My favorite number in the world: 128410940338. My favorite sound in the world: The buzz of hummingbirds’ wings. My favorite sight in the world: sunset over the San Dias mountains. Surprisingly, each of these things are connected; in fact they are interwoven so inextricably that their threads create a tapestry in my mind that can only be described by four words: Santa Fe, New Mexico.
When the plane tickets were finally bought from weekends babysitting, the fruits of my labor were embodied in the complex 12-digit itinerary code number assigned to me by Expedia. I still may mix up my Social Security number, but 128410940338 is permanently engraved on the inside of my skull, since it reunited me with my best friends, Livie and Natalie. For three girls who attended leadership camp together, it was incredible how much negotiation, organization, and supplication was required to receive that number, and confirm that our plans and our planes were lifting off the ground. As it turned out, a decision that took 3 minutes to make required a 10-month time frame for planning and execution. All those months of dreaming and scheming paid off the moment I arrived in New Mexico with Natalie and greeted Livie, who was ready to show us the sights before we even claimed our baggage. My ideas about New Mexico had been influenced by Livie’s rather jaded portrayals of her home state, and were completely changed from the minute we crossed into New Mexico.
We thought we were in Mars. Our first glimpses out the plane window revealed an arid landscape unlike that we had ever seen; small blotches of black were the extents of foliage on wide stretches of rust-red dirt. Our expectations of cacti and tumbleweeds were entirely misled, but seeing nothing but crop circles (which turned out to be irrigation systems) was more alien than we ever expected. Once we landed, the true beauty of the area was even more surprising; a trip outside Albuquerque on the Sandia Tramway (longest in the world) gave a view of the Sandias mountains that looked like merely a poster of some utopian landscape. As it turned out, Santa Fe was no quaint town or two-dimensional postcard, but rather an easygoing yet vibrant community that floated atop deep currents of culture. Half a dozen hummingbirds flitted casually by my head as we ate delicious chili in the famous local hangout The Pantry, and I could only laugh at the unfavorable descriptions Livie had led me to believe were true.
Thankfully, our time visiting was a chance for her to discover the truly beautiful aspects of her city that she had previously overlooked or taken for granted. We explored the historic Spanish dwellings in El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a place she had never visited out of spite for “tourist attractions;” now she goes there to paint every weekend. As for me, the trip to desert paradise showed me a way of life brimming with a vitality that leaked across the horizon in the form of awe-inspiring sunsets. Indeed, out of the hundreds of lessons this trip has taught me, one of the most valuable remains my confidence that I can do it all again, and find new favorite places. I have found a pastime that seeks out the true grace of every vista. Perhaps over time, I even can learn to see the elegance in my own hometown, the way Livie learned to appreciate hers. For now, every venture becomes an opportunity to expand my own horizons to be as wide as the New Mexican sky.
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