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Birds of different feathers

One of the more subtle advantages of life in New Mexico is that of fascinating bird populations. While we have the traditional pigeons, doves, sparrows and robins, we also have some extraordinary birds that are beautiful and enjoyable to observe.

A good example is our iconic roadrunner. While I couldn’t find any statistics on the roadrunner population, I did determine that it is the New Mexico state bird and is part of the cuckoo family. They are not easily spotted although I had one in my vicinity the other day and was able to see him clearly.

More subtle and arguably more beautiful is the sandhill crane. This must be their time of migration because I’ve seen them in two locations within the last week and they are truly beautiful. We also saw them in Yellowstone but here amidst the cacti, bushes and vast areas of rustic terrain, the crane is a treasure.

There’s a wealth of fascinating information available about cranes. Their youngsters are called colts – apparently horses don’t object to cranes seizing this terminology. They are also very particular about how we refer to a group of them, including dance, sedge, siege, swoop and construction.

So far, I haven’t seen any media coverage referencing our sandhill cranes. Like the cacti, coyotes and chiles, our population may well take their presence for granted. But they are graceful and unique creatures and it appears that they spend every winter here, as well as in Texas, California, Arizona and Mexico. Sadly, they will be leaving in early spring for their breeding grounds.

But for as long as they are here, I will continue to enjoy discovering them on pastures, reservations and other unoccupied spaces. My justification is that we dedicate much of our time to everyday tasks and events. Taking a few minutes to appreciate our visiting feathery buddies is good for the soul and way of life. Shalom.


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Come on in

It was about 6:30 am and we heard a persistent tap, tap, tap, tap on the bedroom window. No electronic devices could have issued that type of noise. The coffee wasn’t yet made, and the sun had just risen and was shining through one of our cabin windows.

We finally spotted a rather small bird with dark yellow feathers who was relentlessly trying to enter the cabin, discover food or simply make his presence known. What a remarkable and refreshing wake-up! If we hadn’t yet appreciated the joys of waking in a forest full of critters and birds of brilliant plumage, this alert was the best punctuation of all. Bird continued his concert, eventually leaving for another landing spot.

As I thought about what was truly important about our natural surroundings, I pondered how much time we spend in pursuit of less gratifying pursuits. Our social sophistication with its high speeds and gigabytes is ultimately less real, genuine and magnificent than the world that doesn’t include electricity.

Driving through the rural world that we encountered, we were amused and exhilarated by local venues dubbed Snappy Mart and Uncle Woody’s Flea Market. Ahead of us was the Dragonfly Trailhead, towns called Socorro and Deming and a world of history.

Thankfully, we are close to this non-technical, slow-paced civilization that has much to teach us about what matters. Every restaurant we visited had patrons greeted by, “How’re y’all doing?” and we were immediately persuaded that the locals regularly visited this diner or saloon. That didn’t matter to those of us who were visiting. We were greeted and warmly received by every server we encountered.

We can’t reverse the metropolitan clocks to the days of Monday night bingo and rummage sales. Visiting will have to suffice and at least one of me will be grateful for a life that is full of pecking birds instead of horn-honking rush hour commuters. Shalom.


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Red, green or Christmas?

Moving to a new city and state provides numerous challenges and lessons to learn. Because I hadn’t completed that type of relocation for many years, I forgot how many pieces were involved in assembling the moving jigsaw puzzle.

The New Mexico culture in which I find myself is a combination of Hispanic, Native American and southwestern US history. Sometimes, and appropriately, all of those entities are inextricably intertwined.

While Colorado is defined and bordered by the Rocky Mountains, we have the southern end of the Rockies here. But it appears that mountains are less important here unless you live in one of the ski areas such as Taos or Santa Fe. Our geography typically features adobe, pueblos, cacti and succulents, casinos, breweries and New Mexican restaurants.

Every one of these restaurants I’ve visited takes great steps to distinguish itself from Mexican restaurants. What’s different? The local iconic food is the green chili cheeseburger, something you can find at traditional sit-down places as well as some fast food stops. To make things more fun, you always have a choice of chilis – red, green or Christmas (both red and green).

Weather is also a source of amusement and gratification. Albuquerque brags about 330 days of sunshine per year. As of this moment, I have no reason to dispute that number. This past winter, we experienced three snowfalls, the worst of which consisted of four inches. That blizzard closed the schools and many businesses.

For the most part, neighbors take great pride in their properties. It’s unusual to see grass unless you’re on a golf course. Instead, we have gravel and rock, with patches of astro-turf and in the worst cases, just dirt. Many homes can be accessed only from gravel roads.

Most surprisingly, this is a place that is decidedly southern in character. Locals love country music, anything Texan (including the Dallas Cowboys) and ranches for everything from llamas to donkeys to horses.

New Mexicans love our home, proudly displaying the Zia symbol on our flag and everywhere else. That’s a good thing for all concerned, making for a strong community and many true neighbors. Shalom.