We are nearing the four month mark of living in New Mexico, and people are starting to ask me more frequently how we like it. That answer is complicated. So, as with most complicated things, I will tell a story with photos instead.
Ellie and I headed out for our morning jaunt today and I spotted a hot air balloon a little closer than usual (there are usually at least 10 in the distance every morning). It got me thinking of how extreme Albuquerque is: mountains, blue skies, crisp fall air and hot air balloons but also senseless tragedy and violence. The last few days have been especially difficult for this city—a four year old girl was shot and killed in the vehicle she was riding in on the interstate by an aggressive driver in a road rage incident on Tuesday afternoon. Right at the exit we use multiple times a week. It is just so horrifyingly random. And then yesterday, a police officer was shot and remains in critical condition. It isn't just this week, though; I could rattle off a laundry list of frightening violent/fatal incidents that have occurred just in the four months we've lived here.
I already took 1000 photos of hot air balloons this month, but it's impossible to resist when they're floating over your head. The pilot called down to the women walking across the street to ask if there was a good place to land, and they pointed toward the park. Of course I had to hotfoot it over there to watch.
The balloon (Check Ride) landed in the street—just like that!—and the chase crew pulled up to swap out propane, I think. People started coming out of their houses: at least four in bathrobes and jammies, lots of little kids, an old man who ran over to tell the pilot that his daughter was on a chase crew and did she know her? People were smiling and pointing and taking pictures and generally breathing in the excitement that is a hot air balloon landing in the middle of the street at random.
One of the crew members handed me a trading card before they took off again, which I will designate as Ellie's card because she was completely and totally chill in the face of the balloon party and accompanying giant burner noises (this is a dog of intrigue and mystery, you may remember).
I didn't mean to keep taking pictures of it, but it kept following us around the neighborhood. I saw a high school-aged kid pulled over in his truck to watch, and a lot of slow-driving gawkers pointing and smiling. A man in an SUV pulled up and jumped out of his car to take pictures with his phone. He waved and shouted across the street to me: "You gotta love living in Albuquerque!" This gave me pause, because my heavy and fighting-back-the-fears heart does mostly love living here. There is so much character and personality and breathtaking scenery to explore; we've begun to find some of our people in the midst of the 550,000+ that live here; opportunities have presented themselves to all of us that wouldn't have been an option somewhere else. I told Melissa this morning that the weight of the silver linings is so heavy every place we've been: for everything we give up to move to the next place, we find something we didn't expect to find. Albuquerque, despite its heart-rending powerlessness in the face of so much bad news, is no different. I rail against the common sense notion that there is little to do about it except take a deep breath and do the best you can in your own corner, but in the end you can only do just that.
So yes. You gotta love living in Albuquerque, alright.