things happen.

But still we danced. By that time, I’d moved off campus and lived with my friend from TorC. She was crazy and fun and taught me a lot (cover your eyes, mom), and she loved to dance as much as I did. She coined the phrase “big bar hair” and gave me an education on how to get it, and keep it, despite dancing so hard sweat ran down your face.

Then we all aged a bit more, and we graduated and found respectable jobs. My best friend, her husband (a fine dancer, I must say) and I are all actually employed in the same area that’s listed on our diplomas. One might scoff at country folks, but all three of us hold a Master’s degree in our chosen fields.

Now, on the verge of turning forty well past forty, I find I still miss those days, mightily. I wished I’d enjoyed them more at the time. The stress of school and classes and “what do I want to be when I grow up” cast a pall on my days.

My own fault. A worrier by nature, a tendency that I fight tooth and nail every single day I take a breath.

When I’m having a bad day, when I doubt myself, when I realize I don’t fit in at my new place of employment, when I don’t feel heard or understood or very well liked, I can always go back to those days in my mind and smile.

I can’t get together with my best friend and her husband and NOT talk about those days. Magical. I’m blessed to have been able to have them. Once upon a time, I knew where I belonged.





Photo of The Delk Band in action





Image from The Delk Band website and found here.




The Roots of My Raising Run Deep

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Part V, and the conclusion of a five part series.

It was a short plane ride, take off, cruising altitude for something like a minute, then get ready for final descent into Las Vegas.

Las Vegas. My kind of town. Vegas and I go way back. Now you know my not so secret secret, I wasn’t actually born in New Mexico, I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada.

My dad was working out at the Nevada Test Site and one thing led to another and…

Growing up some of my friends liked to tease me that my parents took a gamble and lost. Oh! Hey! Good looking crowd. We’re here all night. Tip your waitress.

My folks loved living in Las Vegas, but for various reasons moved back to Albuquerque when I was very small. Really too small to remember much of life in Las Vegas. All I’ve ever known is New Mexico, so I still rightfully call myself a native.

I scrambled off that Southwest Airlines jet, through the jetway, and hit the carpet in McCarran Airport. I walked without hesitation to a bank of slot machines that were unoccupied and pulled up a seat.

My family likes to gamble. A trip to Vegas was my present for my twenty-first birthday. My folks used to get out there at least once, maybe twice a year and we kids often went along. I didn’t grow up in Vegas but I grew up an awful lot on the many casino floors through the course of my life.

The Vegas I know is an old school Vegas, from the 1970’s, and it always feels a little right to be there.

With twenty dollars in the slot machine, I managed to make it play for a little over a half hour. I’d get down to the last dollar then the machine would pay off again. I was on a nice hot streak. Not hot enough to cash out, but hot enough to have some fun.

When that was gone, I picked another machine and chased another twenty dollars around for about fifteen minutes.

When that was gone, I got up from the seat with a sigh. I felt hungry and went in search of something not airport-awful to eat. Over a really disappointing slice of Sbarro’s pizza, I stopped chewing for a minute and smiled.

A thought occurred to me. In that same day, I had been in New Mexico, I was in Las Vegas, and I’d soon be in California. Those are all of the places I have ever lived. Those are all of the places I know.

Those are all of the places I belong.

Kind of cool, really. Kind of a nice way to end my journey. A full circle kind of a thing.

My trip to New Mexico was, all in, pretty good. I was so glad I made the trip, so glad to see my best friend and my goddaughters, so glad to go home and immerse myself in memories (and make new ones too).

My trip to New Mexico was also a little difficult. You see, my dad died in 2005 and he’s buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. There was no way I could live with myself if I was in Santa Fe and didn’t go to the cemetery. And yet I really, really didn’t want to go to the cemetery. It’s not a joyful thing.

The last time I had visited was in 2009 and I was without a job and had lost my mind a little bit. I was scrambling to find a way to get back on my feet. That year I took a trip home to New Mexico to see if going back to my roots could help me find my compass needle.

I had cried a bit when my dad had died, but I was also a little stoic. My mom had asked me to be strong so that she didn’t have to be, and I agreed. I was as strong as I knew how to be back then, and a few years later there may have been some pent up stuff that needed to come out.

In 2009 when I found the stone that marks the place where my dad’s ashes are stored, it was a surreal experience. Gray skies opened up with rain and I stood there with my hand tracing the letters in stone and I cried, I keened, I howled. I scared the grounds crew. I honestly did, I freaked out this nice man taking care of the row of headstones nearby.

I guess back then I had some things I had to work out. On that recent spring day in March 2014, I was afraid that monster was still inside of me. I was terrified I’d find myself keening again at my father’s graveside. When considering going to the cemetery, I balked, I stalled, and finally I borrowed the keys to my friend’s new Suburban and set up Apple maps on my phone and took off on the highway, dreading it all the way.

Apple maps led me on quite a merry chase through the streets of downtown Santa Fe. That is a very old city, built by the Spanish Conquistadors so the roads are narrow and the sidewalks are high to accommodate horse drawn carriages.

With a little bit of axel grease and a shoehorn, I was able to navigate a huge Suburban through the streets, getting more lost by the moment.

Eventually, Siri found her head and I found my way, and there I was again, at the Santa Fe National Cemetery, both ready and not quite ready for what lay ahead.

That cemetery is always a difficult place for me. Rows upon rows of headstones mark all of my fellow New Mexicans who served in the military and who passed on, either in service of their country or later, as my dad had done. It is quite a humbling place for me, and that is even before I get to the place where I have to face my personal sorrow.

I had a bit of a false start, stopping at the wrong row of stones and realizing I was off by a bit. It didn’t take me a long time to find the right row and my father’s stone.

His ashes are in what is called a columbarium and it’s covered with a lovely piece of what I think is marble and secured to the wall with these connectors that look, to me anyway, like conchos.

They are so beautiful and so New Mexico appropriate.




Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth


For personal reasons, I will decline to post the entire stone, but I wanted to share a nice photo of that fastener. It stands on its own as a useful reminder.

On this visit I didn’t keen and I didn’t wail, but I sure did cry an awful lot. I put my hands on the now weathered stone and I traced his name and the word “Korea,” the war in which he participated. I felt the cold marble and I noted the sand blasted wear and tear and laughed at the unyielding New Mexico elements that caused the letters to already become faded. It’s only been nine years.

“Well, dad, I guess I’m doing a lot better than I was the last time I was here,” I said aloud. And I was.

Seeing my father’s name carved into stone never fails to break me on some level. After pacing a bit and having a pretty hard cry, I walked up the row and sat on one of the benches. It looks out over the valley and has a gorgeous view.




Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth



The mountains at my back and the dried grass and valley in front of me. The New Mexico unrelenting wind dried my tears the moment they slipped from my eyes. I laughed as the wind whipped at my hair. “Goddamn springtime wind,” I said to no one as I sat there alone.

Tumbleweeds of thoughts bounced in my mind. Through tears of sorrow, I smiled, because of that view, that place, that moment.

I had spent the past three days wondering I was even a New Mexican anymore. Sitting there, letting the climate steal my moisture and feeling grounded, I remembered that I always was and will always be.

I can never not be a New Mexican. Just as I can never not be born in Las Vegas. And I can never not be a damn near twenty-year veteran of California.

I am all of that. I am none of that. I am more than that.

I am greater than the sum of all my parts.

My version of New Mexico may not exist anymore but it’s mine. My particular brand of Las Vegas may not exist anymore, but I own it. My California is still telling me its story.

There is a lot left to learn about all of those places and as I gaze forward to the celebration of another revolution around the sun, I humbly admit there is an awful lot yet to learn about me.

What started as a fun trip to see my best friend in the entire world and my gorgeous godkids turned out to be something of a journey. A grounding moment in time that changed me, humbled me, reminded me and helped me grow.

I had no idea that was going to happen. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know. To paraphrase one of my oldest goddaughter’s favorite songs (that dates back to my college years), I might have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss that dance.

And there is no way I’d ever miss out on a good dance with some of my most favorite people in the world, back home where I belong.





Both photos Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. The fastener photo was further edited in Instagram.




Somewhere In Between

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Part II in a series.


Today I continue my New Mexico storytelling with Part II. I guess my short trip to New Mexico last week takes more than one post to discuss.

At four days, it was a quick trip, too quick if you ask me, and even though time elapsed fast, there was an indelible impression left upon me. New Mexico kind of does that to a person, right?

The last time I had been north of Las Cruces was in 2009, so it wasn’t that long ago, but certainly long enough ago to change my worldview.

Back then I was newly married (yay!), had endured one of the worst years of my professional life (boo!). I found myself without a job, without any leads, and a little dislocated as I learned how to be both unemployed and married. Both being something I had never before experienced.

I returned to the homeland last week on a warm Spring Saturday with almost six years of marriage tucked under my belt and a really good job that I love very much. Time really does heal wounds.

To be honest, sometimes I still feel very dislocated. Caught somewhere in between. I am a New Mexican, through and through, but it has now been almost seventeen years that I have lived in California. My god. Seventeen. Where the hell did all those years go?

So I am not really a New Mexican anymore, but I’m seriously not a Californian either. What, exactly, am I? I don’t know and that’s the problem.






(Apparently this is a long running theme for me, here’s something from the archives.)


My best friend and goddaughters were on their Spring Break and wanted to make a trip to Santa Fe. As near as I can recall, the last time I was in Santa Fe I was somewhere in my twenties. Well, that’s not entirely true. I went to the outskirts of Santa Fe in 2009 because my father is buried there, at the National Cemetery.

But that last time I had been on the Plaza? Yeeks. I was of drinking age, but not old enough to know better, certainly.

Let’s just say, it’s been a while.

Santa Fe was, well, Santa Fe. She has changed in many ways. She has not changed at all in other ways.

Of course, one of the first places I had to visit was the Loretto Chapel. I have always loved that place, from the time I was a small child to now.

I had wanted so much to get married there, I mean, I really wanted that, but logistics being what they are, it just couldn’t happen.

(I am more than thrilled with where and how we did get married in California, by the by.)

In my mind, my child’s mind, the Loretto chapel was teeny tiny and the stairs were at the very back wall of the chapel. I was pleasantly surprised to see the chapel is actually larger than I remembered, with several rows of pews behind the very famous staircase.

So of course I took an unremarkable photo of the remarkable treasure. A photo from the same vantage point where everyone snaps the shutter, from behind the worn velvet ropes. It’s a bit like the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s been done. To death. It’s hard to do it any differently than the thousands who came before.

But that’s ok. I took the photo for me. A memory. An image that I don’t have to expend a calorie trying to conjure up in my mind. I can ease my brain and rest my eyes and smile fondly to see this photo.




Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth

While in Santa Fe, we also went to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis. Where Loretto is small, the Basilica is gigantic. Overwhelming in its proportions.

I took a lot of photos and absorbed all of my surroundings.




A bird at the base of a statue of Saint Francis and the Basilica’s rose window in the background.

Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth


Of course, I have a lot of mixed feelings about being raised Catholic, but that is not something to discuss here. I do try to stay away from religion and politics on the blog, though I don’t always succeed.

That said, I have always loved the iconography of the Catholic church and being raised in the Hispanic culture means all of those images hold a lot of power for me. The images are not just religious but part of our culture and folk art. It has shown up in a lot of my own work.

I have been obsessed for a long time with the image of a flaming heart and also a heart with a crown over it. Of course this is the Sagrado Corazón, found on paintings and statues and sculptures.

Being in such a beautiful space and being in Santa Fe and seeing all of these reminders of my childhood made me need to sit down. Just sit and be quiet. And think. And absorb.

My two godkids had a lot of questions for me about the Catholic Church and what some of the images mean. The Stations of the Cross proved to be a place of fear for my younger godkid, and I tried to explain that it was telling a story, certainly a sad story, but that it had a happy ending.

Meanwhile my thoughts raged with questions like, “Who am I?” and “Why don’t I know?” and “Why have I had this lost feeling for such a long time?”

Questions as unanswerable as some of the challenges posed by my beautiful girls.

I love New Mexico and inside of me something is able to rest when I am there, but to be honest there is another part of me (that has been there all of my life) that cannot rest, and needs more than New Mexico can give.

The only place that I truly know is home is anywhere The Good Man happens to be. That, I think, was my best comfort while the thoughts and feelings swirled like an eastern New Mexico tornado through my brain.


Part III: ¡Comida! There is Indian and then there is Indian




Images Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. The Loretto staircase was taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. The little bird was taken with a Canon G10 and some crawling around on the ground.




Whoa Fair New Mexico and Me

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It’s been far too long since I was here on the ol’ blog. I started writing on Tuesday and found, well, I was going to need several pages to write what was on my mind. So here is part one of what I think will be a three or four part series.

Since this blog is called Oh Fair New Mexico and I have been a little neglectful of writing content about my home state, I am going to do it up right by talking A LOT about New Mexico over the next week or so.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!


Holy guacamole, here I find myself at Tuesday, rushing through the work day, trying to keep my head above water (literally, it’s a frog strangling rain out there) and doing my best to be a decent grown up and contributing member of society.

It’s been over a week since I sat down and had a good blog style cuss and discuss.

Well hell, let’s fix that.

Here we go!

Last week I had the great joy of being back in the motherland of New Mexico. It was a very fast whirlwind tour and it seemed like I had only one blink and it was over. One minute I was enjoying a Navajo taco and then whoop, suddenly I was back on a plane heading home.

Yeeks! I need more time. I need time to slow down a little too, if I can take this time to ask for favors.

The main point of my trip was to see my best friend in the entire world. We were last together a year ago and that is entirely too long to wait. We had some things to discuss and we did. We had some other things to discuss that we just didn’t get to, and that hurts my heart.

I also got to be with my two goddaughters who have decided to go ahead and grow up without my consent. I did not authorize this! To me they are still cute little biscuits and Nina Karen can make it all better simply with a hug.

Nah, now they are in that teen area and I am watching them grow and learn and push against the edges and evolve.

It’s both satisfying and heartbreaking to watch. I want to fix all the mean things and make the world easy for them, but goodness knows that is not what they need.

So I will just keep loving them and worrying about them and hoping they still want to know their Nina as the years go by.

The four day journey was a fun one. The lovely ladies of Las Cruces picked me up at the Albuquerque airport and we were off in a flash of a bright white Suburban with Nina Karen wheezing from the asthma. My allergies remember New Mexico. Oh how they remember.

May I just pause here for a moment to share my soul saddening moment from the Albuquerque airport?

It has been since 2009 that I flew into ABQ International, and they have certainly done a lot of work on the place. Fair enough, it needed the touch up and the changes look great.

I came off my plane and looked around and saw mostly familiar sites and knew I was home. As I made my way to baggage claim, I came out of the security area and there I saw a sight I had a hard time believing.

On a wood pedestal, like some kind of damn museum piece, was the beautiful hammered tin clock that used to hang high and proudly from the vaulted ceiling of the main terminal before it was a Sunport and was just a regular old airport.

That timepiece goes back to my childhood. I have stared up at that clock to measure time for as long as I have been alive. It’s been there even longer than I have been alive.

Once majestic, beautiful, useful. Something with meaning.

Now, it’s something like a museum relic.

This, this is the beautiful clock that makes my tummy tense when I see it because it *means* something:





And this is where it lives now (and I do it no justice with terrible photo quality):





I wasn’t sure how to handle the feelings this brought up. I was happy to finally be able to see this beautiful clock at such close range. I could admire the details. I was also saddened that this useful object not longer hangs proudly over the airport.

It’s an aged relic. Um. Like me?

Turns out that the idea of “something I once knew well is now something quite different” would become a theme for my trip.

It began with my precious hammered tin clock. It extended to my gorgeous god kids who aren’t kids anymore.

This was kind of a tough trip for the little girl from New Mexico.

Coming up: Part II, Somewhere In Between





Photos Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth and subject to the Creative Commons in the far right column of this page.





Feliz Dia de los Muertos

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Feliz Dia de los Muertos! On this day may you remember your loved ones who have passed on. Today I honor all four of my grandparents, my father and my best friend from high school.

May they walk in peace and enjoy a tasty pink cookie and some tequila on their journey.



My sugar skull looks a little more cranky than I had intended.
And yes, I slapped an Instagram filter on there. I don’t care what that says about me.

Oh yes, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I love Day of the Dead and all the traditions that go with it.

I also love the art and I love making my own Day of the Dead art too. (may I never forget my New Mexico roots)

Since I haven’t really had my crafting skills on much lately (work and life and no craft space in the new apartment) I was sort of jonesing for some day of the dead art.

All it took was a few office supplies and a really long and incredibly boring conference call.






Much love and peace to all as they remember in their own way.

Happy Weekend to all!!






Photos and drawing Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photos taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.